Communications I’ve Withheld
Photo by Krisztina Tordai
Several years ago, author Teresa Hill (Sally Tyler Hayes) challenged a group of authors, including me, to write about a specific topic, which I decided to include in my healing journal/self-help book, Third Degree of Separation. The topic was “Communications I’ve Withheld,” and when I shared it with the light-hearted group of writers, the challenge ended and we didn’t continue with any other topic. I think perhaps we weren’t supposed to get quite so personal!
People say–some approving and some definitely not–that I write with candor, openness, and (I like this one best) rawness that many cannot openly discuss but touches a deep nerve. I say that it’s because so many of us have common experiences that just prove the universality of the human race, and my life purpose is to share my experiences. I’ve found that opening the tiniest crack and sharing a personal experience can be an unexpected turning point for someone else. Such is the way Deity moves and connects us all.
Communications I’ve Withheld
I never wanted Daddy to kill anyone. So I stayed quiet.
I figured he’d either get his gun or he’d tell me to go cut a switch from the pear tree and prepare myself to be punished for lying. I didn’t want either, so I withheld the knowledge, except from God.
And I told God all about it. Regularly.
When I was 11 years old, my father’s uncle visited us. Not for the first time, but for the first time in what would become weekly visits. Years later, in high school, I would find out from distant cousins I’d just met that The Uncle had already exhausted his supply of pre-pubescent nieces who lived within an hour’s drive of him.
I came to dread those Sunday afternoon visits from The Uncle. I didn’t want to sit and listen to adult-talk. I wanted to be with my best friend and play with make-up and talk about the possibilities of first kisses from cute lead guitarists and draw pictures of horses and tussle with her kittens. I didn’t want to be home.
For two years, he appeared almost every Sunday afternoon, usually with presents in tow…for me. He brought jewelry. Maybe that’s why I don’t really care for pearls and not quite so much for opals or diamond chips or rubies. Usually earrings. Sometimes bracelets. Very elegant. He brought clothes, too, from the best department store in town. Never anything inappropriate or lacking in taste or expense.
Still, didn’t anyone else think it strange that The Uncle, a septuagenarian bachelor with emphysema, was choosing the clothes and lining the closets of a girl in junior high?
But he was the adored and revered Uncle. Daddy looked up to him, and so I said nothing. After all, his gifts seemed perfectly fine with my parents.
By the time I was twelve, he was insistent that I not let myself be invited to my best friend’s house on Sunday afternoons, and I remember him shaming me for not being home on one of his visits. He would also insist to my parents that I walk him to his car to say goodbye each week, and then I’d get a lingering hug and sticky cigarette kisses on the mouth.
By the time I was 13, he was suggesting—in front of my parents—that I “ride to town and back” in his car with him, but I somehow got out of it, though I don’t remember if I became sick or how. I know it wasn’t because my parents ever said no. They seemed fine with it, encouraging even. What a nice uncle he was to buy me presents! What a lucky girl I was! I desperately wanted them to save me. When The Uncle said goodbye that day, I knew I wouldn’t be able to escape on his next visit.
By the time I was 43, the mother of two teen daughters, and newly divorced, my mother asked me if The Uncle had ever tried to molest me. It was the first we’d spoken of it. Ever. She told me she would never have let me leave the premises with him, but I’m not so sure. I thought she hadn’t known. She had. She was too afraid of defying my father to protect me.
I always thought I killed the old man. Sometimes now, I still think I did.
That last time I saw him alive, as he kissed me goodbye at his car—with those sticky cigarette lips and with my parents barely out of sight—he slipped his hand down the back of my pants, on the inside, between my skin and panties. No one came to my rescue. I pulled away quickly and ran back inside the house. I knew he would come back the next week.
I sat up all night, staring out the window of my bedroom at the trees in moonlight and asking God to make sure The Uncle never came back. Before Sunday came, he died of a heart attack.
And I always thought he died because of the communication I didn’t withhold. Yes, I will always believe in the power of prayer.
copyright Lorna Tedder