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Desperate for Love: The Life and Times of a Survivor - PART 2
Let me back up a bit, way before I was ever aware of anything other than a negligent father and two typically mean, older brothers afflicting my friend’s life. Let me first share with you an event that I was barely aware of but I need to include as it will swing back around much later.
There have been several times in our friendship's history that Ireland and I disconnected. During these times, her story continued while I carried on with my own pre-teen craziness of a different sort. During these times, I don’t have a lot of Ireland’s details and she, due to repressed memory, has lost so much. Between the two of us, other people’s memory, various documents and pictures, we do our best to piece things together. This next piece I would say was the first time Ireland and I disconnected for a while. This was a time, shortly after I moved into Ireland’s neighbourhood and had become her best friend, during the winter of 1978, when I had just turned 12 and she was 13. Her mom had left the winter before.
What happened at this time seemed at first to be a solution to Ireland’s surface life situation, however as time went on, her drastic action and consequences seemed to show that she was actually going from the frying pan, into the well-blazing fire – the first time.
There was this family, the Jefferson’s, who lived next door to Ireland and her family. They were a family I got to know several years earlier as well because their house was right behind my grandparents’ and my brother and I would, as young children, play with the Jefferson kids during times we would be visiting the grandparents.
It seemed to happen so fast. The Jefferson’s took Ireland in. It seemed at first they wanted to help her. I found out that they had heard Ireland screaming one night, at her dad through an open window. Then it appeared that their additional intention was to use Ireland as a full-time babysitter and she was just there a lot. I began to see her less. It just seemed to drift that way. Eventually, I rarely saw her as she was watching the Jefferson kids so much. I remember they all – Ireland and the 3 children – got scabies so then there was no contact for quite some time. I believe I started to hang around with another friend, Michelle, around then. This all happened in a matter of a few months.
I found out that the Jefferson’s were moving to another town 30 minutes away and were taking Ireland with them! I was confused. When I asked Ireland one day at school what was going on, why she was living with the Jefferson’s now, she gave me vague answers. Answers like, they need me to watch the kids, and, my dad can’t take care of me anymore. And that was the day. She was slowly packing up her locker. Helplessness washed over me.
And I lost my friend for a while to distance and a cluster of secrets I had no idea existed.
I believe, in looking back now, the time period when Ireland moved away with the Jefferson’s was the first part of her life I noticed begin to slip away from her later on. While my memories that were connected to her during this time period she was away became few and far between, there were a couple highlights that had hung on over the years. When I asked Ireland about one of the those highlights several years later, the time period while she was away with the Jefferson’s and she was sent to a group home – when and why and what happened there – Ireland’s response was, “What group home?”
We had kept in contact as much as we could. It became apparent that she wasn’t being treated well by the Jefferson’s, and it wasn’t a shock when I found out that Ireland had tried to run away. She had tried to run away, back to our town! The Jefferson’s 9-year-old daughter, Cindy, tagged along. They were picked up by the police while trying to make it on foot, a journey that takes about 30 minutes with a car. It was after Ireland tried to make it back to her dad on foot that she was sent to a group home.
Years later, I began listing the vague details I had drifting around in my memory bank about the spring of 1978, trying to jog her memory over the phone one evening. I described the group home, the road it’s on, how there are two buildings like big houses, one facing the road and one facing sideways, set back away from the road. I tried to shake loose the memory that we spoke on the phone a couple times while she was in the group home and that there was a song by Meatloaf that reminded her of the time spent there. Glimpses and shadows of those days floated by her consciousness, like at the corner of her eye, but she couldn’t really grab onto anything.
What else was she forgetting?
She remembered running away from the Jefferson’s and getting picked up by the police while walking alongside the highway, trying to get back home to her dad and brothers. She remembered that she didn’t want Cindy to come but she came anyways. And she’s aware that she was eventually allowed to return home to her dad.
She came home in time for grade 8 to start. And life carried on for us.
When Ireland and I look back at her life now, we can see that this is where she first showed strong signs of Stockholm Syndrome, which can be defined as, a strategy of survival women and men use when they are in a situation where they no longer have any control over their fate, feeling intense fear of physical (and in certain circumstances emotional) harm and believe all power is in the hands of the person or people in control. This often includes bonding with, having sympathy for, and supporting those in control and doing harm.
