Sunday, December 08, 2013

The Muffin Saga, Part VI

A time came when Muffin and I were the only members of the family left living in the parsonage. My oldest son was in California making big bucks via e-commerce. My youngest son was in Texas not making big bucks but I believe having a good time working at Big Bend National Park. My wife moved into a college dorm 85 miles away in Louisville to complete the hours needed for her B.A. That was the beginning of the end of our marriage, although I didn’t realize it then.

So Muffin and I lived together in the parsonage with much more room than we needed. Through the years Muffin had become my good buddy, generally hanging out and keeping her eye on me whenever I was at home. And I was “at home” quite a bit since my study was in the parsonage.

During those years I had a private counseling practice and generally met with clients in my study. Muffin was usually there, too, generally reclining in a corner (and keeping an eye on me). She was OK with strangers and visitors. And she was sometimes helpful with clients, some of whom I saw on a contract basis with the Indiana Department of Family Services. (I think that’s what they were called back then).

The clients referred by Family Services were either victims of abuse or parents who had been adjudicated guilty of abuse or neglect. And Muffin was sometimes quite helpful in my working with them. For example, there was a 14-year-old boy who I judged had had his childhood stolen from him. He had been involved in a three year sexual relationship with an adult woman that had begun when he was 10 years old. The boy was distrustful and really didn’t know how to be a kid. Yet, after he and Muffin became friends, he would call her and she would jump up on the chair beside him where he’d pet her mop-like coat and she would smile with her tongue hanging out. Any success I had with that young man I owed to Muffin.

Of course, Muffin and I continued our walks around town that we had begun the first summer she joined our family. Have I mentioned that there was quite a lot of alcoholism, drug abuse, and domestic violence in the community? For a while I would walk around town wearing my clerical collar, hoping just to meet and talk to people, especially adolescents. At the Ohio River end of town were quite a few bars—about one bar for every 125 residents in town. One of the largest bars not only sold beer and hard liquor inside, but also through a window located on the side of a building beside which was an alley.

The owner of the bar was a man I came to know well during the hours we spent together sitting on benches on the river side of the flood wall and quietly talking. He told me many times that he did not sell alcohol to people under the legal drinking age and did not allow them in his bar or on his property. I told him I knew that; I also told him that the kids gathered in the alley, which was not on his property, and the booze they consumed was purchased for them by men and women of legal drinking age from the window on the side of his bar.

Had it not been for Muffin, I would never have known about that or have been able to talk with the kids drinking in the alley. During my pre-Muffin walks the kids, when they saw me approaching, would turn their backs to me and walk down the alley. I later learned that that was the same thing they did when one of the town’s two and a half policemen (a chief, a sergeant, and a half-time patrolman) drove by.

Muffin broke the ice between the kids and me. After two or three nights of our strolling by, the girls and then the boys came up to us, cooed over Muffin, and eventually talked with me. It took a few weeks of Muffin and I dropping by, but eventually the kids developed some trust and began to share their stories. So I conducted a weird type of group sessions standing with these adolescents who usually had a plastic cup in their hand while I had the leash of a smiling Muffin in my hand.

The Muffin Saga will continue with part VII next Sunday.

Just a smidgen for Nick & his kitty kids?

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