The Lofty Chronicles: 8 — A Traumatic Revelation

A Traumatic Revelation

[The following note was included as a preface to the Summer 1992 issue of the original Lofty Chronicles, and was intended to prepare Lauren’s aunts, uncles, and grandparents for the intensity of what they were about to read. The first two months of that issue, June and July, are included here. The August entries will appear in our Summer 2003 Journal, as Part Five of the Lofty Chronicles.]

This has been quite a summer. First Joyce’s father, Joe, had a heart attack. Joyce packed a suitcase, ready to head north the moment a call came through saying she was needed. Joe made a good recovery, however, and we caught our breath. But only momentarily. The same day we learned that Joe had been released from the hospital, we got another message. Joyce’s mother had just been admitted to an Emergency Room in nearby Blacksburg-also with a heart attack.

Lilly eventually needed open-heart surgery, followed by a lengthy recuperation. She’s better now. But for a while Joyce was on the go constantly, shuttling back and forth between Blacksburg and Roanoke, where the surgery was performed.

This crisis had just started to ease off a bit when the third wave hit. In late July we learned that Adam, who has lived at Light Morning for over six years, had been fondling Lauren and her friend Myra since early Spring.

We were stunned, outraged, sickened, and bewildered. We were also plunged into a maelstrom of simultaneous and often competing needs–supporting the girls, supporting Adam, processing our own emotions and those of our friends and neighbors, not to mention becoming involved with attorneys, therapists, and the local social services and judicial systems.

In the pages that follow, I’ve tried to include at least some of this processing, along with the more normal vignettes of Lofty’s daily life. I’ve also added a few of my other journal entries, which, while not directly related to Lofty, seem to foreshadow what was about to occur. They show, as well, how certain “muscles” that we have been exercising for a number of years were suddenly called into use.

Reviewing the journal selections included here, I imagine that what’s been left out will likely cause some distortions and confusion. But this issue is over-long already, so we’re sending it off to you as is, with our love.

* * *

Lauren at the treadle sewing machine
Lauren at the treadle sewing machine

July 1992

Expectancy (Monday, 6 July 1992) It’s close to 10:30. Joyce and I are brushing our teeth and getting ready for story and bed. Lauren comes downstairs from the loft to join us. She’s been working on secret codes for the past several hours—first typing the master code on the computer (and thereby practicing how to save, view, and print documents in WordPerfect); then using one of Joyce’s calligraphy pens to write notes to two friends (“How do you spell ‘secret’? How do you spell ‘brother’?”); and finally folding everything up into two bulky packets and stapling them into home-made envelopes.

She brings the envelopes down with her when she comes to brush her teeth. Eli is visiting in the morning and she wants to be ready.

“I can’t wait ’til tomorrow,” she exudes.

“It’s nice that you’re so excited about your life,” I reply.

“What do you mean?”

“Well,” says Joyce, “Not everyone looks forward to their tomorrows as eagerly as you do.”

“I’m almost always looking forward to tomorrow,” Lofty replies, “except when I have to go to the doctor or the dentist.”

Then, after a pause, “But if someone were going to the doctor to have a baby, I bet they’d be looking forward to it.”

“That’s for sure!” Joyce says with a grin.

A Learned Tolerance for Diversity (Monday, 6 July 1992) It’s sobering to observe the endless daily reminders of how un-accepting we are of one another. I recall the phrase that was singing through my mind for days after the striking dream about the Tall Ones: the rightness of what is.

It would almost seem, however, as though we humans possess a genetic intolerance for diversity. Our dislike for someone saying or doing or thinking something other than what we normally say or do or think is deeply embedded.

We’re un-accepting of others because we’re unable to accept ourselves. And this is where a learned tolerance for diversity must begin. The roots of our personal insecurity are what need attention. Otherwise we just end up squeezing the balloon.

Lofty’s Intuitions (Tuesday, 7 July 1992) Lauren and I are taking her friend, Eli, home this afternoon. He’s been over for the day. Going out, we pass a car coming in. Lauren immediately says, “I bet that’s our guests.”

We’re expecting a couple from Virginia Beach to show up at Light Morning during the next few days. We don’t know them, don’t know exactly when they’ll be arriving, and certainly don’t know what their car looks like. And we’ve already passed several other unfamiliar cars on the road.

Lauren, however, sounds quite certain that this particular car contains our guests.

“We can test your intuition when we get home,” I say. “We’ll see if that car’s in our parking lot.”

After dropping Eli off and turning around, we pass Doro heading out.

“There’s Doro,” exclaims Lauren.

Then, as though having just seen something, she adds, “She’s going out to Smith’s Store to get treats to bring to music night tonight.”

“Could be,” I reply, thinking it rather unlikely.

