ellensagh

8. Striving For Change

I received one last letter from the crown prosecutor in December l994 regarding Allinblack and it indicated the above matter was dealt with in court in Saskatoon in November before an Honourable Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench.
 It let me know who appeared on behalf of the defendant and that the defendant entered pleas of guilty to fifteen of the seventeen charges that he faced. I found out the other two charges were withdrawn by the Crown. I guess in one case, they didn’t think there was sufficient evidence to proceed with a trial and in the other, it seems Father Allinblack wrote a letter of apology to the victim and that was okay with the victim as a way of dealing with this.
 It was in writing that Allinblack was sentenced to three years for the fifteen guilty charges; it had been jointly agreed upon by the crown and defense counsel and our court system agreed to this. They used the word appropriate to describe how our court system views this.
I met with my university advisor who had received my request to complete my practicum at Tamara’s House. He asked if I felt distanced enough from my own issues. I said yes, though I wasn’t sure at that moment. It was approved, depending on my acceptance by the Board of Directors of Tamara’s House. I prepared a presentation package, delivered it in person, and was accepted as a practicum student beginning right after Christmas.
 A parole officer called to inquire if I wanted to be interviewed for a victim impact statement. Because Allinblack had been sentenced to three years, she explained, he would be eligible for parole in a year – which meant that his first parole hearing would likely be only five months away, in May 1995. My statement, which would be available to Allinblack and his lawyers and could be used publicly at any parole hearing – would help the parole board arrive at its decision. She made an appointment for December 12.
 When she came to my house, it soon became apparent that everything she was doing was for the benefit of Allinblack, not me or any of his other victims. Victims seldom came forward; the parole officer admitted to not knowing enough about them. When I asked her what criteria she used to determine psychological harm, she didn’t seem to know at first, then she looked up something in her papers and announced, almost triumphantly, “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”
 The need for education in the justice system, I thought (not for the first time), was critical.
 She sent me a copy of her report, with a covering letter affirming my “right to be aware of the information provided to the offender,” and explaining that the statements and assessments of others had been omitted “to provide for the confidentiality of the offender and protection of his rights.”
COMMUNITY ASSESSMENT – Allinblack
Sources of Information
l. . . .
2. Sharon Speaks, victim, home interview, further identifiers will not be provided to the offender.
Relationship Between the Resource and Offender
Sharon Speaks is a victim of the offender. . . .
Assessment of Impact on Victims
 Sharon Speaks lives in rental duplex accommodation. The home is well kept and attractively decorated on obviously limited means.
 Sharon Speaks was provided with the policies of the Correctional Service and National Parole Board in relation to victim’s rights, the decision registry and observers at hearings. She was advised to contact the National Parole Board if she wished to pursue any of the avenues provided.
 Initially, the victim was hesitant and distrustful. She is angry at a system which does not provide for victims and said, “We, the victims were all lumped together. The time, money, effort – from victims, judges, police, crown prosecutors, and parole officers makes me angry – all this money going into him and nothing for victims. It is so sad the victims are isolated further by the Justice System. We needed to connect and were forbidden to.”
 Sharon Speaks gave further Impact Statements as follows, and I quote:
 “This abuse affects me, has affected my whole life, it is affecting my life now, it affects my children.
 “I never remembered my being sexually abused. I could not recognize abuse. I was in an abusive marriage for fifteen years. I wasn’t able to identify abuse or protect my daughter when she was sexually abused.
 “Two and a half years ago, when the news of a priest was being broadcast by the media with allegations of sexual abuse, I started having memories of my own sexual abuse.
 “I went to counselling – for help. My life was falling apart.
 “It was like I was reliving the abuse during the day and the nights. Not just a memory, but I was feeling it for the first time – terror, fear, shame.
 “I was self-employed. I was crying all the time. I couldn’t make a phone call. I was scared to leave the house. It was as if I was seven years old and someone was going to hurt me. I couldn’t work. I lost my business. I had to go on Social Assistance.
