Richard: The Collateral Damage

Currently reading this post on Upsi’s blog.  It’s heartbreaking to read this exchange and realize that two people who love each other (Upsi and her brother) are being kept apart because of Upsi’s situation with her mother.

I see a guy who really wants to re-connect with his beloved sister, but feels unable to.  I see Upsi wanting to re-connect, but feeling like he’s playing mind games and acting just like her mother….

Upsi’s blog has connected with me because her family found her blog, has been reading it for the past 3 years, and Upsi continues to deal with their responses to it.  It’s like she’s the trailblazer and I’m finding out how she dealt with it.

This post reminds me of how frickin’ screwed up this whole situation with Richard is.  My problem was not originally with him, it was with Tracy and only Tracy.  But because of the nature of everything, the friendship with Richard got screwed up as well, pulled into this crap as much as I wanted to keep it separate.

(I tried to post a little message to Richard but he never saw it.  As far as I can recall, it was, as posted in my Martian stuff, “I was going to show this stuff to you, Richard, before everything blew up.  My problem was not originally with you.  Peace.  Enjoy.”)

If I had my druthers, I would have jettisoned any sort of relationship with Tracy, but kept the friendship with Richard.  Apparently Todd did this at one point, around 2009 or 2010.

This is also what advice columnists and Net dwellers say to people who ask, What if I can’t stand my best friend’s spouse?  They say, Then hang out with your friend and not with the spouse.

It only seems fair, if you love two people (I mean different kinds of love) but they can’t stand each other, to let them stay away from each other and not irritate each other.  Why give the drama a chance to occur?

I certainly would never demand that my husband’s friends hang out with me.  He’s had friends I didn’t care for.  He had one female friend who I was sure did not like me for some reason, even though I tried to befriend her and chat with her.  But I just shrugged it off and did not force anything.

(I think this is one major reason why my marriage has gone for 15 years now with no sign of stopping.  In fact, I consider it more like 17 years, because I moved in with “Jeff” on July 4, 1995 and never moved out again.  We still enjoy being together, running the house together, are friends and partners, lust after each other–and give each other space.

(We have privacy; we have trust.  It’s easygoing.  I say God forbid anything happen to Jeff before we’re so old that I don’t need a husband anymore, because I hate to think of what would happen if I got widowed, married again, and found a very different situation.)

Of course, the fly in the ointment is the discovery of what Richard himself did to one of his kids.  The state had enough evidence to convict him, and he pled no contest rather than fight a charge which will keep him from the very thing he kept telling me he wanted to be (a priest).

That tells me he is guilty.  The state proclaimed him guilty.

When I asked my priest about it a year ago, having told him my former best friend had done this, he said that no, someone with such a conviction cannot be ordained an Orthodox priest.

He has screwed up his own life, his own dreams; but the feeling of contempt and justice I once had for this fact, has been replaced by a deep sadness….

Even if we had remained friends, as I had wished for so long, what would this have done to that?

Would I have felt forced, because of deeply held convictions about child abuse, to end the friendship anyway (since, with it published in the newspaper which I read cover-to-cover each day, I would have found out about it eventually)?

Is it possible to ever have it back again?  The likelihood of abusers repenting and reforming, is very small.  They have to truly want it.  But abusers tend to be narcissists, seeing nothing wrong with themselves, no reason to change.  I want very much to be wrong about the narcissism.

There’s also the nagging feeling of having somehow betrayed Richard, as well, by telling about the way he’d been treated, the way the kids had been treated.

But there are some secrets you should not keep, and I had always hoped that somehow, spilling these secrets would help him.  That any mutual friends who might read would intervene, now that I no longer could.  (Envying the mutual friends for still talking to him.  Feeling betrayed and abandoned.)

I was afraid for him, afraid for the children, worried I would one day hear about them on the 6:00 news.  He had told me things were going on, that made me fear that one day he would not be able to contain himself.  I keep hoping he will understand how scared I was for him, and forgive.

Originally, I did not realize that he was doing abusive things himself, did not expect to find he had a criminal case pending against him.  Now, it’s the hope that Tracy and/or Richard will somehow recognize in my words just what they have been doing, and change.  Because when one screwed-up generation raises another generation, that new generation gets screwed-up as well and the problems perpetuate.

I also had no idea when I started writing down what happened, that I would discover Richard’s narcissistic traits as well.  I saw him more as the bull with a ring in his nose keeping him docile.  The traces of violence I remembered and pulled up, became more disturbing the more I wrote.

But he seemed so–tame and controlled when I knew him.  The violence was still there, which he himself admitted to in a threatening e-mail to Jeff when Jeff dared to express a criticism of how Richard had been acting–and threatening, intimidating acts when Jeff dared to say that Tracy was also behaving very badly…..

Shortly after the “breakup,” Chris talked to me on Facebook chat.  I wondered if he’d been sent by Richard, or if he told Richard what I said.  Richard and I both gave him very little detail about what happened.  I was embarrassed because of what Chris thought the nature of the disagreement was….

