What should a parent do when confronted with a child who is a danger to others? In a popular novel, “Defending Jacob,” by local author William Landay, a couple faces just that situation: One chooses to defend the child reflexively, the other, wracked with guilt, goes in a different direction. In a recent New Yorker article, the father of Adam Lanza, the killer of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, talks about the fear of watching his son spiral into mental illness.
This was the situation confronting Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy, whose son, Jared, had shown signs of violence from a relatively early age: Jerry Remy chose to provide his son with financial support and legal backing, even as Jared continued a pattern of violent acts, mostly against girlfriends, followed by probation and counseling. Peter Bella, the attorney who defended Jared and his two siblings in numerous cases, proved adept at persuading gullible judges to keep Jared out of prison. Thus, only Jerry and others close to Jared were in a position to know the full range of his offenses.
“It’s a thing that’s in the past,” Jerry said in 2009, referring to a rare instance when one of Jared’s domestic assaults became public. “He’s now the proud father of two children. This is something he regrets.” By that time, however, the younger Remy had allegedly shoved and threatened a high school girlfriend; tried to push a pregnant girlfriend out of a moving car; repeatedly texted death threats to her, and attempted to throttle her in the presence of his mother; threatened to kill a third girlfriend; beat and/or threatened a fourth girlfriend, Ryan McMahon, so often that police were called to their apartment eight times; and been implicated in a steroid investigation. Later, in 2013, Jared allegedly went on to beat and eventually murder a fifth girlfriend, Jennifer Martel, the mother of his five-year-old daughter. In all, Jared had 19 arrests, while his father paid for his defense and upkeep, believing that out-patient counseling would curb his demons — or perhaps already had.
There is no consensus, no guidepost, for how a parent is supposed to deal with a child like Jared Remy. In many people’s eyes, parents are expected to defend their offspring, to keep them from harm, even in the face of the most shocking charges. In other people’s eyes, those very actions can turn even well-intentioned parents into enablers, providing the support that allows their child to keep offending.
Over the past week, since the extent of Jared Remy’s journey through the criminal justice system was revealed by the Globe’s Eric Moskowitz, people on both sides of this aching question have expressed their views about Jerry Remy’s decision to keep supporting his deeply troubled adult son. No doubt, Jerry felt he was helping to contain the situation. To many people, he is a figure of great sympathy. Others, however, are uncomfortable with his actions, feeling he shielded Jared from responsibility. Some are torn in both directions.
Jerry Remy, in interviews with the Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy and WEEI radio, acknowledged that some people consider him an enabler and feel uncomfortable with his desire to return to the NESN broadcast booth for another season, starting Monday. But he vowed to go on. “I feel like I have a right to make a living,” he told WEEI.
“He’s our son and we tried to do the best we possibly could for him,” Remy explained elsewhere in the interview, adding later, “Some people can accept that, and some people can’t accept it. Looking back, I don’t know if I would do anything differently.”
But Remy should understand that his presence in the broadcast booth isn’t just to earn a living; it’s to inform and entertain fans, some of whom are uncomfortable with him. WEEI’s informal polling of callers was running close to 50-50 on whether he should go back to work. After Jennifer Martel’s murder last August, Jerry sensibly took a leave of absence from NESN. He should have extended it at least until his son’s trial, now scheduled for October. Then, he could have enjoyed the support and encouragement of his many friends, fans, and well-wishers, without having to perform in the broadcast booth.
Can Jerry Remy express excitement over baseball, chuckle at partner Don Orsillo’s jokes, and analyze plays on the field without evoking fans’ memories of his son’s offenses? By returning to the broadcast booth at a time when his son’s case is certain to be heavily in the news, he’s asking fans to put all those images aside. It’s a lot to ask.