It is an unexplained conflict that happens in the heart and mind of a child who is victimized by someone they love and should be able to trust. I loved my father. All I ever wanted, starting in early childhood, was his protection, love and acceptance. I wanted Dad to be proud of me. And I wanted to be proud of him. Instead, I found myself compelled to protect him. To prove my love. To accept him.
I was seven years old. Several neighbourhood boys bullied and teased me. About what, I don’t remember. But I was hurt and angry. In my imaginary world, that strange space I had created in my head, I had a father who fought for me. Protected me.
I put my hands on my hips, squared back my shoulders and looked those little boys right in the eye, “I’m going to go tell my Dad on you!” I said it with all the courage in the world, as if my father would appear with a gun–which I knew he had and knew he was capable of using if he needed to–and scare them away. They would never bother me again.
The boys laughed. Their pointy fingers taunted me. “Oooo… she’s gonna get her dad!” They laughed again. I marched into the house, my shoulders still squared back. I never told Dad. He wouldn’t have done anything. He wouldn’t protect me. It was me against the world. Still, it didn’t hurt to imagine things differently. Somehow it gave me courage.
In spite of the fact that I had not felt protected by Dad as a child, when I left the Goderich hospital, having cried my tears in the parking lot, my warrior/protector instincts kicked in. Somewhere, in early childhood, I had become the protector. I remember the day it happened. It was the day Dad threatened to kill us. The first time I recalled seeing it in action. The first time he engaged me in the process. The first time the police came in. It was Dad I was going to protect our family from.
Ironically, as I left the hospital, I felt an overwhelming urge to protect Dad. I was furious at my family. Dad said no one else had come to see him. I was the only one. I still don’t know why that made me so angry, but it did. Maybe it was the image of the little boy, lying there, curled up. Broken. Abused. Lonely. It haunted me. Haunts me still when I think about it too long, and draws such depth of grief and compassion I can hardly bear it, even now.
Maybe, in a strange way, I wanted to protect the little boy he once was and change the course of history. I’ll never know for certain. But that’s what my heart tells me now, as I think back and try to make sense of that moment in time.
I arrived at the meeting with the psychiatrist. I listened to what he had to say. I was polite. We asked a few questions. And then we left. It was hogwash. All of it. Dad wasn’t some untamed animal who needed to be sedated. He was a broken child who needed healing. I believed that then and I believe it still.
Flush the drugs and introduce the man to the real Jesus, not some secular assessment of a spiritual situation. Sure, I’d grant it, the years of carrying the trauma had impacted his mental health but I was convinced that if he encountered Jesus, the real Jesus, he wouldn’t need drugs to numb the mind. He wouldn’t have the rage. The desire to kill.
The only thing I see differently now is that the medications served a purpose. I didn’t see it then, but having been involved in enough situations since that time, I recognize that medications are a necessary thing for a time, even for life, in some cases. It is using them to numb the mind that bothers me. And, in any case, I believe Jesus is able to heal. But, just as He does not always heal cancer, He also does not always heal the mind.
We live in a fallen, broken world and the impact of that sin affects us all in one way or another. For my father, it damaged his mental health, though, given the resources I have access to, I think he would have been healed. I, too, was on that path to mental break down when Jesus healed me. Tim is my witness. And my children, if they could remember it, would also speak to that fact. But that’s too long a story to tell here. I will save that for the book.
After the meeting some of us siblings talked awhile. I blew off some steam about them misjudging Dad. I preached a little mini sermon about him just needing love and grace. Maybe if we loved him and accepted him, he would heal. He was wounded. I didn’t tell them all he had told me. I still haven’t told most of them. Which is why I cannot tell it here.
They didn’t understand or agree with me. Which only further upset me. And my way of being angry was quite tame, really. It amounted to a lot of feelings being stuffed down, and speaking my mind in a matter-of-fact way. Then it was over. I drove home, a bundle of twisted emotions. Unsure of what to think of everything and everyone. I realized then how disconnected I had become in six years.
Somehow I had closed a part of my heart. I didn’t feel like it was my family at all. Was Dad really my father? It was strange. That feeling of not belonging. Of wondering if ever I had. Who was I really? Would I ever be part of the family again? Would I know how? Had leaving at fifteen, and never looking back changed me so completely?
To Be Continued….
© Trudy Metzger
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This post cuts to the core of my heart.