I told him that wasn’t what was going on.  That I missed Richard and hoped that one day there would be forgiveness…..

He tried to get me to reconsider, to forgive, said it makes him sad to see longtime friendships end.  I wondered if Richard had anything to do with this.

But I felt my hands were tied: Without a change in Tracy’s behavior, without her allowing Richard to be my friend without her, without Richard and Tracy apologizing for and no longer blaming me for their many crimes against Jeff and me both, there could be nothing at all.

A year later, when I discovered the criminal charges and the nature of them, a friend told me that as painful as it was, God was protecting me by this breach.

Ambivalence.  That’s what I feel toward Richard.  A desire to reconnect still remains, a hope that in future years, this will all be behind us, that he and I will be friends again.  But there is also fear, knowing what I now know about him, wondering if he’s ever really going to change, ever going to eradicate the violence.

Forget that crap, a snide remark about not having all the facts–Nothing can excuse choking a kid, I don’t care what happened.  No additional “facts” can change that.

If it was an accident, they would not have called it “intentional causation of bodily harm” in the original charges.  Or amended it during the plea bargain to say,

Whoever causes bodily harm to another by an act done with intent to cause bodily harm to that person or another without the consent of the person so harmed is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor (battery; substantial battery; aggravated battery).

And he admitted to doing it.  If it were an accident or somehow he was innocent, then not only should he not have admitted to doing it, but he should have fought it.

So if he does try to tell me he was somehow persecuted by the police, or (again) that I don’t have all the facts, I won’t buy it.

I hope I wouldn’t have been gullible enough to believe him if I were still his friend when this happened.  I’ve been gullible with people quite often during my lifetime.  At least if we ever do reconcile, there will be no lie between us: I’ll know about this.

(Yes, I still remember the good times.  I remember how we talked all the time right before you moved up here.  I remember how you looked at me when we first met in person: like two people connected by philia (deep, true friendship) without ever having met.  I would’ve done anything for you just out of pure philia.  I would love to be wrong about the narcissism.)

I just don’t forget people so easily.  I’ve kept connected with my college group over the years, mostly by e-mail, occasionally with visits.  These days, I consider my best friends to be two old college friends who live too far away to see often.

I love Facebook because I’d always wanted to re-connect with people I once knew.  I still remember and mourn the loss of a girl who used to go to my church, we’d sit and chat every Sunday, and giggle through the services–until one day when I heard her family just picked up and left for another church.  That was back in my early teens!

When once a person makes it into my heart, they don’t leave.  I still think of Phil from time to time.  And Peter.  And Shawn.

Though the romances with them are long gone, and I don’t want to be with them now, I still remember them and wonder how they’re doing.  I save many of the gifts or letters they gave me, hold onto old diary entries about them, save their pictures.

One reason I wrote my private version of the College Memoirs was to hold onto all my memories of them.  As I wrote in my diary back in March 1993, after Shawn objected to me writing about the things he and I did,

Maybe math-brains just don’t understand the writer’s need to record even the most special memories–which we don’t want to fade….Besides, these memories are all a part of me–so I’m not about to burn them or let them fade.  I’d lose a part of myself that way.

For a time I distanced myself from Todd, after what happened between him and Richard, but it was painful (I couldn’t even listen to a song Todd liked), and I have since let him back into my life.  We have both been through the same thing with the same people, after all, giving us a certain bond and perspective nobody else can understand.

Old friends who for some reason slipped away, I found again on Facebook, and got to see them again in real life as well.

I am intensely loyal; speaking up about Richard did feel like a betrayal, and was excruciatingly hard to do.

I’m not sure people realize it, because I also have an introvert’s/Aspie’s tendency to not do things other people do to keep up friendships: I tend not to call people, for example, since I greatly prefer communicating either face-to-face or by the written word.

But they’re still in my hearts, even if I have not seen them for many years.  I write down memories of them, save the letters/e-mails they send me, hold onto them.  Richard will never leave my heart, either.

When Richard came to my church shortly after being convicted, at first I was repulsed just to see him.  I was furious with him, hated him, had long since stopped crying.  But after I got home, I cried, not just that day but other days as well, from missing the children and grief at losing Richard’s friendship.  As I wrote on my blog on 10/25/11:

I had thought I’d never see Richard at my church again, but there he was on Sunday. A wound I thought was healing has been ripped open again, gaping and oozing.

It’s hard for me to even get myself up and going to church on Sunday mornings, for fear that they will be there. They’ve surprised me a few times at church, or at my church’s Greek Fest, since the breach, even though I rarely ever saw them there before. (They go elsewhere.)

It felt like they were doing it on purpose to terrorize me. Every time I saw them, I’d barely make it through, feel like collapsing, have to fight to keep from trembling. Only anger at all the abuse could give me strength to get through.

This time, Hubby and I saw their vehicle in the parking lot, so Hubby stayed to give me moral support. (He has his own church and normally just drops me off at mine.)

(See Narcissistic Webs for reasons why I’d be scared of Richard: his huge size, his choking one of his kids, his past as a goomba, his almost physically assaulting a lady and saying he’d leave no trace that he was ever there, his threatening my husband with physical violence and saying he’s very easily triggered to it.

