Silence Bellows: A Man Once Living Without Regret
Silence Bellows: A Man Once Living Without Regret
For many years Silence Bellows was a loner. An imaginary wall built around him protected him from an imagined fear of things unexpected that could harm him, mainly a fear of strangers possessing harmful intentions. He was content to go through life without emotional attachments to friends, family or anyone else that he met. He liked it that way.
Actually he preferred it. Insensitive family members with an ability not to understand life’s simplest of complications forced him to play the hand he was dealt, throwing his very existence into turmoil. And for some of the siblings the matter probably remains unsettled in their collective guts. But as for Silence, there’s no need here in this story to delve into a subject matter that is dead. The past is the past, according to Silence, and that’s the way he prefers it.
“I’m happy,” is all he’ll say with a straight face when approached on the matter.
Just after his birth, his mother decided to give him a name that reflected what she had to go through during his actual birthing process. Unfortunately for him, she was one of those free thinkers during the sixties where freedom of expression was imperative. He was informed many years later that she bit the bullet during her labor to remain silent the entire time he was ripping her open – hence the words silent bellows. He has resented her ever since.
He got a job working as a columnist for the Wilmette Gazette newspaper just outside of Chicago. He’s been with them for over five years. He likes his job because he’s allowed to work alone. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
Not only is Silence alone in the big cruel world but also he’s a big bore. Never has much to say, living his life as a wallflower, content to let life pass him by. His day in and day out routine allows him a sense of security.
“It allows me to know what to expect. I hate surprises.”
He goes to work five days a week and then come home to a one-bedroom apartment. Almost immediately he’ll get on the Internet to search for material to use for a possible column for the newspaper. When he actually writes an article that is rarely approved by the editor, an extra two hundred dollars is in his paycheck, which he’ll routinely deposit in his savings account the very next day.
“You’ll never know when I may need extra cash,” he’ll say to himself every single time as he drives his ’67 ford pickup out of the bank’s parking lot. Sometimes he’ll stop at the local supermarket on his way home to buy milk, bread, eggs or anything else he may be getting low on. Breakfast is his main meal of the day.
However, getting a well-written article approved for publication is sometimes a daunting but usually disappointing task. His editor cites lack of depth and insight into the subject material as the usual reasons for disapproval.
The editor, an overweight fast-talking man with a personality of a pimp, once said, “Go out and find a girl, man. Go to a movie then take her to your place and screw her brains out! Get a life! Get involved with somebody!” then thumping Silence on his chest with the back of his hand saying further, “Put some life into the old ticker of yours!” Silence could only look at him with contempt.
The opposite sex has always been a problem for Silence. It seems ever since he can remember girls have always had this innate ability to look right through him and see him for who he actually is, a boring man with the personality of an empty cardboard box. Nothing to offer them but a humdrum routine of a life seemingly set in stone.
“I’ve seen more exciting faces on Mount Rushmore,” a female co-employee once told him.
But then one day everything changed.
One evening while searching the Internet for something interesting to write about, that familiar voice of you got mail softly bounced into his ears. It was an email from his younger sister and immediately he clicks on it to begin reading what she had sent.
Her words, carefully written but poignantly cutting, sent a wave of surprise and then shock through Silence’s empty soul. An odd sensation began affecting his senses like some emotional concussion. To read something totally out of the ordinary from her hit him with such force that it felt like a full body slam. And Silence knew without any doubt that he was down for the full count.
But being the type of reporter forever on the prowl for something interesting to write about, even if it adversely involved him, the opportunity to write about this subject was too good to pass up.
So write he did, a surprising masterpiece that touched the minds and hearts of strangers as well changing perceptions of the ones who knew him. Co-workers viewed him differently after his article.
“I’ve never seen a face that was truly more interesting,” was a comment made by the same female co-worker that always thought of him as a gigantic bore.
The following pages contain that article, published on the second page of the Wilmette Gazette on June 7, 2005 titled Silence Bellows and a Sister’s Accusation Of Molestation. The article is then followed by a few of the local townspeople’s reactions to his story in their own words.
It’s a tale told from the heart, exposing Silence’s most intimate feelings about a subject matter that has literally ruined men’s lives.
Silence Bellows and a Sister’s Accusation Of Molestation – by Silence Bellows
I have agonized many hours over how to present the facts of this story in such an articulate manner as not to offend any of the persons involved.
But this is a story about a frail moment that dramatically has changed how I think or feel about one particular sister. Some specific emotion has lingered from her accusation into the present day, but it is not enough to keep me in a disheveled state of mind forever, and I pray for her as well.
