Being in love is a wonderful thing. It means having a constant companion, someone who can see through anything external to who you really are and what you really need. It means having someone to share everything with and someone on whom you can always rely. A partner in crime, a better half.
And then something happens. The remnants of past scars and open wounds expose themselves. The soul that your own has intertwined with recognizes the insecurities and failures of your past and how they dictate your current decisions. You weren’t even trying to hide.. it was more like these scars are the fabric that make up so much of who you are and you didn’t even realize they were enslaving you. They are as much a part of you as the embarrassing snorts you occasionally let out. But the partner you’ve chosen, this mirror in front of you, shows them to you. And as you begin to realize how deep these wounds really run and how much of your life you’ve wasted on them, the tears start to fall. Calmly and sweetly, he wipes them away and says he loves you deeper than any of the memories or hurts you have. He will be there to watch you break free of the insecurities that have so easily run through your veins. He will hold you in all of your lonely nights. And he will celebrate your walk towards freedom, every step of the way.
You were only 7 years old when your Dad got the call. Uncle Joe was missing. First it was surreal, you thought it was all a dream. He must have just lost his way hiking or extended his camping trip. But when you saw Dad sitting at the kitchen table weeks after The Call, he was crying. You asked him what was wrong, and he said, “I just keep thinking your Uncle Joe will walk through that door.” That’s when you knew things weren’t going to get better. You watched the light start to leave your Old Grandpa’s eyes, contemplating how he would live without his youngest boy. How he would outlive his own son.
Joe never came home. Even as much as you cried and hoped, he never showed up. They found his Jeep abandoned. And then two hunters found his body at the bottom of a cliff in a ravine and you got his body back. But never those beautiful Emerald eyes, those strong hands that could throw you into the air and tickle you, or that crazy, unruly hair that sat just above his shoulders. You cried and shook as you watched his casket lowered into the ground. He was gone forever.
Two months later, the same process took place with your Old Grandpa. The life slowly faded from his body and after seeing your two month old brother smile at him for the first time, he died that weekend. Dad said he died of a broken heart and you never questioned it. At 8 years old, you already understood heartbreak. Just two feet to the side of where Uncle Joe now rested, you watched again as ground was broken and Grandpa’s casket was lowered to the ground. You thought maybe you’d die of heartbreak someday, too.
Your parents tried to cope as best as they could. But what that looked like was Dad turning back to his liquid can of a mistress and Mom checking out mentally. You weren’t mad, but someone had to pick up where they left off. So, you took on the 8 year old role of mother. You cooked, you cleaned, you got everyone ready for school, you did dishes, you made sure everyone got to bed. You gave up your childhood to run the house. You weren’t even surprised when your baby brother started to call you “Mama”. You didn’t take in any bitterness, you knew your parents were struggling. But still, you lost your Uncle, Grandpa and now your parent’s mental attention all in one year.
Dad picked you up at the airport along with your Mom and four siblings. You were now 12 and it had been a tough four years. You’d just spent a month with your Mom’s family in Kansas and knew your parents were finally getting divorced. You weren’t even upset, just glad that the fighting was going to end… you had no idea the fighting would continue in the courtroom for the next twelve years. Dad sat all of the kids down, said him and Mom were divorced and that he was living with a new girlfriend. You would live with Mom during the week and Dad on the weekends. After a couple weeks, your Mom could no longer afford to keep your dog either, so Dad took him, too. In a matter of two weeks, you lost your Dad and your dog to his new girlfriend. And then Mom said you had to pack up and leave all of your friends and your school to move an hour away.
You made it work for a couple months, seeing Mom during the week and Dad on the weekends. But Mom made a lot of comments about Dad’s new girlfriend and you started to feel bad spending time at their house and leaving your Mom all alone. And then things took a horrible turn. Accusations came out and lies were uttered about your Dad. You were certainly mad about him leaving you, but he never, ever hurt you in the ways other people claimed that he did. He was investigated and your Mom told you her side of what was going on. She said Dad couldn’t handle the pressure of the accusations and he abandoned you. He no longer wanted to be your Dad and she thought you were better off without him. After a few months, you figured she was probably right and vowed to stop thinking about your Dad. You and your siblings even burned a picture of him, symbolizing the fact that if he didn’t need all of you, then you certainly didn’t need him. Bitterness set in.
