Koystya Thyssen

This news story has an eery quality to it.

Because for several years now I have asked myself, what happens to children with attachment disorder when they grow up?

Nope. Kidnapping is not the answer. But the articles about the Thyssen family raise questions about what was not done.

If Koystya was known to sexual assault children or anyone, then by 22 he should have faced legal charges.

Did the family report him?

I cannot tell whether they did. But I know I did report my adopted RAD children when they committed felony crimes and was astonished to find the system did not want to prosecute and when pressed, took great pains to clear their records.

Did Koystya have a record? Had he been prosecuted in any way?

The crime here may be bigger than theft, bigger even than illegal captivity.

Koystya is a young man. What can be done for him? And what will happen if we do nothing at all?

Up Late

There is a great TED Talk about the “museum of 4 a.m.”

Apparently 4 a.m. is the nadir of time–so late no one would chose to stay up. Too early for decent waffles.

I am up at 4 a.m because of…

Two dogs
A nocturnal animal prowling the yard
A list of unbearable memories.

Dog A barked
Dog B followed suit ad infinitum
And mom C remembered.

In the days and weeks and months after M and C were placed with us, C had night terrors.

He also had fits of unbearable rage.

His sister was no picnic either.

But the seconds, minutes, hours of darkness in which he kicked, screamed, pounded his fists against objects, slammed doors, wailed….

In the utter darkness.

They stay with me.

Day or night, a thousand times a month I longed for monkey tranquilizers to calm those kids down.

Since it was not an option, we hiked, walked, ran, and frequented parks.

It was my daily task to:

1. Stay sane
2. Wear those two out.

Now that I am older, now that I have lived through every part of the growing up story of those two precious, deeply wound people, I would say this–

I know enough of the neglect and the violence that led to their howling childhood. I know enough of the condition of their brains, concussed from the absence of love, to know that for every minute of solitary wakefulness that I endured with them–for them, every moment of public humiliation in a grocery store or restaurant, every crazy scene, all those years of lost peace.

Worth it. Worth the risk, the agony, the relentless void.

But why did no one else come to our assistance?

Why such violent, unending loneliness? No cure. No concern for the survivors.


Nothing at all
Alone each 4 a.m.

Simple Rules

The day I found out my adopted son was a pedophile was a rough day.

It remains with me with the grim clarity of a plane crash.

As I moved past simple shock and devastation I sought advice from Jesus.

How do I do this?

His advice was simple–the truth will set you free.

We all have the right to tell the truth, and yet there is such an extreme pressure from other humans to hide it.

We are afraid to acknowledge our monsters. As though they will befriend us if we just pretend they are not real?

There is a dark side to adoption. Not only are we adopting parents sometimes a rum bunch, we also are trusted with children who have been profoundly changed by their own biographies.

And the result can be quite difficult to parse.

“Normal” people may not get it.

But Jesus has never been normal, so he does.

The injunction to let the truth set us free can be terrifying and lonely.

But truth is the seminal condition of heaven.

And what is heaven if not the cure? The safe haven? A place where hiding things will be impossible and unnecessary forever.

An old story for a new friend

I sat on the beat up couch and told my mil the story that had just unfolded with heartbreaking force–years of sexual abuse perpetrated by our adopted son Charles. Stopped as soon as it was uncovered but not soon enough to obviate years of damage and pain.

She looked stunned (of course) and managed something about God blessing our family.

At the time I thought, does she see what I cannot?

God has blessed me. God has blessed my family. But she did not know what she was talking about. She was a woman on the mainland of “normal” and I was drifting in the dinghy of “messed up life.”

Attachment disorder will do that to ya. It will put you out to sea with issues so devastating that Richard Parker starts to look like a tabby cat.

Love, if you hear adults, professionals, “experts,” tell you things that do not make sense, learn from my lonely voice.

Your children all have an equal right to live in peace, safety, and love. If one of those children threatens the safety of the others…

Yell loud at anyone who will listen. And don’t stop until you get the help you need.

You have a right to live free from the constant threat of harm.

And so do your wee ones.

When things break

Who can describe the sound?
The alarm of breaking china
Signals something–an ambulance
Or police car?

What if they did not come on time?
And the victim
Was trapped with
Both the criminal and the injury for years?

When you hear the sound
You think staccato things
Broken? Injury? Oh…broken injury
A redundancy of pain

In the face of a beautiful child
China round and smooth
Now lies in pieces

I can clean up pieces.

But I don’t
You and your sister do

Because I am trapped in a room
In a day
In a nightmare

Where a little girl believes
It is her fault
All her fault

When it is not
At all.

Matthew 25

First, you should know: I believe in a literal hell.

Not so much because the Bible alludes to it as because the world displays its existence in broken children, enslaved humans. Sudanese women getting whipped while men stand by and laugh.

There are pictures of hell within easy reach. To not believe in it is hubris.

And then there is the time I have spent there myself.

In the fall of 1996 I sat across the table from two small faces and watched them munch down the first of thousands of peanut butter sandwiches at our table.

We did this because of some rather poetic injunctions in the Bible about helping “orphans.” None more poetic than Jesus in Matthew 25.

He says “the righteous” will take in strangers and feed them peanut butter sandwiches. He says they will share of their safety, abundance, and nourishment with people who are the riskiest and least able to pay back such snacks and beverages.

He says they will give themselves. The cost is implicit in the risk.

But at the time it was just a couple of sandwiches. The humiliation, rejection, exposure, assault, and duplicity would take years to fully unravel.

The emotional cost remains steep.

And the words of Jesus still echo in my head–the least of these…you did unto me..

And if the least of these punch you in the stomach? Take your trust and abuse it?

The sorrow is a badly drawn tattoo along the sternum. And hell comes in the vertigo of watching those you cherish hurt.

Back to the table…

I must return to the table and find someone else hungry and thirsty and lowly like me.

It is a gift to know I am the least of these.

And your attention to my grief, a cup of clear water.

Thank you.

Casey Kasem’s Dilemma

I used to listen to him regularly. I bet at one time or another most Americans have.

All those years, if you had told me Mr. Kasem would end up dying of thirst and starvation and medical neglect, I would have been shocked.

And yet no one besides his wife seems shocked now?

Our country has become a full-on fulfillment of sci-fi dystopia. We fight and argue for hardened child-rapists and -murders to have the right to die of old age but we let our judges rule against basic rights for the dying.

The right to water should not be withheld.

The right to nourishment is so basic. And yet time and again the most fragile members of our society are starved and dehydrated to death.

Shame on us.

We neither acknowledge the pain of the dying nor the ultimate cost to our souls of suborning justice to lower a hospital bill.

But who will pay for our lost compassion and our broken souls?