The past week has been an emotional one. It started with my son moving almost 1,000 miles away. He is my first child to move away, and although I have peace about him going and am excited to see what adventures he will live out, it doesn’t make the hurt in my heart less. He has been preparing me for two years, with summers where he was gone. The reality has not really set in that Sunday dinners will be missing one, since they were hit and miss anyway lately with work schedules and other activities. But him moving, just intensified the next loss.
Sunday, my heart fell more. I was sitting hearing the words, but my heart was sitting in the floor of my house in Beaver Shores where I was five years old, hearing that my daddy had failed. The circumstances are very different. Yet, very much the same as far as reactions and emotions and even how I am feeling. Emotions that have been shut down, eventually like a balloon held under water come quickly to the surface.
My father committed a crime, which would rock my families world. I was five years old, I didn’t understand what sexual abuse was. It would be many years before I would understand what that meant and the magnitude of what he had done. The events of the next few weeks, months, and even years shaped my life in ways that I am still unraveling.
What my five year old heart knew what that something had been going on for longer than that moment. I remember sitting outside the closed door, while abuse went on in my house. I didn’t know what was happening behind the closed door, only that I was left out. It was one of many closed doors I would be left outside over the next few months and years. I would sit outside therapists doors weekly while my parents, and my sister went to therapy. I would sit outside the pastor’s door as my parents met with him.
No one thought about how this impacted my life. No one thought about how I saw these events that I didn’t understand. There wasn’t someone to talk to me about how I was processing these events. Once I answered no to the first set of questions, it was outside the door I went and stayed for weeks and months. My world was coming down around me, but the only thing I saw was a wood door with wood paneling all around. I hate wood paneling and wood doors.
What my five year old heart knew was that my family was being broken apart. My dad would be out of the home while he was in jail, and for some time after. I have no concept of time, even now as an adult. I just know he was gone. We visited at church, over ice cream, and at the park. We would meet at the Sunnyside Church, get in one vehicle and go. Like clockwork. Yet there was nothing normal about it, clocks don’t just run on Sundays and Wednesdays. It wasn’t the whole family, just me and my older sister, mom and dad. I guess my brother was out of the house by then. I don’t know where my sister was. My family was broken. I wish I could say I hate the food that our lives began to center around, but really, that was a place a comfort. I knew emotions could be released before God, and that food brought joy. It was a recipe for bottled up emotions and a food addiction.
What my five year old heart knew was that the people I loved and cared about were angry, hurt, broken. and there was nothing I could do to help. I could see the anger at my sister, even when confronted with the truth, by his own words. The pedestal that he had been placed on would not be taken away. My father didn’t ask for the pedestal, and he didn’t belong on one. My sister, the true victim, I don’t remember where she was in all of it. I only know that even now, she is hurt and broken over the responses that she received after the truth came out. My mom, she was angry and hurt. Every member of my family was impacted, but the only ones that got to express it were mom, dad and sister.
What my five year old heart wanted was to understand what was going on. I sought out every possible way to gain information. I became very good at listening. To quiet this young child, all I needed to hear was a whisper from the next room, and I would quiet to hear the information I so desperately needed. I didn’t need details of what happened, the past was over. Although I didn’t understand then, my five year old mind knew what was going on before my family was torn apart. Some of the things I heard, I didn’t need to, but I needed to hear something.
I needed reassurance. I needed safety. I needed security. I needed love. I needed compassion. I needed to know that how I was feeling was okay and normal. I needed to know that even though everything was not all right, that eventually it would be right.
As an adult now, faced with a situation where the reactions of my family are similar with anger, sadness, brokenness. With my family that is now broken and fractured, with important members not around, I have peace in the situation – I know that God’s forgiveness, grace and mercy cover. That just as God forgave my father and there was restoration to the family, I know that God will cover this. His love covers a multitude of sins. He forgives us when we repent. He restores. I know that He is in control and I don’t have to worry about all that.
That peace doesn’t cover the brokenness of my family, for that I grieve uncontrollably at times. I understand the hurt, the pain, the confusion, even the anger. I still can’t understand a family turning on each other. When I look and see the missing people, I find myself in tears. I don’t understand, even though I do understand that they might not need to be there right now because it would only be a source of division. I understand more than most that healing has to take place first. I understand that healing can’t necessarily happen all together as we process things differently. I understand that premature reconciliation can be more destructive to the family than the events that tore them apart.
I don’t understand pretending, that is not transparent, it is not real, it is not honest. I need love and compassion, understanding. I need to process, because this brings up so much more inside of me. I need to hear truths, not rumors, negative comments, or nothing. My place of safety and security is shaken, pretending that it isn’t doesn’t reassure me.