You hated your life. Rat face. Bucktooth. That’s what the kids in your grade called you. And when you started dating the only boy in school who looked your way, the other girls got mad and threatened to beat you up everyday. You spent lunch in the library and ran home every day from school, hoping to avoid them. The voices in your head that said you weren’t good enough, you were nobody, you were ugly, so horrible even your own father left you… those voices manifested themselves in the voices of your peers and it was your very own hell. Your mom started focusing on dating again and you were left to your own devices, which meant often having to go without lunch or dinner because there was not enough food in the house, money on your lunch card, or food stamps left. Thank God you channeled that energy into your grades and continued to make honor roll every year. And then after six months with your first boyfriend and mid-way through your last year of middle school, he left a hole in your heart where so many other holes had grown. You were supposed to meet up for your “6 month anniversary” date and he never came. An hour later, your brother appeared, dragging your boyfriend behind him. He knew you were there disappointed and had driven all around town trying to find him. Completely drunk and embarrassing, your so-called boyfriend just stood there making excuses. Your brother made him explain to you where he’d been all night, where he found him. He’d been in the backseat of a car with your best friend, the only girl in school who would talk to you. She’d been after him for awhile and you found out later that it was the only reason she’d befriended you. You opened yourself up and trusted few and even they let you down. Again.
Your mom moved in together with a guy she’d been dating and that meant she could afford to move back to the city you started school in. Finally! Back to your old friends and back to some sort of normalcy. But when you got there, everyone had changed and grown up and you were no longer accepted into the same group. If anything, you had just placed a wedge in the friendships you could have maintained from a distance. While everyone else was wearing new clothes and had fixed their teeth with braces and had gotten highlights, you were still in the same position. Broke, buck tooth, awkward and fatherless. You tried your best to just blend in and go unnoticed.
Slowly, one girl befriended you and then another and another. After a few months, you were even a part of a “group”. The five or six of you went everywhere together and though you couldn’t join them for things that required much money, they seemed to understand your situation instead of looking down on it. That summer and the following year, you all tried your first drinks together, spent tons of time at the lake, and even caught the attention of some older boys. When you lost your virginity, most of them had already done so and they were there for you to lean on. You were like sisters, inseparably going through every teenage curve ball together.
And then you got the call. They had all gathered at one of their houses and wanted to talk to you. You felt the tension as you walked into her bedroom and they all stared at you. They spent the next hour telling you every which way they hated you and had decided you weren’t worthy of being in the group anymore. You were too needy, too poor, too ugly.. too much and not enough all at once. And the guy you’d lost your virginity to? He was sleeping with another girl in the group and everyone thought she deserved him, not you. It was a shot straight to your tender, bleeding heart. Alone in your bedroom that night was the first time you ever understood how it felt to lose your will to live.
A month later, three of the girls came around again. They wanted to maybe be your friend again and wanted to know if you’d go to a party with them. You’d begun attending a church youth group so that you could make friends that might accept you… and because you were scared at how depressed you’d become and you hoped God would rescue you if you found Him. But the people at youth group seemed to judge you, only in a different way and because you were feeling so vulnerable, you went to the party. That night, after watching you get completely wasted in an effort to quiet the voices in your head, your “friends” left you in a house full of drunk, older boys. They got home safely to their warm beds in homes with families that loved them. You blacked out in an unfamiliar bedroom and were taken advantage of by a guy you’d met once. No one came to rescue you and on top of that, no one cared. When you told your “friends” what had happened, they told you that you were just looking for attention. When you told your mother that you wanted to see a counselor and get STD testing, she told you it was unnecessary. This was the second time in your life that you had to cling to a hope that it would somehow, miraculously get better if you waited long enough.
