Just A Boy

I firmly believe that all the things I’ve been through have combined to make me into who I am. Some of those things were bad, some were good, and some just were. I had no choice about  most things until I was eighteen and could set out on my own, but even then I was never truly in control. There were demons that would not let me be.


Within the heart of an evil man lies a good seed never watered. A man such as this raised me; he wasn’t my biological father, but saw fit, after marrying my mother, to adopt me. A noble and good gesture? True; I can’t deny that. So, how can I call him evil?

Does adopting me, do any of the good things he did, exonerate him? I would answer with a question: Do flashes of lightning remove the darkness of a moonless stormy night?

If you can forgive a person, no matter who they are, or what they’ve done, you can love without boundary or condition. But who among us can say they are capable of this lofty achievement? Not I; no, certainly not I.

I try to tell myself I forgive him. I tell people I loved him, that he was a good father in many ways. But… I can’t make myself believe it, so why should they? I know the pain shows in my eyes when I talk about the things I’ve seen; the things he did and said. It’s hard to forgive someone who filled your heart and mind with fear for so many years of your life.

And then you’re grown up—or think you are—and it continues; the fear of wondering when he’ll show up or call. The gut wrenching feeling when you answer the phone and your hello is met by the sound of his voice. A voice that opens all the doors you’ve fought so hard to close; all of them swinging open at once, the cold air and hot breath of demons rushing in, hissing like a thousand snakes beneath your bed on a stormy night. Past pains and dreads crashing in your mind like booming thunder that pulls you from restful sleep when you hadn’t known it would rain. A voice you’ve prayed so many times you would never hear again. And this… goes on forever.


He wasn’t much more than a boy himself when he adopted me, my little sister, and little brother. I think he wanted to do good things–the right things, but the demons he carried wouldn’t let him.

He’s gone now—died several years ago—and our last conversation still echoes in the cellar of my mind.


“What did I do to deserve this, son?” His voice is full of hurt and sadness. I don’t answer.

“I love you,” he says. “I’ve always loved you.”

“I know, dad,” I answer quietly. And in his own way—in his mind—he did; he simply did not know how.

I know what he’ll say next, and he says it, almost word for word: “I never did anything to hurt you. I was a good dad to you.”

“I gotta go,” I say.

He is silent for a long half minute, then says in a gruff, almost angry tone, filled with hurt and rejection, “Come see me, son.”

I hang up the phone.


Baggage? Yes, I’ve got some. They’re stored in the cellar now, but… I’ve never unpacked them.


Copyright © 2013 C Mashburn

Sharing this on Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday. Not a fun write, but maybe it will prod me into cleaning up that cellar.


  1. Sherry Mashburn said

    It’s time to take that old baggage and throw it out. I am so sorry for the hurt you had to endure as a child. All I know is, you are the best man, the best friend, the best husband I have EVER known.

  2. heidibarnes11 said

    Even with forgiveness I have found the pain of what was done is never truly gone. Every once in a while my pain will sneak up and freeze me or knock me to my knees. And that is okay, because like you said, everything in our life that has happened, good or bad, has shaped us in one way or another. All we can do is learn from them and try to become a better person. From what your wife has posted I think that is what you have done. 🙂

    • Thank you, Heidi. What you say is very true, and I have come a long way since I wrote this piece. But, it can all come flooding back in an instaant at times.

  3. Very brave of you to share such a personal and painful story. Thanks for letting us get to know you better.

    • I think part of forgiving myself and others is laying it ou there for all to see. The truth, I’ve heard, can set you free.

  4. Oh Charles … the pain and hurt that creeps back into our lives when we least expect it can bring us to our knees in an instant … even unpacked and thrown away sometimes is never enough to keep it contained.

  5. Wow! Echoes of my own experience. I feel your pain but for my own reasons. It’s why I can never confront my father — he’ll just look at me with a blank expression on his face and wonder that the h-e-double hockey sticks I’m talking about. And he’s even waiting for me, and my brother, to make the first move in communication. He’ll wait a long time … Thanks for sharing. I love the poetry of your language use. … ” … a thousand hissing snakes beneath your bed on a stormy night …” — such imagery. … Be well, Dorothy 🙂

    • Sorry to hear that about your dad, but thanks for the visit and comment!

      • It is what it is. I gave up worrying about it a long time ago. Life is too short. 🙂

      • That’s the truth! Worrying doesn’t help a thing!

  6. neenslewy said

    Glad to hear you have thrown it out – because the ending was so sad.
    Great life writing.

    Just to make us all feel better we all have baggage of some description – even if your baggage is the fact that you burnt all your baggage!

  7. Suzanne said

    This piece touched me also. It’s good to know you wrote years ago and that you have resolved some of your pain now. Difficult childhoods are hard to overcome. I hope you continue to heal.

  8. debzywebzy said

    This is really well written and I’m glad to see in the comments that you did get to deal with that baggage. My favourite line is “…like booming thunder that pulls you from restful sleep when you hadn’t known it would rain”.

  9. Joanna said

    Charles, I came across your courageous blog through FWF, and have nominated you for a “Best Moment” Award. I hope you don’t mind. Please click here for more info: http://joannafunk.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/a-best-moment-award-and-named-in-an-outstanding-blogger-list/

  10. This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for opening up with us and sharing something so personal. I too knew someone who…well, this reminds me of that person. I cannot even begin to tell you how I feel this.

    Thank you.

    • Well, Kellie, my work here is done, I reckon. When something I write makes Sherry cry, I tell her, “That’s my job.” The way I look at this story, and the things I went through in my childhood is if the bad hadn’t been a part of it, I wouldn’t have appreciated how good the good was; or, how good my life is right now. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.

  11. Mark said

    Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards. ~Søren Kierkegaard So hard to do at times, your writing was full of emotion and how a single trigger can allow the past to come flooding back from the “echoes in the cellar of my mind”. Loved it, thank you for sharing Charles & here is to the future and not allowing the past to control it!

  12. Reblogged this on Marbles In My Pocket ~ The Official Blog of Charles L. Mashburn ~ Poems, Short Stories, and random thoughts from the author of "Be Still… and know that I am God" and commented:

    I’ve written a book about my childhood. It has lots of good things in it, but the bad is not left out. It needs some editing and polishing, but I should be able to publish it this fall, or maybe next spring. It’s called, Just A Boy.

    • Susan Dennis said

      I’m so sorry for the pain and hurt you and your family were subjected to. How terribly scary to live in such fear. Years ago, I recall hearing family talk of some abuse that you guys went through, but never knew the details and extent. I look forward to reading your book, when it’s ready. Take care my friend.

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