Tim: Escalation, intervention and peace

Hiroshima Day is not yet over as I write so I guess this post is still relevant. . .

Do this for me–right now! The office will be closed if we wait. They’ll be gone. We have to go down there right away!

It’s the weekend. The office is already closed. But I’ll call first thing Monday and be sure they’re in when we come. . . Okay, I called first thing this morning and got the name and location of the person that handles alumni Class Notes for the Antiochian. I have an appointment for you to see him at 1:00.

An appointment? I don’t want an appointment.

I thought you wanted them to feature your books in the magazine like they did the other Antioch authors.

I don’t have to schedule an appointment! That changes the whole– They’ll just be there! We’ll just show up. Of course they’ll be there.

Okay. Anyway, here’s his name. I put together a packet of background information for him, in case he wants to interview you. I arranged a montage of your published books and took a color picture of it. I printed out your poems in The Antioch Review, June 1956 and ’57, plus two posts I wrote about you on my blog with quotes from my Master’s thesis, Whatever Happened to Tim Reynolds.

Wow, you’re really organized! You could make me a very good secretary!

Yes, Tim, I could–if you’d let me. Oh, and a copy of your bio.

What? You were going to give that out to someone?

Yes. It’s just your bio.

NO! Oh, NO you don’t! You’ve been giving it out to everybody, you keep doing things like this–I know you hide the knobs for the stove so I won’t burn the house down–and you’re screwing up my life! It’s only supposed to be for the person who writes my biography. My last book had the wrong title because–

[–because someone stole it from my thesis without my knowledge or consent–but I didn’t say this.]

So much untruth, so much hysteria and paranoia coming at me all at once, I just said, “Tim, shut up!”

Tim stood up and yelled “F— YOU, TOO!”

Instantly the host of our reunion, my niece’s husband, a decent guy and a 20-year career Army major about to be made a Lieutenant Colonel was in the room and in Tim’s face.

“DO YOU KNOW WHO THAT IS?” he roared, pointing behind him at his seven-year old daughter. “DID YOU SEE WHO IS STANDING RIGHT THERE?”

“No,” mumbled Tim.

“You can have your family fights somewhere else but this is MY HOUSE! These are MY WALLS! You can’t bring language like that in here! NOT IN MY HOUSE!”

Talk about shock and awe. I was so shocked by his fury I was shaking but not with fear. I was awed. Here was a father standing between Tim’s abusive language and his own daughter. What’s more, he was standing between Tim’s abusive language and me! For once someone was protecting me from a perpetrator, right in the middle of the abuse!

When Scott was finally through, I told him quietly, “Thank you!” He stalked out of the house, letting the screen door slam behind him. Everything in me was still reverberating but for once I wasn’t afraid of an angry man. I was grateful.

I met Jerry outside and we walked to our rental car and got in. We’d decided to let everyone else drive to Ohio the next day without us, to visit my childhood town and the Glen I had last seen through tears on a gloomy February day in 1990 as Tim, Ted, and I scattered Mum’s ashes desultorily about. I wanted so much to go with them but I couldn’t handle being around Tim anymore. I can’t stop crying. I need Lorazepam to sleep.

Scott was striding around his ranch, past the horse and goats and llamas, past the pig pen. He turned and came straight toward us. As he approached I called out again: “Thank you for protecting me, Scott–even though I know you were protecting your daughter.” Without a word, his face still tight, he reached into our car window, took my head between his hands and pressed it to his chest for a moment. I took his face in my hands. Then he kissed the top of my head and, still without speaking, kept walking.

For years my brother Ted and his daughter Lisa were estranged because her husband Scott was a career military man. She didn’t tell him they had both served in Afghanistan. (Lisa is a veterinarian and worked with IED dogs and with Afghan farmers’ sheep, goats, and camels.) The Reynolds family are mostly pacifists who do not condone war for any reason and who despise the military.

After Scott’s demonstration of fierce love for his daughter’s safety and purity, I wrote both Scott and Lisa a letter headed, “You’re our heroes!”

Dear Scott and Lisa,

Ever since Jerry and I found out Lisa was in Afghanistan and why, we have supported and respected both of you for what you are doing for our country.

Today, Scott, I saw the protective heart behind what you do. Usually I am terrifed of angry men. My father was an angry man. When I was younger than Ashlee he was using me as a surrogate wife. Today I saw a father angry at a perpetrator on behalf of his daughter. I saw what a dad should be, the kind of father I needed and never had. I saw a hero.

You came between Tim and Ashlee but you were also between Tim (a man very much like my father) and me. I felt protected from an abusive man for maybe the first time in my life.

Because of Tim’s increasing dementia and tendency to fall, we took him into our home 5 months ago. He doesn’t like to be dependent or be told what to do. He has put me down and cursed me out before and slapped me once. When this happens Jerry tries to calm me down and stand up for me but I get so traumatized and am so used to having to defend myself, I’m not even aware he’s intervening until he tells me afterward.

This time I “got” it.

In a larger sense I want to thank you for protecting us abroad. You are both incredibly gracious to host a week-long party for a family of pacifists who not only do not appreciate what you are doing for all of us but who openly condemn and try to undermine it.

Growing up in Hiroshima, I hated that we had killed and maimed mostly civilians–women and children. A lot of survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki became our friends and of course their appeal is “No more war!” My parents became pacifists (objecting to all war for any reason) because of this but I always struggled with the reality that while we commit to peace, aggressors will continue to instigate wars that have to be met with force. They’ll just take advantage of our naivete.

If running to help a neighbor being attacked by a bully is right, how could running to help a country being attacked by bullies be wrong? As a teenager I always wondered if my parent’s pacifism would prevent them from protecting me if my life were threatened. I kept asking myself how a person could “passively resist” rape?

I came to see that war is a necessary evil and WW2 had to be fought to stop the aggression of the Japanese military, that the Imperial warlords were just as responsible for Hiroshima and Nagasaki as for Pearl Harbor. Jerry and I are Christians and the Bible is full of examples of wars which were justifiable.

Anyway Scott, I am still shaking a little but not from fear this time.

Again, thank you.

With love,
(Aunt) Jessica and (Uncle) Jerry

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About Jessica Renshaw

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