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Twisted Gossip

by

Suzanne Tyson

The old clichť of once upon a time comes to mind as I begin to write this story. This true story I might add.

Four years ago my family and I lived in a small community in the southern part of the United States. We were a normal family with a Mom, thatís me, a father, and two children, a boy for him and a girl for me. Our son had just turned the age of 12 and our daughter was just barely 17. We had just purchased our own piece of earth, a small but adequate one half acre lot where trees and flowers would blossom from early spring until way into the fall.

We owned a decent mobile home, and we were so excited to finally (after twenty years of being a couple) have a place of our very own. No more rent! Our children were doing fairly well in school, and we had neighbors and friends and family all close by. We sighed with relief to know our hard work had paid off.

Then it began. First it was just a whisper in our lives. A small word here or a hint or subtle warning, and we shrugged the words off, going on about our business. Nothing was going to ruin our accomplished dream.

The first rude awakening came when a neighbor called to tell me my son was down at the bus stop and several boys had him pinned to the ground. I rushed to the bus stop to find my son was not harmed except for his dignity. He refused to tell me how the incident began, and I decided to let it slide since he appeared too upset to talk about it.

Slowly things began to build. My son began to make excuses as to why he didnít want to ride the bus and then excuses as to why he didnít want to go to school. Eventually it became a daily struggle. I would take him to the guidance counselorís office for conferences, but the teasing at school became progressively worse.

I was then able to discover that my sonís bullying was coming from the worse source possible, his own family. A cousin of his own age attended the same school, and this young man, who had once been my sonís best friend, had become jealous and envious of my sonís life and friends. His cousin had decided to change that. Since the two young men were related, most everyone assumed what the cousin had to say was the absolute truth.

We attempted to talk things out between my brother-in-law and his children, but they all began to join in one by one. I would witness the youngest boy and eventually his older brother tease and mock my son in my own yard, and they would claim it didnít happen. My brother-in-law then claimed I was lying about the whole situation. I tried to stay pleasant and speak reasonably with them, but my brother-in-law began to swear and yell at me angrily. I worked hard to avoid confrontation after that.

From then on, our lives became a daily hell. If you have never been harassed, then it may be difficult for you to imagine what it is like, but I will try to explain to you how it widens and lengthens out of control. The process began to spread out from the school to our neighborhood to our family of aunts and uncles and even grandparents down to our own yard and into our home. Not just here and there with a hit and miss, but everyday and sometimes several times a day. Not a normal day in sight. Not for a year and a half. With all of our money tied up in land and home, we had no money to leave. We were on the border line of seeing the light financially, but we were stuck where we were until.... worse turned worse.

During the day I had to watch vigilantly for my sonís safety even in his own yard. Other boys would approach our home and throw rocks at our windows. At one point, one of our friendly neighbors was so worried, they called the State Police.

My mother-in-law kept insisting we were making too much of the situation, and she urged us to stay quiet and let the situation pass, which we tried to do quietly for the first few months, but with each week, it became increasingly worse.

My husbandís line of work kept him traveling for a week at a time, and I tried to maintain as much order in our lives as possible, so most of the time the problems fell to me.

My brother-in-law became angry, because he wanted to defend his son instead of disciplining him. He passed our address and phone number out to his creditors, so they would come to our door or call our phone when he didnít want to pay a bill, which was very often. It was impossible to explain to his creditors that yes, I had the same last name, but the debts did not belong to me nor my husband. I would receive notices to go to the post office to pick up registered mail, and since I had family living out of the area, it was necessary I do so. I would take the time to drive into town just to find another letter from one of his creditorís. The post office personnel were beginning to recognize me. They would snicker when I refused to sign for the mail, which became embarrassing to me. The State Troopers would occasionally come to our door looking for my brother-in-law for unpaid debts or whatever. The oil company, the cable company, and the garbage man all came to my door looking for him. I was ready to pull up my welcome mat.

I received harassing phone calls late at night, but only on the nights my husband was gone. I knew who was doing it, but I chose to hope it would stop. One of my nephews was so angry, he pulled a gun on me in the street in broad daylight. My brother-in-law made it clear I should remain quiet, because no one was going to believe me anyway.

Our relationship with other family members became a nightmare. Family would pass us in their vehicles and refuse to acknowledge us, which at first was a surprise, because we were unaware of the fact they knew anything about what was going on. It is extremely difficult to be shunned by those you love especially when you have no idea in the world why. Later on we would learn the other side of the story had been told with a twisted turn, but by the time we realized that fact, the family refused to speak to us or listen to what we had to say. My mother-in-law told me to stop being a trouble maker and get my son in line.

Meanwhile, my son was taking mental, emotional, and physical abuse at every turn. Three or four or five boys would take turns bouncing him off lockers at school. They would taunt him in class unmercifully. Classmates who had been his friends for years turned their backs on him. He became an outcast.

The four of us were falling apart. My husband didnít want to believe what was happening. After all, this was his brother and nephew, his flesh and blood. I tried to stay calm and I presented my husband with as much evidence as I could, such as letters from his brotherís creditors. My daughter was falling farther and farther away from us. She became rebellious and uncooperative about anything and everything. We found out her uncle had been encouraging her to believe we were too strict with her, and she didnít have to put up with it. We were abusive according to her young mind, because she had a curfew and we insisted on knowing where she was going. In my day, that was considered a sign of love.

My brother-in-law attempted to break up our marriage by telling my husband I was breaking up their family. He attempted to scare me away by convincing his mother and trying to convince me my husband had an affair. The problem was the nights he claimed my husband with someone else, I was with him. Lies, lies, and more lies. Believe me, I am only giving you the top billings. There were one and one half years of them. There was always a controversy where someone had to come to me with one thing after another. All because of jealousy. Jealousy between the young boys and the jealousy of one brother over the other.

How did it all end you ask? I will tell you. My son became suicidal. He felt his life was ruined, and what was worse he felt responsible for what happened to him although he was the victim. He and I left to leave the area and moved to live with my parents until we could sell our home. We were separated by many states from my husband and my daughter for almost a year. Our family was torn apart by gossip. Everything that happened devastated us emotionally, mentally, and financially. Through two years of therapy, my son learned how to be a confident young man. He has now learned being bullied is not the victimís fault.

We have returned there twice to visit our daughter, but we donít see anyone in the family but my mother-in-law. It is still very painful, but it becomes less and less as we become happy and contented in our new home with other family and friends who have stood by through our difficult time of adjusting.

Please. I ask you to remember this if nothing else from what I had to say in this short story of mine, next time you hear a tidbit that sounds too good to keep to yourself, remember it may have a life of itís own and grow way beyond your wildest dream. Remember gossip can destroy lives. My family is living proof of just that.

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