“I can remember how he looked, every inch of him: his long sandy, light brown hair; his long, full mustache; the beads he wore; the tie-dyed T-shirts and the cutoff jeans, which gave him the look of a hippie,’’ Brown writes. “I was standing there with my pants down and he came right up next to me and asked me if I needed help, and then he reached out his hand,’’ Brown writes, continuing a graphic scene of the fondling.
The counselor threatened harm if Brown revealed the incident. Brown kept quiet – and found himself back at camp the next summer. Though the abuse wasn’t repeated, Brown said he was always on edge and learned a tough lesson: There was no refuge, no one he could “truly trust.”
And then there was a string of abusive stepfathers.
Truck driver Dan Sullivan married Brown’s divorced mother in the 1960s. Brown recalls an incident in which he was supposed to wake up his stepfather.
“He rubbed his face and caught sight of the clock, and the next thing I knew, he balled his hands into fists and began smacking me around,’’ Brown writes. When it was over, his stepfather threatened to kill Brown if he told his mother. “I knew that he would kill me,” Brown writes.
Soon after, Brown heard screams and ran to another grisly scene.
“My mom was screaming and yelling, and crying big choking sobs, and he was hitting her, his fists landing blow after blow,’’ Brown writes.
Brown rushed to protect his mother, biting his stepfather through his pants. “He tasted of soiled Dickies fabric, of coarse male hair and sweaty skin, but I bit down hard, right on the inside of his thigh,’’ Brown writes. “He began pounding my head until my brain rattled like a Jell-O mold turned upside down.’’
Battling an absent father, multiple abusive stepfathers, and a youth of few opportunities and less money, Brown writes that he found salvation in basketball.