 “I couldn’t go into a church because I would shake. I can’t practice my religion. I don’t know what I believe in any more.
 “I still have nightmares two and a half years later. I wake up in a cold sweat and can’t return to sleep.
 “I can’t function during the day, raise my children, drive my car, do housework, because I’m walking around like I’m still seven years old.
 “I can’t speak, if I am in the same room with a man dressed in black.
 “It is unbelievable to me the money and time and effort that goes into him and there is nothing for victims.
 “In July of l992 I walked into his rectory, and said, “Thirty-one years ago you sexually abused me and you told me never to tell and now I’m telling’ and he said, “Yes, I did. Yes, I admit it.”
 “The police phoned me because other women have gone before me but the police have known since January of l993 that he admitted abusing me.
 “It’s taken four court appearances – he’d show up and not enter a plea, and not enter a plea, and not enter a plea.
 “I am in private counselling and have been for two and a half years, weekly, to cope with what happened to me thirty-two years ago.”
Overall Assessment
 Sharon Speaks impressed as a very reasonable, intelligent woman. For the most part, she was calm and collected during our interview; however, when speaking of the offence, she was unable to hold back the tears. Speaking of it obviously caused her a great deal of anguish. When speaking of the court processes and the trial, she expressed anger, shock, and resentment at the process the victims were forced to participate in.
 As the victim indicates, her statement to Police and disclosures at the preliminary hearing support her statement to this officer that the subject admitted, in front of two witnesses, to his sexual aggressions against her as a little girl.
From then until Christmas, I was either feeling wonderfully energetic or totally exhausted. My daughter and son were struggling with it – and with me. I didn’t know how to be a parent to them when I was so overcome with emotion. I was filled with grief every time I thought about Christmas. In a downtown office building when “O Holy Night” came on the PA system, I burst into tears. I cried through my niece and nephew’s Christmas pageant. It didn’t make sense any more.
 I spent ten days with my family over Christmas. I tried to talk to my father about the trial, but we got into an argument. He told me to stop taking everything out of context and blowing everything out of proportion. I sat there like a little girl, as if I couldn’t speak or defend myself. That sort of set the tone for the rest of the holidays.
 When I got back to Saskatoon, I started dreaming about trying to explain myself to my father. He’d say, “I tried to tell you but you’re so goddamn stupid and bull-headed, you have to go ahead and do it your own way. You can’t listen or see anyone else’s point of view.” I kept thinking. “He doesn’t know the whole picture,” and “How can I change anything if he won’t listen?” I’d wake up in the fear that he had abused me, too, and I just couldn’t remember. I kept telling myself that I would know what I needed to know when I needed to know it. I still had few memories of growing up, but I wanted to leave it for the moment and concentrate on my practicum.
 I loved my practicum at Tamara’s House. It was working toward a place where adult survivors could find resources and meet other survivors. It was all I had wanted for three years. When I was at work, I seldom thought of anything personal.
 On January l7, l995, I turned forty years old, and my daughter decided to move back in with her father. I realized that she had a good understanding of the cycle of domestic abuse. She didn’t refer to it as the tension-building stage (where you walk on egg shells), the crisis or violent stage (where you get hit or put down), and the honeymoon phase (where everything is nice and “normal”). Instead, she called the different phases “cut down,” “violence,” and “kiss ass.” She knew the cycle repeated itself over and over, getting worse each time, but she believed her self-esteem was high enough to handle it.
 I knew she had grown and changed. I was glad she had been with me as long as she had. I knew she needed to check out her new self, but I wondered if she just needed to be needed and was trying to fulfill that need by taking care of someone else. It scared me, but I tried to remember she was making a conscious choice.
 When her father came to pick her up, we had a confrontation in front of the kids. He said he wouldn’t take her until I wrote a letter to Maintenance Enforcement to “get them off his back.” I refused. For four hours I refused, and in the end he took her with him.
