I remember it as if it were yesterday. It was the summer of 1960 and I was a five-year-old. My Dad had come home from a day of drinking–not surprising as it was something that happened often. It had escalated from weekend drinking to more often and more days.
My Dad was a man’s man–the boss. My mother was the “little woman” who did what he asked–period. Like so many in those times, the wife’s “job” was to stay home, cook, clean, take care of the husband, and raise the children. Think of every definition of “male chauvinist” and you will understand my Dad. He would always start a fight with my Mother for whatever reason. This particular evening my Mother did not and would not engage for whatever reason she just ignored Dad totally.
This particular day is seared in my memory. My dad came home ready to fight. He picked and picked at my mother hoping to get a reaction. For some reason, on that day, my mom totally ignored his rants and refused to engage with him. That was his motivation for what happened next.
He didn’t hit her as he had so many other times. I was already anticipating my five-year-old body jumping on him saying “Stop, leave her alone”.
This night, though, my mother calmly put me to bed, while ignoring his rant. I remember hearing her get into the shower. It was then that my Dad entered my room, picked me up in my pajamas, and put me in the car. From the back seat, I cried “Dad, what about Mom?” His response was “Mom isn’t coming with us this time. It’s just you and me”. That was so scary. I knew that this was “Mean Dad”, not “Nice Dad”. Although I wasn’t old enough to equate his personality changes to alcohol, I still knew that sometimes my Dad was nice and then, too often, he became completely different. This man who was taking me away from my mother was the man I feared.
I was afraid of this dad who was taking me away from the safety of my mother. I started to cry and was full of fear and dread. Where were we going and when would I see my mother again?
He drove for what seemed like hours to a terrified little girl. We ended up at a motel. Once he paid the clerk and we entered our room, he made a phone call. He called my mother and told her that he was taking me to his mother’s home in Miami, Florida. He told her that it would be a long, long time before she would see her daughter again.
Through the sound of my own crying, I could hear my mother begging and pleading him to bring me back to her. She told him to come back home so they could talk and settle things.
My fears were real; I truly thought I was never going to be safe again. I longed to see my mother and feel her arms around me. Even at this young age, I realized that I was a pawn in this situation. My tears would have no effect. I was trapped in a situation I couldn’t control.
I was later told that what seemed like eternity actually was only a couple of hours. My dad sobered up and we once again were in his car. Thankfully, this time, we went home. As daylight broke, we pulled into our driveway and I saw my mother running across the lawn to the car. She threw open the back door and picked me up in her arms. Through her tears, she hugged me and reassured me saying “It’s ok, sweetheart, you’re home now and Mommy is here.” After checking me over for any injuries, she crawled into bed with her traumatized daughter and held her until she fell asleep.
I don’t know what happened after I fell asleep. All I know is that the next morning there was no mention of what had happened. No one apologized, no one explained, no one calmed my little 5-year-old heart. It was as if it never happened.
Did they not get it? Did they not see that their actions were creating a child full of fear and confusion? I know that there are many families who experience the same behavior. Like other children, I assumed that our life was no different than others and that I couldn’t expect more.
This little 5-year-old girl grew up to be full of what I call “thorns”–places full of distrust, betrayal, fear, addictions, and assault. These thorns were my constant companions, my normal.
Oh, but then I found grace! Through His love, I have learned to move forward to a life of joy and peace. I find myself actually thankful for the thorns–because they carried me all the way to the love I always longed for. I found love in His grace.
Join me as I recount my journey from a terrified 5-year-old girl to a thankful adult–all because of “My Thorns and His Grace.” I pray that my journey will resonate with your heart and that, together, we can live life full of joy and peace.