Beneath the surface of the Erickson family lurked other secrets, secrets much darker and painful than I ever imagined. Then one Monday morning in 1988. I was preparing to go to my new job. It was my first day as Treatment Coordinator for a juvenile sex offender treatment program. That morning, the darkest secret imaginable surfaced.
My mother called. Anxious and frantic told me about her conversation with “Janine“, my oldest brother’s adopted daughter. “Janine told me that John, had been molesting her and ‘Hope’ for years. She also told me that John prostituted them out to his drunken friends. This was all going on when he lived in Florida and the kids were young.” I was shocked! Prior to hearing this, I lived in a fantasy world about my family. In my mind,I didn’t grow up in an incest family! I grew up in the Cleaver Family along with Wally and the Beaver.
I said, “Mom! We need to talk about this.” This terrified her and she began to backtrack, insisting that only Janine was molested and not Hope. Then my mother slipped even deeper into denial and changed her story again. Neither girl was abused and nothing happened. Quickly, she excused herself and as her voice faded, she hung up. I was stunned.
Just writing about this is bringing up some very powerful and complex feelings. Whew….
I called my younger brother and told him what I’d heard. “So?” Was his response. I was dumbfounded and hung up. I then called the local police department and reported brother as an untreated predator sex offender. This is a small town and the officer shared with me that they responded the other day to a domestic violence call at my brother’s house. I didn’t sleep very well that night.
The next day, while at work, my father left a message on my answering machine.
“If you say anything else about this molest crap, I will have nothing to do with you forever.”
These were the last words ever spoken to me by my father. This simple statement cut me to the quick. I immediately entered psychotherapy to learn and heal from all I could could not remember and its impact on me. I was grateful for a supportive work environment and over time, the pieces of my life began to fall into place.
I did not respond to my father’s messagel. Instead, I bought everyone in my family books for Christmas that year. My parents and brothers each received a healing book chosen just for them. Then I shipped them off with my blessings. I heard they never read the books and donated them to the local library instead.
Being the good therapist that I was, I kept asking my family to get help. John needed help. We all needed help.
I began a letter writing campaign to my mother.
Every letter I sent, expressed my heartfelt desire for the family to heal and to come together in a healthy way. I wrote to my mother every other week, but I received no response. Then one day, I got a letter from my mother; 11 typewritten pages containing her anger, rage, fear and hatred all directed at me. My letters were killing my father and she demanded I stop writing. Her words were a hot poker plunging into my heart as she listed, one-by-one, each of my shortcomings. She raged about using my education to hurt them. My tears fell like rain.
I knew the end had come.
I wrote one last letter. A sweet, heartfelt, tearful and remorseful letter of letting go and saying goodbye. It was at that moment that I began to let go of my family, but the story doesn’t end there.