When I sent out a family questionnaire to family members years ago to be placed in an article I was working on for the paper, I got a peculiar response to a specific question from her that totally caught me off guard.
‘What was your worst childhood memory?’ was the question she answered with the utmost sincerity. She was being forthright in every sense because she is a God-fearing individual and a person of outstanding character. But as for me, her answer drastically loosened some of the screws to a harmonious brother/sister relationship we may have had. I love her dearly, but this was a major thing she was accusing me of.
I was shocked with a horrendous disbelief. Long-standing family bonds were suddenly severely damaged, as well as relationships with other siblings who may have blindly accepted her version without my side of the story.
This revelation happened at a very sensitive time of my life where her surprise answer further eroded contemptuous feelings I was having caused by an ongoing bitter verbal battle with other family members, one in particular.
Trying to convince this one individual and others that words alone can make or break people’s lives, and that when something is purposely said for a reason, the words spoken have more meaning behind it and have more weight because it is controlled and it’s purposeful, unlike emotion in the heart where a person is only indirectly responsible.
I was already filled with much stress and pain to where an accusation such as this sent my emotions spiraling further away from her, sabotaging remaining feelings I had left from a once strong base of emotional family bonds. In those days it seems I was fast becoming the black sheep in the family, and feeling more times than not that today such thoughts may still exist.
My sister’s accusation of molestation against me sharply blunted every sense I owned. I was in total disbelief. I didn’t want to believe it. I refused to believe it. How could she accuse me of such an awful thing?
After finishing reading her email, I was stunned, collapsing into my black leather chair in front of the computer for a good thirty minutes trying to figure out why she would accuse me of such a thing. I didn’t know what to think, but to deny it.
During those thirty minutes I became extremely defensive. I felt her outlandish accusation, especially now, was really going to further the distance between her and myself and tarnish any decency left of my once perceived reputation I had among my siblings. Stronger feelings of separation took root and I was fast feeling that I was even more of an emotional outcast.
My sister and the rest of my siblings, who were once the pillars that held the very essence of who I was and where I came from firmly in place, continued to emotionally crumble away from me, allowing my once loving perceptions of them to come smashing to the ground into a pile of worthless rubble. Feeling and receiving any type of emotional support from them was non-existent at this point. I truly was emotionally and mentally devastated in those days and I thought I would never survive.
After mustering up some courage to respond, I felt spiteful and my words were sarcastic. I denied her accusation and I mentioned about me ‘cutting off my own hands’ if that would make her feel better.
Soon afterward I regretted sending it, but at the time I didn’t know how to respond properly because it was so far out in left field. As I said, my mental state was already brittle from the other family squabbling that had been going on for a long time, so I wasn’t prepared to deal with more personal attacks. I felt strongly at the time that she was thinking ‘now that he’s down, let’s kick him again’. Today, I fully realize that she didn’t intend it to be that way.
Initially, I never asked her to explain what she was talking about. I didn’t want to know. She was trying to make me feel dirty about something I knew nothing about.
She responded to my email by being apologetic and saying that she never meant to hurt me. Such comments were too late as far as I was concerned. The damage was done.
Several weeks went by with no correspondence with her as I tried to recall any kind of a situation that may have been compromising. I came up with nothing. My attitude was such that molestation is something that emotionally disturbed people do. Not me. I am her brother. I am someone she’s known all her life.
But my brain abruptly froze when I realized what I just thought. The words I am her brother began to make me think.
It’s been a proven fact that within our society more times than not molestation occurs from someone within the family, someone emotionally close to the victim. That’s what the experts say. When I fully understood that, I was suddenly more nervous and more afraid than ever.
The time period my sister was referring was over thirty years ago, so my memories of anything from those days were fuzzy at best. Regardless, I needed to try and somehow mentally relive those days. I needed to place myself in that time frame and hope that something would reveal itself to reaffirm her accusation, if it were true.
I figure if I diligently placed myself at the very scene where the act itself supposedly took place that was described by her in a later email, then maybe a specific thought or a feeling would be revealed. I didn’t want to leave any stone unturned, and I spent many hours alone reflecting. I needed to know if what she accused me of had any merit.
There was a compelling force within me to sanctify her words, to come to some sort of resolution. I stretched my imaginative limits and came up with a description of an event that I discovered later had no merit. I didn’t know what to think about the situation and I finally realized that I was trying too hard. I needed more time.
