By Aleta Kay
©March 6, 2019 by author
All rights reserved
Herman and I were nine years apart, so we didn’t do much growing up together. I do remember him as cute, precocious, funny, and mischievous when he was little. Mostly I remember feeling very responsible for him, as a nine-year-old sister should. I loved my little brother.
The happy moments of our childhood were scattered through our lives like oases in a desert. More often we were the walking wounded. I didn’t realize how wounded until Herman grew up and had a home of his own.
By then I was married with a family of my own, a military wife, who in the early years of marriage was left to raise our infant son alone while my husband was out to sea on a weather cutter ship.
But growing up with what I now believe was a bi-polar mother who could carry on a temper tantrum for three days, leaving us kids cowering in a corner, trying to avoid her wrath while Dad slept in his chair for went for a drive in the car. Our fragile egos and psyches were often slashed to ribbons like jungle grass by a machete. We grew up to the sing-song “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” How wrong that proved to be.
Every good parent has dreams for their children, and ours were no exception when it came to that. I had always wanted to be a writer (still do), but my dad said, “Writers don’t make any money. You need to be a secretary. They make good money.” Sorry, Dad, but they don’t, not unless they’re executive secretaries. I went to secretarial school at my dad’s insistence. I discovered I was a slow typist (50 wpm), and couldn’t take dictation fast enough to keep up with the slowest speaker. My math skills are only the basics. It took me four years to learn to compute decimals.
But words do hurt. They hurt worse than a beating. Bruises heal. Words leave scars on the soul that last a lifetime. When I ran the vacuum cleaner and missed a spot, my mother wouldn’t say, “Honey, I appreciate your efforts but can you go back over this spot? I think the vacuum missed it.” No. Her response was, “Why can’t you do anything right? If you can’t do it right, leave it alone and let someone else do it.” Only it was my job so there was no one else to do it. I was ranted at for hours about being inept and useless, or at least that’s the way it felt. My mom died in 1994 and I still hear her asking why I’m so stupid, or why I can’t do anything right every time I make mistake, drop something, or forget where I put something. I’m getting better (at the age of 67) because I remind myself that God doesn’t make junk, that everyone makes mistakes, and that everyone forgets things sometimes, even important things. I am not stupid. I am average, and that is okay.
When Herman grew up and moved away he rarely went to see our parents. I never understood it until Dad’s health began to fail. I thought that since Herman lived closer he would check in on Mom and Dad and help out. But he didn’t. When the Lord impressed me that I needed to move back to Maryland to help Mom, I talked to Herman. He told me that every time he would go home to try to help he would be met with criticism for not choosing a more financially lucrative job (He was a Methodist minister). They didn’t like his choice of a wife (older than he) or his decision not to ever have kids. He told me he was afraid he would be the same kind of parent as our parents were.
We were the walking wounded. Herman’s lack of acceptance from our parents (and he was the smartest of us all with a Master’s Degree in theology) led him to alcoholism. He died at the ripe young age of forty. At the time of his death he was no longer drinking; he was in outpatient rehab, but he was also a diabetic, and it was diabetes that killed him.
Herman asked Jesus to be his Lord and Savior as a teenager but we never had any teaching as to how to let God heal our soul-wounds. We never went to church until we moved to Maryland in 1967. Herman was in first or second grade then and I was in high school. I didn’t meet Jesus until age 23. My high school experience with church was through youth group which had lots of great activities but I don’t remember ever hearing that Jesus died on a cross for my sins. I don’t remember ever hearing sin mentioned. I would listen to ladies in church criticize someone else’s dress or hat and wondered if they had come to church for a fashion show.
Knowing God has made the biggest difference in our lives. Although a relationship with Jesus didn’t erase the pain of childhood, it did somewhat change my perspective as I have grown in the Lord.
I do remember my mom playing games with me, doing jigsaw puzzles, dancing around the house when she played records. We made cookies together at Christmas, decorated the house together, and reminisced over old photos. We watched TV together sometimes. Childhood from a child’s perspective is rarely ideal. In fact, in all my years of living, I have only met one person who had an idyllic childhood. She was the only child of a minister and his wife.
From an adult perspective, my parents were human who carried baggage from their own childhoods. I once heard a family counselor proclaim, “You cannot pass on to your children that which you do not possess.” (Howard Hendricks) Without Jesus to help you change the pattern, we are doomed to repeat what our parents modeled. It’s what we know. It’s what is familiar.
But I had the privilege of leading my dad to the Lord before he died so I know I will see him again one day when we meet again in heaven. My mom assured me before she died, that she too was ready to meet the Lord. I pray she was. I often think I could have pressed harder, asked more specific questions to be sure. But I was so distraught with her heart attack and subsequent strokes that it simply didn’t occur to me until it was too late.
The apostle Paul said it best. Philippians 3:13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
Philippians 3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Authorized KJV