When I moved into Grandma Katie’s home the month before I turned 16, I had a beautiful little bedroom that doubled as her sewing room. It had a large bay window, a single bed and a fire-place. It had once been a small family room area. It was spotless, welcoming.
For the first time in my life I was safe. Felt safe. There was no strange noises at night. No shadows at night that made me hold my breath. No creaking stairs that made my heart freeze, wondering if my father was coming for me. Would he have a knife? A gun? Some other weapon? Or other evil intent….
Here, with this sweet Amish Grandma, my world was more than I ever dreamed of. More than I knew existed. What little hope had not been destroyed and numbed through sheer terror of childhood, slowly resurfaced. Slowly.
Each morning Grandma Katie set the table for the three of us to such meticulous perfection, that I felt valued and served in a way I could only have imagined before this. Each place setting was perfectly placed, as if measured for precision. It consisted of a small juice glass, filled with orange juice , a glass for milk or water, a bowl or plate, and silverware, neatly positioned. Always served with a smile and a cheerful, ‘Good morning Trudy’, as though she had been looking forward to my arrival.
I wouldn’t have needed this, or felt less loved had she not done these things. I would have grabbed a bowl of cereal, alone, and left for work just as contentedly. As I look back, I see that her love and care is the heart and hands of God, whispering, “I love you.” I felt so special.
The way she laughed, her eyes twinkling with delight, at my quick wit and humour, thrilled me. She delighted in me and I knew it.
That safe place was ripped out of my life in one instant, when the preachers came and paid that visit. The day after ‘the meeting’, Katie spoke to me before our first meal together. With tears in her eyes she informed me that her church would excommunicate her if she ate with me. She was required to shun me; I would need to sit at the island, alone, and eat my meals.
I steeled myself against the pain. I wanted to cry. Instead, with a cold, hard heart, I told her that would not be necessary. That I would not be eating any meals until I found a new place to live. I would buy what I needed to survive and eat lunch at work each day.
I told her I understood, and sort of I did.
The pain in her eyes, the tears, the deep grief that showed on her face, I knew she loved me. She said as much. I never doubted that. She explained that she could not afford to pay the price, should she be excommunicated for eating with me. I don’t know how many times she said she was sorry, and I reassured her.
The loss was not only mine. I could tell that she lost a bright spot in her life, just as I lost a bright spot in mine. Hope. What was it anyway? An illusion? A lie? A mockery?
I withdrew from Grandma Katie from that day forward. I didn’t know what else to do, how to survive. A sixteen year old who had only known rejection up until this stage, this wasn’t new. But I had tasted ‘hope’. I had tasted acceptance. And love. How was I to pretend that nothing was different?
Each morning I grabbed some little food item to nibble on before work. I ate lunch at work and in the evening I nibbled on bits of food, or raided Katie’s freezer for baking she had done. (She told me I could. Bless her!)
I spent little time at Grandma Katie’s, always careful to show up after I was certain dinner would be over. If I was too hungry I stopped at the grocery store to pick up chips, or a pre-made sandwich and a drink, if I had money.
This is how I survived while looking for a new place to live. It was a dark and lonely time, but I was not forgotten. Never abandoned. When I didn’t see Him, or feel Him, God was there, watching over me and guiding my steps.
….To Be Continued…
© Trudy Metzger 2012
Go to first post in this series: http://trudymetzger.com/2012/05/22/spiritual-abuse-introduction/