Letter to Mom

Hi mom,

Been thinking a lot about you lately. And because I’m much older now, I have a better understanding of the sacrifices you made for me; the hours you poured into making my pretty dresses, cooking my favourite meals, and buying my first accordion. When you bought me a brand new one several years later, I never realized the real price you paid. How you hated that job. But for three long years, you worked scrubbing and cleaning that dreary hotel to pay for my brand new Pearl White, 120 Base accordion. And by often reminding me of that, you must have thought I was a selfish, ungrateful brat.

The truth is I appreciated everything you did for me; I just didn’t know how to say it. It seems I was dumb-struck when it came to communicating my feelings. And when I tried, you judged and criticized me and we’d end up fighting and I’d run to my room bawling and slamming the door shut. So to keep from being hurt, I stuffed my feelings deep inside. And you have to admit, that you didn’t know how to communicate either. But I don’t blame you considering the horrible, abusive childhood you had. It’s a wonder you even survived let alone become a nurturing mother when all you ever received was abuse.

Though my communication skills seemed to be paralyzed, my intuitive brain told me, even at a very young age, that you couldn’t help your sudden outbursts of anger and rage. That you couldn’t stop the tears; the screaming and yelling at me. Something was broken inside you and I was determined to fix it.

You and I both know how that turned out. I ended up more broken than you were; hating myself for being such a failure; punishing myself for fighting against you so hard, feeling guilty that I was not everything you wanted me to be. I just got so tangled up in your pain and sadness that I got lost and angry and bitter and confused. And yes, I blamed you. I blamed you for not getting help. I blamed you for using me as your scapegoat. I blamed you for turning me against daddy. I was so blinded by your suffering and my determination to protect you that I blamed him for everything that was wrong at home. Between the two of us, he didn’t stand a chance, so he became distant and no help to anyone.

Still, you taught me many good things. Every time I hung clothes on the line I remembered to hang the towels together and the underwear, and sheets and pillowcases because you said it looked neater. I remember you teaching me to clean the windows with vinegar and newspaper to keep the windows from streaking, and taking down the blinds and soaking them in the bathtub for easier cleaning. And remember suggesting that, when I can’t iron them right away, to sprinkle the clothes, roll them up in a towel and put them in the refrigerator? Well, one time I left them in there so long they got mildewed and I had to wash them again!

And you encouraged me to draw and paint by supplying me with paper and charcoal pencils and number paints. You encouraged me to learn to play the accordion, organ and piano, which I did. And since you couldn’t afford lessons for me, I taught myself. But you taught me how to sing. You had the most beautiful voice in the world!  My favourite part of the day was sitting beside you at the sewing machine and hearing you sing. I believe the angels listened in awe too.

And you taught me about Jesus and living a truthful, honest life and staying out of trouble. You taught me to pray and read my Bible. You taught me to respect my elders. But when it came to boys and dating, you forgot to teach me to relax. I was so bashful about eating in front of a guy that I’d rather starve than let him know I was hungry. But they knew to keep their wandering hands to themselves!

Oh, and before I forget, when you saw how much I loved to roller-skate you made sure I had a pair of skates. I didn’t care that they weren’t brand new. They fit and they rolled and that’s all that mattered to me. I have to confess something, though. I snuck my little skating skirt in my skate case and changed into it in the dressing room at the roller rink. Sorry. But you were so strict about some things!

So, mom, even though our relationship was never what we both longed for, I’ve always loved you, it just wasn’t the way you wanted me to love you. But I couldn’t fill the holes in your soul. I couldn’t be the loving mom and dad you deserved as a child. I couldn’t be the supportive husband, the perfect child; everything you needed to make you whole. I just wish you could have understood that and not leaned on me so hard and expected me to make up for everyone else’s failures.

Though it took a long time for my recovery from such a hurtful and confusing relationship, I forgive you and I forgive myself. Many times I wished God had given me a different family, one that wasn’t so messed up. More than anything I wish you and me were more loving and understanding toward one another. I especially wish I hadn’t lashed out so angrily at you and I can’t think of one good excuse why I did. I can only say, with tears streaming down my face, I am so very sorry.

I miss you so much, mom. I wish I could hear your laughter, your silly jokes, and your happy whistle. I wish we could go out for breakfast and then do a little shopping like we used to do each week. I wish I could eat one more of your delicious meals and your homemade bread and sticky buns. I wish I could see your face, your busy hands, your peppy walk just one more time.