On February 3, l995, Tamara’s House hosted an open house to officially open the drop-in centre for three days a week. Over fifty survivors came, all women.
 That evening, my sister phoned to tell me that a man I knew had been charged with molesting boys. The man and I were the same age. We had once been members of the same parish, where he had worked tirelessly for the church. He had tried to commit suicide, and was now in a hospital in Saskatoon. She was debating whether to send him a card. Afterwards, I debated whether I would visit him. For two days, I had intense chest pain. Then on the third day – it was a Sunday morning – the dam burst. I was so angry it scared me. I tried various exercises I had learned to dissipate the rage, but they didn’t do a thing. I knew I had to get out of the house or I would take it out on my son.
 I phoned my counsellor at home. She met me in her office, where I keened and wailed for over an hour, but even that wasn’t enough. I drove to a friend’s house, crying so hard I could hardly see where I was going. She was always empathetic and understanding, no matter what I was going through. We walked for two hours, all over a golf course, breaking through snow that came to the top of my boots. I didn’t shut up once. I spent three more hours with her, then finally returned home and wrote fourteen pages in my journal, letting out all the anger and pain and frustration and rage at my family and the church and the bishop and the victim’s committee and even my church lawyer who wasn’t returning my phone calls.
 For two weeks I was plagued by the question, “Why do abusers abuse?” Then one day, I got a new memory of Allinblack:
I could picture myself standing in St. Peaceful’s church by the communion rail and I have on a chequered blue dress my aunt sent me. I am about five years old. Then I am an adult again looking around the room, and then I’m back in the church again. Can’t picture myself, but picture Allinblack sitting in a black robe and he’s been making fun of me and he is laughing. Then the adult me is crying, but it’s a cry without tears – more like a wailing of despair. Then more memories of Dad taking the collection plate, singing in the choir, Kyrie eleison, the colour of the books, where the organ was, where we sat at the Stations of the Cross. Well, here we go again. Learned something valuable. I did not want to be abused. The abuser knew exactly what he was doing when he abused me.
Two days later, I was driving to work and had a clear memory of Calvin abusing me in the basement of our family home. It seemed that I had to revisit every incident and issue in my life and somehow reframe it so that it made sense. Only it wasn’t making sense. The more I remembered, the less things seemed to change.
 I received a letter from the National Parole Board informing me that Allinblack’s hearing would take place on May 3rd, 4th, or 5th, l995. Included with the letter was some information explaining the process. I wondered if I wanted to go. I didn’t want to have to spend money getting picture identification or undergo a body search in order to enter the prison where the parole hearing would be held.
 Still, I was happy with my work at Tamara’s House. The centre was like my healing room. My son and I began playing volleyball one evening a week. It was the first time in three years that I was doing something that had nothing to do with abuse or healing. It was healing, though.
 I phoned my church lawyer, irritated at the delay in filing the civil suit. She told me that Allinblack’s lawyers had to convert his assets into cash, and that the church wanted to send his survivors to treatment centres in the States for assessments and then sit us down with a mediator. I wanted the suit filed. She said it could always be filed. “As long as you get your money,” she asked, “does it matter who’s to blame?” Of course it mattered!
 My practicum supervisor didn’t think I was reflective enough. My sister told me how much Calvin had changed. Well, maybe he had. Maybe he’d gone through his own metamorphosis of pain. The way I was feeling right then, I didn’t give a shit.
 I filed an application to be an observer at Allinblack’s parole hearing. Under, “State your reason for wanting to attend,” I wrote, “I want to be assured that my Victim Impact Statement is part of the decision process.” As to why I wanted information on a conditional release or any other decision made by the National Parole Board, I wrote, “Because I was a victim of the offender and I never want myself or anyone else to be a victim of his again.”
