Of compassion, and the Remy family case
Apr. 2, 2014
Red Sox announcer Jerry Remy has taken another bout of criticism after the recent Boston Globe article cataloguing his son Jared’s history of violence and domestic abuse. Some are calling for the “Rem-Dog” to resign or be fired, presumably because he was a bad father; an enabler, that is, of his son’s downward spiral.
But what has that got to do with his performance in the broadcasting booth where he has for years been an insightful and entertaining presence with his exuberant partner, Don Orsillo? They make a great team and Remy has parlayed his celebrity into a successful business career. He has made a comfortable living that obviously has not brought him the joy one might expect from someone living the “good life.”
He has coped with cancer and reportedly suffers from depression apparently brought on in part by the stress and pain associated with raising a troubled son. Only Remy and his wife know the anguish they have been through. Were they over-indulgent? Did they try to protect him? Did they struggle to find treatment programs that could help? How much could they do to address the mental health problems of a son resistant to treatment? I expect they prayed their son would eventually “grow-up” and his erratic behavior would subside.
The Remy parents certainly are not responsible for the court system’s unusual imposition of multiple continuances without a finding for multiple violent offenses and for its failure to revoke his probation after subsequent violations.
Would “tough love” have worked? Should they have cut him off and let the criminal justice system deal with him? Would some “jail time” have made him any better, or only worse? It is hard for parents to abandon their children. They cling to the hope, often unrealistically, that they will change. Sometimes they do, but often they don’t, and your worst nightmare is realized when something dreadful happens. There are a lot of ticking time bombs out there. Most never explode, but some do. Fortunately, we don’t punish people for what they might do, but for what they did.
In hindsight, we should have known. We should have seen the signs, identified the problem, and addressed it. We should have intervened before it was too late. Hindsight is history: It has happened; and we can take it apart and analyze it. Foresight is prophecy: at best speculation, at worse a guess. Are there any parents who can honestly say they made no mistakes in the raising of their children? Normal kids can usually thrive despite parental failings. Troubled kids, particularly those with mental health issues, often cannot.
In addition to the pain, the Remys must now cope with guilt while asking themselves how could we have prevented this from happening. What should we have done differently? If they knew the answer to that, they certainly would have tried it. But they didn’t know. They loved their troubled son and did what they thought was best under the circumstances. They are innocent, but carry a terrible burden.
Jerry Remy is good at what he does. Why should we add to his burden by suggesting he was in some way responsible for a murder? He deserves our sympathy, not our indignation. Despite his wealth and fame, who would want to change places with him?
Sometimes love is not enough. As much as it hurts, and as hard as you try, it’s hard to help someone intent upon self-destruction. I wish Jerry Remy well and hope the Red Sox keep him in the booth. I hope to once again to hear the good-natured banter so much a part of the Remy-Orsillo show.
Our paramount concern for the victim and her family in this calamity is only natural. But that should not prevent us from feeling some compassion for the more obscure victims of the tragedy – the parents of the accused.
James W. Dolan is a former Dorchester District Court judge who now practices law.