Gone

Abraham was finally disconnected from the machines early Friday morning (see note). and they took the organs they could use.  His liver went to a fifty one year old man; one kidney went to a twenty four year old woman; and his other kidney and pancreas went to a woman, thirty eight, almost Abe’s age.    There is a wonderfulness to those final gifts of Abraham’s that I am very happy about.  Sunday was the services, which were to be followed by his cremation at some point.

So, he’s gone.

This morning I went to Stop & Shop. I came out and I could not find my car.  I simply could not find it.  It’s become an old bomb of a car so I knew it wasn’t stolen.  It’s a perfect weather day here, so I didn’t mind walking around the parking lot – but it wasn’t there.  I stopped walking and I pushed my brain.  I finally remembered that I’d parked it in the lot of the shopping center next door.  And then I cried.

He’s gone.

Yesterday, I was trying to clarify something and I pulled out a big file with all my twenty seven years of Abraham stuff.  In the file were notes from some of the years that Abe was in foster care. I don’t remember ever seeing them before or ever reading them before.  So I read through them and they confirmed Abe’s bad behavior, his very bad behavior, before I got him….I learned that he weighed only three pounds and one ounce when he was born either two or three months (conflicting stories) premature….and then I re-learned the details of his history, most of which I had known.  I read about his months in the incubator, and his first heart operation at four months and how he was put into foster care as a boarder baby (drugs in his system at birth) from there until he was returned to his birth mother at two and a half.  Then nothing till the next reports when he went back into foster care at six. The mother reported that he was uncontrollable.

And then – and I know I’d never seen this before – I read this: “She admitted that she and the putative father attempted to force Abraham to remain in his bed throughout the night by tying him to his bed, then locking him in his bedroom.  This did not work.”

I was horrified for Abe.  But nothing got to me like what I read in the very next sentence. I was torn apart for my six year old son, whom I met six years later – another lifetime for him: “Abraham kept food for himself and also fed and befriended the mice.”

While he was tied up? While he was so completely powerless? Were the mice crawling on him? Were they even mice?  Did he “befriend” them for real or just in his head in order to save his sanity?  Were they on his face? Across his eyes? How do you stay sane when you cannot even use your hands to try to protect yourself? Who reported all this?  How did it get in the notes?

I said a few posts back that even in death privacy has to be protected. It does. I said that it was a matter of respect.  And it is.  But the needs of the living always must trump the honor and the protection due to the dead.

Abraham – my much loved and now always to be missed Abraham – is dead.

I am writing about this – as deeply personal as it is for him – because we have to start getting it.  There is no way to protect the kids from situations with parents like his unless we really go big brother and start licensing parents. There is nothing else we can do to stop it.  If even that would stop it.

But it cannot be that there is nothing else to be done. It cannot be that such experiences doom people. I don’t accept it.  I don’t believe it. It is not my experience of me: the experience of me that Aunt Rita and Msgr. Huntington gave me.  When I was seventeen. Healing is a function of wholeness. And Abraham was whole.

I know something had to have happened to Abe’s thinking and beliefs about himself while locked in that room.  How could it not? In the years after, our responses did not free him from what he took away after those nights.  My son Irving (also dead) reporting to me on his own history of torture told me of a particular night and what happened to him. And he said to me, “Pop, I died that night.”  He didn’t, but something in him, that we need to figure out, did.

Our responses – frankly, middle class – have not been sufficient.

Abraham is gone.  But there are others still here. Still suffering. Still not knowing how to heal.  Still not sure that they can heal.

That healing begins with our witness.  Not our knowledge, not our information, not our theories.

It begins with our certainty: you are whole.  But if we have not come to believe it of ourselves, then we don’t stand a shot of convincing anyone else.

Our healing – all healing – begins with our wholeness.  For each and every one of us.

Abe is gone, but I’m not. And until I am, my stance is clear: we have failed our kids unless they leave us for their adulthood certain – absolutely certain – of their own wholeness.

