“Comfortable Chains” #abuse #selfawareness

It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere“- Voltaire

Who among us doesn’t at least for a moment think the fool Voltaire speaks of, is someone other than ourselves?

We all have chains don’t we?

Chains come in many forms, pride, hatred, greed, spite, envy, These seem obvious as they exude evil.

But what are the “revered” chains Voltaire spoke of?

May I propose they are the shackles of codependency, and physical and/or emotional abuse? Why don’t victims break free of these bindings?

Unfortunately, victims can be so beaten down that sadly this abuse provides a warped sense of security. Knowing that they (the chains) are if nothing else, always there.

Be safe and take care of yourself first so, you can care for others.

Peace.

Sins(life lessons)of the Father By Raymond Roy

I watched your slow paced tough guy strut ready to take on the world.

I watched you come and go to the same job for 30 years and not complain.

I watched you be so loving toward your children yet at times not so, toward your life partner.

I watched you fight in alleys outside a bar with men twice your size, while trying to make a living hustling pool.

I watched you be laid off and swallow your pride by working in the fields to demonstrate never to give up and it is not the job, but the effort put forth.

I watched you joke, laugh, and tease, during dire situations so we felt at ease.

I watched you self destructingly isolate yourself from your life partner, express your heartbreak and heal.

I watched you plead your case toward justice based on being abused by those that should have protected you.

I watched you put poison in your body to escape your personal emotional pain.

I watched your outer shell crack open allowing healing love to fill a pessimistic heart and know you are worthy of love.

Today I watch as my children and grandchildren watch me.

Cherry Pie

Cherry Pie                         

Funny how a taste or smell of certain food can open a floodgate of memories. Recently, after a long enjoyable afternoon of fellowship at church, I sat down, with a piece of cherry pie. As I took my first bite, I was transported back to October 1972. I was still living in Ontario Canada with my two older siblings and our Dad. There is truth to the saying that still waters run deep. In our case the more things seem to have stabilized the more the foundation was actually crumbling. At times it was like living in a rain cloud. You couldn’t see far ahead and knew it was just a matter of time that the next storm would arrive. At this point Dad was either cold turkey heroin sick or slipping in and out of heroin induced coma. He might wake up just long enough to promise a fishing trip that never happened or to take us running down the street in a paranoid state terrified of one of his many demons. It was never a dull moment, as my siblings Danny 12, Lorraine 10 myself 9, taking our Dads word for it that we could go fishing after he was shaved…… With Dad passing out again on the couch and daylight burning, (I smile inside remembering) Lorraine and I lathering him up and with Danny being the eldest, he was in charge of the razor. Lorraine and I pulled Dads head back to tighten the skin just as we had watched him do countless times over the bathroom sink. Eventually daylight, exhausted, Dad woke up, puzzled why his face was dotted with blood clotted toilet paper where we had nicked him with the razor. Needless to say, no fish were caught that day.

It wasn’t unusual for us to be pulled out of or having to change schools. By the 4th grade I had already attended 6 different schools. But this time it was different, we weren’t on the run, or going to a foster home, but rather we had all our belongings and seem to be making the rounds to Dad’s family in Ontario for a visit as if to say goodbye. For all we knew we were moving back to BC (British Columbia). Hearing my father speak primarily in French to my grandmother as he often did when things were serious, gave me sense that something was going on. At that particular moment, we were all together, that’s all that really mattered. 

We boarded the bus in Sudbury, Ontario at night. The heated bus air was a mixture of diesel exhaust, damp air and cigarette smoke. Unfortunately I was one of those kids that got car sick. The next four days in the bus were somewhat of a nauseous blur. “Hey Porky”(my nickname) wake up, we are at the next stop”, my Dad would say. And there it was, in every bus stop from Manitoba to Vancouver, day or night, like a beacon in the night, behind the glass case…”Porky, what do you want to eat”? “Just some cherry pie please”… On the fifth day on the road, we arrived in BC. It was around 6 in the morning and only then did we find out we were coming to “visit” my Mum. It had been 3 years since we had last seen her. Regardless of society’s view of our Dad, he was our world and all was right with the world, as long as us four were together. The bus stopped in Abbottsford, BC (being a felon, Dad couldn’t easily cross the border)> We did not want to get off. We stood at the base of the steps. I looked to Danny and Lorraine as I always did for reassurance or direction. Danny stood there as he always (and still does) quiet, strong as not to upset us. In the cold morning air Lorraine’s tears glistened in the light from the bus stop waiting room. Like so many times before, I held on to my Dads leg, pleading for him not to leave. 

