Mercy Home Helps a Family Heal
Marco had a secret. Not the kind of secret that caused a fluttery feeling in his tummy, but a bad secret. The kind that made him feel sick every time he thought of it. The kind that made him fear what anybody would say if they found out.
Marco’s father, the person he always considered his role model and confidant, seemed to change overnight. He had a dark side and was capable of things Marco could never have imagined. And now, Marco was frightened of him.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Marco’s community was hit hard. Many of his family members and neighbors worked at local businesses and restaurants to make a living. When most of these places were shut down for quarantine, countless people lost their jobs. Marco’s father, a restaurant cook, was one of them.
Marco’s father was the sole breadwinner in in his family, so the loss of his father’s job was devastating. Finding another job when restaurants were laying off so many people made the task seem impossible. This sent Marco’s father into spirals of depression, then rage. During the periods of depression, his father wouldn’t move from the sofa all day. His drinking, which had once been social at most, was now excessive. But the periods of rage were what Marco feared most.
There was just a certain feeling in the air when his father’s anger was building. Marco would wake up to tension at the breakfast table, his parents snapping at each other, and then the inevitable comment from his mother that would make his father snap.
“Don’t tell anyone. People will misunderstand. Your father isn’t a bad man.”
Marco wasn’t a tall boy. He wasn’t big for his age, either. But he felt that it was his job to protect his mother. So when his father began swinging his fists, Marco took every punch he could to shield his mother. Of course, he couldn’t block every blow. Both he and his mother were becoming experts at hiding bruises–on their arms, their torsos, even their faces.
“Don’t tell anyone,” his mother would always say as he watched her cover the black and blue marks with makeup. “People will misunderstand. Your father isn’t a bad man.”
His father would always be sorry after he lost his temper, making Marco even more confused. He would come to Marco and his mother sobbing, begging for forgiveness, assuring them it would never happen again. It wasn’t true of course; it was always just a matter of time until his dad blew up again. But Marco also hoped that maybe this time, his father really meant it when he said he would never hurt him again.
When Marco’s in-person schooling resumed, he spent the whole night before his first class worrying about hiding his bruises. His mother reminded him again how important it was to keep them a secret before he went to bed.
Marco went to school in a sweatshirt and jeans every day for the first week back at school, despite the unseasonably warm spring temperatures. He avoided his friends, afraid that something would slip. And he worried about his mother, left alone all day with his father.
Marco was able to keep the pain he was experiencing at home to himself…for a while. With the chaos of schooling during a pandemic, the teachers seemed more overwhelmed than usual. But he couldn’t keep it to himself forever.
Marco was working on a science lab one day at school, and his lab partner spilled their project all over the table. Without thinking, Marco rolled up his sleeves to clean the mess. His teacher came over to help, and he saw her eyes linger on the bruises on his forearms. She didn’t say anything at first, but asked him to stay after class.
When his teacher asked him if anything was going on at home, Marco denied it, thinking of his mother’s warnings. He knew she would be so disappointed if he got his dad in trouble. But his teacher assured him that she would always listen if he needed to talk. Marco brushed it off, but he didn’t forget her words.
Marco considered what she said over the next week. With another violent outburst from his dad, Marco had a moment of clarity. The best way he could protect his mother was by asking for help.
With tears running down his face, Marco confessed everything to his teacher: his dad’s drinking and violent rages, and how afraid he was of what would happen next. His teacher immediately sprung into action to help.
A social worker got involved to help Marco’s family. Both of his parents were referred to counseling, but the social worker had another idea for Marco: coming to Mercy Home. He didn’t want to leave his mother, and he didn’t like the idea at first. But his mother convinced him to at least visit and see what he thought.
Marco liked Mercy Home a lot. He was surprised by how homey it was, and how nice everyone seemed. As our coworkers explained the different ways they could help him recover from the trauma the past year brought, Marco made up his mind. He would give Mercy Home a try.
Living at our Home wasn’t like anything Marco was used to. There was a lot of more structure and other kids were always around, a difference from his experience growing up an only child. It was his time in therapy that he liked the most, though. He could tell his therapist anything, and she gave him lots of good feedback and advice. Currently, he attends regular family therapy with his parents. It will be a long road, but Marco hopes that some day they will all be able to repair their relationship.
The group therapy with the other boys has also helped Marco tremendously. Sharing the difficult things they all experienced made Marco feel like he isn’t so alone. It has made such a difference in his life that Marco hopes to become a therapist one day so he can help other kids just like him. This year, he’s thinking about the types of colleges he might want to attend.
Marco’s entire life changed when he came to Mercy Home. He is more confident and is looking forward to the future with hope instead of fear. We are thankful to the loving friends who make sure we can give kids like Marco a safe place to live and hope for the future.
Please note: because we care deeply about protecting our children’s privacy, the names and certain identifying details in this story have been changed.