|ChrisOLeary.com > Sins of the Fathers > That Day|
You've got to get yourself together
I don't want what happened to me to happen to my kids.
If you're familiar with my research into the mechanics of hitting and pitching, you may have seen or heard me use that phrase. It's easy to understand how that idea could drive my efforts to understand and get the word out about the root causes of The Epidemic in baseball pitchers.
What's harder to understand is why I have so often done things that are at best counter-productive.
The truth is, I'm driven by an underlying fear.
A fear that, while personally intertwined with baseball, goes beyond it. A fear that has, and continues to, consume me. A fear that has cost me everything: my job, my savings, my home, my marriage, my best friend, my family, and my life as I knew and loved it.
A fear of something terrible.
When I was a kid, I LOVED the game of baseball.
I loved playing it. I loved practicing it. I loved watching it.
I loved studying and simply thinking about it.
I loved baseball so much that, on the days when I would have a game, I would be so excited that I would get up at literally the crack of dawn. Bored but wired, I’d watch the farm report until the cartoons came on. At the same time, I'd carefully laying out my uniform and making sure that everything was ready for the game that would take countless, excruciating hours to arrive.
That day started similarly.
I woke up at the crack of dawn on a mid-Summer morning. It was right around the 4th of July, and my parents were out of town at a convention.
Bursting with excitement about what was to come, I finished dressing and eating with at least two hours to spare and killed time by watching TV.
I didn’t know exactly what lay ahead -- all I knew was that I was going to serve at mass for Fr. Valentine -- but I knew that it was going to be special, because Fr. Valentine always went out of his way to make our time together special.
Because I was one of his favorites and he was like a super-cool uncle -- or even a second father -- to me.
When it was time to leave -- and I believe because work was being done on or under the McKnight Road bridge over Black Creek -- I walked down Black Creek Lane to the east end, where I hopped the five-foot brick wall and landed in someone’s back yard. I then ran down the hill and turned right when I reached the street. I walked up the hill, weaving my way around the bends in the street and up the hill to Clayton Road. I ran across the street and entered the church through the east door, which opened up into the server’s area.
While two servers normally worked a mass, I was the only one there that day. As a result, after the mass was over and everything was cleaned up, Fr. Valentine had me come over to the priests' side of a sacristy.
We then went over to the rectory to have a Coke.
* * *
I’m at the door of the rectory. The west door. Trying to get out. My hand is on the handle of the storm door. On the left side of the door. It's all I can see as I fumble with it, desperate to get outside.
I open the storm door, bolt out, and turn right around the closing door.
In truth, it’s only maybe 50 feet to corner of the church and the sign just beyond it.
But it looks so much farther away.
And it gets farther away with each breath I take.
I feel like I’m floating down a tunnel.
A tunnel in which everything is black and white and grey, with the only color at the end.
But I know I’m running, or at least moving fast, because my eye level rises and then drops down again as I float up and over something.
My gaze shifts back to the rectory door a couple of times and then forward again and then I’m beyond the curve of the church and out of sight of the rectory.
I keep running west on the sidewalk that runs along Clayton Road and quickly cover the 100 or so yards to the intersection of McCutcheon Avenue and Clayton Road. As I do so, the color gradually returns to the world and my field of view widens.
I dart across the street at the stop sign on Clayton Road and run over to one of the pine trees that is across the street. I dive between and under the branches near its base and, safe and relatively out of sight under the tree’s branches, sit there breathing hard and wondering what the hell just happened.
I’m staring at the sign on the corner and repeating what it says over and over again.
Mc-Cutch-E-On. Mc-Cutch-E-On. Mc-Cutch-E-On.
And my ass feels like it’s on fire.
In a perfect world, being raped by a priest would be the low point of my story.
But we don’t live in a perfect world.
My brain knew to -- and how to -- hide the truth from me.
It chopped up the memories of that day into pieces. It stripped apart the sounds and the images. It turned the videos into pictures; it reduced them to just snippets and flashes. It then took those pieces and scattered them among a number of boxes. It then locked the boxes up in a closet, shut the door, and then locked the door to the room.
As a result, while high school started off terribly and only got slightly better, going to college in Texas – which is totally different than St. Louis -- enabled me to return to a semblance of a normal life, at least for 20 or so years.
The problem is that the last 15 years of my efforts to first understand what happened to me, then get help from the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the Catholic Church, have been totally different.
There’s no hiding what the Church has done to me.
And continues to do.
The fact is, I'm never going to get help and I'm never going get better.
In large part, because what the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the Catholic Church did to me -- then and now -- means I will never get help.
How can you get help if you can't stand to leave the house? If don't have any money? If your trust of psychologists has been destroyed.
All I can do with the time I have left is to alert people to the problem.
And ensure that what happened to me doesn't happen to anyone else.