Two lines in my rough draft are giving me a stomach ache.
Two truths. Two unabashed, unapologetic admissions.
I have peeled it way back to the major organ. My heart is beating in the wind. It is visible. You can see the guilt, the delight and the guilt for the delight being pushed outwards into other organs.
Unlike sleeping naked between soft sheets, it is naked uncomfortable.
I was not sorry my father died. Sure. From where you’re standing in your adult skin, that doesn’t surprise you. You probably don’t blame me.
What if I told you I killed him?
No. I didn’t cause his brain aneurysm. I didn’t kill him in a physical sense.
He made me pray. He made me pray to make him stop.
As an 8-year-old girl, I got down on my knees and prayed to God that my father would stop abusing me. Of course, we only prayed after the latest abuse, not before it happened again. In that moment, I knelt in the middle of my Christian home, in the Bible Belt of West Texas and I asked our God to help me.
I was not excited about the promises from my father. I was unmoved by his fervent prayers. I had no faith.
Here it is:
God had no business with me.
If he existed, he did not exist for me. He sat on his golden throne with his son at his side and watched it all go down. There were no red seas parted, no water turned to wine, no miraculous healings and, more to the point, no evil spirits cast out.
Until he died.
As I consoled my mother, I thought maybe. Maybe like the Jews lost and wandering in the desert, it was my time to find the promise land. Maybe Ruth had finally found her Naomi. It was possible to suffer like Job and eventually be redeemed.
Maybe my prayers had killed my father.
The place where sadness could have been was preoccupied with hyper-spiritualized worry for my eternal soul. What kind of kid prays and her father dies? What kind of kid doesn’t mourn her father’s death?
Many answers: A kid attune with the divine. A kid with superpowers.A kid who’s father deserved to die. A super fucking lucky kid. A victimized, confused kid left alone with a devastating secret.
Yeah. That last one.
My mother and aunt tell me that it was as I remembered it: I did not cry. I was stoic. I was brave. I tried with little arms to hold them all together.
“Don’t cry, momma. It will be okay.”
There it is again.
My 8-year-old self believed: I killed my father and that is fine by me.
Following that, crowded rooms of people mourning that man were tortuous to me. I bore them. I carried his secret and protected his reputation. I fell into an extended period of what seems to me like shock. I hid a celebration that was dying to explode from my soul. I wanted to scream at them all,”We are saved”
The way we honor the dead is deeply related to what we believe awaits them in the afterlife.
While my family had visions of pearly gates, I saw nothing on the other side. Sadly, there was so much darkness for such a little, little girl.
Sorry, I’m unable to offer any giggles. There’s nothing funny about what I found at the end of this chapter. No laughter. Only jaw clenching silence, small arms holding grown up things together and deep, intolerable loneliness for a small, cafe au lait girl in pig tails and her Sunday’s best.
I’m going to go remind myself of the beautiful here and now that I live in.
I suggest you do the same.
PS – My brother-in-law once made me laugh at a funeral by saying, “You can’t spell funeral without F-U-N.”
There’s our inappropriate giggle.