Many would have a difficult time understanding this concept and watching it play out unless they have gone through it themselves, or like myself have had a front row seat.
Ireland had developed this traumatic bonding with her father, Herman, by this point. I wasn’t aware of what had actually been going on in her home, or what had occurred while she was at the Jefferson’s. She was managing to keep all that to herself. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. All I knew was that whatever happened while with that other family, according to Ireland, was worse than what she was attempting to return home to.
"The Definition and Examples of Stockholm Syndrome: A Strategy of Survival" by Charles Montaldo
- What Is Stockholm Syndrome? A Strategy of Survival
A bank robbery in Sweden uncovered a mechanism for survival many who are in hostage-related situations turn to in order to manage their fear.
It was never boring at Ireland’s house.
Ireland’s mother, Helga, came around once in a while. I was with Ireland one day in the first year of our friendship when Helga pulled up into the driveway and got out of the car with this little blonde boy.
I whispered to Ireland from the back porch so both her mother and this boy couldn’t hear me. “Who’s that kid?”
She pulled me in through the back door, into the kitchen while her mom was still busy chatting about something to the boy, who looked about 4 years old, and grabbing something out of the back seat of the car. “That’s my little brother, Steven.”
“What??! Where did he come from?”
“Sshh… she’ll hear you. Listen, Steven stays with our grandmother in Pheasant Park. I’ll tell you more later.”
I was so glad she didn’t attempt to tell me what she needed to tell me about Steven, and then some, right there in the kitchen with her mother on her way in. I would not have been able to keep my cool. Yes, I was so grateful she waited until we were safely in her bedroom with no one else around; her mother gone home with her little brother, her dad and two other boys nowhere around.
“Ok, so it’s like this.” She took a deep breath. “We all have different fathers.”
I just stared at her with what I realized was the most twisted, dumbfounded look I could make, and waited for her to continue. There had to be more.
Yep, there was. “David is, I think, the only one of us who is Herman’s.”
“You mean Herman is not your real father. Who is?”
“I don’t really know. She won’t give me a straight answer.”
“Who is Mike’s dad”?
“I don’t really know.”
With a slight hint of a smile, because she knew this was a mind-blower, “The babysitter’s.”
All I could do was laugh. This was so unbelievable. She told me of the story of this young blond guy – a teenager – named Ben who used to babysit them quite a bit. Her mother just admitted to her that she had sex with him in their home while everyone was home, and found herself pregnant.
And I think that was one of the few times I was honestly and completely speechless. I was beginning to realize just how strong my young friend really was.
I maintain a front row seat observer role in the majority of this story, with the exception of a couple sections. I do step into a few scenes. Here we go with one.
There was a group of us – 10 of us altogether, when we were ever altogether – that hung out quite a bit, brought together because we all lived in the same crisscross of back roads buried in trees, just on the outskirts of Pine Valley. (Yes, for all you soap opera fans, Ireland and I watched AMC for many years together so we chose the name of our childhood town for this story thusly.) There was Ireland of course. Then there’s Ireland’s brother, David. He was 15 years old at the time, 2 years older than Ireland. Ireland would never decide to hang around with her brother, and for sure he would never just decide to hang around with her, but this group brought them together. They ignored each other for the most part.
A few blocks away in our little treed community was where David’s best friends, Landon and Logan St. James lived. They were 14 year old twins. Most people couldn’t tell them apart but to us they are totally different. Their house was like our central hang out. Then there was Landon and Logan’s friend, Hank. Landon and Logan’s sister was name was Carrie. She was in a grade younger than Landon, Logan, Hank, Ireland and I. And her best friend’s name was, Tanya. Tanya just came to Canada with her mom from England 4 years ago before so she still had a strong, British accent. She lived on the gravel side street running next to the twins’ house. Lastly, there was Barb and her brother, John who were both a couple years older and rarely hung out with the group of us. And me. So, that’s 10 of us.
“Hey Chris, can you escape tonight?” Ireland’s voice on the other end of the phone line sounded like she had something in mind so I was glad to be just about finished my History homework.
