The Lost boys

I was asked to speak to a group of teenage boys locked up in a correctional institution.  As they filed into the auditorium, it was obvious the crowd of fifty or so was going to be tough!  They came in with their best bad guy look on, conveying their disinterest in me.  I could tell they were thinking; oh, there she is another do-gooder here to make herself feel good by trying to save us, at least we get out of our cottage for the evening.

After they took their seats I looked down on a sea of blank faces that seem to say; go ahead lady, take your best shot!  The boys were quite and attentive, they had no choice guards were posted at both doors.  I have to admit I was uneasy and tense by the way they controlled the atmosphere with their intimidating, defiant stars.

I opened by saying, “my name is Lynda Long you and I are not so different, we have much in common, does anyone know what it is?”  One boy in the front row who had been sizing me up from the start said; “You’ve been where we are.”  I said “that’s right.”

With his statement everything changed.  They collectively let their guard down and visibly assumed a more reverent, open posture that invited me to speak to them.

At the end of my talk, I asked if anyone had a question…they all did. We spent another hour talking, most of the questions and comments centered on the same theme, they wondered how to dig out and overcome.

I told them I was fifteen-years-old, the same age as most of them when I decided, NO MORE!  My childhood was stolen from me but no one would ever have the power to ruin the rest of my life!

When I was finished, I stepped down from the platform to gather up my things when one boy approached me and shook my hand, it was the one who was brave enough to open the door for me to tell my story.  One by one they formed a line, some simply said thank you but, to my surprise some hugged me and I could feel their arms soak up my hug like water on a wilted plant.  It was all I could do not to cry.  I was thinking these are God’s most precious gift to a mother and a father.  Some were celebrated on the day they were born and some were not but, somewhere along the way all were let down.  Now they were hurt, broken, disappointed boys in a battle to believe they were worth something in someone’s eyes and loveable by someone.  I knew their battle would be hard and some would l lose the fight.

Afterward, I ask the Chaplain how many of these boys were growing up in a fatherless home he answered, 60%.  And, only 10 to 15% come from homes where both biological parents are present.

Believe it or not, kids don’t want much, only a home with a loving, caring mother and father…a family.  Because of the breakdown of the American family, the United States has more of its youth locked up than any other country in the world!



Thriving?  Time will tell

Chances are you never heard the name Landon Payne and, you never will.  The five-year-old, blond-haired, blue-eyed boy was beaten to death by his mother and stepfather but not before he was brutally tortured.  His older siblings testified in court that Landon was sometimes made to stand for hours in a corner on his tiptoes with thumb tacks under his heels.  To hide the bruises on Landon’s body, the brothers and sisters were forced to participate in a sick ritual of covering his body with makeup.  The news article ended with the report that since the trial, where the parents were found guilty and sent to prison, the siblings, currently in foster care, are doing well and thriving.

Reading Landon’s story, I was taken back to my childhood and like it was yesterday, I again heard the door slam sounding the arrival of our father home from a night of drinking.  Its late-it’s dark.  We’re in bed and I whisper for Daniel to come to my bed, get under the covers down by my feet and don’t move or breathe.  Just the sight of Daniel sent our father into a rage and he would beat him for absolutely no reason other than sport.  Sometimes if he came home early and we were all still up, I’d frantically grab Daniel and run with him as fast as I could to find a safe hiding place.  Usually it was the closet where I’d empty the laundry out of a box, put Daniel inside then cover him up with dirty clothes.  Sometimes our father found him, sometimes he didn’t.  When he did, my other two brothers and I could only watch and cry.

All four of us suffered at the violent, abusive hand of our father, but for some reason Daniel was singled out to suffer the most.  Again, echoing from the past, I heard my little brother’s screams for mercy, pleading through a river of tears for our father to stop his assault.  Gary, David and I would join in with Daniel crying, begging and pleading.  When that didn’t work we’d try to bargain with our father; “…please Dad, we’ll be good, we promise, we’ll never be bad again.  We’re sorry, Dad!!  Leave him alone, stop!!”   Our father never stopped, he sadistically loved an audience.  When it was over, a curled up little bundle of bruises lay crying until he fell asleep, we weren’t allowed to comfort him.

I saw Daniel for the last time when he came to see me in Denver three years ago, he had something to tell me, he said he was dying and wanted to say good bye.  I didn’t recognize my brother’s face the years of wandering the streets, in a state of drunkenness to numb the emotional pain of being a hated child had taken its toll.  He was crying as I watched him board a bus headed for California to say his goodbyes to Gary.  Refusing help from either of us, seven months later, he was found dead in a dark and lonely room in Mexicali, Mexico.

The death certificate listed acute respiratory failure, and acute pulmonary edema as the cause of death.  But Daniel also had a heart problem, not in the medical sense, the kind that could be treated with medicine or surgery.  There was no fix for the condition of his heart, Daniel literally died of a heart broken by the fact his parents did not love him.

Even though Gary and I clawed our way out and survived to create the life we dreamed of as kids, we are still haunted by the unbearable pain of watching Daniel endure daily beatings and various methods of torture, and it will never leave us.  Our youngest brother David, so psychologically destroyed witnessing and also on the receiving end of our father’s 24/7 violent, brutal wrath, turned to a life of crime, spent thirteen years on death row in Huntsville, Texas, and was executed.  Thriving?  I pray the surviving children will, but I can say without a doubt, only time will tell.  Learn to recognize the signs of child abuse get involved and call the proper authorities!

Breaking Free

Gary and I pushed to break free of our childhood and survived. Running from hell, we looked back and strained to reach for our brothers out-stretched hands and tried to pull them along with us but from the tips of out fingers they slipped away as they stumbled and fell. Gary and I, even with the help of our lifelong mentor, Louise Hagan, couldn’t lift them up again. We watched as Daniel and David tried to rise up and grab onto us only to fall repeatedly because the weight of the memories were too heavy to bear.

Our brother Daniel Alan Long and I, seven months before his body was found in a seedy part of town in Mexicali, Mexico. In this picture, he was fifty eight years old.

Death Row

David Long Sentenced To Death Row

Our brother David Martin Long processed into the prison system. He was thirty-three-years old when he was sent to the Texas death row.

“As long as there are parents preparing children for little more than incarceration,  we’ll have no trouble keeping our prisons full.”

From: “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker.

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