Sometimes in life its hard to decipher where one story ends and another begins. When I started this blog, I just wanted to make people laugh. There are some funny things that happen in the zoo I call home. But then I feel like you can’t really appreciate the laughter if you don’t realize we fight to find it. We struggle, we dig in, and we go chasing the silver linings before the clouds block our view.
I’m sure every person has a list of the events that altered the course they would take in this world- I’m no different. There were things that changed me, and in an effort not to tell someone else’s stories, I have kept those things to myself. There are pieces of my story that are really hard to hear, understand, or even believe. But I know my story as well as you know yours and the one thing I have learned on this journey is that without the darkness, I would have never seen the light.
My darkest day happened when I was about six years old. My mom was gone at work, and the person she was married to (not my dad, and not my step-dad, this person of the past) was watching my sisters and me. We were supposed to be playing outside; he always made us stay outside, but I had terrible allergies. I hated being outside. I snuck in my room to read books. I was a lover of words from the get-go.
It was the allergies that gave me away. I sneezed, and then he knew I was inside. I heard him stomp around. I tried to sneak outside. It didn’t work. He called me over to him, where he was loading and unloading a hand gun. I don’t remember much about the gun except for that it was black, and cold. He put a bullet in it and spun it around. He held it up to my head and pulled the trigger. I thought I was going to throw up. When the click came, my stomach dropped and he died laughing. He had a sadistic sense of humor. He told me how easy it would be for him to kill my mother. He told me it was my fault she was gone at work, that she had to work her fingers to the bone to feed us. He told me I would have to make up for that and do “her job”. I’m sure you can guess where this story is headed… we’ll skip the brutal details. It wasn’t the first time he crossed the line, but it was the first time he took it all the way to the level of rape. The one thing still bothers me thirty years later is that he spit on me. I just can’t get past that part.
I never could directly tell my mother what happened. I tried many times to tell people who would tell her, but I always recanted in the end because if she confronted him, he would have killed her. In fact, his brutality wasn’t for me exclusively. But like I said, that’s someone else’s story, and so I will be careful with it. My point of sharing my memories is that my faith was born from this day. What I went through made me want to die. Sometimes I prayed to die. Sometimes I tried to die. Fortunately for me, death by Sudafed is uncommon and I survived, but for a little girl in elementary school to be thinking about ways to get to heaven, well, let’s just say I’m lucky I didn’t know what kind of pills to grab.
At the time I was in therapy because of my parents divorce. There’s some more subject matter for my list of things to blog about- therapy! The good, the bad, and the full-of-crap sessions of my life! But I remember this one afternoon, my mother picked me up from school early to take me to my appointment. All through the session I heard the therapist talking, but I wasn’t listening. I was thinking, if I could get to heaven, I’d be safe. We left, and I was sitting in the passenger side of my mother’s pieced together sedan (her grandfather built it for her out of different cars he pieced together). I looked out the window, and there in the sky was this red seat exactly like you would see on a Ferris Wheel and it was just hanging out of the cloud. The brightest light was all around. There were 2 pairs of feet. On the left, the feet were pristine, brilliant, almost illuminated. I knew immediately it was God. Next to him were these brown dirty feet with dried blood and scars, thorns and stickers protruding from his tainted skin. I knew it was his Son.
“You’re going to grow up and help the kids just like you!” The voice was clear. I watched the feet until another cloud moved along and blocked them from my view. I started planning my future right then. I was going to be the best big sister ever, and help take care of my little sisters. I was going to try hard in school, get good grades so I could go to college. Maybe I would be a lawyer who speaks up for the little kids. Maybe I would be a politician and make the laws that protected them. Maybe I would be a counselor and listen to them cry out their tears. Maybe I would be a teacher and push them to carve a path. Through my life those goals have been lost, found, grown, changed, and redirected. But now I wonder, was I maybe meant to be Aunt Tiff, and Mom, to all these kiddos who need a mother like me?
I’m still not sure, but I know that it was that moment that opened my heart and surrounded me with God’s love, and got me through the darkest places. A year or so later, I was at my great grandfather’s funeral, and I saw the keys to heaven. They were right there in the casket, even though no one else could see them. You may not believe this, but I had seen them before, at my Aunt Bonnie’s funeral when I was just a toddler. They were the most beautiful gold you can imagine. So smooth, with a soft glow to them I can barely describe and you know what else? There was a whistle on that key ring. A big round ring, with old fashioned keys, and a whistle! Believe me, don’t believe me, it doesn’t really matter, I know my story, as well as you know your own. I saw the keys to Heaven, and I knew everything had a purpose, and everyone had a time. When I go to funerals, I still look for the keys. I can’t see them anymore, but I have a feeling they’re still there. Children are just blessed with a vision that comes from pure faith; they see things the jaded eyes of adulthood can no longer see.
My youngest son has those eyes. He is perhaps my biggest challenge. He has differences that aren’t always easy to manage. He has struggles that don’t always make sense. Along with being my most temperamental child, he is also extremely intelligent, very loving, creative, and sensitive. He has raw emotions that suck me into his world. And he has that pure faith that no one can teach a child. I need to do a better job of nurturing him spiritually. He has always had this gift for understanding God in the most beautiful ways. And he prays every night like he is talking to an old friend. He prays better than I do. When he was about 5 we went camping with my husband’s family. (Add that trip to the blog later list!) We were sitting at this picnic table, when he started to draw Jesus. He immediately burst into tears, but kept on drawing.
He cried and he drew, he cried and he drew and finally I asked him, “Tucker, why are you crying, you’re picture is beautiful?” And he said “No child could ever draw a picture as beautiful as Jesus really was, but I wanted to do my very best…”
I’ll never forget that. I am the kind of person who can respect the beliefs of others, no matter what they are. I would never try to push my God above yours or discount the things you do or don’t believe in, but sometimes, faith isn’t learned in Sunday school. It just comes, from somewhere deeper… I got mine from a Ferris Wheel car full of feet. Where did you get yours?