 I decided to have a party when I finished my practicum in April. Instead of attending the university convocation, I would have my own, mainly to celebrate the fact that I’d made it through the past three years. At first I thought I wouldn’t invite any family, just the women and counsellors who had listened to me. Then I thought, “I can’t not invite my sister who always opens her house for me when I go to Oiltown, or my sister who went with me to confront Allinblack, or my aunt who testified, or my parents who always offer material help, or even Calvin and his wife who tried to be as supportive as they could under the circumstances. Every day, on the bus to and from work, I planned my party.
 I learned about a new type of collage from one of the volunteers at Tamara’s House. Collage #l is what the world sees about me, or what I choose to share with or show the world. Collage #2 is what an inner circle of people I trust know about me. Collage #3 is what only I know. Collage #4 is what my subconscious is trying to tell me. Of course, I constructed one immediately. It was an unsettling exercise. It taught me that I did have emotional boundaries, but also that I didn’t know what was inside me trying to get out.
 On February 27, l995, I wrote to my church lawyer: “Further to our telephone conversation last week, I want to clarify that I want a civil suit filed at the appropriate court in Saskatoon against Allinblack, the diocese and for it to be filed immediately.
 I want to be part of the process of an examination for discovery of Allinblack. I want to know his answers to questions I have.
 I believe the Corporation mentioned above is in part responsible for my being abused by Allinblack and are to be held accountable. I want an examination of this Corporation and of their archive files. I want to know the first time they were formally aware that Allinblack was abusing children. I want to be part of that process as well. I want truth.
 When you said on the phone, “As long as you get your money, does it matter who is to blame?” The answer to your question is yes, it does matter.
 Because of the further abuse I received from the Diocesan Corporation of BigCity when I formally made them aware of Allinblack’s abuse of me, I do not believe in giving them the power in decision making regarding when the civil suit is filed, assessments, treatment, mediation, etc.
I want to hear from you whether you are able to follow through with my wishes. I look forward to hearing from you very soon.”
My daughter and her father were fighting again, more or less continuously. Calvin called to offer me a ticket to the Saskatchewan Country Music Awards, which were coming up shortly. I told him I would go, and immediately started experiencing body pain.
 On March 8, I wrote in my journal:
It’s like I still need something from them – Calvin and Dad. They still have a hold or power over me which I’m trying to break, and I am – a step at a time. How can I expect my daughter to break from her Dad when I can’t? The thought has been going through my mind about walking into a police station and charging Calvin and Stretch. I know they did it. They know they did it. They should be held accountable. . . . This is not about revenge – it’s about truth and breaking free.
I had to cancel an appointment with my counsellor – a rare occurrence. I asked her if, during the time I was supposed to be there, she could write out any good qualities she saw in me. This is what she wrote:
Just a Part of Sharon’s Essence
* the capacity to face pain, frustration, and oppression with faith and courage.
* a sense of humour and objectivity that enables one to see from many perspectives.
* the ability to listen in a way which makes the other feel truly heard.
* the art of accepting oneself and not having to make excuses for one’s behaviour.
* perseverance and deliberation in continuing the journey towards finding her real self.
* a deep sense of humanness which strengthens all who connect with her.
* the choice to be a personal and professional testimony of her own and other’s will to survive.
* a realness and trueness in everything she does, not deceiving nor pretending; not pleasing others with what one may feel the other wants.
* finding a way to live in peace with that which she cannot change.
* a profound intuition and compassion for other’s pain, and respect for one’s own healing.
* a love of her children that is unconditional.
* a healer in the helping community who demonstrates maturity, wisdom, creativity, dependability, flexibility, patience and hope!

 Remember, Sharon, these are just a few!
 It was keeping positive things like that in my mind that helped me through the days and nights.
 I phoned the RCMP in Saskatoon to see about making a statement about my brothers. If society was to arrive at an attitude of zero tolerance toward sexual abuse, I thought, I could not spare Calvin and Stretch the consequences of their actions. But when the officer asked when it happened, I could hardly get the words out of my mouth. He told me the best thing would be to list what had happened, where, when, by whom, witnesses, and addresses, and then call for an appointment. They would take my statement in Saskatoon, he said, but it would be sent to the jurisdiction in which the abuse occurred and be investigated there. The authorities in that jurisdiction would most likely want to interview me again, so I might want to go directly there.