“Come on, let’s go meet your Mum”.The bus stop waiting room was illuminated with concession machines. In front of the lights were silhouettes of two woman. . As I walked closer ,they each looked similar and familiar. One was my mum but I wasn’t sure which one she was. The second woman was Mums sister, Sharon. Up until this point I had only visited Mum, twice in my 9 years. I wrapped my arms around the quilt stitched dark blue coat. As I hugged my mum around the waist, I could feel the cold fabric against my cheek as an unfamiliar hand stroked my besheffeled hair. We piled into the white leather backseat of a blue thunderbird. Patsy Cline’s “walking after midnight” played on the 8-track and through the vapor of our warm breath we could see lights of the greyhound bus station fade in the distance. I looked at Danny and Lorraine, as many times before, when the only known was the unknown.

Tbird

Later in life I heard reasoning of why we were finally brought to Mum. One line of discussion was that we were in danger as some of Dad’s unruly dealings had left him as a marked man. Whether this was a part of his paranoia or truth, makes no different to me. Another reason was that my sister was coming of age and needed a Mum. That went without saying. Regardless of the reason, one truth I have no doubt about is the fact that my father saw the value of a stable family environment which no matter how hard he had tried, he could not provide. Today I am a father of five. And yes, I love taking my kids fishing and at times I may over promise and under deliver which reminds me of my Dad’s good intentions, but as God is my witness I strive to harvest the seed my Dad planted by putting his kids first.  A seed planted at a bus station early one October day back in 1972. For this I am truly thankful. RIP GJR.

 

2nd Eldest Zachary 2nd Eldest Zachary
Eldest Son Ty with a blue cat Eldest Son Ty with a blue cat

 

Divine Appointment # 34

Business travel lost its glory many years ago. Boarding a return flight on a Friday afternoon from Fresno after a long week found me going through the normal mindless steps of boarding not knowing I had one more appointment this week waiting for me in 22C. 

Sitting next to me in 22D was a  light haired woman perhaps close to 40 years old wearing a blue hoodie and casual wear. Her face was friendly and her mannerisms kind. After a little small talk about my business travel I asked her what had brought her out to Fresno. She told me about 19 year old Son who was “finding his way” in California. I learned they were from St. Louis and she had been out to help her son get set up. It so reminded me of my three sons. Each heading out as they each had come of age in their own unique way. 

As I continued to talk with my row 22 seat mate, I felt like I was peeling an onion back one layer at a time. I sincerely hung on every word she shared and as her story unfolded I could feel my heart opening up for a mother who was hurting for her child. She shared the details of her sons struggle with substance abuse as well as the surreal experience of moving him into a halfway house. Her strength and sense of resolve emminated to the point that I shared the many strong women in my life that I am thankful for specifically, my wife to whom I affectionately refer to as “The Hammer”. I prayed with my seatmate, we wept abit and I felt a strong sense of the Holy Spirit and a sense of peace. 

As we continued to fellowship, she shared eecent encounters where she felt Gods presence. God had been  leading her out of her comfort zone and as she faithfully followed, she would find God presence waiting for her. These encounters she called Divine Appointments. I had never heard of divine appointments and was intrigued. I was impressed with her level of recollection of each of these appointments. In Divine Appointment #22, I was running around the block………

I was unprepared when she gave me one of the biggest compliments of mylife, “Raymond, thank you for being my Divine Appointment #34. 

I leave you with a prayer request for this young man  that he may find his way, find peace, and that the his hero in the blue hoodie will have her son back, God Bless them, Amen.

Foster “Care”

“I’ll see you kids soon”, famous last words as my dad was carted away for another stint in either drug rehab or “the joint”. I was youngest of 3 kids, Danny, 3 years my senior and my sister 1.5 years older. I was in 2nd grade and North Bay Ontario was our current region of residence.
Being wards of the province was a common occurrence as my father struggled to survive. Supporting 3 kids and a heroin addition.A record meant living on the edge. Hustling pool, con games and stealing were second nature and as our only hero did battle with society.
Purposely not wanting to lose custody of us, he pleaded ignorance when asked where our Mum was.
As long as I was with my brother and sister, I took everything else as it came.

