When I was 10, my mother was in a serious accident. She spent a month in the hospital and she was in very serious condition.
During this time, my world was turned upside down. As the oldest child and daughter, I was the person that stepped into my mother’s role; doing as much as a 10 year old child can do, anyway. I remember the stress and emotional strain on my family during this time. My 2 younger siblings had to attend daycare during the day so this was a financial strain that my father had never experienced. I went to school each day and in the evenings, I was the one that took care of the children. I remember my father worried that my mother would die, leaving him to care for all of us. I did my best to help him, but the stress became overwhelming.
It was during those weeks that I saw my father cry for the first time. In my 30-something years, I have only seen my father cry 4 times. There’s something about seeing your father break down that one never forgets.
One afternoon at school, I crawled under a portable building during recess. I began to pray and just cry my heart out to Heavenly Father. I didn’t understand why He would let this happen and I was very angry at Him for not protecting my mother. But, being a “Daddy’s girl”, I was even more angry at God for making my father cry.
Before long my mother was able to come home from the hospital. She was placed on bed rest and had limited mobility. When she did come out of her room, it was just to lie on the sofa and watch TV.
One afternoon, my little brother, Kevin and I were looking for a toy he had misplaced. Our search led us to my parents room and eventually we looked in my parents bathroom. My parents had a raised vanity area and Kevin looked underneath the vanity for his toy. He pulled a magazine out and handed it to me. He said, “This magazine has a bunch of naked ladies in it. It’s very gross and shows their butts.”
Apparently, he had seen it before, but never said anything to anyone else. I remember having a sinking, sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. The church had taught me this was something that was very wrong, sinful and perverted. I was so upset about it. The additional stress of this was more than I could stand. It weighed on my mind all afternoon and that evening I couldn’t sleep. I laid in my bed, listening to the sounds in my house. Before long, I heard someone in the living room. I peeked my head around the corner and I saw my mother laying on the sofa. She had just started using a walker and she was still very weak. I tiptoed into the living room and told her I needed to talk with her.
All of the emotions I had been feeling and holding inside, overflowed and I sobbed. I didn’t want to tell her. Yes, I was upset with my father, but I felt a loyalty to him because we had been through so much these last weeks. I tried to calmly tell my mother about the magazine Kevin had found. Her face became dark and I was very frightened. When my mother becomes angry, she speaks very calmly and quietly, but you can just tell she’s furious. I thought she was mad at me so I said, “I’m sorry, mom, I’m so sorry!” She simply said,
“Go to bed, now.”
I ran to bed and within a matter of seconds, she flew down the hallway with that walker. She went into her bedroom and closed the door.
I laid in bed where I just cried and cried. I knew my father was in trouble. I worried that I had broken up our family for telling. I didn’t know what the church would do to him and I was sure my mother would divorce him.
The next morning, my mother called me into her bedroom. I stood at the foot of her bed and she said, “It’s over. This is not to be discussed ever again, do you understand? ”
Of course I knew exactly what she meant. I nodded my head and without a word, ran out of her room. For days afterward, I felt sick any time I saw my father. It took him many months before he could look me in the face, I knew he was very ashamed for what he had done. I can’t imagine what my mother said to him or what happened but she was very cold to him for a long time.
I felt so much guilt over this. I think, in many ways, I still feel badly for ratting him out.
Cross-posted from my blog, The Sacred Sister