 After I hung up, I could no longer make a decision. Then the phone rang. It was the National Parole Board informing me that Allinblack’s hearing dates had been changed. They would let me know the new dates at least a week in advance.
 My daughter’s school counsellor phoned. She had had another fight with her father and felt she could not live with him any more. I put the statement against my brothers on hold and spent the next few days trying to find my daughter an alternative place to live. She didn’t want to live with me. She wanted to finish her school year where she was. We met with a child protection worker. There were no foster homes that would take in a fifteen-year-old girl. I did not have custody of her. I had no money. I phoned a few friends in the area to see if they might take her for three months, but nothing came of it. I returned to Saskatoon alone, knowing only that she was staying at a friend’s house that night.
Through all this, I was doing my practicum at Tamara’s House. Survivors were donating furniture, resources, and books, and using the resource centre. I certainly believed in my work. The Board of Directors and I were planning an open house on March 3l for service providers and professionals in the community who worked with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
 The weekend before the open house, Calvin came to Saskatoon. I told him I would be making a police statement against him and Stretch. He was stunned. I told him I had made the decision a few weeks ago, but would not be proceeding with it until my daughter was settled somewhere. I would let him know, I said. He left with barely a word.
 My sister stayed with me for the rest of the evening. Calvin called her later on. He felt I was being hypocritical. He had always been willing to communicate, he said, ever since I first confronted him. Communication was what was needed, not revenge. My sister was very upset by the exchange.
I phoned Stretch.
 “You probably won’t know where this is coming from,” I said, “but I made the decision a few weeks ago, and I’m letting you know now that I’ll be making a police statement about the abuse I suffered from you and Calvin.”
 He had been expecting it. “Okay,” he said, “if you have to, you have to. I’ve known it’s something I have to deal with, as the time comes. I guess I’ll plead insanity, or I was too drunk, but that’s my problem. It’s not yours.”
 I didn’t agree with the “too drunk” excuse. He knew what he was doing; he didn’t abuse my mother. He said he needed a few days to think about it, and then he wanted to talk face to face. He found that easier than discussing it over the telephone. I told him to let me know first.
 My sister was still upset. She felt I hadn’t explained it the same way to Calvin as I had to Stretch, so I phoned Calvin back. We talked for half an hour.
 How long was he going to have to pay for something he did when he was fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen? he wanted to know. He decided when he changed his life around twenty years ago that he wouldn’t hurt anyone again. How would it affect his business? How was he to know what was going to happen next? He’d been straight with me for the past three years. He’d always been careful when to call, where to meet. He wasn’t asking for any favours, but. . . .
 He was like a frightened little boy. I explained what could happen, but I also told him it wasn’t my problem. I talked about justice, about how my body had been at peace since I had made the decision. This was the only way I could break the hold he and Stretch and Dad had over me. There were differences between what Allinblack did and what he and Stretch had done, but there were similarities, too: it was a crime. He had said right from the beginning that it was good I was dealing with this, that it was up to our generation. I doubted very much that he would be arrested, but for me this was breaking free.
 My sister and I talked for an hour after that, then our parents phoned to say they were coming to Saskatoon the next day. My sister cringed, wondering if I was going to tell them what I had just told Stretch and Calvin about. I didn’t. I didn’t know if I would tell them the next day or not.
 The next morning Calvin phoned and asked me to forget everything he had said the night before. He had been in shock, he said. He told me to do whatever I had to do.
I was still planning my party. I decided to invite the whole family, even my nieces and nephews, as well as all the people who had been supportive over the past three years.
