This story is written by a friend who’s asked to remain anonymous. She shared it upon my request. May it speak to you and give hope.
I’ve been told that some memories are best left alone, and so it was until a question I’d been asked triggered memories I locked away.
The question wasn’t that profound, yet it was asked at the right time by a caring friend. I had started writing stories of my life. I tell stories with pictures; but there aren’t any pictures for this story. The words themselves are painful. I can tell you I never saw God in this story. It’s a story of violence and a story of my parents living as a normal married couple.
As a child, you think what you grow up with is normal.
My parents lived in a neighborhood on a tree-lined street with lots of other neighbors. The houses were modest, most of them built in the 40’s and 50’s, with one-story houses beside two-story houses. The houses had backyards where you talked to your neighbors across the alley and porches where you sat and talked with the neighbors across the street. We had sidewalks; some were cracked in an upheaval from tree roots expanding their way.
I grew up in a strict Catholic home and went to a Catholic grade school. As a family, we went to Mass on Sundays and came home. I enjoyed the rituals of the Catholic faith. There was mystery in the Mass, holiness in the prayers we prayed out of our missal, and the smell of holy incense. Everything was very structured.
The God I grew up with was a mighty God. He was high in the heavens and far removed from my world. We were discouraged from talking to other kids who weren’t Catholic. My world, as well as my mind, was closed-off from the outside.
People ask you of your first childhood memory. I usually tell stories of my backyard adventures. But the earliest memories I have are buried deep inside, not anyone’s business. As I write my story, I’m realizing not all my memories will be adventurous or funny. Some will be just of life.
To move forward in my journey, I need to tell all the stories. Release the story, the pain, and the memory.
I struggle to tell my story. I feel I’m airing the “dirty laundry.”
The first memory that haunts me is of my parents being in the car with all of us kids in the back seat. My mother started yelling at my father, then it escalated to her hitting him while he was driving. I remember being in the back seat, crying and pleading with Mom to stop.
It finally did stop.
Dad pulled the car over and got out of the car. Mom slid over to the driver’s side and drove away.
We were crying and yelling to go back for Dad as we watched him through the back window, standing on the side of the road.
She did not go back.
My father worked two jobs for many years while we were growing up. There were many times we would heat up his supper when he got home. We would sit and talk to him as he ate. He always had time for homework questions or to ask about our day.
Sometimes the fighting started when Dad was eating alone at the table. Mom would accuse Dad of affairs, calling him bad names and cursing at him. Mother would berate Dad mentally. He denied her accusations. That was all he would do.
Most of the time, Dad sat silently and took her abuse. Mom wanted him to engage in the yelling. It made her angrier that he didn’t. Mom would throw anything – kitchen pots and pan lids. She hit him with the phone handset and physically assaulted him.
The most violent fights came after we had gone to bed. As the screaming got louder, we’d all climb out of bed and go quietly to the 3rd step from the living room landing so we’d be out of sight. We would huddle, cry, and wait. We knew we’d have to soon run into the living room to stop Mom and pull her off dad. However, I can remember a few times we had to pull Dad off of Mom because he was choking her, yelling for her to shut up.
Perhaps by choking her, my dad thought the abuse would stop.
It was a violent way to grow up; a sad way to see a marriage.
I remember broken objects in the house. Mostly I remember a broken dad.
My father had broken eyeglasses with tape on them, ribs that hurt when he moved, bruises on his arms where he used his arm to deflect a thrown object. He would still go to work the next day. Sometimes, the keys to the car would be gone and he would walk to work or take the city bus. This would take one to two hours just to get to work.
The mental scars of seeing the abuse lasted a long time. Growing up, I didn’t realize my heart was being hardened towards the world and towards God.
I never understood why he stayed.
Later in our lives, Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer. I had the gift of being his main caregiver. We talked about many things, but none of the ugly stuff; just about life and how short it was. He talked of getting well, finding a hobby, and of moving somewhere sunny with no snow shovels.
He loved his children so much he did not leave. He knew his duty as a husband, provider, and father.
Dad died a few months after being diagnosed with cancer. To the outside world, we were a typical middle class family. As the children of these two people, we lived through our childhood and headed out to make our own lives different in many ways. I tried to make my way in the world. I thought I could do that on my own. I got lost many times, not knowing that a Power bigger than myself was in control.
I am left being the daughter who lives closest to my Mom. I’m her main caregiver. I found myself, again, asking “God, why me?”
As years have passed and my faith in God and Jesus has grown stronger, my journey has allowed me to feel the strength Jesus has given me. I believe Jesus put me on this path so that I may truly forgive my mother. Though I never talk to my mother about the fights or her anger, God has helped me see that true forgiveness is the way to heal.
We carry memories with us through our lives. Some stories are told and live on in your memory.
Some are told and then left alone.
Colossians 3:13, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”