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Can you hear his soul?

Posted by Fatherhood Admin

Recently, my wife, who is a family practice doctor, shared an interesting story with me. She was doing examinations on a 7-year-old boy and his 5-year-old sister. Because doctors visits, especially when shots are involved, can be a bit scary for kids, my wife at times lets the children listen to each other with her stethoscope before she examines them.


The little boy insisted on going first and he pressed the scope gently to his little sister’s chest. My wife explained the sounds that he would hear as he found his sister’s heartbeat. Now, it was his little sister’s turn. She quickly put the stethoscope on and pressed the listening device to her brother’s chest. As she listened intently, the little boy turned to my wife and asked, “What does my soul sound like?”


As they finished the visit, my wife spent some time speaking with the children’s mother. She likes to do this to get a better understanding of how her little patients are doing at home. For example, she asks if the children are eating and sleeping well and if there are other situations happening at home that could impact their health. Their mother quickly offered that their father, who she never married, recently moved out and moved on.


I suspect that my wife told me this story because I am fond of saying that kids have a “hole in their soul” in the shape of their dad and when a father is unwilling or unable to fill that hole, it can leave a wound that is not easily healed. Kids say the darndest things and I could not help but wonder if this little boy with his seemingly nonsensical question was saying something more profoundly about himself and expressing a more deep-seated need than hours and hours of therapy could ever reveal.


Several years ago, I came across this article, which I highly recommend that you read as well. It features an interview with Dr. Diane Schetky who served as an expert witness for the defense at the trial of DC sniper, Lee Malvo. In any case, when Schetky asked Malvo why he blindly followed Muhammad’s instructions, he said, “Anything he asked me to do I'd do. He knew I didn't have a father. He knew my weaknesses and what was missing.”


It’s worth recounting a bit of history about Malvo. He was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1985 to Una James. His father, Leslie, reportedly doted on his young son. However, Leslie Malvo worked off-island, and during his long absences, Malvo was“ inconsolable.” Over time, James suspected Leslie of infidelity and moved with her son to a small, rural part of Jamaica without telling him where they had gone. “Lee was devastated by the loss of his father,” according to Schetky.

Malvo met Muhammad when he was just 15 and was immediately drawn to him. So much so, he quickly began calling Muhammad “dad.” In fact, Malvo told Schetky “I was desperate to fill a void in my life…” And the rest, unfortunately, is history.

It doesn’t take much to see some similarities between Malvo and the little boy in my wife’s office. Am I saying that this boy and others who get disconnected from their fathers will grow up to be emotionless killers? Of course not. But what I am saying is that Malvo was once a young fatherless boy with a “soul” that few seemed to hear except a man who would eventually convince Malvo to be “heard” in a tragic way that ruined his life and ended the lives of so many others.

Topics: fatherhood, father involvement, father absence, father-son relationship, d.c. sniper

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