Shadow Man removes his mask, and shares Steve’s past with tear-filled eyes. Though asked if he needed to pause on account of the emotional intensity of his tale, he refused stating that sharing the whole story helped him find that the bad is outweighed by the good, that his specific path was necessary to bring Shadow Man to life.
He was born in the state-run facility for people with developmental disabilities, where his mother lived. Not wanting him raised in that environment, she put him up for adoption immediately following his birth. However, before his adoption was completed, he developed a high temperature that left him permanently developmentally delayed with an IQ just high enough to disqualify him from receiving services the state reserves for people with his same disability.
Luckily, a fun and loving family adopted him. Though he was unable to develop speech at the normal rate of children his age and didn’t begin speaking until the age of 5, his 3 new brothers welcomed Steve in as one of their own. They often spent time camping, fishing, clam-digging and playing hide-and-seek. The same year he began speaking, he began swimming. A past time he remembers fondly, and a talent Shadow Man would later embrace.
A couple years later, Steve and his adoptive family traveled from Oregon to North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota to see extended family. His uncle taught him how to milk cows, identify different breeds of cattle, and herd them for medical treatment. Then, the family returned to Oregon.
When Steve was 11 years old, he went to California with his oldest brother for a week. During that time, Steve’s brother took him on to a military base. His brother gave him a tour, showing him planes, the control tower, and weather station. While in the weather station, someone joked that Steve should give the next report. His brother thought that was a splendid idea. Steve then found himself in front of a mic delivering the day’s weather report to all pilots flying in the area. Steve didn’t know it at the time, but his brother was stationed there with the Air Force.
Next, Steve and his adoptive parents went to Port Angeles. While there, Steve and his dad competed in salmon fishing tournaments. Steve began developing his talents as a fisher, and discovered how to be a good sportsman while developing a strong sense of family pride. He later used his fisherman talents to teach others how to fish, and finds them a necessity in Shadow Man’s cave on the Oregon Coast.
Nine years later, Steve and his family drove to visit his brother who moved to DC. Visiting his brother’s new family was a turning point for several of their family members. They were all in the same car at the time of the accident that could have killed them. His new niece escaped with a hairline fracture on the top of her head and his mother developed a blood clot in her leg from the leg injury she sustained. Everyone was alive and otherwise okay, so Steve thought.
The family returned to their fun times fishing two months later, though his dad began drinking more. The alcohol transformed his happy demeanor into violent outbursts during which he beat his wife and Steve, but not his natural sons. Steve was left with a fat lip and black eye, while his brothers remained unharmed.
At 17, Steve began junior high. After overcoming his own difficulties with math and reading, he tutored other students. He also listened to them, helped them problem solve, and develop coping skills for their family troubles- alcoholic or abusive parents. He referred them to Al-Anon and other resources that help them rise above and move on without dwelling on the horrors of their past. He also emphasized that the blame for their parents’ behavior falls on their parents and not where the kids wanted to put it, on themselves.
During his senior year, Steve found escape landscaping for the school district. Then, his mother died of a heart attack causing his dad to bury himself deeper in the bottom of a bottle, resurfacing only to violently reach out to those around him. He graduated with a decent GPA when he was just shy of 21. Steve’s classmates, knowing his disability and troubled home life, appreciated him as the underdog and rooted for his success in graduating with them.
The following year, he moved out of the house and into a community specializing in helping people with developmental disabilities, where he met Rose. At the age of 34, Shadow Man and Rose were married. Together, they moved into their own apartment outside of the sheltered, specialized community.
Soon after their move, Steve received a call from his brother informing him that their dad passed away in his sleep. While Steve wanted to celebrate the death of his childhood-abuser, his happiness was bittersweet- tainted with the feeling of loss, because despite the bruises and harsh words Steve still loved the only father he’d ever know.
Fifteen years later, Shadow Man and Rose left the specialized community entirely and joined a new program that empowers them as individuals and as members of an inclusive community. They are now capable of recognizing better ways to help themselves and members of the larger Portland community.
To continue reading about the experiences of this awesome super duo, Shadow Man and Rose, click here.