It doesn’t seem fair, does it mom that we were both victims of your abusive childhood. That we both became painfully and emotionally handicapped. But I got my strength and determination from you. Though our wings were broken, we flew as high as we could and never gave up.

So, I’ll close by saying, thank you, mom, for doing your best to raise me right in spite of the many boulders across the path. Thank you for being faithful, honest and true. Thank you for the only love you knew how to give. I guess, without my realizing it, God thought it was enough because He’s been supplying the rest.

Good-bye, mom. I’ll see you in heaven one day.

Your loving daughter,
Sandi

 

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Quit, and You’ll Pay for it!

A committed jogger for seventeen years, I decided to quit one day. Dumbest thing I ever did. That was thirteen years ago and I’ve been falling apart ever since. I’ve gained weight, become a sugar junky, and can barely walk a flight of stairs without getting out of breath and my legs feeling like spaghetti. I can blame it on my age and aches and pains; even use my ailments as excuses for not doing better. But I can only blame myself. I’m the type of person that if a doctor ever told me I’d never walk again, I’d not only walk, I’d run straight into his office wearing an “I told you so” sign around my neck.

But, today I’ve thought: am I angry with myself for getting old? So angry that I’m punishing my body by giving up on it and thinking who the heck cares anyway? Is it self-pity? Loneliness? Depression? Or have I just gotten too fat and lazy to care anymore?

Feeling discouraged, I messaged my son on Facebook this morning. This is what he wrote back:

“I know for myself when I’m out running and training I feel alive, free, and have internal peace. There is a sense of accomplishment each and every time. Not so much in the training but in overcoming all the mental thoughts about why I don’t have to today, or I’m too busy, or my body needs a break and so forth. Once I’m at Hobby Park I look around, and I see the trees, I hear nature, I feel the elements, and I say to myself, “I did it. I’m here.” No one made me, no one encouraged me, no one else had anything to do with me being there, but me. I’ve learned, not in a narcissistic mindset, that really so much that happens in my life is the result of choices I make; good, bad, or ugly. I’m not being anti-dependent upon God, I’m fully dependent upon Him, but even He does not overcome my “flesh” for me. I have to exercise authority over it. Every time I go to Hobby Park I rejoice for overcoming my flesh because I know how difficult the workout is going to be because I control the workout and they SUCK every time, but the sense of accomplishment is awesome. I finish, I look around and it’s just me. No fans cheering me on, no designated finish line and a medal waiting to be placed around my neck; no one even really knowing how difficult the training is I just completed and how I had to push through my body shutting down. But I know!!! God knows!!! The birds, trees, and elements know because they cheer me on! They smile down at me like a father takes pleasure in seeing his son overcome a difficult challenge and not quit. God, His heavenly host, and creation cheer me on and that’s enough for me. Love ya mommy dearest!!!!”

I got off my lazy, fat butt and went for a thirty-minute walk. My body hated me for it, but my mind was grinning like a Cheshire cat.

Hopefully, this is the beginning of a long, over-due relationship with walking and feeling strong again.

Seasons of the Heart

When I was a child, going to Sunday school and church was as much a part of me as putting on my clothes. I wasn’t made to go, I wanted to go.

Childhood memories flood my mind with Billy Gram crusades, Oliver Green tent revivals and meeting in the preacher’s house, then in his garage, then in a circus tent while the church was being built. Laughing, I remember the preacher’s rattle-trap van bouncing me up and down and banging my head against the window as he drove through deeply creviced ditches to pick up poor kids for Sunday school. Mr and Mrs Sterling were more than preacher and wife; they were our family’s best friends.

Mr Sterling often brought us bags and bags of groceries telling mom that God told him we needed them. He prayed over my baby brother one day who suffered a bowel obstruction. When mom sat him on his potty, everything broke loose and he never suffered bowel problems since.

I felt safe in the church; like I belonged there. I enjoyed being with my friends, memorizing scripture, having Bible drills, and singing and playing my accordion. And I liked that the church was plain and simple, not big and fancy that seemed more like a morgue than a church. It was a little, cinderblock mission where babies were allowed to cry, Baptisms took place in freezing cold creeks under God’s blue skies, and get-togethers were hot dogs and weenie roasts and kids wading in the creek and catching tadpoles in jars.

I always felt that people needed to be in church and always encouraged my brothers to go, thinking that it would somehow change their lives. And I’m not saying that it doesn’t change people’s lives, but it’s not the church that changes people, it’s a repentant heart and the cleansing power of Jesus Christ. And there are many people sitting in their pews thinking that because they go to church they are going to Heaven.

