In the space of days I grew up. Not wise in years or experience, but still inevitably I became an adult this week.
I am not ready for this next stage of life but then, that’s how life works doesn’t it? Was it John Lennon who quipped that “Life happens while we are making other plans?” Seriously true.
When I was a child, I was often hiding — afraid. More often than not habitually worried and anxious about my father and mother, each for different reasons. It was the fights — the yelling, the meanness, and then Dad’s long absences which even as we savored them I feared what they meant.
And when he returned, I hid. I was attempting to be invisible. I think I was underdeveloped emotionally, for as I went numb to life I lost many, many years of my life that I cannot remember. Try as I might, and I do try so very hard, I cannot recall the early years in Papua New Guinea, then California, most of high school in Texas, and only a small amount of college years. All those years I lived with my parents. And in the years post college what I remember is still all intertwined with my parents dysfunctional marriage and relationships. My life was so tangled up with my parent’s happiness and my father’s happiness and success that even as they travelled all over the world doing “God’s work” I returned back home to them over and over again.
I worked for my father. I attached myself to his coat strings of always striving and never being satisfied. I had no way of knowing at the time, but all I wanted was to know him. To gain his impossible approval would have been a cherry on top of the Sundae of simply knowing my father and finally understanding why he was so angry.
But I never learned why he raged. He died without really telling me, except to say that his anger was “righteous” and to the end he justified it. Even as I told him the day before his brain surgery that he had hurt me, that he had wrecked me. I told him, out loud to his face that I was damaged and he said he always thought his was a righteous anger. For most of my life I doubted God’s existence because he didn’t heal my father – not to heal the brain tumors which I never asked for and never expected, but I prayed for my father to be healed of his raging anger that he took out on my mother for forty+ years and on his four daughters all of our lives, as well as on many of his employees and other innocent people.
Oh, for most of my life I was asleep, numb, and afraid to breathe. Stomach aches of stress we remembered this week as we recounted how each of us daughters live with various ailments from having ulcerous stomachs, frequent headaches, addictions including alcohol, the raging, and for me at least, I have ongoing anxiety, cataclysmic fear and depression.
In the space of days, this week I grew up as I realized that my father is gone these nine years and my mother is old. There is no one else to take care of her and she has no plan. How could he have left her with no plan? Because he didn’t ever believe he would die — stupid man. And so, we the daughters who are still fraught with the consequences (of him) will become the adults who care for her. This is right. This can be done.
But in some ways I am angry. Just as I have begun to wake up, to see that my life was half-lived, full of fear and frequently put on hold pain, even as this is so, I must once again become the care giver, in the space of days. I must grow up and forget the past which I cannot remember and step bravely into the future.
I must grow up.