Thirty-five years later and I still have moments of terror. He had shown up in my life while I was in college and caused me to panic, the flight instinct kicking in and sending me into a spiral. He was always there in the back of my head and in the forefront of my concern that he would show up at something, a wedding, a reunion, or a funeral. So I avoided almost all of them. I attended Marie’s funeral just about a year after our graduation. Otherwise, I had no intention of making an appearance at any location that could possibly result in a chance meeting . Reunions seemed to represent the best opportunity for a face to face meeting. I did not attend a Class of 1978 reunion until just a few years ago. The 25th reunion of the Notre Dame High School Class of 1978 was held in 2004. Apparently math was not our strong suit. I decided to suck it in and go. He was not there. I did not yet know that the Diocese of Scranton had him hidden in Missouri. To be honest, I wanted to go and find out that he had died. I wanted to know that he had gone on to hell. I asked Mr. Lyons about him in casual conversation, but he did not seem to know where Gibson was at the time.
I am not alone in the fear of a chance encounter. Some of the other survivors that I have spoken to have expressed fear that he would attend a function. In a recent email that I received, the writer expressed fear that Gibson would show up at a family member’s funeral. As if losing a loved one is not bad enough, the fear of seeing the potential molester of a sibling at a family funeral eclipses the the grief for the loss and sets you on edge. Gibson is a consuming force, still compounding the damage after all these years. Moving the abuse beyond the victim to other family members. Some people have even expressed a desire to physically harm their perp. The fear welling to hate, the hate eating away at the soul. Damage, years after the physical violation ended. He never really goes away. The Diocese has told me that he is an addled old man suffering from dementia in a hospital in Missouri. Price Memorial Hospital in Eureka Missouri is where he is alleged to be an in-patient. Forgive me if I sound like I don’t believe everything that the Diocese of Scranton has told me. You know, they do not have a good track record for being completely truthful when it comes to one of the 25 or more sexual molesters/rapists or abusers that have operated with impunity in the Diocese of Scranton over the years. Many of them enjoying the protection of Bishops who should have known better. Bishops that should have taken decisive action to stop the abuse and seek out victims who needed the help and comfort of their church.
My wife pointed out to me that the doubt that nagged me about proving my story to be credible was the voice of Gibson in my head, even after 35 years. That voice that could crash any holiday, freeze me in my tracks and cause me to question any good thing that came my way. That is one way he has paralyzed me for years. (There are more, I will get to them.) Even when I had a letter from the Diocese that declared my allegations to be credible, I was convinced that it just was not enough. It is never enough, it is always in the back of my head.