Sadly, along with many years of attending church, come heartaches and misunderstandings, gossip and quarrels, cliques, and favouritism, frustration and burn-out. Instead of being the perfect place for coming together and working things out, some leaders prefer to sweep conflicts under the rug and hope no one notices there are problems in the church. And then they wonder why people emotionally and physically drift away.

Sadly, I feel that many in the world today are either looking for something they long for in church or have lost hope of ever finding it and given up. And many may never find Christ as a result of it.

I’m thankful that I grew up in church and remember the good times. I’m thankful that I asked Jesus into my heart when I was five years old. I’m thankful that we have a warm and loving relationship and that He is always by my side regardless of whether I’m praising Him in church or sitting on my back porch or in my living room in front of a cozy fire.

I wish I could say I miss going to church. The truth is, my heart is totally at peace with not going. Many don’t understand why I feel the way I do, but God does. He knows and understands the deep hurt and the tears I’ve cried over things that destroyed my trust and turned my heart away. And where I expected to find love and understanding and let’s sit down and talk about this I found cold indifference; a total lack of concern.

After more than three years, I’m still struggling with hurt and anger and confusion. Call it a bruised ego, an unwillingness to forgive; whatever you want to call it. I call it a grieving process; and as with all grief, it takes time, for some longer than others.

And if anyone comes to the conclusion that the only way you can be a real Christian is to attend church, where does that leave our shut-ins and those in nursing homes?

I don’t apologize for my feelings, they’re mine and God allows me to have them plus all the time I need to work through them. Just like life itself, the church has its ups and downs, hurts and confusion, but it’s how it deals with it that matters in the long run.

 

 

 

My Accordion, My Best Friend

I was such an introvert growing up. I’d rather stay in my room with the door shut, singing and playing my accordion than chasing boys in the neighbourhood. Many times I’d storm into my room bawling while strapping on my accordion. Once I started playing and singing, the blues slid off my back and slithered out the door like a snake.

My accordion was my best friend. It helped me get through some of the toughest times of my life, like sitting in school wishing I was anyplace but there. Compared to everyone else I felt brain-dead till I learned to play the accordion. Even the teacher called and asked mom what she had done differently because I was doing so much better in school.

Yeah, my buddy did stuff like that for me. It gave me self-confidence. Heck, If I could learn to squeeze the bellows in and out, figure out which little black buttons to push and play the keyboard all at the same time, I could conquer the world. Well, maybe not the whole world, but my little world at least.

I realized that God was looking out for me. He knew I needed an outlet, something special that I could do, so He gave me the gift of music. I was never Lawrence Welk or Liberace on accordion and piano. I was just plain me. Like Frank Sinatra, I did it my way.

My accordion gave me the courage to sing solos in church, too. Sliding my arms through the shoulder straps, feeling the weight of the accordion against my chest was like wearing a shield of armour. My hands got sweaty and my voice quivered, but I was less afraid with my buddy leaning against me.

I began playing the accordion when I was twelve. Mom bartered the preacher’s wife to give me lessons in exchange for cleaning her house. That only lasted a few weeks. I couldn’t help it that I played what was in my head instead of what was on the music sheet. She shouldn’t have played the stupid song for me before starting the lesson and then again before I left. Not my fault.

She quit. Said I had perfect pitch, whatever that meant, and that she couldn’t teach me. That really made me feel smart. Couldn’t teach me? I thought preacher’s wives always spoke the truth. That’s okay. I didn’t want to figure out all that math and follow those little black notes dancing all over the page anyway. It was so much easier to hear the song and just play it and be done with it.

I was happy that I didn’t have to waste my time practising anymore. It was cramping my style; taking away the joy of playing from my heart. So what if I wasn’t doing it right. It made me feel right and that’s all that mattered to me.

My buddy didn’t mind either. We had a good thing going and didn’t want some impatient accordion teacher messing it up.

As soon as I’d come home from school, I’d play my accordion, sometimes for hours. It was my happy pill when I felt down, my antidote against anger and frustration.

Shortly after I re-married, I bought a new accordion; shiny black, electric, came all the way from Italy. A real beauty. But it could never take the place of the one that saw me through the tough times of growing up. It was faded and worn and stained with tears. The bellows were leaking air, and the leather straps were peeling and cracking. But the most expensive accordion in the world could never replace the memories my best friend and I shared so many years ago.

