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3 January 2010
I didn't remember that we were Facebook friends until a photo of him popped up in my live news feed today. And was it from his news feed, or from someone else's?
I clicked on his photo and his page popped right up, so at some point either I friended him or he friended me.
But it brought back such a wave of emotion.
He was in grammar school with our kids and he was the school bully. I can't remember the number of times that one or the other of our kids came home crying because they had been threatened by him. I don't remember there being serious beating, but everybody, it seemed, was afraid of him and he often brought them to tears.
I felt so helpless. I don't remember if I reported the incidents to the school or not, but probably not because I felt it might make things worse. He lived in the neighborhood. I may have talked with his mother, but I don't remember. But I always cringed when his name came up or when I saw him. How does a little kid turn into such a bully...and how could I protect my kids?
It was Christmas night many, many years ago when the doorbell rang and he stood there, looking frantic. His father was beating up his mother and he wanted us to help by calling the police.
"Tell him it's XXX," he said. "They know me."
Sadder words have never been spoken. It explained a lot.
I don't remember much else about that night except how gentle my father was with him. I don't remember him ever being that gentle, that kind, that loving with anyone. Certainly not with me, not with my sister. But he took XXX in his arms and he just spoke gently to him and calmed him down. Made him feel safe in a way I never experienced from him myself. I don't think I ever realized before that night how much he missed having a son.
The police must have come and the boy returned home. I don't think we ever spoke again. He never again appeared at our door in the middle of the night. But he never bullied our kids again either.
I don't really think about him much, except when I see his brother around town. I wouldn't recognize the brother except he's been in a wheelchair all his life and he has always wheeled himself everywhere. He must have the strongest upper body of anybody.
But I didn't know whatever happened to XXX until I saw his pictures today.
When I showed them to Walt he said that the thing he remembered most was being outside, working in the yard when the now-grown boy was driving by and stopped. He got out of his car and apologized to Walt for not attending David's funeral.
"I was in jail," he said.
I'm thinking about him today and I'm feeling sad. Sad for the scared little boy who needed us to call the police for him, for the bully who must have learned how to be a bully by watching the things that went on in his own home. For the young man who has had run-ins with the law, and for the polite man who felt sad at missing the funeral of the little boy he used to bully.
Life is strange. And in thinking about him I realize the good that is behind the mean face that some people present to the world, the good that must be hidden deep inside everyone, the potential that gets buried when a little kid sees only ugliness in his world.
In some respects it makes me feel guilty for never having taken on the job of helping to turn the life of some of these kids around. Maybe that's why I foster dogs. I look at Polly today, this scared little thing of skin and bones. What cruelty has she known in her life? And as she nestles into my lap and gives a sigh, I hope that as she settles in here she will begin to see life as a more positive place and leave here a stronger dog who is ready to join a forever family and live a happily ever after.
Does XXX have a happily ever after? His facebook
photos show a smiling man with his arms around a smiling wife. I hope he has finally
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Two partiers on New Year's Eve