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by Jennifer Mobbs
3/08/2013 / Short Stories
My name is Janice, I am the youngest of three children, actually, I am the youngest of five children, two have gone home but, that is another story. It was 1968 and we lived in Connecticut. Our house was at the end of cul-da-sac, tucked away in a forest with a large pond just down the street. In the summer, we would swim there everyday. In the winter it would freeze over and we would ice skate and my brothers would play ice hockey. I had "double runner" ice skates; I never felt happier than when I was ice-skating I felt like I was flying. Then one day my Father told us we were moving to Dallas, Texas. He might as well moved us to Europe, everything was different, the weather, the scenery and most of all the people. We moved into a 3-bedroom apartment on the wrong side of town, no trees, just concrete and people rushing everywhere, everyone was in such a hurry. I didn't understand why we moved, why we left our Granny in Connecticut, but when your six years old you don't understand a lot of things.
The "City Life" quickly took hold of my parents, it was the late sixties and although I understand that now, back then I just saw a blur of parties, drinking and fighting. It wasn't long before my parents separated and I moved with my Mother into an apartment across town. Although most of the kids in our new apartment complex were also in the same situation, adjusting to this new way of life was confusing and painful. I didn't see my Father much, my Granny was back in Connecticut and I felt lost and out of place. My parents were both pursing other relationships even though they hadn't filed for divorce. The revolving door of men and women coming and going was interesting at first, I got attention, but I quickly figured out, they weren't interested in me at all, I was just an excuse to get to one of them. That's when I learned not to trust adults and that lying came easy and nothing was permanent in my life anymore.
Even though my parents were seeing other people we would still go and stay at my Dad's apartment sometimes for overnights. This was even more confusing to me. Were my parents getting back together or was this just another weekend that would end in the usual yelling match. The parties my Father had at his apartment were legendary in their circle of friends and strangers who showed up, and yes, my Mother and I would go, my brothers were usually dropped off at a friends house. At the beginning of the night, before things really got going I was allowed to say hello to their guests, get a plate of cheese and crackers and chips and then banished to the tiny back bedroom for the rest of the night.
The parties would go on well into the early morning. Often things would get out of hand. Maybe someone had too much to drink and a fight would start. No matter what I heard, I was told to stay in the back bedroom and not come out. I obeyed with one exception and after that one time, I never looked out that bedroom door again, ever. It happened during one particularly rowdy party, I cracked open the door of the bedroom to see what was going on. I saw my Father dancing slowly with a woman I knew and my Mother was dancing with that women's husband, their arms all wrapped around each other. At that moment, watching them anger began to grow deep within me. I couldn't explain it and I didn't really even understand it, but it was such a fierce anger, I felt like I had been stabbed in the heart, in a way my feelings scared me. I carefully closed the door, falling to my knees I crawled into the closet wedging myself into the corner as far as I could and cried myself to sleep.
I couldn't get that picture of my parents out of my mind. I didn't want that man for my new Father and how could my Father be with that man's wife! I began to act out at home and school. I felt sick all the time and I would do anything to kept from going over to my Father's apartment. My Mother didn't really punish me; I think she must have known in her heart why I was acting so badly.
As my anger continued to grow, take root, I went from a happy little girl to a stubborn, uncooperative emotional child. When my Mother announced we were going to Dad's apartment for the weekend. I pulled every trick in the book; I played sick, cried, begged and finally I threw a tantrum, kicking and screaming, something I had never done before. But it didn't work we went anyway. The night started out as usual, loud music and drinking. I had fallen asleep in the little twin bed, but I had the lamp sitting on the bedside table turned on; for some reason that night I was scarred to turn off the light and be alone in the dark, even though there must have been twenty people twelve feet away. I never felt so alone.
It must have been about two o'clock in the morning when the door to the bedroom opened. I opened my eyes and saw my Mother; she was crying. She didn't say a word she just curled up in a ball at the end of the bed and lay her head down. I sat up to ask her what was wrong, but before I could my Father threw open the bedroom door so hard the handle stuck into the wall. My mother looked terrified. I could tell he was drunk, more drunk than I had ever seen him before. He grabbed my mother by her arm and yanked her off the bed. "You're sleeping with me!" He yelled at her. "No, please let me sleep here with my daughter!" She pleaded. He yelled something back at her and then slapped her across the face so hard she would have fallen to the ground had he not been holding her arm so tightly.
That root of anger inside me exploded like a Volcano, I felt like I had no control of myself and I started yelling and screaming at my Father, I was scared of him but I wanted to protect my Mother. I jumped out of the bed and grabbed my mother's other arm and pulled on her as if I could take her away for my Father. All of us were yelling and screaming my mother and I were crying. My Father yelled at me to get back in the bed pushing me away as he pulled my mother out of the bedroom. He yanked on the door pulling it from the wall and slammed it closed.
I crawled back into the bed, sobbing into my pillow and then I began punching it with all my strength until I couldn't lift my arms any more. I didn't know what was happening. Would my Father hurt my Mother more, what should I do, but being so young I really didn't know, fear kept me in the bed, but my anger wouldn't allow me to sleep. I made a vow that night, I couldn't control my life now, but as soon as I could I would leave. I would never forget what my Father had done. My crying didn't mean a thing to anyone, not even God. So I decided I wouldn't shed another tear, ever.