My sister stated that it took place where we were living at our mother’s house on Spring Street in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The exact area in question was between the dining room table and the rear door that let to the back porch.
I remember the place seemed to be mostly busy with younger siblings each going about their own private businesses. I think all of them were still in school except Linda and James. Linda was still living at home. James, I believe, shared an apartment with friends. Another sister, Stephanie, was out of high school because she had quit. Three or four of them worked at McDonald’s, including our mother. As for me in the one and a half years I lived there, I had about three jobs. My evenings were spent at home watching TV with my siblings.
I’ll let my sister’s e-mail describe what happened in her own words.
“Now about what happened years ago. We were living in Minnesota and you and I were the only ones home at the time. You were sitting at the kitchen table by that little back room, the one that ended up being Steve’s bedroom (another brother). I wanted to go out to the backyard so I had to walk past you and through that room to get outside. When I went to walk past you, you stopped me. I can't remember what you said first, but you put your hand down my shirt and cupped one of my breasts. But I don't think you actually touched it though.”
Then you said, "What are you going do when you go out on a date and your boyfriend does this to you?" I can't remember if those were your exact words, but it was something like that.”
“I just looked at you and said, "I don't know." Then you took your hand out of my shirt, and I can't remember if you said anything after that or not. I was scared and all I could think about was getting outside and away from you. Didn't quite know what to make of it.”
“As time went by, nothing else was said or happened and it just faded away. I never thought of you as a pervert or anything, but I was a little leery of you for a while. It wasn't until many years later that I realized you were just trying to teach me about guys. In fact, I sort of thought that maybe because I didn't have a dad around to teach me these things, that you were trying to fill that void. Does that sound weird to you?”
“I love you very much, Silence, and I never have and never will think of you as a pervert or anything weird like that. I think you're being much too hard on yourself. As far as I'm concerned, it's in the past and I know you never meant me any harm. And I certainly don't mean you any harm either. I hope you understand”.
After I read her account of what took place, a fuzzy recollection began to filter through those loose seams of memory. I still can’t recall with any certainty of what I’m about to tell you has merit, but it does seem to ring louder than any other possible scenario. But, please keep in mind that to have a complete certainty about any of this is impossible because it was over thirty years ago. I truly can’t be sure.
But, I possibly could have had thoughts such as not approving of her attire when she began to not wear a bra beneath her shirt. I get a feeling of this thought coming through the most vivid, although it still isn’t completely clear. It could have been possible that I was thinking that her behavior of dressing in this manner seemed to not fit the kind of innocent personality she owned in those days. If this is true, I may have thought it was vulgar on her part to dress like that.
I would have disapproved of it and my possible behavior would have only been an attempt by me to make her think twice about dressing like that. Back in those days I do remember I’ve always felt protective of her because she was the one sister with the bubbly personality that had a great disposition about everything. So, in my eyes she seemed vulnerable. I may have felt safe in doing something of this nature because she seemed to never take herself too seriously.
In my mind it was a forgone conclusion between the two of us that a serious attempt to, God forbid, molest her would never have been even a thought. We were brother and sister and I thought our sibling bond was stronger than anything.
Apparently I was wrong. This entire scenario still remains unclear to this day because those days were so long ago.
But to be fair from her perspective, if her accusation has merit then she has my deepest and sincerest apology. I honestly can’t ever recall having ill intentions toward her, or anyone else within the family for that matter, during my entire life. And I certainly would not have attempted ‘to teach’ her anything in such a deviant and disgusting manner.
But, to give a fairer perspective for any other possible reason for such behavior, I need to explore other avenues of thought that will hopefully put into question other ideas that could or could not be related. The questions are only asked with the intent of me answering them with honesty to clear any other avenues of possible opinions. Nothing more.
1. Did I attempt to tease her in some innocent way as a brother only could? This seems to be a possible explanation as well, but I just can’t imagine going that far in teasing her. She always demonstrated to her family members that she was easy going and would chuckle over most anything. So I could have thought that she wouldn’t take such behavior seriously.
2. Was it subliminal behavior where I was acting below the threshold of my consciousness? Was it drug-induced? The stigma of drug use seems to follow me whenever I am judged. I guess people like to find the easiest reason for things they don’t understand. I have openly admitted to using drugs during my past, but they were never, ever given much credence in my life. During the time in question, I emphatically state with a clear conscious that they were not in use and hadn’t been for a long time.