Losing Abe is terribly painful, but despite knowing that I will never see him on this earth again, I remain the luckiest person I have ever met. I am, after all, his father.

Jack

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Note: (I am exploring the reason for the three days delay from when the papers were signed.)

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7 Responses to Gone

  1. I believe it is our responsibility to get beyond the superficial measures that lead us to think people and families are okay (parents still married to each other referred to as an “in-tact” family, no one’s in jail, kids are attending and doing well in school, at least one parent has a “good job” or “good income”. It is our responsibility to bear witness – to be open to seeing and hearing, and to validate the experience of children, and to believe what adults tell us happened to them as children.

    I realize that what I’m saying is just a bare-bones beginning. But it is not human to turn away in the face of evil, and what is all too often done to children can be evil – and it’s important to remember that it crosses socio-economic, cultural and ethnic lines.

    It’s not just in someone else’s backyard – it may well be in yours and mine.

    Sandy Berenbaum

  2. Another Child Advocate says:

    A righteous eulogy.

  3. I have no words to describe my feelings in witnessing the rightness of these thoughts. I’m stunned and humbled, and my love for my son deepens.

  4. Sharon Brinkman - New Haven, IN says:

    Your post frankly broke my heart – there’s a lump in my throat – the SAME lump I had one other time before – 2 1/2 years ago when my son-in-law murdered my (just turned) 3 year old grandaughter Laura (his own daughter). I’ve had your “path” of thinking – I wish I or anybody could help take away that “paths” drive…I know it is unbearable and constant – yet important. Many of us here and across the country (through our prayer chain) are praying for you and will continue to do so. Please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you Jack. I know it’s important for you to question and gleen any and all information about Abe you can – He was a very lucky man to have had you for his father and to know real love from you. May God bring you comfort and strength. Sharon Brinkman.

  5. Kimberly Cepeda says:

    I have to agree that you are a VERY lucky man to be Abe’s father. However, PLEASE NEVER forget how lucky he is to have YOU! Not only him, but ALL of your boys. And may I also mention…I’m pretty lucky to have you as a father-in-law! Love you Pop!

  6. Heather says:

    Jack our prayers go out to you and your
    Amazing family. When we met you 3 years ago we still remain in awe of your continuous courage and strength and when the world is against these kids there you are to pick up the puzzle pieces to make them whole again. You meet people in life that change your life for the better and that is what you do when you meet everyone. We may never know the true horrors of what these kids have been through but we remain their support systems to pick up the puzzle pieces and attempt to make them whole. You are a truly special person and this too shall pass, how do I know because of the new special recruit that begins to do weekend visits and the process such as life goes on, god bless you and the important work that you do!!!

  7. Kate Wilson says:

    I met Abe when I was in Junior High, probably about 13 or 14 years old in Meadow Hill. We dated about seven months or so, in fact, I’ve met you once Jack. Abe was attending (I believe) St. Joseph’s at the time. I have to tell you he was the most respectful boyfriend I have ever had. Never tried anything out of the way like the rest of the boys, very sweet and most of all, worshiped the ground you walked on, respected you and was grateful for everything you had done for him. He never told me of his experiences in foster care, but he honestly did tell me how you saved him and he is the one who got me calling my father “pops” even! We spent a lot of time together; me, Abe and Eff, and had a lot of good memories. When he came to North Junior High we decided we were too young and needed to experience other things, and ended our boyfriend/girlfriend relationship but we remained good friends. I recently found him on Facebook, he added me, then Eff sent me the article. To this day I think about him, cry, miss him, and wish I could have seen him at least one more time. I didn’t ask him about how he has been online because I planned on getting together with him next trip to Newburgh, maybe meet his family and his beautiful little one, but now I regret not talking to him when I had the chance. I know the person Abe was, what he was capable of and how much he really did appreciate you and love you. Just wanted to share that with you. I hope you find peace with it.

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