My Mother eventually forgave my Father they reconciled and moved our family in to a home all together again. We never talked about what happened, my Father had apologized the next morning and that was the end of it, maybe for them, but not for me.
As the years went by, I put the memory of that night away in my heart. I never forgave my Father, I never knew why he did what he did that night, other than he had been drinking too much an excuse for him but not for me. At eighteen I went off to college, but unlike a lot of kids who when to parties once they were away from their homes and parents, I didn't. I had already seen what came from drinking.
During my second year of college my cousin and I and two friends when to the annual carnival, just as we were leaving my cousin played one last game and won a huge stuffed animal. I had to hold it in my lap it in the front seat of his small sports car. Our friends barely fit in the back seat. We were only a few miles from the college when we were hit head on by a drunk driver. It was a miracle that anyone of us survived. Our car was completely destroyed and we all went to the hospital. The next morning my Father came down to pick me up and take me to the Doctor's in Dallas to determine the extent of my head injury. This was one of the first times my Dad had taken care of me in a long time. It was strange and uncomfortable, but something inside of me was glad that he picked me up by himself. We were probably forty-five minutes from home-safety. When right in front of us two cars collided in a horrible crash. All of a sudden everything I had inside of me, all the pent-up anger, the un-forgiveness and blame came out of me at once. I began yelling and screaming, my body shaking in a state of hysteria. My Father had already stopped the car. Other cars had stopped to assist those in the accident so my Father began trying to calm me down. I was moving around as much as I could with my head and neck in a brace so He gently grabbed me by my shoulders and leaned me back telling me to be still, I was hurting my self. He told me the people in the wreck were not hurt and were being helped.
Then he grabbed my left hand and put it to his heart. He put his head down and began crying. "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry" he kept saying over and over. He leaned forward so I could see his face. I don't think I had really looked at my Father for a long time, he was older, tired, but the look of sadness in his face was something I could never describe, I had never seen him look like that before, he looked like a man who had lost everything. Then he spoke. "I don't know if you remember the times when I use to drink and how horrible I was back then, you were just a child." "The thought that you almost died because of drunk driver made me think about how I use to be." I was surprised and shocked by his confession. For the first time in so many years I began to wonder if I could hold onto my un-forgiveness for him any longer. I pulled my hand away, "I remember those days very clearly Dad and I remember the night you were so drunk you hit Mom and dragged her out the bedroom." "No!" my Father's voice tighten, "Please, say you don't remember that." "I thought if I never talked about it, that you were so young, that maybe you had forgotten." "No Dad, I never forgot" and with a deep breath I said, "I have held it against you all these years." "Every bad thing that has ever happened to me since then I have blamed you in some way, because of what you did, I felt I was paying for it." "The Sins of the Father fall upon his children, your sins fell on me." My Father caught his breath, he didn't know what to say to next and I hadn't given him much of an opening. He started the car up and continuing driving us home. We didn't say another to each other. For the next week, he took me to several Doctor's appointments; we never spoke. He even stayed in the room during the MRI refusing to leave. After each appointment he would just comment on what the Doctors had said, nothing else. Once I was cleared to go back to college, my Father told me he wasn't driving me back and handed me a plane ticket. I packed my bag and we drove to the airport in silence. He pulled up to passenger drop off area at the airport, I said "Thanks" and started to open the car door. He grabbed my hand. "Wait, I don't want you to leave before I say this." "My sins, my decisions have lead everything to this moment, but they are "Mine not yours." "I never knew what I was doing would hurt you." "I thought I was only hurting myself." "I never meant for you to carry my burdens all these years." "I wanted to be the kind of Father, that my Father was, but I failed." "You are my only daughter and I don't want you to leave carry around something that doesn't belong to you." "Please, let it go, give it back to me, my shoulders are strong enough to carry it." "It's time for you to live the life God has made for you and stop punishing yourself for something you had nothing to do with." He looked straight into my eyes. "You never cry Janice, why, why don't you every cry?" I tipped my head back, I could feel my eyes filling up, I looked at my Father, into his eyes, and finally tears began streaming down my face. "I had vowed not to cry ever again, because I didn't believe anyone cared and as I got older I was afraid that if I did, if I allowed myself to cry I would never stop." "I have hated you for so long, but I can't anymore." "I do love you, I just didn't want too. I am to tired to carry this hate, yes, I will give it back to you." I looked down and quickly whipped my tears away. "I gotta go, I don't want to miss my flight." My Father squeezed my hand. "I love you Janice, promise me one thing, that if you ever need to cry about anything, anything at all, that you will call me and we will cry together; let me help you carry your burdens." I squeezed his hand back and whispered, "I love you Dad and I am going to live the life God has for me now. I'll talk to you soon, I promise."
The Father in this story is born of Adam and therefore a sinful man. Even when he realizes his own sins and changes his behavior and reaches out to help his daughter; the truth remains that there is only one who can truly whip away all our tears, Jesus Christ. He died to bear all our sins past, present and future. It's that sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross that makes it possible for families like this one to heal. But we must remember, as much as we can help someone is as much as we can hurt that person. Turning to Jesus is always going to change the "tide" of our lives. God uses people to lead others to Him, and it is always for the Glory of The Lord, not the glory of person God is using. The One who will never disappoint you, who will never leave you, who will always understand you, is just waiting; call His name and ask Him to come into your life.
I have been writing all my life, I just didn't realize it until I was my late 40's. I hope my experiences can help others who have gone through similar trials.
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