3. Was it an act of selfishness of some kind? No. I would never think in those terms. Absurd. Ridiculous.
4. If I were involved in such an act of molestation, why didn’t I complete the act and touch her breast? It’s because I love her as only a brother could. I would have realized emotionally scaring her would have been a possibility that I would not have wanted to take. And besides, only someone with an emotional instability of some kind would have wanted such a cheap thrill because of a need for such behavior to satisfy any urges of maligning selfish intent. I don’t know how the mind of a molester works, but I do know that I am not a selfish individual, or a molester.
However, I do realize that some memories fade in time. And I do believe what she described she believes to be real, even though it doesn’t sound like something I would ever attempt to do with the intent of purposely harming her. I also have a hard time denying it because those times were so long ago. I have to be as honest as I can.
But, let me also say in the same breath that I also have a difficult time accepting it, because it sounds way out of my character to attempt such a horrible act, and that is to be incestuous. Those kinds of thoughts never have crossed my mind. They are horrible and terrifying acts done by despicable people of very questionable character. It bothers me greatly that she actually kept this to herself for close to thirty years.
The special closeness that I have always felt toward her as a brother has been greatly stained and I don’t know if it’ll ever improve. But, I do know that our relationship will never be the same and this saddens me more than anything.
I cannot offer any distracters solace in their quest for what they want to believe, but I will not hinder their quest for what they want to believe as well.
None-the-less, I will not let this incident ruin my life. I have no real recall of it, but there are a lot of memories from our pasts that go the way of the Dodo bird. Just because they are gone from memory doesn’t mean that they never existed. I know one thing rings true to my inner self, and that is incestuous thoughts have never entered my mind. I love her dearly but only do I love her as someone who I hold a high esteem for with deserved respect.
Never before has my name held more meaning.
Comments from readers with a response from its author:
Michelle – You do not have to answer to me, Mr. Bellows and my question is a rhetorical one, I guess. What was the reason/motive/inspiration you wrote and published this article? Thank you for your kind consideration to my rhetorical question.
Response from author – Allow me to thank you, Michelle, for your excellent question. First of all, a subject matter as sensitive as this would have never been published without my sister's permission. She told me to 'go for it.'
To openly talk about molestation, especially when one is accused of it, is part of the healing process, for my sister as well as I. On the other hand to not talk about it, I strongly feel, is unhealthy. Reason being to keep it inside would allow the resulting emotion and thoughts to fester, crippling the soul, heart and mind. Airing it for the public to see will permit both parties as well as others to express their viewpoints on the matter, possibly leading into one-on-one discussions as I'm doing with you. To get past something as traumatic as this may have been for my sister, it was imperative for me to assist her with every effort I could give. Family to me is the base from which we all spring. And that base, or foundation, must be strong to allow every individual to be the very best that they can. Best to you, Michelle.
Response from Michelle – Mr. Bellows, thanks so very much for responding and answering. I did not want to offend you in any way. I pray your sister, you and family find peace and the healing all of you need.
Anonymous – This is as powerful and well-written article. I can't speak for you, but I have dealt with family molestation cases and there is a tendency for people to over-analyze and minimize motives. I hope that you and your sister come to grips with the full impact of what that experience meant for both of you. There will be no peace without that reconciliation from within and without.
Anonymous – WOW, your story touched my heart in a way that none has ever before. I guess it's because although I've been on the other side of that spectrum, I'm able to see things through your eyes as well. Thanks for sharing this story...it's made me think about some things...
Anonymous – Many times childhood memories are suppressed. I am not a psychologist but I know enough to understand that when children experience emotional trauma (I don't know the exact age of this particular incident in your life), they tend to block it out of their minds. Your sister needed validation of her pain, of a moment between the two of you that she has not been able to forget. This is not about whether you are innocent or guilt of molestation. This is about an inappropriate behavior from one sibling to another. You may not have meant any harm, or as your sister said you may have been trying to teach her something about boys. It is irrelevant whatever the reasons you decided to that would be the way to do it. Whenever we step over the boundaries and invade another person's space, privacy and particularly body parts, we are totally and completely out of line. It must have taken your sister a lot of courage to let you know what happened and make herself vulnerable to your reaction. It is difficult to admit we are wrong, but you must take accountability for your actions even if you cannot remember exactly how it happened. To your sister it happened and this is between the two of you not the rest of the family or friends. You choose to ask for forgiveness, you choose to make it right, you choose to face the truth, you choose and the truth will always lift the chains that bind us to all the hurts in life. God loves you and He knows your heart as well as your sister's. Let it go.