During our second year in Bible School, we enrolled our daughter in a private Christian school. The popular, teased-hair crowd at the public school had shunned her long parted-in-the-middle California hairstyle, and that left the disenfranchised who grabbed her. Jo’s loneliness worried me. I wanted to get her out of that venue before she encountered the drug scene, or entered the sex rat race, so mid-year I tried to move her to the private school. Jo didn’t want to suffer another initiation and appealed to her father for help.
“Marty, Jo doesn’t want to change schools now. Wait till fall.
“Look. We should have put her in the Christian school from the beginning, but we didn’t. I believe when you see you’ve made a mistake, you should alter it immediately.”
“No. We’re leaving her in public school.”
“John, she is not thriving there. She was a popular girl in California, president of her class. Look where she is now? These cowgirls aren’t accepting her!”
“What makes you think the Christian girls will?”
“Because there is a different spirit there.”
He called Jo into the room, “Do you want to change schools?”
“No.” she said. It seemed like she said it with a desire to punish me.
“That settles it.” John said, and the two of them looked like they had triumphed. I wanted to fall on the floor in defeat, as I believed we put our daughter in harm’s way.
By fall both were ready for Jo to enter the Christian school. Naturally, the new school asked to see her record of inoculations. I took the same record to the private school that I had taken to the public school, but the Christian school called and told me she needed a measles shot. Irritated, I told them that was ridiculous; she had all her shots. A negligent mother I am not! But they insisted a measles shot did not appear on the record.
So, I made an appointment to get the shot. At the doctor’s office Jo, fearing the needle, asked that I go into the examination room with her. The doctor came in holding her chart. “Hello, Jo. And hello Marty.” He looked a little surprised at seeing me.
“Yeah,” Jo said with embarrassment, swinging her feet. “I asked my Mom to come. I hate shots.”
He put his hand on the doorknob, his athletic body assuming a casual pose. “Too bad, because your mom has to leave.”
“Why?” Jo piped up.
“Because the law says I must ask you a question in private. I’m sure I know the answer, but I must obey the law.” He winked at me. “If there is any chance your daughter is pregnant then I cannot give her the shot. But coming from a family like yours, I could fill in the answer myself. However, let’s obey the law.” He opened the door and ushered me out.
I took a seat in the waiting room sitting against the far wall with the nurses’ station situated between me and the door to the examining room. He stayed in that room for what seemed an interminable time. When he did come out, the pallor of his face matched the white paint on the walls. He did not look at me but fussed with some papers spread on the counter. The nurse went into the room taking a tray with the paraphernalia prepared for the injection. Out of nowhere, icy perspiration dripped down my back as I gripped the arms of the chair. What was I afraid of? Jo came out a few minutes later and walked briskly past me racing out the door to the car. I quickly followed.
Shaking, I got into the driver’s seat and asked, “What happened?”
“Just go!” she shouted, her chin quivering. “Get out of here. It’s bad enough that one of your friends molested me, and now I have to live through the humiliation of it!”
My stomach lurched. I reached for her, but Jo pushed my hand away and sobbed, “Get out of here! Just drive or I’ll walk home. This is more than I can take.”
With trembling hands, I backed up and drove out of the parking lot. All the way home I tried soothingly to get her to talk, my heart pounding so loudly I could barely hear my words. I wanted to know what happened, with whom and when, but she wouldn’t respond. My suspicion, of course, was Henry, but he hadn’t seen her since first grade. When I asked, she couldn’t remember who Henry was.
Finally, in the subdued light of the garage, when the automatic door had closed, she blurted out, “It was James.” Little whines squeaked through her constricted throat. “He started molesting me when I was seven, and he didn’t quit till I was twelve. That’s when he stopped coming to see us.” Horrified, I sat stunned in the car while Jo slammed the door and charged into the house.
The young man who came to me asking for guidance in his personal problems, soliciting my advice, who I had helped with his homework, with whom I enjoyed talking to the point of looking forward to his visits? Him? He committed sexual acts with my daughter? How could this have taken place without my knowing about it? My head spun with this deception, this disgusting travesty!
I rushed upstairs, pausing outside my daughter’s door as I could hear her sobbing and talking to herself inside. But then I simply pushed the door open.
“Get out of here!” she blurted between her tears. “It’s all your fault! You invited him into the house! You thought he was great! He was your special friend! You did this to me!”
“Jo, please. I didn’t know.” I implored and started moving toward the bed where my daughter had curled into a ball.
“Don’t you come near me!” she screamed. “You had to know.”
“I swear to you, I did not. Do you think I would just let something like that happen to you? I love you; you are my life! I’ve given up everything for you!”
“You always left me alone with him; why did you do that?” Her body convulsed.
I searched my memory, “Jo, he babysat a few times, but then I thought better of it and decided only to have girls baby-sit.”
“That’s when it started. Then after school he’d come around and you’d run an errand. . . .”
“But JJ was there.”
“He was back in the TV room. And sometimes you were in the kitchen cooking dinner.” Jo looked wet and splotchy as if she were being pelted with rain. I reached for her, desperate to eliminate this horror that suddenly sat on my world.
“I thought he was helping you with your homework. I didn’t know, Jo, I swear to you I didn’t know. I guess I was so wrapped up in my own problems that I didn’t see it. You’ve got to believe me.”
By this time my nose was dripping, as I was sobbing uncontrollably, and Jo held out her arms to me. We lay on the bed and cried in each other’s arms for a while. “Please forgive me, Jo, please, please forgive me.” How could I have been the instrument of such profound pain to one whom I adored? She hugged me and kissed me, “It’s okay.” We cried and confessed how much we loved each other. When we calmed down she asked, “What kind of problems did you have, Mom?”
I sobered up. There was no way I could lay on my daughter’s soul the fact that her father had been a practicing homosexual and although non-practicing at this moment, still a homosexual. Especially not when she had so much to bear from her own roughened past. I said, “When you are grown I’ll tell you, but right now let’s concentrate on you. Let’s get some counseling for you.”
She recoiled and slid off the bed. Standing over me, she looked down with contempt. “No! I will never go to counseling. Do you hear me? I’m not the sick one. You are! I’ve told you my dirty secret and you won’t tell me yours? You are the one who was so sick you let James into our house! You ruined my life and you won’t even tell me why! Get out!” She pointed to the door.
“Jo,” I implored. But she glared at me like a piercing dagger and hurtled out of the room.
The next day the principal called to say he had misread Jo’s records and did, indeed, find her measles shot listed, so there was no need to get another one. Numb, I mumbled thank you and hung up. Why had this whole scene occurred? For me to find out about James? If so, what was I to do with the information? I didn’t really believe in counseling; it certainly hadn’t helped my husband.