I guess I can still play the accordion if I’d get it out of the closet. But fifty pounds way back when was light compared to now. But I didn’t stop playing it for that reason. It’s just that other things have taken priority, like a husband and two dogs, digital designs, and doing laundry and cleaning the house. Okay, I’m lying. The truth is I just got out of the habit. Like jogging and walking and eating right. I think I need to get back in the groove.

So tomorrow, If I can still lift it, I’m getting my accordion out of the closet and play it. I miss it. Who knows? It might make me feel twenty again. Heck, I’ll settle for fifty!

Well, this is tomorrow. I dragged my accordion out of the closet. It felt like it weighed a ton, and putting it on was like wrestling an octopus. And just as I knew they would, Bella ran and hid under my husband’s computer desk, trembling and Pepper stood there sniffing it to death.

Ten minutes later, I finally got it on, unhooked the snaps fastening the bellows together, slid my hand under the thickly padded strap attached to the Base and began playing. Just like riding a bike; once you learn you never forget. However, it didn’t make me feel twenty again, not even fifty. I guess nothing can work that kind of miracle!

 

 

 

 

True Love

Growing up, without saying a word, my dad taught me men are not to be trusted. They sleep late, work when they feel like it, and treat women like dirt; expecting them to do everything, be everything, and keep their mouth shut. That’s when anger gave birth to the Incredible Hulk. That’s when a sweet, faint-hearted child became a strong, courageous woman fighting against injustice toward women and all the underdogs of the world. No womanizing, woman-abusing anybody-abuser was safe in my world.

It’s no wonder my ex-husband and I didn’t stay married long. His big mouth was as abusive as his rough hands slapping me till my ears rung and slamming me against the wall squeezing my throat. He just didn’t realize he had a tiger by the tail until he dragged his butt home from work one day to find his bags sitting outside the door and the locks changed.

Now, holding my nine-month-old son on my lap, my cynical, twenty-year-old heart told me I can trust no one. I can depend on no one; not my family, not my friends, not my church, no one. I’ll have to buckle up, woman-up and stand on my own two feet.

As a single mom, divorced and back in the dating scene I soon discovered that guys only wanted one thing from me, and it wasn’t my keen mind. Fueled by the memory of being molested at the age of thirteen, sexually harassed on the job, and nearly date-raped one horror-filled night, the Hulk inside me grew increasingly fierce and strong; fighting all men and needing none because no “real” man existed in this so-called man’s world!

So I stumbled along, alone and raising my son the best I knew how. He was my little man, my hero; the only living soul my heart truly trusted and believed in. Still, my heart yearned for the right man for me. I was too young to go through life alone, and besides, my son deserved a loving father. But the wall of steel protecting my untrusting heart would take the strength of Superman to break down.

One Friday summer’s night out with, my niece and five-year-old, we dragged up and down Main Street in Debbie’s bright yellow, 69 Mustang. It wasn’t my style to do such a teeny-bopper thing but that night I decided to go along just for the fun of it.

Then we spotted them. Two neatly dressed, good-looking guys sitting on the hood of a fire engine red, 63 Ford. Immediately, boy-crazy Debbie pulled into the service station where two curious guys slid off the hood of the car and strutted towards us like a couple of peacocks.

I had just broken up with a church-going-God-professing-born-again Christian who proved to be a druggie, a liar and a cheat, and just plain crazy! Shortly after our break-up, he barged into my apartment waving a gun. I never felt as afraid for my child’s and my life as I did that day. You can only imagine my relief when he said he was going to kill himself and stormed out the door.

So I was far from ready to strike up a conversation, let alone a relationship with Prince Charming poking his head through the car window.

However, soon after meeting that night, Buck and I began dating. But my heart was never off guard. Not even when I saw how much he loved Robbie. Not even when he knelt beside me, gazing into my eyes with the love I’d never seen before. Not even when he asked me to marry him.

My brain said he was a good man. My heart said he’s just like all the others. My brain said he’s good for me and that I can learn to trust him. My heart said when he finds out how I really am, he’ll run, just like everyone else. My brain said to give him a chance. My heart said it will never yield to any man any time this side of heaven.

Six months later, we got married.

This man saw the worst anyone has ever seen in me before and loved me in spite of my suspicions, fears, and insecurities. He held me when I cried, he supported me during counselling, he talked to me, he listened to me, he encouraged me. He lifted me up high and taught me how to fly. No one except Jesus has ever loved me like that before.

He weathered the storm. He pushed through the barriers. He broke down the walls of steel with his stubborn love, his gentle strength and patience and longsuffering. He won my heart.