The night before had been weird for me. David dared Logan to grab Tanya’s breasts. Of course, back then they were boobies. And he did. He swooped in so fast, I almost missed it. She yelled “stop it!” and for a second, sounded serious. But then she started giggling, slapping Logan in the side of the head, grabbing her jacket and pulling it tightly shut, overlapping the front. She ran over to Ireland and they both started laughing, looking over at the boys. “That’s my idiot brother. He always gets the guys to do it,” I could tell Ireland said this loud enough so that the boys could hear her.
“Better be careful Tanya or we’ll have ta give ya the treatment!”
“Ya, the treatment!”
They walked ahead of us, snorting and laughing.
Snapping me back to our conversation on the phone, “Well, hurry up” Ireland got frustrated with me a lot. She was pretty impatient. I hated homework but I did it because if my Mom found out I didn’t, I’d get grounded. At 12 years old, being grounded was the worst. Ireland didn’t do her homework. Ireland also didn’t get grounded. At 12, sometimes I wished I lived at Ireland’s house.
It was just starting to get dark but I could see their shadowy bodies running around, under the pavilion, climbing up and over the picnic tables. I counted as I made my way across the highway towards the movement and voices. There were 7 of them; 4 boys and 3 girls. Ireland, Tanya, Carrie, Landon, Logan, Hank and David. The boys were all laughing and the girls were making squeally, giggly noises.
Too late to turn back now, was my only thought.
Even in the dim light and shadows I could still tell the difference between Landon and Logan. Landon was the first born and it showed in every way. He was a bit taller, his shoulders were a bit wider, he was a bit more confident than his younger-by-20-minutes brother and his voice was even slightly older sounding. I knew Landon’s voice over Logan’s. I knew it was Landon’s voice I heard quickly say at almost a whisper, “Come here, come here, come here, come here.” He was rushing after Tanya, catching her as she hit a dead end at a cluster of picnic tables. Logan came in from behind. Once the boys were on either side of Tanya, Landon on her left, Logan on her right, both holding one of her arms, Landon reached down in front of Tanya and Logan reached down behind, both connecting hands between Tanya’s thighs. Together they straightened themselves out, lifting Tanya up off her feet. Their hands, clasped together, were lifting her by the crotch. And worse, Tanya was letting out short, little squeaks and jerking her body, causing me to guess they must have been moving their fingers.
“F**k off you guys! Put me down now!” She meant it.
I was relieved to watch as the twins lowered her immediately, however laughing all the way. I wondered, was that the treatment?
“Look out behind you Chris. Pervert alert.”
I felt the tickle of a hand slipping under my t-shirt coming from behind me on the right, to the front and up, lightly touching my right ribcage and going for the bottom of my bra. Holy shit, persistence. It was Landon. I slapped him away.
“Landon! Behave!” I shook my finger at him but found myself giggling. Did I like this?
This was all a game. I quickly realized that nothing was against our will. We said no seriously, they stopped. But we had to pretend we didn’t want them to do this. I couldn’t even tell if I wanted them to do this or not. I just went along with it. At first, it was embarrassing, to have them steal touches and grabs like that. As the night went on, they seemed to get further, first grabbing my breasts on top of my shirt, Then Landon managed to get under my shirt and bra with one hand while holding me fairly still with the other arm around my waist. This brought on a bow from him and cheers from the other 3 boys.
By the end of the night, the twins had lifted me up as they had Tanya. I was right. They did move their fingers while lifting in the air, mainly their thumbs.
The next day, “Ireland, what is the treatment the guys keep bringing up.”
“Oh, I didn’t tell you about the treatment? Well, I guess it’s different each time. You know, for each girl. Like for Carrie, I wasn’t there when it happened but I heard all about it, for her it was bad. They took all her clothes off and tied her to a hockey stick, ya know like hunters do with deer, and took her outside. I don’t know exactly what happened after that, that time.”
“Ya, another time, they took her clothes off and tied her to the big tree out in front of the St. James’ house.”
“Who is ‘they’?”
“They, like in Landon, Logan, David and Hank.”
“Her own brothers?”
Ireland spent the next few minutes listing off the different things done to different girls by who and where, all sounding like it was a game. We all were to think of it as a game, or we weren’t included.
