Approximately one year after the David Meece concert, I received a phone call. Dad had been arrested and put in a locked psychiatric ward in Goderich Hospital. He had uttered death threats, again, but this time someone had called the cops and had him committed.
It is an odd thing, after being away from home all those years, and almost forgetting what the constant trauma was like, to get news like that. It instantly threw me into inner turmoil, and restlessness, as past memories resurfaced. Even so, there was a sense of peace. I had spent about eighteen months healing, and the past was losing its strangle hold on me.
The family was asked to meet with the psychiatrist a few days later, so I decided I would go visit him while there.
The night before that visit, I attended an event at a farm near Crosshill, where I was to meet Marvin Beachy, the founder of Gospel Echoes, a Mennonite Prison Ministry. I was to give him an answer about whether I would join them in Goshen Indiana for a year, as a volunteer office staff member.
I shared with Marvin briefly some of the things that had transpired, the counseling I was getting and that I didn’t feel the time was right. I wasn’t ready.
Marvin was kind, gentle and fatherly. He listened well and spoke with understanding and wisdom. “I think we need to pray over you before you leave tonight, Trudy. You need to be protected, going in to see your dad.” With that he slipped away to get the Chaplain who travelled with them for that trip.
Marvin returned moments later and introduced me to the chaplain, whose name I cannot recall, and they started to pray over me. Not many people, if any, had ever done that before. I felt safe. I was ready. Equipped.
I rode up the elevator at Goderich Hospital that next day with a sense of calm. Everything would be okay. Sure, I had mild butterflies. After all, I didn’t know what to expect and my contact with Dad had been very limited in the six preceding years. But he would always be my dad, and one way or another, I would connect with him.
I found my way to his room, still whispering silent prayers. I was glad Howard, Alice and the children had prayed with me before I left. We had gathered in the garage, stood in a circle holding hands, and Howard had prayed.
I stepped into Dad’s room. He was asleep. Completely out of it. I seated myself on the chair at the end of the bed and watched him. He breathed heavily. That sound asleep and almost snoring kind of breathing.
I sat there, waiting and watching him. Wondering how he was really doing. On the inside. He looked quite peaceful in his sleep.
And that is when I saw him. I little boy, curled up on his bed. Afraid. Lost. Lonely. Confused.
Emotion threatened. I pushed it down. Stuffed the tears. Another time….
He startled, catching his breath in a half snore, as he awoke.
His eyes had a wild look in them. Fear. Dilated pupils. His grey hair, what little he had around the sides of his head, was tousled and unkempt looking. He focused on me, still looking bewildered.
“Have you been here long?”
I smiled. “No. Just a few minutes. Did you have a good sleep?”
“I must have drifted off for a bit.”
There was a moment or two of silence. Where do you start into a conversation with your dad, when he’s been arrested and tossed in a psych ward? What is there to say? We talked about a bit of nothing for a while. Mindless chatter, to break the ice.
I don’t know how we got into it, but we struck up a deep conversation. About life. About God. About family, and his threats. He seemed very confused about the present, almost as if the meds were making him not remember, but the past was in the forefront.
For the first time in my life, Dad talked about his life. What it was like to be picked on, as a young man growing up. How some brothers and friends had bullied and traumatized him.
I fought the emotion. He didn’t need to see me cry. He needed to be heard. Calmly. And I would offer him that.
And then, out of thin air, he told the story of how he started with the sexual abuse… It tumbled out, as if he had waited all his life to tell it. For the truth to be known.
I didn’t feel rage. Nothing but sadness and compassion. And love. As much as I had feared my dad growing up. As much as I had threatened to call cops. Even plotted ways to kill him in childhood if ever I needed to defend myself… I loved him.
He and I seldom had run-ins, apart from me defending younger siblings. I could reason with him, and understand him. Behind that tough, raging exterior there was a very tender heart.
And that is what I learned on that visit. I saw a very tender-hearted boy, who did not know how to handle his hurts, his disappointments. And it had cost him. Big. Particularly in marriage and parenting.
I asked Dad some hard questions. But he had no answers. The questions seemed to confuse him more than anything, so I let it go. It had been enough for one day.
I said I needed to leave, and Dad looked disappointed. He asked why so soon. Another appointment, I said. But I didn’t tell him it was with the psychiatrist. I gave him a hug, and told him I love him, for the first time in my life. He had no clue how to receive it.
Back in my car the emotion hit. I sat there and wept. A lot of information to take in and contemplate….
To Be Continued…
© Trudy Metzger
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