[previous chapter] [start from the beginning] When the phone rang again she was tempted to yell into it without even checking who it was. But her decades of PR kicked in and she resisted the urge. A good thing, too, because as it turns out it wasn’t her mom.

“Martina Labrecque?”

“Speaking.”

“Jason Martel from CBC News.”

“Oh, hi.”

“Hi. I saw your Facebook page and the reaction it has generated on Facebook and other social media sites. Would you have a few minutes to talk to me about it?”

“Sure.”

“Great, thanks. What made you want to start this page?”

“Well, that’s going to sound funny to you, but I was watching a panel show on Sunday on CBC. You were there, with a lawyer and a doctor.”

“Martin Greenberg.”

“That’s right. And he was talking about the impact non-loving parents can have on their children and it just hit me like a ton of bricks. Like he was talking about me, personally. So I decided to write that post and start my page to express sympathy for the accused – not support, you understand; I don’t think there’s anyone who wants to be seen justifying or excusing murder – but sympathy for what he must have gone through.”

“I see your post hit a nerve. You’ve gone viral.”

“Yes, and that tells me there is rather a lot more of this going on out there, of parents failing their children in all kinds of ways, and that makes me terribly sad.”

“Did your mother react to your page and posting?”

“Actually she did, just a few minutes before you called she was on the phone with me.”

“What was her reaction?”

“It wasn’t positive.”

“Was she mad at you?”

“No, not so much mad as unbelieving. She accused me of making things up.”

“I see.”

“And of course, you as an outsider are in no position to judge who’s right and who’s wrong, who’s lying and who’s delusional.”

“I didn’t say anything!”

“No, but you don’t need to. I’ve had plenty of people reacting the way you are right now; there is always a bit of silence while you try to figure out where the truth lies and realize you can’t. That’s OK. I’ve made my peace with that. My goal is not to convince the world that I’m in the right.”

“Can I ask you what your goal is, then?”

“Sure, but you’ll probably find it doesn’t amount to much. My goal is simply to stop lying to myself about the pain I’ve been feeling all these years. It’s to acknowledge that pain and what it did to me.”

“So you’re angry?”

“No, not anymore.”

“Oh.”

“You’re surprised?”

“Well, it’s just that I get the sense that a lot of the people who write on your Facebook page have anger issues. I mean, there’s a lot of rage going on, and I just don’t think it’s very positive…”

“So I can assume you have good, loving parents, then?”

“Well, yes, as a matter of fact I do.”

“I’m happy for you.”

“But what about the anger, do you not see how negative it is?”

“No, not really. I mean, in my own experience, when I finally allowed myself to acknowledge the pain I’d been living with for decades, yes, there was anger. I’ll admit that. And it wasn’t the good, productive kind of anger either. It was the kind of anger that makes you want to hit back, you know what I mean?”

“I think so.”

“But the funny thing is, it didn’t last. It was replaced with a huge sense of relief, like I didn’t have to carry this enormous burden anymore. I was finally free! When my mother phoned me just a few minutes ago I did not yell at her. She tried to pick a fight with me, accusing me of making stuff up, of embarrassing her, but I just didn’t fight back! I don’t have to anymore. And that’s what I would like your readers and viewers to understand; that it’s not just about getting angry, or getting even, or – like Mr. Toussignant is accused of having done – taking revenge. To me and to all those people who have reached out to me via that Facebook page, it’s about getting rid of that burden we’ve been carrying all along.”

“You mean, the pain?”

“Yes, the pain, and also the guilt. It will be hard to understand for you, who have loving parents, but a child who grows up without being hugged by his or her mother thinks it’s his or her fault the mother isn’t more loving. Those kids think there’s something wrong with them! If there wasn’t anything wrong with them, their parents would love them! Some of those kids grow up being berated or insulted all the time by their parents. I certainly was – I was called all kinds of bad names by my mother, constantly criticized. She called me dirty, lazy, stupid, ugly, and many more hurtful things. Well, after years of being called these things, you start to believe it, you know? So there’s a certain level of guilt mixed in there with the pain. It varies from person to person, I’m sure, but judging from the messages I’ve been getting these past few days, it looks like most people in situations like mine have a burden that contains both pain and guilt. So yeah, finally getting rid of that burden after all those years feels really good.”

“Have you been following the Toussignant trial?”

“Yes.”

“What do you think so far?”

“Well, I think it’s horrible to arrive at a point where a son feels compelled to kill his parents – if that is indeed what he has done. We will see what the jury thinks of his story, but whatever the verdict, I feel sorry for the accused and his pain. I just wish he could have found a way to deal with it that didn’t end up with his parents dead. And that’s another reason why I started my Facebook page. I wanted to find a way to tell other people who are suffering alone that they don’t need to continue suffering and that, as cheesy as it sounds, they are not alone. That there’s a good, positive way out of the pain. There’s no way to erase the past and make the hurt not happen, but there are ways to find happiness regardless.”

“Have you found happiness, then?”

“Not yet, no. I mean, not quite. But I think I’m a lot closer to it than I was two weeks ago, so that’s progress, right?”

“Right. This is all fascinating, and I would like your permission to quote you in my story.”

“Sure, no problem.”

“I am also working on another TV special for the weekend, and ideally I would like to have you on the program to talk about your experience, your Facebook page and the reaction you got from it. I especially like what you just told me about the positive ways there are of moving forward, or getting past the pain, and of finding some kind of peace or happiness. I confess I’ve been getting thousands of comments from viewers and readers about this story, more than I’ve ever received on any other story I’ve covered. We also got huge feedback after the special panel we did with the lawyer and the psychologist. This trial has obviously struck a chord. Personally I don’t want to sit there and talk about the sensationalist aspects of the story, because I find this crass and negative. Instead I’d really like to get past that and focus instead on the larger implications of the problems people like you and Jean-François Toussignant face, and on the possibilities there are of finding a positive way forward. Would you be interested in talking about this on the air?”

“I’d be happy to.”

“Great! I’ll try to convince the show’s producers that my idea is the right one and if they agree I’ll give you a call back. Thanks a lot for your time today!”

“You’re welcome.”

Martina couldn’t help smiling as she hit the “end call” button on her phone. How weirdly natural it felt to talk about her private life to a complete stranger, and one who didn’t look a day past 20 years old at that. But she did remember herself starting out in her business, and getting a hand up from a few sympathetic older folks who saw her potential and helped her develop it. Maybe now it was time for her to pay back fate for that help and give this young reporter a chance to do something good.

[next chapter]