Also, there were violent things he told me about his past. He said he’d been arrested more than a hundred times, but I have no idea for what, or if he was acquitted; it was before he lived in my state, which has a public-access website with details of court cases.

And Tracy is also a very scary person, much larger than I am, violent physically and verbally. Richard told me that once, in my house, she almost killed me over something, and I had no idea.

I have no idea if he meant it literally or as hyperbole, but for months afterward, my mind kept going to that, imagining what it would have been like to feel her fists, wondering if Hubby or Richard would have pulled her off me in time, imagining Hubby calling the cops.

Just sitting and watching That 70s Show, one kid would hit another kid, and I’d flinch. And yet I was expected to “befriend” her, be buddy-buddy with her, without so much as an “I’m sorry” from her, or else I was to blame for all the crap she threw at me.)

This time, it was just Richard and two of his kids, not the one who was choked. It was all very quiet, no scenes or anything. He didn’t even take communion.

During coffee hour, my son played with the two kids. One is only about 5 and just happy-go-lucky whatever happens. She’d pass by us and maybe smile or give a hug. Just the sweetest, most adorable little girl. The other one is 7, and upset at Hubby and me for not coming around anymore.

Before I left, I got waylaid by the two girls after Hubby and my son had already gone out. I gave them hugs and smiles, but also got the older one’s scolding eyes. She said things in a scolding tone like, “You guys don’t come around anymore,” “We miss you,” “It was fun to play at your house.” Hubby also got her scolding eyes earlier.

My heart broke right there. I couldn’t tell a 7-year-old child about the reasons.

I couldn’t tell a 7-year-old child about the abuse, how Tracy had verbally eviscerated me over a misunderstanding and had no remorse, how her father had done a terrible, evil deed to her sister, how he had once planned to do a terrible, evil deed to a lady who had upset him two years ago, and made me afraid of him, afraid of what horrible deeds he could do to me.

I couldn’t explain to her in a way that she could understand it had nothing to do with her. All I could say was, “We miss you, too,” and try not to cry. I’ve been miserable ever since, missing her and the other children.

I just kept hoping during coffee hour that Richard would come to Hubby and me and apologize for all the things he’d done to us, and was very disappointed when he didn’t. I still keep hoping.

I hope that, because of the criminal conviction, he’s using his probation as a second chance to change things around.  I hope that one day things will be different, that his abusive home environment will become healthy and good, that he will come to us.

Websites on abusers keep saying, “Don’t hope for change. Let go of the hope for change. Accept that this is the way they are and will always be. Don’t listen when the Church says they can change.”

But in my heart I just don’t believe that.  I was angry. I tried to hold onto my anger to distance myself from Richard and all the pain. But it’s all just vanished and sadness has returned.

When he came to our city four years ago, I had no idea things would turn out like this.  I gave them so much of myself, trying to help them, because Richard’s friendship was so important and special to me.

He had never said anything about an abusive homelife, not until then.

One person on an Orthodox message board noted that I sound emotionally and spiritually traumatized. This is certainly true. If you are religious, please pray for me and this whole situation, which affects not just me but four innocent children.

And if you are Richard and somehow found my blog, please, PLEASE work on yourself and get rid of the violence. For me, for Hubby, for yourself, for your children. And then feel free to get in touch with us.  (It’s impossible to send any of these things directly to Richard.)  But these are the things you must do and say:

1) Assure me that you are not going to go all goomba on me.
2) Apologize for the things that went on the final week of our friendship:
a) Threatening Hubby with verbal and physical violence for sticking up for me on 6/28/10.
b) Throwing me under the bus when Tracy went ballistic, rather than explaining to her the truth of what happened and what I meant by my e-mail; letting her go off on me; giving in to her so I was not even allowed to explain and exonerate myself.  You knew very well that what I was referring to was a sisterly/brotherly hug of gratitude, and that it had been your idea.
c) Getting into Hubby’s face and intimidating him for sticking up for me.
3) Apologize for, a month later, justifying Tracy’s verbal abuse of me, blaming me for it, then lying to me about why you hadn’t seen my e-mail and why you blocked us on Facebook. Being so deceitful that I actually thought Tracy was going to finally apologize, when instead I was opened up to more verbal abuse and accusations from her. Treating me like this was all my problem that I had to get over, rather than admitting that Tracy had been bullying me and getting you to do her dirty work.
4) Admit to your violent tendencies and demonstrate that you are working on them, that you will not threaten us again, will not choke your daughter again, will stop lecturing us on how to discipline children. Take anger management courses, study the Philokalia and Ladder of Divine Ascent, take parenting classes.

As for Tracy–I don’t want to hear from or see you again.  Unless, of course, you’re ready to forgive me for being naturally shy and quiet, and acknowledge your own share in the problems, your own abusive behaviors.

Why do you come here
When you know it makes things hard for me ?
When you know, oh
Why do you come ? Suedehead, Morrissey