A year later, you decided to contact your Dad. Your older brother was getting ready to leave for the military and had become close with him.. he said that you should contact him and try to find out his side of the story. You and your two older brothers began a new relationship with your Dad. You learned the truth. You learned that all along, you’d been told lies about him and that all along, he’d wanted to be there for you. You found out that all those years ago when he abandoned you, he had been court ordered to not speak to you for five months while he was being investigated. Your mom said he left you and when he came back after the five months, you didn’t want anything to do with him because he had left you. But he never did. The investigation had ended and he’d been found not guilty of every accusation.. and when he came to reclaim his relationship with his children, you had already learned to hate him. But he took you back with the love that only a father can provide. He let you and your brother spend Christmas with him that year and your other brother kept up correspondence from overseas in Iraq. When you decided you wanted to move in with him your senior year to have some sort of resemblance of a normal life and to begin to heal the wounds that had taken residence in your heart, your Mom disowned you. She said you were making the worst decision you could make and your sister said she hated you. The rest of your Mom’s family took her side and with one decision made to try to better yourself, you lost the only family you’d really known your whole life. That was the last year your Grandmother sent you her annual birthday card and to this day, she still hasn’t uttered more than two sentences to you.
You moved on and moved in with your Dad. You had a blast falling back into your daddy-daughter swing with a man you’d loved and admired so much as a child. Things were going great and though his wife was less than enthused about sharing her time with him, you all were making things work. He continued to teach you the lessons he’d begun when you were so young. He taught you how to handle your finances, how to communicate, how to work hard. The hope that you’d been clinging to was bearing fruit and you’d never been so happy. You started dating a friend you’d made through church and he seemed like the perfect guy. Your dad wasn’t too fond of him and that was a difficulty, but you could see past what your Dad saw in him and you fell in love. Young love, quickly and passionately and in spite of your intuition telling you to slow it down. You started making the transition from daughter to adult and when planning for college, your Dad was not happy that you decided to forgo the nursing program you’d planned on attending two hours from home and instead, go 3000 miles away to get an unaccredited degree in the same school that your boyfriend was attending. Your dad refused to fully support your decision, but sent you off with love and good luck wishes anyway. He was in the middle of a divorce and you were really enjoying the extra time he now had, so you felt horrible leaving. But you also felt you needed to forge your own path. And after how much heartache you’d lived in your hometown, your dream of leaving that town behind never ended. You had to chase it.
You were gone two months when you got his e-mail. It was obvious that your Dad was drinking again and with no wife and no daughter around to act sober for, his relapse hit him hard. He spiraled and you worried, unsure of how to handle seeing your Dad this way. You called on your brother still living in your hometown to help out, but he was having a hard time seeing Dad that way, too. You both tried interventions and tough love, but nothing seemed to work. It was clear you were losing your Dad again, this time to his own demons. You didn’t have a choice, you just had to watch the storm from afar and pray and hope he fought his way out of it. And when he eventually ended up missing for a week one summer after a particularly bad year, you thought you lost him for good. You called the police, you called all of his friends, you even called the building manager to check the apartment. He was gone and it seemed he didn’t want to be found.
And then you got the call. It’s always a call. His voice was soft and tender and you could feel the change in it. He was calling you from rehab and he was going to fight. And fight, he did. To this day, he hasn’t had a sip of alcohol and he now relies on God to help him instead of the bottle.
But the rejoicing didn’t last long. A few months later, you found out that the marriage you thought you’d been building was not at all what you thought it was. After staying by your Dad’s side while he fought his hardest battle, you now were finding out about a life-long struggle your husband was fighting. And he said it would never change, never end. You would just have to learn to live in spite of it. But his digital girls haunted your dreams. They were what he wanted, not you and the old familiar insecurities were back with a vengeance. You prayed, you read every book you could find about how to cope. You tried counseling, you joined a ladies group at church to learn from older women who’d been through it. You begged him to go to counseling, to talk to someone. But he chose them, pixels on a screen. And you chose to start shutting down. You just couldn’t take being hurt anymore.
