When Wil and I arrived at the family gathering I spoke to my older brother, Cor, with Wil as my support. Cor is the fifth oldest sibling in our family. He’s the fourth son, and my mother’s firstborn. Dad had four children when he married my mother, having lost his wife and youngest son only months apart. Together my parents had twelve more for a total of sixteen children, and that doesn’t include the over half-dozen they lost through still birth and miscarriage.
With Cor being ten years older than me, and the oldest at home for most of my years there, it felt natural to go to him and explore what we could do to help dad.
Like Wil, Cor was compassionate and understanding, but agreed that without more memories, specific times and locations, nothing could be done. We could not confront Dad until something more concrete surfaced, or other victims came forward.
It was about that time that bits and pieces of conversations started to replay in my mind, from when I was nine years old. One of my cousins on dad’s side, who was thirty years older than I, had contacted my mom. I had heard this cousin’s name before, and remembered her parents, my Uncle *Jake and Aunt *Helen, who came to visit us in Mexico. I didn’t know *Maria well, having only seen her a few times in my life. After Maria contacted my mom, I overheard conversations that made no sense at the time. My mom seemed upset with her. It had something to do with my dad, but just what it all meant, I didn’t understand.
As I confronted memories and betrayal in my life, these conversation bits resurfaced, with no meaning at first. And then it all began to fit, like pieces of a puzzle. Maria must have told my mom that dad abused her. That was it… I was certain of it.
I had been at Maria’s wedding when I was twelve and knew her husband’s name, so I called Canada 411. This was back when we didn’t have internet to do a quick search, so I called and asked them to search every town in the general area where they had moved. There were no guarantees that I would find her, but if she was my one shot at validating what I was already certain was true, then I would search the ends of the earth to find this woman.
It took some time before I remembered the name of the small hamlet where they lived. I worked my way from there, and found Maria. I called her. Out of the blue. Told her who I was—her twenty-one-year-old cousin. Could I come see her? Maybe on Sunday?
Maria was thrilled to hear from me and welcomed me for a visit. Would I join them for lunch? Her husband was good with the barbecue and would be thrilled to show off a little, she was sure of it.
That Sunday I did the one-hour trek to Maria’s home. I felt bad. I had not told her the purpose of my visit. I wondered how awkward it would be, or if I’d have the courage to follow through. Maybe, once there, I would lose my courage, and leave well enough alone. What if questioning her stirred up old pain and destroyed her?
True to her promise, Maria’s husband served up a delicious steak. The meal was wonderful. Her young son was quite taken with me, so I spent some time with him.
Mid-afternoon Maria and I were alone in the house, chatting. I hesitated, then jumped in. “Maria.. I have a question… You don’t have to answer, if you don’t want to, but I have to ask….” I paused. “It seems to me when I was about nine years old, maybe ten, that I overheard something at home about you… that you had called mom… It didn’t make sense at the time, but now, when I think about it, it makes sense…. I’m sorry to ask… Did my dad sexually abuse you when you were a little girl?”
“Yes.” Maria said calmly. No anger. No shock, as I had anticipated.
Even truth that you suspect, is shocking when confirmed like that. So it’s all true… That’s who dad is… it’s what he is capable of…
I felt I needed to explain. “I ask because I’m sure he abused me too. My memories are vague… all broken up. But I know something happened. Would you be comfortable telling me what happened?”
She hesitated only for a moment before the story spilled out. She had worked as a ‘helper’ for my dad and his first wife when she was only eight years old. Dad’s first wife, a sweet woman, was pregnant with baby number five, and not well. She was bedridden, over the time of the birth, though I don’t recall how long leading up to or after. She died after giving birth, due to haemorrhage, but not before giving Maria permission to tell. To say it accurately, she made Maria feel obligated to tell, even guilty if she kept the secret, but her heart was to protect Maria and truth.
After dad’s first wife’s death Maria returned home to her family, where she told a sister, not much older than her, what had happened. Her sister told Uncle Jake and Aunt Helen.’
Whether they had confronted Dad or not, or whether he came on his own, Maria was not sure. But one day, not long after, my dad rode up in his buggy and her parents went out to meet him in the lane. Maria and her sister had listened at the window, wanting to know the purpose of the visit.
My dad had apologized to Maria’s parents, telling them what he had done, and taking ownership. It had helped, but the scars remained for life, leaving Maria with emotional and psychological struggles for life.
On my way home I had an hour to cry. Even though I was not one for country music, I turned on my radio and listened to country music. Within minutes the song started to play… “I’m seeing my father in me… I guess that’s how it’s meant to be… and I find I’m more and more like him each day…” (Paul Overstreet)
I wept as I cried out to God. I asked Him to be the Father who I grow to be like more each day. That I would see Him in me, and people would see Him in me too. The one thing I didn’t want is for generational sins to scar my children. Those chains would end with me.
In that moment with God I felt understood. Truly. Deeply. And completely. My Father was making me more like Himself in my journey of disappointment and pain. He understood suffering, and emotional and mental anguish. And He would walk me through this, fully embraced, unconditionally accepted
© Trudy Metzger
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