I thank God for our forty-five years together and for the love and happiness that few people share simply because they don’t push through the rough times. Most of all, I thank God for revealing His unconditional, steadfast, unwavering love for me through my awesome husband; the man He created just for me.

I still have trust issues. I still view the world as being more evil than good. I still, and always will have a fighting spirit against injustice. But because of one man’s stubborn persistence, I finally know the meaning of true love.

I’m Old But I Ain’t Dead!

Sometimes I wish I were still that little girl, sitting on the kitchen counter, feeling moms firm touch as she slides my socks and shoes over my chubby feet. I wish I could run through the woods with my brothers, chase butterflies, and walk along the banks of the clear, trickling streams. I wish I could turn over one more rock, one more time with my brothers, looking for lizards and taking our precious treasures to the creek and watch them swim away. I wish I could see the bullfrogs plopping through the thick, green grass near the spring house. I wish I could swing beneath the limbs of the old giant oak tree, feel my long red hair blowing in the breeze; my feet nearly touching the sky.

Childhood memories; enthralling interludes between the confusing times of trying to figure things out for myself and having a real sense of belonging in a world so big and mean.

In school, I felt so out-of-place that I might as well have been on the moon. Had I not been so afraid of the consequences, I would have run away every single day. Like the chainsaw massacre, a cloud of doom hung over my head, causing my heart to tremble with fear. And as a shy, insecure six-year-old, nothing was more fearful than a shrew for a teacher and a classroom full of Einstein’s and social butterflies.

It seems that from my first gulp of polluted air in this chaotic world I’ve been plagued with this never-good-enough-something-is-wrong with me feeling. I didn’t ask for it, I don’t want it, and I’ve spent nearly my entire life getting rid of it. But it’s stuck like superglue inside my brain.

I guess that’s why being old is so difficult for me. The bigger everyone else’s world gets the smaller mine shrinks. Like a withering flower, old people are viewed by many as losing their charm and beauty and usefulness. We’re too slow, too forgetful, too out of touch with young people’s lingo and technology. It’s as if being old means our feelings are dried up, our ears are deaf, and our physical and emotional desires are dead.

And I wonder: is this how my mother felt when she was seventy-one? What about my dad? They didn’t share their feelings with me; especially not my dad. And the feelings my mother shared were always negative and meant to make me feel responsible for all her woes. So I have no gauge to go by, only my gut telling me that old age just ain’t fair.

The only consolation I have is that all young people if they live long enough, will be old one day. They’ll experience aches and pains, grief and loneliness like never before. They’ll say more good-byes to their family and friends than they ever thought possible. They’ll look in the mirror and not recognize the person looking back at them. They’ll feel forgotten, neglected, at the bottom of the totem pole where old people just don’t fit in. I guess only then will they understand that as long as people have air in their lungs their feelings, needs and desires are still alive and worthy of love and respect. Only then will they scream from the top of their lungs to a cold and heartless world, “I’m old, but I ain’t dead!”

My Four-legged Girls

We’re sitting on the back porch, Bella pressing her regal nose against the screen watching the squirrels and Pepper curled contentedly on my lap sniffing the air.

Bella’s eyes are like those of an Egyptian Princess; only hers are naturally and perfectly lined in black, melting my heart with her wide-eyed expressions of love every time she looks at me.

Pepper is jet black, except for the white on her chest and dainty paws. Looking up at me, rolling her big brown eyes, it’s as if she’s looking straight into my soul. I press her head against my chest and whisper how beautiful and precious she is to me.

That’s when I got to thinking.

My girls don’t need to take thousands of selfies to prove to the world how beautiful they are. They don’t have to wear the latest fashions, walk with a strut, talk like the Queen, or become members of a Country Club to prove their self-worth. They don’t need hundreds of fans on Facebook or thousands of likes and comments on WordPress to boost and encourage their ego.

My girls don’t need to be painted up, jewelled up or prettied up in any fashion to be dazzling to the eyes and pleasing to the soul.

My girls are lovely and gracious, loving and forgiving, fun and playful. My girls take life as it comes and remain beautiful in spite of the bad things that have happened to them. My girls are strong and loyal and truly excited to see me when I get up in the mornings or come in from being outside for a few minutes. My girls treat me like I’m the most important thing in their lives.

And that’s why I love them. They don’t try to be anything. They don’t try to prove anything. They just are.

Our Fur Babies

We rescued Bella from the Animal Shelter over a year ago. One dog has always been enough for us to handle at a time. But, this summer, when we rescued hubby’s sister after being abandoned for three days without food or water or electricity, we couldn’t resist rescuing the puppy as well.

