Secrets that Destroy

by Keith Turner on July 18, 2017

2 Comments

One reason that I have often kept my secrets was to avoid disapproval. It is a common characteristic of families where abuse is present that we don’t speak about it.  To speak out loud about the abuse is taboo, it breaks the fundamental rules that perpetuate the abuse.

In the middle of the great depression my great-grandmother gave birth to fraternal twins a boy and a girl. She had very clear views about the nature of boys and girls. Boys were bad and and my grandfather was reminded of this all of his life. When he was an adolescent he was molested by one of his cousins, a secret kept for decades. Eventually my grandfather joined the U.S. Navy Construction Battalions known as Seabees. He was trained as a carpenter.

He was a damn good carpenter but his mother believed that he would only have value as a person if he was a farmer. He bought a farm outside of Rigby Idaho close to Lewisville and move his family. The reason given was to teach his son responsibility. Those years on the farm were violent and full of misery and sorrow. He was hear on a regular basis walking around his farm yelling at the top of his lungs “God Damn Farm”. Every member of that family was certainly living in hell during those years.

Towards the end of ’his life he confessed for the first time to his wife about being molested and how much guilt and shame he felt. Here was a man who was told by his mother all of her life he was not good enough. Inside he was being eaten alive by a haunting memory. What might his life have been like if he had been freed from the guilt and shame that was buried deep inside of him for decades?

Studies have shown that disclosing trauma and your feelings about those traumas have a positive immediate and long-term effect upon your health. It takes a lot of work to keep secrets. So much effort and energy can be tied up in keeping secrets that it can severely effect or health.

My grandfather grew up being told his whole life he was not good enough. He had a son,my father. My father grew up being told his whole life he was not good enough. My father had a son, Keith. I grew up being told I was not good enough. I have a son. My son has struggled his whole life with you are not good enough. My grandfather was molested as an adolescent by his cousin. I was molested as a child by a neighbor. My son was molested as a child by a neighbor.

Almost an entire century has passed since my grandfather came into the world. Years and decades of secrets have perpetuated violence, trauma, neglect and heartache. At the end of last year for the first time in my life I very publicly broke a fundamental rule. I wrote a blog post in November and a similar article was published in QSaltLake in January where I wrote about a specific event of domestic violence. Four generations of men who have been victims, and three of those generations have internalized this violence and perpetuated it against our own children. I broke the rules because we all deserve healing. Secrets have been the destroyer of our healing and health.

I loved my grandfather. He was often an ornery old man, yet he still found ways to show me he loved me. When I changed my last name at the age of 19 it caused a lot of hurt. Arlin was the first to publicly forgive me.

I love my father. He was one of the first people to stand by my side and offer support when I came out. For the first few years he called me every couple of days. When life looked bleak and I would think about ending my life I would know he would call me in a day or two and I could not do that to him. He is one of the reasons I survived the bleakest period of my life from about 30 to 35.

I love my son. He has the biggest heart I know. I am already forgiven before I ever apologize. Conversations with him about my own perpetuation of violence has helped me to see my own place is this perpetuation of abuse. I have hope that this will come to an end with my children.

The time has come when I am no longer willing to be the keeper of the secrets. Families and lives have been destroyed by these secrets. As the secrets see the light that energy used to keep them covered can now be directed to conversations and healing.

