It wasn't that long ago that I knew a lovely woman with a lovely life. Or that's what it looked like from the outside. She was a few years younger than me, blonde, beautiful, vivacious, outgoing... Her oldest daughter is the same age as my youngest son. (I have two older, she has two younger.) Our kids went to school together all through elementary school. Her family seemed happily, solidly together. She and I played soccer together -- moving from same team to different team to same classes -- for two or three years, seeing each other every week, and we did several volunteer activities together at our kids' school.
In early June I was flipping through the newspaper and my eyes fell on a mugshot of a man in his thirties. I almost turned the page without reading the article, because these kinds of things don't usually affect me. But the article was about a local man who had been arrested for molesting a fouteen-year-old girl at the church where he'd been a youth leader several years before. The girl had let it go without telling anyone for four years, but reported it to the police when he e-mailed her asking if she had any interest in getting together again. While the police were investigating this instance, they discovered at least one more victim. According to the police reports, there is more than enough computer evidence for convictions regarding both of them.
It was my friend's husband.
The tragedy starts with him and ripples out, catching more victims, causing more pain. His wife, his children, his victims, their families, their future partners and families. People don't recover from something like this. They just work at mending the broken spots, and if they're lucky they eventually learn to embrace their newfound strength and the life they've been given, and try to forget about the lives they could have had. But it's not easy. Ask anyone who's been through it.
I saw her a couple of times, afterwards, at school. She was putting on a happy face. A brittle, happy face. I sent her an e-mail offering help and support and got no response.
They showed up together at our children's sixth-grade graduation. How do you respond in a situation like that? I found myself furious that he was there, furious that she was still supporting him.
But what's the right thing here? Should he be barred from his daughter's graduation? Should she keep him from having any contact with his kids? Would that make things better?
They were both clearly uncomfortable at the event, and everyone avoided them. I couldn't make myself speak to her, even though I still hurt for her. It would have felt hypocritical to ignore the issues, and I wasn't about to ruin the children's event by bringing it up. Everyone else seemed to feel the same. The two of them sat stiffly through the ceremony, then kept to themselves afterwards, with only their daughter and her friend for company. I wondered if the daughter's friend's mother knew, and whose business it was to tell her.
These things happen, behind closed doors, in places you'd never expect.
They are in my prayers. Yes, all of them.