Doro rarely comes to music night.

“That will give you another chance to test your intuition. We’ll ask her, if she shows up tonight.”

The rest of the way home we discuss intuition—how we sometimes know something without knowing how we know it; the difference between knowing and guessing; and why our intuitions are sometimes right and sometimes wrong.

To Lauren’s surprise, the car that we had passed on our way out is not in our parking lot when we get home. But it is pulled up next to the community shelter. And it does belong to our guests.

And sure enough, Doro arrives after supper for music night. She mentions that she’d seen us as she was driving to the store to pick up some potato chips for tonight.

Lofty smiles at me.

“Nice going,” I say. “Two for two.”

The Road to Heaven (Wednesday, 8 July 1992) The road to hell, the saying goes, is paved with good intentions. One might also say that the road to heaven is paved with good intent. The highway to heightened awareness, in other words, becomes passable only as we acknowledge the good intent that is at the core of all people, all things, all circumstances.

The more we’re able to see the presence of All That Is within others, the easier it becomes to recognize It within ourselves. And it the more we experience It within ourselves, the more we start seeing It in the people and circumstances around us.

It reminds me of the lyrics for a little song I wrote a number of years ago.

If you could see yourself smiling
Reflected in the face of each thing
Then there’d be nothing that could ever bring
Back your fears.

And if you could hear yourself singing
In the heart of each person that you meet
Then every sound would be sweet
To your ears.

[How do we know what we know before we know it? These memories and insights, which arose seemingly unbidden in my mind, were just about to be put to the test.]

Lofty’s Letter (Thursday, 9 July 1992) Joyce has been away most of the past two weeks. Her mother, Lilly, has been hospitalized in Blacksburg with a heart attack. Joyce has been helping out, sometimes taking Lauren with her, mostly leaving her here with me.

Joyce and Lauren have been missing each other. The feelings are complex, since the mother-daughter energy between Joyce and Lilly, and especially their anxiety over the heart attack, will unavoidably rebound into the other mother-daughter relationship. So a lot of confusing transference is probably going on right now.

This afternoon, while I’m cat-napping, Lauren writes a letter to her absent mother. When I awake, she shows it to me.

“I am coming withe you this time,” it says. “And dad shud com to. Love from Lofty. P.S. Navr go awae for that log agen. Love from Lofty.”

I tell her it’s a lovely letter.

“I didn’t want to wait to ask you about the spelling,” she says. “So I just went ahead. I think Mom will get the meaning.”

“I’m sure she will. Don’t worry about the spelling. That stuff comes later. The meaning’s the important thing. Mom will love your letter.”

Lofty goes out to her swing. I sit for a moment, brooding on what a perfect example of natural learning this letter is. We haven’t been urging her to read or write, trusting that her innate desire will emerge in due course, and believing that learning to read and write is like learning to walk and talk. We don’t have to artificially create the desire. It’s already there. We simply have to lend a helping hand when it’s asked for.

Lauren had some feelings that she wanted to share, and had enough tools to get that feeling across. In doing so, she intuitively realized that meaning is more important than spelling. Later on she’ll learn that better language provides a greater range of expression. For now, though, her tools were perfectly adequate for the task at hand.

What’s more, she wrote the letter entirely on her own. “I do it myself!” was Lauren’s constant mantra as a toddler, especially when some well-meaning but meddling adult offers more help than had been asked for. I’ve heard the same phrase repeated endlessly by other youngsters.

Perhaps adults are slow to get the point. We seem to think that children are inherently different from us; that they thrive on unsolicited assistance and advice. Someone once offered that if the Golden Rule is, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” (a rule big people have great difficulty in applying to little people), then the Iron Rule should be, “Never do for others what they can do for themselves.”

The timing of Lofty’s letter-writing was impeccable. We both knew that I’d be highly unlikely to correct her spelling (and ruin her letter) while I was asleep. So she seized the brief moment of my nap-time to “do it herself.”

 

Robert, Lauren, and Joyce at Transdyne
Robert, Lauren, and Joyce at Transdyne

 

Lofty’s First Fair (Saturday, 11 July 1992) Lofty and I are at the Salem Fair with Wes, Shara, and Rosie. The temperature’s in the mid 90s. But that doesn’t deter the girls. They’re pumped!

Especially Lofty. This is her first fair. She’s been listening to the audio tapes of Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White. The climax of that story is set at a county fairground. While this isn’t exactly a county fair—there are no livestock exhibits or canned goods or blue ribbons—it’s close enough. There are candied apples, cotton candy, and lemonade. And lots of rides.