She was light as a feather. Skin pulled over bones. More dead than alive. How could anyone be so cruel? There were other dogs, too. Thirteen in all. But we could only rescue this little one. We called Animal Control for the others.

It was love at first sight for Bella and Pepper. The two are inseparable as if they know they share a common bond of being abandoned and left to die. We love them both and are so glad we made room for them in our hearts and home.

A Child’s Tea Party

 

Sitting in the large Victorian parlor with its high ceilings and antique furniture, was my grandmother and four of her dearest friends. Being a part of such classy women with their braided buns and hair nets and ankle-length dresses was the highlight of my growing up years. Sometimes I would sit at my table and color, listening to their hushed tones echoing through the room. Other times I would sit quietly, my eyes bouncing from one face to the other wondering why old people get so wrinkled.

But this day, I didn’t want to color or just sit and observe. This day I wanted to be as sophisticated as the Queen herself. Not that I didn’t enjoy having tea with my dolls. They were always willing participants. But this day I wanted real live people at my tea party.

Cup after cup made its way around the circle of women, each one swallowing the cool, clear liquid and smacking their lips with delight.

I felt so proud.

Suddenly, wondering where I was getting the water since I couldn’t reach the kitchen sink, my grandmother followed me and watched in horror as I dipped my dainty little teacup into the commode!

I think that was the last tea party I ever had at my grandmother’s house. Come to think of it, I think that was the last tea party ever!

Secrets in the Attic

I can still hear the distinctive scraping sound of the board sliding across the opening in the floor and see her creeping down the ladder. She only came down to empty the slop jar and replenish her food and water supply. How long had she lived up there, a week? A month? A year? I don’t remember. But I will never forget her dark, glaring eyes and wrinkled frown when she turned and saw me standing there. I’ll never forget the cold-steal blade of anger and hatred piercing my soul or the hurt and confusion I felt.

It was a makeshift bedroom daddy half-heartedly put together for the two of them when my grandmother came to live with us. Mom laid a carpet remnant across the plywood floor and somehow, daddy maneuvered a full-size bed through the narrow opening. Then came an old dresser, and a couple of makeshift night stands and TV. Mom added some personal touches with a few lamps, a pretty bedspread and setting pictures on the dresser. There were no windows or walls or ceiling covering the exposed, unsightly wiring. No heating or air. Just a temporary, cave-like room for my parent’s privacy.

Now, mom made it her permanent home; her escape from a disgruntled mother-in-law; an emotional strike against a family who didn’t seem to care or appreciate the sacrifices she made. Let them fend for themselves. Let them do their own cooking and cleaning, washing and ironing and dealing with the bill collectors banging on the door.

But that’s not what drove her to live in the attic. That’s not what pushed her to the brink of insanity.

For years I hated her foster-mother and the abuse my mother suffered at her hands. I hated my grandmother for putting her in an orphanage and my alcoholic grandfather for molesting her. I hated that my mother was too afraid to run away from her foster home and get help. I hated that she was never able to recover; that she never experienced freedom from her horror-filled childhood. And I hated that the aftermath of her abuse ricocheted through the family poking holes in our souls.

Even today I still wonder how it feels to a child to be held and kissed. To be praised and loved unconditionally. What does the world look like through their fearless eyes? What does it sound like without cruel and condemning voices shouting in their ears?

Looking back, the attic is as dismal today as it was decades ago. Secretly, it holds my mother’s tears, her broken soul and raging screams against an unfair world and a God who would allow bad things to happen; especially to a defenseless child. It holds the secrets of a little girl longing to be loved so that she could know how to love her own children; to be less critical and more patient and understanding. Only the attic knows how she longed for her husband’s physical and emotional support; to help lift and carry her heavy burden and to prove the words of love he spoke to her. And only the attic knows what led her to climb down that creaky ladder that day, put away the slop jar, and join her family again.

I wish I could say that things got better after that, that my youngest brother stopped getting into trouble, drinking and doing drugs. I wish I could say mom never had other breakdowns and that daddy got a job and mom didn’t have to work three jobs to keep our heads above water. I wish I could say that we learned to communicate without screaming and yelling and hurting one another.

But I can’t go back and change a thing. I can only keep pressing forward with a better understanding and perspective than I had as a child. I can appreciate the loving family God gave me through my husband and my son and his growing family. And I can accept that I live in a broken world and bad things are going to happen. It’s not my fault. It’s not God’s fault. It’s just the way of a fallen world. We all have a choice in how we play the cards we are dealt.