 I was learning to take care of myself better: buying flowers, taking long walks in the country. Several times a day I took a walk around the block, and I continued with the old standbys: meditating, long hot baths, taking the phone off the hook. My son was coping heroically with all the chaos. Things were far from perfect, or even tolerable, but I started having a sense that things were turning out all right. I wasn’t sure I could say I believed in God, but then I thought, “It’s just a word.” Universe. Creator. Spirit. Angels in my life. They all fit.
 Three weeks before my party, I began handing out invitations. Two weeks before the party, I went to see my daughter. Nothing had changed. She was living at a friend’s house.
 I gave party invitations to my parents. I knew they didn’t understand it. I told them, separately, about my decision regarding Calvin and Stretch. My mother burst into tears. “I don’t know where we were when all this was going on,” she repeated.
 Dad’s reaction was different.
 “There’s only so much a family can take,” he told me angrily. “You can’t predict what’s going to happen. This won’t accomplish anything but break the family apart. It sounds like nothing but revenge.”
 “I haven’t done anything out of revenge,” I said, “ever.”
 “If I could see anything good coming out of it,” he said, “if everyone had to sacrifice so that you could get better, that’s one thing. But this is asking everyone to sacrifice – and for what? It’s not going to change anything. It’s over and done with. They admitted it. What more do you want? This is something that happened in the family. It has to be dealt with in the family. It doesn’t serve any purpose to bring it all up. The justice system doesn’t work for this kind of thing.”
 I listened to him in stony silence. When he was finished, I said I didn’t know when or even if I was going to do it. By the time I got home, I was worried about what Stretch and Calvin’s sentence would be if I made a statement and they went to trial. Should I phone the crown prosecutor and find out? Two of my sisters phoned that night to offer their support for whatever decision I made.
 Calvin phoned. He said it would probably destroy his career, but that I should go ahead and do whatever I had to do. My parents called with the news that someone had died. I barely knew the person, but I guess they thought they needed an excuse to call. I told Dad that I had just spoken with Calvin. It was my way of saying, “See, this hasn’t broken the family apart.”
 “You sure knocked the hell out of Mom with your announcement,” he said.
 I didn’t respond. I knew by then that what my mother was feeling was not my responsibility.
 “It’s not fair to leave it go on like this,” he continued. “You have no idea what could come of this. You can’t predict the ramifications.”
 I couldn’t talk about it, either, so I got off the phone.
 I wrote out my statements against Stretch and Calvin, as the RCMP officer had advised me. It was hard to know if I was making the right decision. For five days, then, every time I phoned the RCMP to make an appointment, the constable who would be taking my statement wasn’t in. On the fifth day I decided just to leave it.
 That weekend both my brothers called. I could hear the relief in Calvin’s voice when I told him I was leaving it for now. Stretch and I had an interesting talk. He wondered what would be suitable punishment. He talked about what accountability meant to him, and wondered if that was why so much of his life had gone into volunteer work. Was he trying to make up for what he had done to me? I told both him and Calvin that I was not going to do anything further until I knew why I was doing it. Later that weekend I told my parents my decision, then put the statements away. At the end of all those conversations, I was wondering if I was taking care of the world again.
 As I wrote in my journal, whatever happened would happen. I did a collage about how I wanted my party to be, and it was beautiful. I had energy again.
 Survivors of Allinblack kept phoning to see if I had heard from our church lawyer. I hadn’t. Some would be angry because they had understood that the church was ready to settle. I hadn’t heard a thing.
 I went to see my daughter. Nothing had changed. While I was at my parents, where I always stayed when I went to see my daughter, we had a two-hour conversation about False Memory Syndrome. They had recently watched a television program about it. They thought my counsellors were planting ideas in my head. Dad thought the counsellor was using powers of suggestion to keep me happy in her office and going through hell outside of it. I told them I went through hell in the counsellor’s office, too.