The first one we happen upon turns out to be the most gut-wrenching of the day. I forget its name. There’s a tall central column, maybe 50 or 60 feet high. A number of long chains hang down from it, each one attached to a small, one-person, gondola-like car. The riders buckle into the cars, the column begins to rotate and pick up speed, until the cars and their occupants are whirling far overhead at high velocity, the chains nearly parallel to the ground.

A ride is in progress as we approach. It’s impressive! Lofty eyes it cautiously. Rose, on the other hand, can’t wait. Wes had let her ride it the other day.

Shara and I look at each other, thinking, “Are we really going to let our kids go up in that thing?”

But Rosie’s enthusiasm, and the expectations of the day, overcome both Lofty’s caution and our parental protectiveness.

So when the blaring music dies down, and the chains and cars come to a standstill, and the riders stagger out, the girls clamber onto the platform and take their seats. I call out to Lauren to be sure to hold tight. She nods and manages a weak smile. Then the music starts up again and the central column begins to turn.

Slowly at first, and then with increasing speed, the cars swing out in a widening gyre. Lofty’s face, as her car spins into view, is frozen in dismay.

“I’ve changed my mind, Dad,” her face says. “I don’t want to be here. Please tell the man, right now, to stop this thing so I can get off.”

But she knows, and I know, that there’s no stopping and no getting off. It calls to mind the time she contracted whooping cough. Once under way, there was no turning back. Surrendering to the full experience was our only option.

So I wave and smile encouragement each time her car whirls by, she clinging desperately to the chains, and the ride seems to go on and on, forever.

Finally the music ends and the cars coast to a stop. The girls get out and come over to where Shara and I are standing. Lofty looks at me.

“I am never, ever going up in one of those things again!” she announces passionately.

Then she holds out her hands, palms up. The marks of the chains are imprinted on her bone-white flesh.

I hoist her up, give her a big hug and a kiss. Then she and Rosie run off to decide on their next ride. Nothing that follows, however, not even the roller coaster or the 100-foot Ferris wheel, is much of a problem. That first ride put everything else into perspective.

He Is You (Wednesday, 15 July 1992) Adam and Marlene and I are squabbling about the adequacy of our water supply. Nothing serious. While we’re debating the issue, Lofty’s over at the desk, drawing.

Later, after everyone’s had their say and gone their way, Lofty shows me her drawing. At the top of the page are the words, “He is you, and you are him.”

Below the words is a picture of two smiling faces. The one on the right has a cartoon rendition of what it’s thinking. It says, “I am him.”

The one on the left is twice as big as the first one. Its thought is likewise labeled. “I am him, too.”

“Tell me about these guys,” I say.

“They’re two robots. But they’re really only one. The big one made the little one. He was lonely or something. So he made the little one. But they both know they’re the same.”

Patience and Desire (Saturday, 25 July 1992) We are striving to assimilate our circumstances. To re-connect the inner and the outer worlds. To re-integrate what’s within us and around us. To wake up. Given sufficient patience and desire, this communion can occur. The mirror does come clear.

But it takes both patience and desire. If we’re impatient, we never allow the murky waters of the seemingly external world to clarify and grow still. And if our desire is weak, if the striving for assimilation and re-connection isn’t impeccable, then by the time the mirror does clear, we’ve forgotten that what we’re seeing in the waters of our personal circumstances is our reflection. We’re back asleep again.

Lofty’s Week at Augusta (Monday, 27 July 1992) Joyce and Lauren have just returned from their week at Augusta Heritage Center. The calligraphy class that Joyce helped teach went well. They had a number of repeat students, which is good feedback for the instructors.

Lofty had several firsts. She attended her first Catholic Mass, and liked the priest, who, upon meeting her, held out his hand and said, “Give me five!” But she was disappointed that the kneeling-benches were no longer in use. The congregation apparently stands to pray these days.

She also practiced stone carving for the first time, which, in her excitement at telling me about it, she calls “stone starving.” They use a soft stone and a sharp scalpel. They normally don’t let kids under 12 practice this art. But Lofty did well, only jabbing herself once.

And last but not least, she had her first brush (or should I say blush?) with romance. She was in a class with nine other girls and one boy. The boy, an eleven-year-old from California, took an instant shine to Lofty. She was suitably impressed with Nat’s attentiveness, but didn’t quite understand it. To her, he was just another friend.

Nat, on the other hand, was rather more smitten. On the last day of the week, Joyce saw him sitting on some steps with his head in his hands.

“Hard to leave, isn’t it?” Joyce asked.

He nodded glumly.

“You coming back next year?” she continued.

Another nod.

“We’ll probably see you then,” she said, and started to walk away.

Finally, Nat seemed to tumble to whose mother he’d been talking to.

His head slowly lifted out of his hands.

“Are you coming back next year?” he asked.