Around the same time you started to fall out of love with your husband, you found out that the original accusations made against your Dad were being presented again. Over a decade since the original accusations were brought forward and your Dad was found not guilty on all accounts, the woman making the accusations had filed a civil lawsuit. You flew back to your hometown to attend the three day trial and act as your Dad’s sole witness. For the first two days, you sat outside the courtroom, unable to hear the venom being spewed at yourself and him. It had been your decision to testify and to join your Dad, mostly because you couldn’t let him go through it alone. But even though you didn’t step into the courtroom for the first two days, you still heard their words. They walked past you in the hallway, glaring and uttering harsh comments. It was just like when your parents had divorced a decade ago, and suddenly you felt like your twelve year old self again.
When it was your turn to testify, you shook and cried and barely uttered a word. You didn’t realize it would be so hard, facing your family and defending your Dad. There was only one person in the jury box that would look you in the eyes, so you looked only at him during your answers. You hoped the comfort he put forth would stop the tears, but it didn’t. And when it was time for your cross-examination, you let out a sigh, feeling horrible that you had been such a blubbering mess, but hoping that somehow just your presence was enough to help your Dad. The cross-examination was even worse. You tried to keep your calm as the lawyer threw accusations at you and you tried to brush them off. But one of them caught you so off guard and pissed you off so much that you raised your voice and yelled back at the lawyer. He chuckled because he knew how it looked, that you were defending your Dad. He was trying to make you look like Daddy’s princess, defending him against anything and lying for him. And because you couldn’t stop going back and forth between sobbing and yelling, he won.
You watched later that day as the closing arguments were given. The lawyer spent most of his time pointing at you, calling you a princess on your ivory tower moving up in life and leaving your siblings behind because your father had bribed you with money to defend him. He called you names for ten minutes straight and all of your siblings and your mother looked at you and chuckled, still so hateful towards you for moving in with your Dad and “choosing” him over your mother. You sat there wondering how your family had come so far from the happy, crazy bunch you’d all been as children. To this day, they choose to barely speak to you.
You came home from the trial tired. In your soul. You could no longer deal with your husband’s problems.. they were nothing compared to what you had dealt with the past week. It had all become too much and you were just exhausted. Your heart needed a break. You needed to heal. You needed to be alone in the wilderness, so to speak. So when the problems with your husband continued, you gave up. Every time he slammed the door and left for the night after another exhausting fight, your heart stopped caring a little bit more. You checked out and eventually, left all together.
Lots of people tried to change your mind. They didn’t care about your well-being necessarily, they were more interested in telling you that you were going against God’s will by getting a divorce. His mother harassed you, accusing you of just wanting to live a single life, but not really having any good reason to leave. The people at your church were more civil, but still just wanted to convince you to read your Bible more or try counseling one more time. No one really seemed to care about your heart, your need for rest. You knew it was time to leave and move on for good when even your best girlfriends left you. One of them told you she didn’t even know who you were anymore and she didn’t care to find out who you were now. It was back to square one.
But then someone comes along… and they stay. You pour out your wounds for them and they hug you. Wipe your tears away. Hold you until you know they mean it when they say they aren’t leaving. It was him that actually made sense of it. I showed him my hurts and he pieced them together like a puzzle, exposing the motives behind most of my actions. I was scared of those I love leaving me, so I never fully let them in. I keep them at arms’ length so that maybe, just maybe the hurt won’t hurt so bad. The end scene will always come, but maybe I can stay far enough away that it won’t feel so final and painful.
He showed me who I have become after years of being left. And he stayed. He fought. He keeps his calm and can see through my words. He knows when I’m just scared and when I feel like running, he holds me even tighter and fights for me if I can’t find the strength. He would never ask me to change who I am, get angry at me for making decisions based on what I’ve always known. He always stands there tall, right by my side. Hand in hand, we walk towards my future. Our future together, not letting my past define our outcome and moving forward in our own time.
Thank you for choosing me everyday. Thank you for showing me my reflection, lovingly and with patience. Thank you for seeing who I’m fighting to become everyday and not who I have been. Your love and support means everything to me. Here’s to a fantastic 2013 of blessings and continued growth! :)