I tried to explain that there was no such syndrome. Most survivors can’t speak up because it isn’t safe for them. I was one of the few who could because my abusers had admitted it. Dad was concerned that counselling was like a cult, and they were making money keeping me in rough shape. They ended the discussion by saying that they thought counsellors broke families apart, and it would be okay if I said at my party that I was a victim but I shouldn’t mention any names. I told them that everyone at the party would already know that Calvin and Stretch had abused me. I tried to reassure them that everything would turn out, but it was all very frustrating. I asked Dad if he’d play one of his fiddle tunes at the party and I’d accompany him on the piano. I wondered, later, if it was an attempt to make sure he would come. I left for home, not knowing who would show up at my party the next week.
 My son helped me that week fill out three-by-five cards with the major events I wanted to talk about: memories coming back, confronting, victim’s committee, horror, divorce, first court, second court, third court, kids moving back and forth, my daughter’s accident, the anger, the voices in my head, university, the trial.
“Isn’t it amazing that we’re not both basket cases!” my son commented.
 It was my last week of my practicum, full of evaluations and goodbyes to the class and faculty. Tamara’s House offered me a full-time paid position commencing a week after the party. My landlord informed me that he had listed the house I was living in.
 All week, I alternated between doing well to doing horribly. I’d be wondering all one day if my father had abused me, and the next day it wouldn’t cross my mind. One night I did a collage that looked like horror: all black, frozen icicle images of girls and women in pain, sadness, fear. Another night I went to my first symphony concert.
 A friend, another survivor of incest, told me she was so excited about my party that it felt like Christmas morning. The morning of the party, April 23, l995, I went for a walk in the country and then to a restaurant for coffee. As always, I had my journal with me:
My party. The day has arrived. Not sure what’s going on for me. Woke up feeling scared. My dreams were scary. Went for an hour walk in the country and contemplated where my life is at. Felt good walking on the earth and new ideas running through my brain – thinking of all the wonderful people who have been a part of my life. I hope my kids and everyone can find the ways and the people they need to move them along their journey to wholeness.
 My God, there is a man in the restaurant who looks exactly like Father Allinblack….This is freaky. I want to run home, but a part of me wants to stay here and get through this. It’s like I’m having a panic attack. I can hardly breathe. Breathe Sharon. Breathe. This is fucking ridiculous. God, what do you want from me?
 What should I do? I’m debating walking over and asking, “Why are you out of jail?” I peaked around the cash register and I don’t think it’s him. My body won’t quit shaking. Will I get through this day?
I did get through the day. Eighty of the hundred people I invited showed up. The other twenty all phoned me before or after. My whole family came, except a sister who lived in the United States, and Calvin, who phoned two hours beforehand to say he had a commitment that evening and couldn’t afford the time to spend an extra three hours travelling. Stretch came.
 We lighted candles to begin. Everyone sat in a circle, some on the floor and some in chairs. I recognized my parents first, then related how my memories had started to come back, and how I had confronted my brothers. I introduced Stretch at that point, recognizing the courage it took for him to be there.
 I talked about everything I have written here, introducing people as they came into the narrative. My nieces and nephews, some as young as five and six years old, sat quietly, listening intently. As I related how I thought I had seen Allinblack in the restaurant that morning, I re-experienced the fear and the panic. My voice was trembling as I said, “I was so scared.”
 My five-year-old nephew asked, “But why?”
 And I said, “Because I thought he was going to hurt me.”
 I spoke for nearly three hours. My daughter read a passage from a book on grieving. My son played my favourite clarinet solo. My nieces sang. Dad played his fiddle. People gave me cards, gifts, and flowers. It was beautiful. One of the most meaningful gifts was when my sister and her husband offered their home to my daughter until she’d finished her year of school. For the first time in a month my daughter knew where she would be sleeping at night, and that she would have food.
 I had the next week off. The kids and I did a lot of debriefing. Everyone experienced after-effects: my mother crying for days, other people dreaming of fires and destruction, or climbing mountains. People encouraged me to write a book, but I dismissed the idea. I thought maybe I would do some public speaking some day.

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