Joyce smiled and nodded.

“Well,” he said, his mood visibly brighter, “I guess I will be seeing you then.”

[In retrospect, this is one more instance of the “synchronicities” that have accompanied the unfolding of events this summer. Everything is so inter-connected! It was the day after Lofty returned from Augusta, and her first tentative “boyfriend” experience, that she told her friend Claire about what had been going on with Adam. Myra, independently, and on the same day(!), told her older sister.

So everything secret came tumbling out, and the package with the “small, evil corpse,” the arrival of which Lofty had been dreading in her dream from the morning of June 12th, was finally delivered into our unsuspecting (our consciously unsuspecting) hands.

In time, and with a good strong dose of the desire and patience alluded to in the July 25th journal entry, the opened package would indeed prove to contain presents, just as Lofty’s dream had foretold. First, however, would come fire.]

Alice’s Revelation (Wednesday, 29 July 1992) Alice, Myra’s mom, comes down to our house with Adam at dusk this evening, just as I am finishing work on our new wood shed. She says she has something she wants to share with Joyce and me. Adam looks extremely sober.

We sit down on the back porch, in the dusky twilight, and Alice tells us that she has just learned that Adam had been fondling Lofty and Myra, and that the fondling had been going on for several months.

Joyce and I are stunned. My first, impulsive reaction is to do an inner “take” on Lofty. The immediate impression is that, while there are clearly going to be problems, she’s basically O.K. She’s going to need reassurances that touching and hugging are still good things; and help with her guilt for not having told us about it sooner, as well as her guilt for having told at all, when it may well send Adam to prison.

Further down the road, and still more pernicious, she may have to work with a tendency to equate her sexuality with something illicit and dangerous. This awareness fuels our cascading anger and deepens our grief for her sudden and shocking loss of innocence.

But it’s tempered by the gut sense that she’s a strong, resilient kid, both loving and loved, and that as bad as it is, it could have been much worse.

Then, surprisingly, my concern shifts to Adam. I know what others have gone through when confronted with sexual abuse charges. He is going to be facing some very painful fires. And while part of me feels he deserves the full social and judicial consequences of his actions, another part remembers my own horrific fire experience the week after Lauren was born. And this spontaneous memory kindles a strange empathy for someone whose life is about to go up in flames.

Finally, a realization dawns that this is a “moment of truth,” not only for Adam, but for all of us—for those now involved, and for so many others who soon will be. I know, as clearly as I have ever known anything in my life, that we are about to be tested.

A Long Talk With Adam (Friday, 31 July 1992) After giving Adam a day or two to “stabilize” somewhat, I go up to the community shelter to look for him this evening. The lights are on, so I know that he’s around, but the shelter is empty.

I settle down to wait, recollecting my fire experience and feeling increasingly deep parallels between it and Adam’s situation. Then, from the direction of the parking lot, comes the loud crack of a gun shot.

I stand up, feeling suddenly queasy, and walk in that direction. When I arrive at the steps of Ron and Marlene’s house, however, I hear Adam and Ron talking. The shot has been our neighbor’s attempt to keep the critters away from his crops.

Adam and I return to the porch and have a long talk. He’s in obvious denial during the first part of our conversation, believing that the crisis, while very serious, is containable. Then, as I convey my own understanding that the news of what has been going on between him and the girls will inevitably spread through the community, neighborhood, and county, and will, quite likely, end up in the courts, Adam begins to grasp the implications of what he has immersed himself in.

I suggest he’s going to find himself in desperate need of a friend, but that before I can even consider being such a friend, I have to unburden myself of the seething anger and sense of betrayal that his actions have aroused in me. Which I proceed to do—pointedly, and at length, and with no little heat.

Then, when the flood tide of my anger has run its course, I sketch for him a brief outline of my fire experience, in the belief that what he is about to go through may well follow that archetypal pattern.

In response, he draws the full story out of me, in a way that no one has since I passed through that terrifying hell eight years ago. I marvel at the deep rightness of my strong intuition, in the immediate aftermath of that great burning, that what I had just gone through would one day come to be seen as a great blessing.

For many other people, I had suddenly realized, even as the embers were still smoldering, will one day have their own versions of this archetypal trauma. And without having passed through the flames myself, I would have neither the understanding nor the empathy to be there for them when they needed it.

“How profoundly true that insight was,” I keep thinking to myself, as Adam starts to process his tumultuous feelings of guilt, fear, and self-loathing. While unable and unwilling to downplay the intensity of what he’s about to go through, I am able to hold out the promise of light at the far end of his looming tunnel of darkness.

And he can feel enough inner resonance to my words to allow him to find a few lucid intervals of peace in the midst of his raging firestorms of shame and anxiety.