Thursday, July 1, 2010

Courage to Do the Right Thing

My dad died this afternoon. When it finally happened, it was quick, peaceful, and all but one of his children were there. Because I'm still processing this, I want to tell you about something else that happened today.

My sisters and I will talk to anyone. My brother has teased us incessently since we've been going to the hospital about our need to say hello to every hospital employee who has done anything for our dad. Sometimes it can be embarrassing (and ridiculous) how forward we are.

Today the five of us were eating in the local drugstore. My sisters kept staring at this one table where a man, four young girls, and two older women were eating. One sister kept saying that the man was being totally inappropriate. Another said he was creeping her out. Finally I looked over and the man had the twelve year old in his lap and had his hand up her shirt in the front. Then in the back. Then he rested it on her rear end. It was very disturbing to watch.

One of my sisters is a therapist who specializes in women who have been sexually abused. She wanted to confront the situation. We were horrified and didn't want her to get involved. She said, "God, if you want me to do something, create an opportunity." Oh sure. In the crowded drugstore there was going to be a chance to talk about this to someone in that group.

A few minutes later, we figured out that the man was the father of the girls, and the situation assumed even more importance. The father kissed one of the younger girls on the mouth, then he and the girls and one of the women left, leaving the other woman there to pay the bill. She said, "See you tomorrow," so we knew they would not be coming back in. My sister said that she was going over.

She started talking to the woman. And for about three or four minutes the woman stood, protesting slightly, but attentive to what my sister said. After it was over and the woman had left, we talked about what had been said and I was astounded at the skill with which my sister had handled the conversation.

I would not have had the skills to do what she did. But beyond that I would not have had the courage. My sister may have changed the course of that young girl's life, and that of her sisters too. I can't give her enough credit for the risk she took. Hats off to her for standing up for that child. What an example she set today.


kenju said...

First, I am sorry about the loss of your dad, and I am glad to know he was not in pain.

Your sister took a chance I would not have taken, but I applaud her for it. I would love to have been a fly on the wall when that woman was next in the presence of that man.

Virginia S. Wood, Psy.D. said...

I woke up thinking about you and your Dad this morning.

Good for your sister. But she probably knows from experience that her intervention may not change much. Plenty of non-abusing parents have had far more powerful reality-checks than that and gone right on back into denial.

The fact that this turkey can be so blatant not only in front of adult women in the family but out in public for Pete's sake tells us an awful lot about how much more he's already been getting away with for years. Those poor little girls.

Also, as your sister well knows, that woman in all likelihood is a survivor herself and has very few or poorly-developed limit-setting skills. So even if she tries, it may not change much.

Still. It was the right thing. It had to be done. I forget who said it--the Dalai Lama? Nehru?--but even though what we do may not make much of a difference, we must do it anyway. Or words to that effect.

Virginia S. Wood, Psy.D. said...

eh. It was Gandhi.

Still sorry about your Dad, and thinking about you as you move into the whole wake/funeral/visitation ordeal.

Anonymous said...

Mamie, what your sister did was a beautiful act. What you did by writing about it is also a beautiful act. It takes my breath away.

I am sorry to hear and read about your father's passing. Please know that I am with you in spirit as you go through this next passage of grief and making a new life without him. I know you and your family will experience his presence close to you for a long, long time, and that y'all will continue to do and be wonderful folks. With love, Susan