Tom sat next to me the other day and said, “I have some disturbing news.” My mind raced in 120 different directions, but most of them went in the “this is a joke” direction. However, one look at his face told me that was not the case.
He told me to call up the St. Louis Post Dispatch’s web site. On the home page was all sorts of stuff, one link being related to the Rams letting some players go. Again, in my rose-colored glasses world, I pointed to that one, hoping it would be the “disturbing news.” Again, I was wrong.
He pointed to the link: Wildwood man arrested for child molestation at St. Louis YMCA. My heart sunk. First of all, we live in Wildwood. Wildwood is a nice, safe, suburban area as far west of St. Louis as you can be and still be in St. Louis County. Things like this don’t happen here. Secondly, we live maybe two miles (I’m a very bad judge of distance) from the YMCA. I could tell by the look on Tom’s face that this article would be more personal than just happening in our neighborhood.
When the link opened, I gasped. The man was someone we knew.
I quickly read the article which seemed to be about four sentences, but it told me all I needed to know. This man had been arrested for molesting a 16-year-old boy in the YMCA sauna. After I read it for a second time, I realized that it wasn’t the YMCA near our house, it was actually one in the city. A small sigh of relief came only because my kids hadn’t spent time at that particular Y.
Now, honestly, I hardly know this man at all. To look at the mug shot of this guy, you’d never think he was anything but a horrible person. But, I’ve certainly seen a different side of him than that picture shows. I know his wife from school activities since they have a son that is my daughter’s age. This woman is the sweetest thing you can imagine. She is fun, giggly, and just a great all-around kind of gal. I would see her at a meeting and choose to sit by her because she was such a positive person.
This was several days ago and my mind is still racing. I can’t stop thinking about it. I don’t want to talk to other people about it, because what would be the point? I don’t know anything. And, anything anyone else tells me is just going to be hearsay.
But, maybe the real reason I don’t want to hear anything about it or talk about it, is because it punctures the happy little bubble that I live in. I live in a safe neighborhood. Gone are the days in which I grew up that you came home from school, had a snack, and said, “See you at dinnertime, Mom!” and took off to play with your friends somewhere in the neighborhood. Or after dinner, I would tell my mom I’d be in before dark (dark was officially defined as the time of day when you could see the lights on inside other people’s houses). But, even so, my kids can run up and down the street and find dozens of other kids to play with. Safely. I lock my front door when I’m home only because the dang door won’t close right, so any little breeze makes it fly right open. We’ve had a few isolated incidents in the neighborhood, but truly, Ward and June Cleaver would be very happy here.
And, while this guy doesn’t live in our actual neighborhood, he certainly lives within walking distance. And, there are a few child molesters that live nearby as well. I would imagine it would be hard to find a place to live that didn’t have someone on the sex offender list either working or living nearby.
As I sat here writing this, Tom told me that he told our son about the incident. Sadly, he has to because this man is at scout functions. Fortunately, at all the Boy Scout outings, the adults sleep in separate tents or cabins from the boys. You can’t even sleep with your own kid. For reasons such as this. When I first heard that, I thought, “Man, I can’t believe we have to worry about this stuff.” But, obviously we do. And, I can sleep a lot better knowing that it has been thought about.
Am I being realistic? No need to talk about it, because you can’t do anything about it. Plus, it could turn out to be false. And, I certainly don’t want to have anyone be able to say, “Well, Michelle said…” Especially since I don’t know anything more than what I read in the paper. If I talk about it with others, then I may hear things that I may want to repeat.
Or, am I putting my head in the sand and living the life of an ostrich? If I don’t talk about it, it will go away? Obviously, I’m leaning toward the ostrich’s way of life. Telling myself that it could be a mistake. Reassuring myself that I let my kids off the leash “just enough” to give them independence, but still protect them.
I guess I will have to do what mothers have been doing for centuries. Doing the best I know how to do here on earth, and pray every night that God does His thing up there.