The Harvey’s lived just South of North Bay, Ontario, Canada. As we pulled up the rural gravel driveway, out walked a portly couple. Gerry with his Archie bunker type collared shirt and Nancy who, almost strutted and swung her arm as she walked as if she was in a discus throwing competition. In the distance you could hear a number of dogs barking as if kenneled up.

Danny and I shared a room with bunk beds while Lorraine had her own room. The Harvey’s son Darren (perhaps 4 or 5) had a room near his parents.
As we settled in, the normal routine was to a lay of the land. We stuck close together and didn’t say much . These were complete strangers. Little did we know we would be there about a year.
“Pig shave”
It was the 60s and longer hair was more the norm. Even ole Gerry had a slick duck tale-do.
It wasn’t long until Danny and I learned that the Harvey’s had Kennels out back. It was our “privilege” to clean all the dog cages every day.

Sundays meant going to Nancy’s parents house. K-9s must have been a family business as we would watch them groom poodles after dinner. “Get up there boys “, Gerry commanded of me and Dan. Ten minutes and a set of dog trimmers later, all our locks were shaved off. Teasing at school followed the next day. “Hey pig shave, pig shave “,,,

Needless to say, we were out of our element. We felt like we were in a bootcamp more than a refuge. Quick to punish and odd rituals kept us on edge. Every Saturday night after bath, they would check our nails. For each nail we bit, it would be a whip with the belt. We would get a daily interview whether we had made a bowel movement. If not we would have to sit on the can for thirty minutes. Regardless, we were given a tablespoon of castor oil. Looking back, it’s all quite surreal.
Not until I was in my thirties did I get diagnosed with having an esophagus, half the normal size(1/2″). This condition would make food lodge in my throat. My eyes would water and the only relief was for me to throw up and dislodge the food. My siblings knew the routine. Unfortunately Gerry was not so understanding. Sitting at the dinner table, food would get lodged. My eyes watering, my siblings knew what was up. Then I would ask the question” May I go to the washroom “? Jerry’s response, “for what”? “I need to throw up”. With a stern look on his face, Gerry was convinced I was doing it only for attention and would proceed to read me the riot act, “GO” he would yell. As I passed him I would feel his hand belting me in the back of the head knocking me to the floor as I scrambled to the washroom. A special memory was on our way back from Sunday dinner at Nancy’s parents , us three were sitting in the backseat. My siblings nervously watching me as my eyes welled up…. I was terrified to ask them to pull over. Instead I threw up in my mouth and swallowed it back down. Grinned a little at Dan and Lorraine letting them know, the feeling had passed.

As time passed, Dad was out and we were allowed to visit with him on Sundays. It was like a vacation. As foster care rules were in place, he could not come to the house to get us but rather, we would be picked up and dropped off at Nancy’s parents house. Gerry didn’t miss an opportunity as he wouldn’t allow me a visit with Dad if I has thrown up that week.
I would look out the window watching Dad circling around the block with Dan and Lorraine in the car, waiting for me to come out. It was heart wrenching.

Christmas time was upon us. Dad and Grandma had gotten us presents. We had also gotten a few sets of new clothes.
Shortly after the new year we were told that day we would be going back to Dad. We were elated. True to his form, Gerry gave us a choice of, taking our toys OR our clothes. Obviously he wanted the toys for HIS kid Darren. We took our clothes. Our Grandma asked where our toys were once we arrived, we told her but it didn’t matter.
We were constantly on the move as leaving with just the clothes on our back was not uncommon.

I wish I could say there were some good times there as well. The times of peace was when I was alone with Dan and Lorraine . To this day, no one knows me better than those two. We’ve kept each other going through times like that and still do today.

I want to share this story for several reasons. If you are a foster parent and doing it to show love, God Bless you. If you have been in the a similar circumstance as a child, you are not alone. If you oversee foster parents, Today I can speak as an adult BUT was terrified as a child to say anything. Even to my Dad.
May God watch over all of his children in foster care keeping them from harm and to always feel loved. Amen.

