From Jason: There is just something about John that resonates with me. He is such a humble and unassuming guy and at first glance you’d never know what he’s been through. I know how much courage it’s taken for him to get where he is today. He’s finally decided to lay down his shield and he’s told me it’s the best thing he’s ever done for himself. That’s powerful!
I entered this world with parents who faced an enormous amount of loss. My father lost his own father at a young age. My mother’s loss at a young age would have crippled many of us. During her childhood her mother was taken away from her and her siblings due to mental illness. The mental and physical abuse she endured from her husband eventually caused a breakdown. Treatment consisted of incarceration, medication and shock treatment. Her father was an alcoholic and suddenly found himself with four children to take care of. My mother had to step up and take care of her younger sister. Eventually her younger sister was adopted out which was devastating. My parents met around the age of nineteen and became pregnant prior to getting married. Feeling afraid of their families’ reaction, they felt no other option than to put my brother up for adoption. A few months later they changed their mind but it was too late.
They married shortly afterwards. Over the next seven years there were four more children: two boys and two girls. At the age of five, my sister Diane was taken from us after being struck by a car. She died instantly. In the pursuing months my mother became immobilized with crushing depression. My father already drank prior to Diane’s death. My belief is this tragic event caused his drinking to worsen terribly as he struggled to cope with his grief.
My parents suffered enormous hardship and loss and dealt with it as best they could. Counselling was not readily available and even it if was I doubt they would have been open to it.
Our home was not a happy or nurturing environment. Alcoholism and unresolved trauma are not the foundation on which to create a stable and loving home. I remember feeling afraid as a child and having frightening dreams. I just never felt safe. My siblings also had to endure an awful lot but I can only speak for myself and how I was affected.
My parents purchased a farm when I was around seven years of age. It was around this time when my life became full of trauma. There were situations where my father would threaten to shoot himself and would go behind the barn and shoot the gun off. I remember feeling terrified. On one occasion I told my mother I hoped he did it so I would not have to wonder anymore.
My most vivid memory feels like yesterday. I remember him holding the gun and saying he had end it all as no one cared about him or loved him. He then went to leave in his truck with my mother chasing and screaming for him to stop. Feeling terrified, my sister Louise and I ran to the neighbours’ house for help. Children’s Aid got involved and we ended up staying with our neighbours for quite some time. Me, my brother and two sisters remember not wanting to return home. It was much more peaceful at their home without all the chaos. They were very nice people. The patriarch of the family was a Barrie police officer.
As a teenager, I remember the constant arguments and screaming at each other. Weekends seemed to be the worst as there was a lot of drinking with friends which would always turn into some kind of a fight in the middle of the night between my parents. With this becoming a regular occurrence, I remember feeling afraid and very anxious when their friends would arrive. I would be unable to sleep because I knew what was about to happen. I remember thinking that at least there would be lots of food left over that we could eat when they went to bed.
As I entered high school the constant mental abuse of being belittled by my father began. He told me I would never amount to anything. If only that were the extent of it. After he started physically abusing me I became very shy and timid. I felt a sense of hopelessness and helplessness which led to my having suicidal thoughts.
These thoughts became part of who I was throughout my teenage years on a daily basis. When I was around fifteen I started to fight back. It might not have been a great idea but I stopped caring and felt I had no choice. On one occasion I had hollered back at my father while we were working in a field. I knew enough to run as he picked up a branch on the ground and chased me. He struck me in the back and knocked me to the ground. At that moment, I thought he might actually kill me. This is the time I realized I had no choice but to stand up to him, fearful or not. I became very angry towards him and even more frightened but felt I had no other option.
By this time his drinking was an every day event. During this period, he owned and operated a large farming operation which he lost due to bankruptcy. When I was seventeen my parents separated. In many ways, the situation actually became much worse.
To be continued.