2 Comments

  1. After having read your post, I strongly feel the need to respond to a couple of items.
    First…you mentioned my father, grandmother, and aunt by name. You have no right to do this since they cannot defend themselves. They can’t speak from the grave, but I can speak for them. When blogging, or writing, or whatever you want to call it, you should not use the person’s name if you are going to defame them in any way out of sheer courtesy, nothing more/nothing less. Remember, these are YOUR ancestors, and someday you’re going to have the opportunity to meet many of them for the first time. I’m sure there are many people who find shock value in stating a person’s name and throwing them under the bus, but you should be better than this.
    Second, I have wonderful memories of growing up on the farm. Sure, there are a few rough patches that happened, but the majority of the time was wonderful. I have nothing but respect for my parents and the work ethic that they taught. I know very few people who could keep up the pace that they did. I dare you or anyone else to try to put in the hours that they did and survive for the length of time that they did. So what…every so often my dad cracked and swore and cursed. I can’t even imagine the stress that was on that man nor the lack of sleep he lived on, yet he kept going. You weren’t there so you shouldn’t pass judgement and state that we were miserable or unhappy. I wouldn’t trade my childhood, growing up on that farm at that time with the father that I had for anything.
    Third, My Grandmother was a strong lady with more grit than I personally can understand. This is a woman who homesteaded in Bone, Idaho, all alone. If you don’t know what was required of homesteaders, you should learn, and then go spend some time in Bone, Idaho and take a minute to realize what this took. Grandma did have a few quirks…I’m the first to admit that. She was a survivor of the Great Depression. One year on the census pages, I read that she and Grandpa lived on $72 for one year. The average of the people listed on that census page were $400 to $600. Grandma had every right to have a few quirks. When you have lived through the Great Depression, homesteaded in Bone, Idaho, and gone through the things that she did, you can cast stones her way. For me, personally, I’m proud to call her my grandmother!
    Fourth, you talk about your rough childhood. I’m sure it wasn’t perfect…I know very few people who have been blessed with a perfect childhood. Let me tell you about two young men who have worked for me. The first young man had his dad thrown in jail for beating his mother, and she was later was thrown in jail for driving a vehicle while under the influence of cocaine, and getting into an accident killed his little sister, the only bright light in his life. Between these two incidents, this family lived on the streets, having no home. They went without food, shelter, healthcare…you name it, until they found a place in a homeless shelter. This young man, after his mother was sent to jail, went to live with his grandfather and the conditions were horrific, at best. When life became too bad, he decided to run away, but a wise high school counselor interceded and was able to have him placed with an aunt who cared for him. During this time, he became active in the church and served an LDS mission to Poland. He came home from his mission, enrolled in college, and graduated with a bachelor’s in accounting, one of the top five in his class. He is married now and just had a beautiful baby boy.
    Now there’s the second young man. He is luckier than the first…his mother ended up in jail for using illegal substances and his dad was in jail for murder. He ended up living his last two high school years with his Stake President who has treated him as his own son. This young man is getting straight A’s in the Mechanical Engineering program while working and being a father and husband.
    Both of these young men had pretty darn tough lives, yet they love and respect their parents. I have been amazed at their ability to forgive them for their shortcomings and accept them the way that they are, thorns and warts and blemishes.
    You might not have had a perfect life, but you had a roof over your head and clothes to wear and food to eat. Your dad might have been lacking in many ways, but I watched him counter limitless obstacles to get custody of your siblings because he loved them, and you, so very much. Your dad might be the biggest jerk in the world, but he’s the only dad you’ll ever have. In the preexistence, you might very well have picked him as your dad, and asked to spend your time on earth with him.
    While I’m airing my grievances, you changed your name. You decided you were too good to go by the last name of Fell. I’m proud of the name Fell. I have amazing ancestors that worked hard and pioneered their way to make a better life for me…AND YOU! You say that my dad was the first to forgive you, so how dare you write about him in such a callous and judgmental way. By the way…your changing your name broke their heart! Therefore, this is not your place, nor your secret to tell. If you want to talk about your family’s shortcomings, perhaps you should examine yours to start with. Also, who has stood by your side and welcomed you into their homes? The Fells…Elizabeth Fell Boyce and Karla Fell Grover have hosted you many times, and you are always welcome in my home! Grandma and Grandpa Fell would have done anything for you, and yet you chose to speak badly of him.
    You have loved becoming a victim Keith, and you’re going to have an unhappy, unfulfilled life until you take responsibility for your own actions and forget the things that have happened in the past. The past is the past, and the longer you dredge it up and blame everyone else, the more unrest you’re going to feel the rest of your life. Since your adulthood, you’ve made your own choices and decisions, so you need to quit blaming everyone else, especially those that are dead, and live a life that will bring you joy and make a difference in the world.
    My mom always used to recite this to me and everyone else in our family…”Oh would some power, the gift he give us, to see ourselves as others see us,” (Robert Burns). Before you cast stones, make sure that you are without guilt and are pure and clean and virtuous, because others will be willing to cast them back at you.
    Before you add me to your list of people that you’re angry with, remember that I love you! You are my nephew who I want only the best future for, filled with joy and satisfaction. I only responded because you got so much wrong in your post!
    With Love
    Your Aunt Kierstin FELL Holland

  2. I appreciate your willingness to share your views and feelings. I feel that having a voice and being heard is important. We have a lot of different views. I am not offended or upset that you see things different than I do. Getting your viewpoint is helpful in seeing things from a different perspective. Part of loving someone is accepting the other in our contradictions and differences. After reading your comment and a lengthy conversation with Aunt Liz I did edit the post and remove names. After my conversation with Aunt Liz I felt that we both had a better understanding of where each other was coming from and a lot of misunderstandings on both ends were cleared up. My post and your comment have started a conversation and I am very hopeful that it will lead to a more healthy relationship amongst us all as the conversations continue.

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