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Three women in Cleveland, abducted as teenagers, kept prisoners for years, were just freed and returned to their families. Amidst the joy of the moment, I can’t help wonder, what now? What relationship can their parents’ have after a decade apart and so much trauma and abuse?
When I imagine myself as the father of one of those young women, of course I would be ecstatic to have her home, to feed her, clothe her, smother her in love and care and all the things she was deprived of while captive. I would want to take her to movies and stores and anywhere else I could think of to fill the void of the time we had missed. There would be one giant, enormous obstacle — the lost years and the horrific experiences she had endured, forming a huge wall between us.
You can’t just ask, “So, what have you been up to these past 10 years?” What she had missed would be meaningless, like, “We got a new car a few years back, and they built a new Target at the mall.”
For me, the hardest part would be to look at my daughter and not feel an overwhelming sense of guilt. At some deep, primitive level, being a dad is about protecting your child. Why didn’t I find my girl when she was only a few miles away? How did I fail to guard her?
The feeling may be irrational because I can’t protect my girls from every danger at every moment. If I tried, I would spend my life keeping them in arm’s reach, seeing potential risk in every face, around every corner. I would end up making my children prisoners in a different, but still twisted and damaging way.
The parents of the kidnap victims have lived the last 10 years with the emotional devastation of a disappeared child. Mixed with the elation of having their daughters back, those mothers and fathers must have many other feelings, some painful and frightening. Every member of those families, touched by the depraved and evil acts of one man, have demons to face in the years ahead.
I wish those affected only good things. I hope so much the girls, now women, can heal, and their parents can forgive themselves, that they can find a way to become whole again, as individuals and as families. I can only imagine their difficult path ahead.Read The Dad every other Thursday on BrooklynPaper.com.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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