Looking back I realized I never fully processed what happened that day at my grandfather’s memorial service. The next day I wrote a short paragraph about traveling another 11 hours home and how Heather was the perfect person to be with me on this trip. But I didn’t write what I felt about having my voice.
It’s been two years since this journey and I can look back on it with gratitude, respect for putting myself out there, and respect for my uncles as well for doing the best they could to open up and show me that they always had loved and supported me.
That day during the memorial service I was a 4 year old with ants in her pants. The officiate went on and on about the service my grandfather provided to the town and his church. When it was implied that my grandfather did his daily readings and was diligent in his bible study heat rose to my cheeks. If he was a faithful Christian then why did he blame what he did on us? Why wouldn’t he acknowledge his sinful ways and show us mercy instead of spite? The accolades went on for what felt like forever. I couldn’t take it anymore – I stuck my tongue out in disgust and rolled my eyes. An elderly woman sitting adjacent to me saw it all and gave me a puzzled look. I’m sure she was thinking what is this grown woman doing acting like a petulant child?
My uncles stood up one by one to give their personal eulogies for their father. The child in me wanted to plug her ears, rock back and forth and hum so I didn’t have to hear another word…but the adult won over and I listened to stories of an attentive father who taught them valuable lessons in life. I heard of a father greatly missed…and I recognized how difficult it must have been for them to rectify that man with the monster their sister and nieces were claiming hid within him. My hardened heart began to thaw for my uncles.
The service was over and everyone exited the building to do the gun salute for the service my grandfather gave to the Air Force. I stayed inside and held onto my nephew, Riley. He was the perfect comfort needed…I could hold him close and not feel vulnerable. I put Riley on my hip and walked up to the front of the room where my grandfather’s ashes rest among pictures of him and the family (including my mother).
“You hurt me deeply. Because of what you did to me to satisfy your own evil and sick desires I lived a life feeling like I didn’t matter. It didn’t matter how I felt or what I felt I had to please others because that was what I felt I was made to do. If it hurt me or didn’t feel right to me it didn’t matter. What you did to me tainted my understanding of what love is and should be and it kept me from receiving unconditional love because I never knew how to love without conditions. Your selfish ways affected me in so many areas of my life but I am not going to allow you to take any more of my life.”
I stared at the face of the man who took advantage of my innocence and at the same time I saw the smile I adored, the salt & pepper crazy flat top, and an arrow of nostalgic memories hit me of the man God created…not the monster the enemy formed. Riley nuzzled his head into my shoulder and I hugged him closer.
That evening I went to dinner with my uncles and tentatively a few of them talked about the gap in time we all missed since my mother came forward. They had all dispersed, never getting together again for family reunions. It hadn’t dawned on me that none of my aunts were there at the funeral, nor were my cousins. The picture I’d painted of this unified front of ‘them’ against ‘us’ was formed only out of hurt and pain. It wasn’t real. My heart went out to this family that had been torn apart by one’s selfishness and weakness against the enemy.
A few weeks later my mother met up with her uncles for a reunion, the first they’d all been together in 20 years.
I know that sometimes people don’t ‘talk’ because they don’t want to tear the family apart or ruin the family name…but if we don’t talk of the evil that is happening behind closed doors then it will continue to remain from generation to generation. To set the family ‘free’ every voice needs to be heard. Beyond all else the victims deserve to know they are worth championing.
I pray this ‘journey’ down my own healing path has given some inside look of the delicate web weaved in a family plagued by incest.