I saw you mother, with your legs tucked comfortable, your shoulder pushing into your daddies’, your head rested into the curve of his neck with its hint of spicy aftershave. You loved the sweet pungency of his pipe. Oh yes, you were your daddies girl, no one could deny that. Two spirited red heads, as ripe as the strawberries in the fields. You loved the manly drone as he read to you, until your eyes drooped against the dancing crackle of the fireplace. Your big brother Fred, sitting relax-legged, stroking Spot the wire-haired terrier. Your sweet sister Janet, clasped in your mother’s arms, after she finished her nightly ritual of pulling the dainty thread through the wooden hoop, material stretched taut. Younger sister Ginger, your rival and friend, rocked her baby doll tenderly.
As I view this peaceful scene, I want to plead with you. Treasure these moments; hold them in your heart like the delicate moments they are; moments that can shatter beyond repair. If only you knew. You look so serene and secure. I plead with you because I know you dropped them, and they shattered forever.
The following morning began as a rare sunny day in Marysville, Washington. You and your siblings lined up for your mother’s inspection, to make sure your hands and faces were clean and your hair brushed to capture every stray. Today was special though. Your daddy was going to pick you up after school because he was in town today. His insurance business often required him to travel or keep longer hours because he was the boss. But, this was one of those days when you would have your daddy all to yourself. Your mother must have known what her antsy daughter was feeling, so she allowed a couple of stray hairs slip by. You hurried through breakfast and then let your neatly tucked towel slip to the chair as you hurried to the door. Your mother closed her eyes to that also.
In class you were daydreaming about how you wanted to spend your special time with your daddy on the way home. Your teacher didn’t bother you because, after all, you were an A plus student. You could stop at the drug store and have a malted, while you sat up high on the twirly bar stool, almost shoulder level with your daddy. You were thirteen, smart as your daddy. You would cajole him, until he plunked down a few pennies for your favorite candy; Boston baked beans and a few Snaps chewy ones. You would hide them from your siblings, to eat in your private apple tree reading place, where the branch was worn smooth through worlds of books.
I could see you dancing on the curb as your daddy pulled up. He would say, “Hey Buddy, (his nickname for you) how’s my girl?
“Daddy, daddy can we go get a malted?” You threw your schoolbooks on the floor, a few papers slipping out.
“I’m sorry Buddy, not today, I have a headache that won’t quit.” He rubbed his forehead and winced.
“Well can we at least get some candy? Please, please, please, I want candy.”
“Another time Buddy, I need to go home and rest. I know you’re disappointed.”
You slumped down in the seat, arms crossed tight, lips pursed. Your eyebrows furrowed deep, pushing your eyes into slits. You began to stomp your feet in a war dance, on top of your books.
“That’s not fair. I want candy.”
Your daddy often caved in to your wants, but not today. He was silent the rest of the way home. You jumped out of the car, stomped up the porch steps, darted in the house past your mother who was waiting for your daddy because she was concerned about his headache. You ran upstairs to your room and slammed your door. You knew your mother was firm about your tantrums and wouldn’t let you read in your apple tree today.
You didn’t see your daddy slump in a heap on the porch steps. Your mother yelled in a panic for your brother, Fred. They carried him up the steps and stretched him out on the sofa. Your mother called the family doctor at his home. He came immediately, carrying the tool of his trade; the little black bag. The doctor checked all the vital signs, and then frowned. “You need to get him to a specialist right away. I have the address in my book.”
Your mother called the family together. She explained that she needed to drive your daddy to a specialist at a Seattle hospital, the same one you were born in. You didn’t see your daddy until now, as he lay quiet. You ran back up the stairs and fell onto the bed, sobbing. You thought, “It’s my fault, if he dies, I killed my daddy.”
Mother, if only you didn’t keep that to yourself. If only you had talked about your pain. The pain that seeps into your soul like slow poison, eating at your insides, You weren’t to blame. Many children have temper tantrums. You didn’t know he was ill.
I saw your letter from your daddy, tucked away and hidden, until I found it in 2007. It was written in the hospital, just before he was taken from this earth. He said, “Hey Buddy, don’t bother bringing clothes. The doctors say I’ll live to be 80. My vision is still blurry, but the doctors will check it out before I come home. Love Daddy.” I saw your salty splatters on your daddies letter.
If you could have seen how much your Father in heaven wanted to heal you. You stomped your feet and turned your back on Him, years later. He didn’t let you go back to your apple tree until he took you to your forever home that day in 2003. Your spirit was taken the day after my birthday. We’ll have cake and ice cream when I get there. We’ll let our dogs run carefree in the meadows. I will walk up to you and say, “Hi, Mommy, it’s so good to see you.”
You stayed stuck at thirteen and I can imagine that is why you hurt your own children at thirteen. I forgive you though, because I’ve been forgiven. Completely, wonderfully and stupendously forgiven. God has healed me as I have laid out the framework of brokenness from the past, so He can bring wholeness to my present. And one day I’ll be with you mommy, in your forever home, and with my grandpa who I never met. But, guess what? We will be perfect then, because of the One who makes us perfect, and by whose stripes we are healed.
Your heart softened in the months before you passed from this earth. I know you left a lot of regrets, but I also know that the Jesus you knew never left you.