Even typing this out now, I take a deep breath and slow down periodically to process it freshly. For years, it just seemed, what everyone did growing up. It was all a part of growing up. All normal.
Normal is relative, isn’t it?
Eventually, I started going out with David. Eight months into it, we were having sex. I was 13 years old. There was nothing else left to do by that time, it seemed. Hanging out at Ireland’s was so much more fun at that point. We were allowed to do anything. Anything. No rules.
Ireland stopped working for Ike at the farm. I never did find out from her how far that old man got with her. It didn’t take much time before most of her memories of her time on the farm faded into the shadows in her mind.
Shortly after I started seeing David, Ireland started to see a boy from school, Levi. The four of us did the double date thing. This was fun and normal. Good times. We took the taxi to the next town to see a movie, 101 Dalmations. Other evenings, we walked in the opposite direction towards the lake to the Pebble Beach Amusement Park or the roller rink across the street from the park. Delio’s for pizza on the hill across from the cemetery was a great stop for the walk home. Yes, I think this has got to be one of the most normal and happy times in Ireland’s life. Possibly just one of the reasons why even at the 10-year anniversary of Ireland and Levi’s breaking up, she was still in love with her Levi.
I didn’t know until years later that there was another reason that weighed much heavier than providing her with normal. Levi was her hero.
But we will get to that later.
If I may remind you, Ireland had a second brother in the home.
Mike is only 1 year older than David, but back then, like night and day to David, and not just because they had different fathers. While Dave was an easy going, slightly arrogant athlete who seemed to get along with everyone, Mike was an angry partier who liked very few people. He daily leaned against the large space heater at the end of the kitchen, scowling or laughing at everything we all said in the rest of the room.
I have an outstanding memory of him. In writing it, I realize it may seem like nothing but it blew my 13-year-old mind at the time. I generally stayed away from Mike and ignored him, however one day I broke my little rule. In a moment of either bravery, stupidity or insanity, I looked at him, made slight fun of whatever he said, and laughed. It took all of 2 seconds. He bent down, reached somewhere on the other side of him, came up with an empty cooking pot, and whipped it at me!
I grew up with passive-aggressive emotional sabotage in the home. Physical violence was not something I was used to. I couldn’t imagine how Ireland managed to live with a time bomb like Mike.
To Ireland though, there was a good side to being Mike’s little sister that to her, seemed to make the madness of Mike all worth it. He invited other boys to their house. Not just any boys, good looking boys who – and this is the most important part – paid attention to Ireland!
For the most part, all interaction was neutral and platonic. But it was positive attention; something that was like gold to Ireland. So, each and every one of those teenage boys who stepped across that door and happened to look at, smile at, or God help them joke around with Ireland, found themselves with a 13-year-old, nervous, strawberry blonde haired shadow at their heals whenever over. Oh, she made it not as obvious as that sounds, but she was like a magnet to them. I remember Roman, Marty, and especially Chance.
Chance went to our high school. The others didn’t. Neither did Mike. Even when we were in senior public school, we had to walk up the street to the high school to catch the bus home with the high school kids at the end of each day. And when we got off the bus to walk the 5 blocks to our 2 streets, Chance walked with us, living a couple blocks further. Ireland always walked next to him and carried on awkward conversations with him. However, they were conversations. And slowly, week by week, Chance and Ireland managed to get closer. They formed a real friendship. This, I’m sure, was not something Mike was aware of. I’m sure he would have had a fit. But it was there. I could see it. I could feel it.
What I wasn’t aware of then was, as Chance and Mike eventually drifted apart, this new friendship with Ireland would last for decades, being called upon – tested or relished – at several times.
I asked Ireland when we were working on all the names to give everyone for the story, why she chose Chance for the name of this friend. She replied, “Because with him, I took a chance.”
This made a lot of sense to me, as I looked back for the years. I believe she took more than one chance with him, in more than one way. For this was the one, over the years, she trusted.
Desperate for Love: The Life and Times of a Survivor - PART 3
- Desperate for Love: The Life and Times of a Survivor, Part 3
I have often looked back, over the years, digging in my memory bank and excavating random memories with Ireland in those months, searching for signs of what was really going in in her life.