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Go Boy, Breaking Chains

We all have a sad story  but I believe we also have  a story of hope if we can recognize the chains that bind us making us prisoners of our past, “sins”of our fathers, (sins in the sense that what we have learned from our parental figures(blood or not) that keep us from experiencing the grace of God(feeling Loved/Worthy).

Prisoners, Cons, Convicts, Felons, Delinquents…hard to read or say these words without a negative feeling of wanting to get away , ignore or hope that some authority figure somewhere will deal with “THEM” societys undesirables. In this blog(my first) I hope to share life experiences which may help others cope with similar experiences as well as learn from others.

I first heard the term “Go Boy” during the summer of my 16th year.It was the title of a book by Roger Caron. I was visiting my dad for two weeks during the summer of 1979 in Edmonton, Alberta. I didn’t realize at the time this book held many secrets to understanding who my father was.. “Go-Boy is a prison yell used when an inmate (or inmates) break from a work detail or crew in an attempt to escape”……..Like Roger Caron my father spent many years behind bars or in institutes……

August 1979- My father looked tired, but he was “clean”. He hadn’t used drugs or alcohol in over two years and was proud of it. I hadn’t see him in two years and before that, I cant remember.  My Dad had always been my hero. Simply put, he taught me what feeling loved unconditionally felt like.

My first memory as a child was sittting at the kitchen table watching my Dad “mixing up the medicine” He was a Heroin addict. I was facinated to see the bulging veins, the needle, spoon, lighter and the change in my Dads personality.  I was maybe 4 or 5.

My Dad was born in Northern Ontario, in the early forties. His Dad away working, wasn’t around much. I heard he was good in school and a talented baseball player.

When my dad  was 15 my Grandfather was working in the mines of BC(British Columbia). As I understand it, my Dad and the mine owners kid.  took a jeep without asking, for a joyride. It was reported. The mine owners kid walked away but my father wasn’t so lucky. He was left in the prison with the general popul;ation of grown men for well over a year. I can only imagine what they did to him.

As noted in the book “Go Boy” prison abuse in Canada was extreme and tolerated. My dad told me of abuses such as dragging him up the stairs by his hair, making him clean out the gallows among other things. Guards telling him, “ya see that boy, thats where you’ll be one day”. As I understand this is where my Dad found his escape from reality, Heroin.

As I came to understand it, my parents had split when I was 3 or so. I lived with my 2 older siblings and my Dad until I was 9.  We traveled back and forth across Canada moving frequently. My Dad kept us away from my Mum. for what ever reason, only seeing her once when I was six. We stayed on the move, attending 7 different schools by the time I was in 4th grade. At times we slept in the car, snuck back into “our house” which rent hadn’t been paid, just to sleep there at night and scoot out at dawn. Through all this, I knew he loved me.

I was happy as long as we were with Dad. When we weren’t with him (when he was in “the joint” , rehap or a hospital). we became wards of the province. Then we were either in foster care(thats another story), with my Grandma(God Bless her) or my Dad’s friend.

Over time my Dad developed drug related Paranoid Schizophrenia. one incident,  he gathered all of us up as we ran down the street, knocking on a strangers doors so he could call the police as someone was after us.  As the police arrived, it was then the police who were now after us. I was in the back seat of the police car with my sister, and dad as he yelled at my brother in the front seat to  be ready to jump out. Chaos. But through all this, I knew he loved me.

How did I know he loved me? The way he held my hand. He danced with us, He laughed with us. One time I told him I had to go to a Bday party. I wrapped up one of my toy guns as a present and brought it to school. He showed up at my class with a new gift. Most importantly, wherever we were staying, he always came back for us.  Ultimatley and I didn’t realize until later, he brought us back to our Mum.

Through all the turmoil, fogginess of substance abuse, he saw that what his kids needed was stability. It wasn’t easy adjusting to life in the U.S. New school was the norm but the structure, bedtimes, homework, and wondering…when was Dad coming to get us?

Needless to say, we never did go back to live with him. He was again in and out of jail and institutions which at times were close enough by that we could visit. It was heart wrenching leaving the jails when we would visit knowing he would have to stay there.

Although “clean” for the last two years of his life, my Dad took it to the extreme when he stopped taking his prescribed meds and two weeks after my visit in 1979, he took his own life.

During a time that people didn’t talk about their feelings and you just sucked it up, I had no idea what I carried inside had to be dealt with.

To be continued…….