That’s how I would have described my day before 4:27 pm. After 4:27 pm, on April 16, 2016, it could be described as hell.
My family has been through quite a bit over the last 4 years. I went into the hospital on Aug. 10, 2012 for heart failure and it’s been a list of bad things since that day. Heart failure, house foreclosure, bankruptcy from medical and credit card debt, moving, second hospitalization for heart failure, thyroid cancer, thyroidectomy, collections for medical debt and moving again.
We ended up on our feet in a really nice apartment, one car and I’m still alive. What more could I ask for? I even found a job that I love. Today was a wonderful outing with my family to the annual kite fest, Flights of Fancy, at Longview College.
First, we had lunch at a local coffee shop, Gusto! We lingered there, playing of all games, Bibleopoly. Never played it. Super fun. With a Bible-Christian theme that was surprising to find in a local coffee shop. They have games there for patrons to enjoy while they chat and drink and eat. There were two pictures where we plopped down just over our heads.
A plaque about the fruits of the Spirit. Something my family has been trying to get a handle on for a while and also, the Lord’s prayer. Those two mounted frames of wisdom seemed to punctuate our delightful lunch and gameplay. It was really rounding out to be a perfect day for our weary family. We suffered through so much: misfortune, family turmoil, personal demons and financial struggles. A day, like today, was what our family always hoped for; a care-free day, out and about, enjoying and connecting with one another. Not worrying over debt, house repairs and illness. We looked at each other several times and relished the joy of it. The peace of it. The sheer perfection of the moment and I know…I was so very thankful for my family and the beautiful time we were having. Then, after we finished a game of Bibleopoly, (Monopoly, but nicer) we headed over to the Flights of Fancy at Longview.
We laughed and talked on our blankets and pillows in the grass. We loved all the elaborate kites being flown, there was a huge yellow whale, a cute (and large) brown puppy, a white horse and, I think a personal family favorite, Rainbow Squid. Not a care in the world. True, happy, family connection on a blanket, in the grass on a perfect cool and windy day. The clouds, crisp and plentiful, kept the day from being too sunny or warm. I love days like this. The wind makes me happy and clean. It sweeps all my troubles away. It’s like the breath of God, dusting off all the dirty bits and putting a shine on my heart.
4:26 pm. Love, laughter and joy.
4:27 pm. “Hey, you! Lazy! What do you think of all this?”
As soon as we got to Longview, we found a nice grassy area to lay our blankets down and watch the kites. We stayed there for at least and hour and a half. There was a man at a table just to our left. He was part of the KC Kite Club, helping kite-flyers repair their broken kites. He was also schmoozing the crowd with little tidbits and facts about the kites that were being flown. The big ones anyway.
“Yeah, see that yellow whale? 120 feet long!” “Hey! Your shoe’s untied! Made ya look!” “Oh, I got two smiles that time!” He seemed to be a friendly fellow who liked to tease passers-by. I remarked to my husband at one point. “Gosh, he’s sure alot like my dad. When he was being seemingly friendly.” I made it clear to my husband, there were two sides to my dad. Nice, teasing jokester or emotionally abusive tyrant. I preferred jokester.
At 4:27 pm, Cigarette-smoking, Sunglass-wearing Grampa said to me:
“Hey, you! Lazy! What do you think of all this?”
My head whipped around like a kite in the breeze to see if anyone was standing behind me because this jerk could not possibly be talking to me. Yes. Yes, he was.
Like Robert DeNiro as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, I said, “You talking to me???”
“Yeah! Lazy! What do you think about all this?”
I turned to my husband and said, “I would like to go now, please.”
Before I could make it back to our parking spot, I was crying ugly tears of shame behind my dime-store aviators. No. My old man is not going to ruin this perfect day. My guilt and shame from the past is not going to overwhelm me now. Not here. Not now. But I couldn’t fight it. You see, I probably have PTSD from the 19 years of emotional abuse I suffered at the words of my father. Lazy was his go-to. I remember him saying to me on the day we were moving back in after having to move out because he went crazy again, “Are you just going to sit there? Aren’t you going to help? You’re so lazy.” In front of the movers who were paid to carry our stuff from the truck to the house.
Instead of standing up for myself, I swallowed my pride and went inside the truck to find very little to carry. An embarrassed mover handed me a box and said, “There’s not much left.”
Lazy was what he called me as he threatened to have someone physically hurt me if I didn’t go out and find a job as I was leaving the house one day to put in an application for a job the summer after I graduated high school. Lazy is what he called my mom 10 feet outside my bedroom door. Only he was screaming at the top of his lungs and also calling her a fat pig while pushing her onto the couch and hissing through clenched teeth. Lazy was his weapon of choice. And this man, at Longview, was stabbing me in the heart with it.
So. I left. I let an unkind person ruin my day with my loved ones. I took my daughter to The Dollar Store to buy her some supplies she needed for a class project. And on my way back home, I stopped back by Longview. I just couldn’t let it go. I always tell myself. “Next time.”
Like, the very next time someone calls me: lazy, fat, gross, ugly, whatever…I’m going to stand up for myself. So I couldn’t let it go. This was the next time.
I let the girl with Down’s syndrome, who called my belly too big, I let her go. I let the toddler who was standing outside the bathroom stall at McDonald’s, who called me fat, I let her go. I let my old man go for years because I honestly thought he would shove me into a window, like my brother, if I didn’t. I thought he might take the shotgun under his bed and unload it into my skull if I didn’t let him go. I thought he might slap me across the face. He actually did, when I didn’t let it go.
But this guy. This old man. It was like my father standing up in his grave and calling me Lazy.
So I pulled into Longview parking lot. Walked down to Old Man.
“Can I speak with you a minute, sir??”
First though, when I walked away, after we left Longview, before The Dollar Store. I sat down in the driver’s seat of our vehicle and I looked up. I saw a bright red t-shirt with a white heart. Jesus’ Love, in red, inside the heart.
I’m supposed to love this guy. I’m supposed to love my old man. I’m supposed to love those that hurt me and that t-shirt broke me.
It was like God calling out to me. “Love this man. This is my commandment for you.”
Ok. Yes, sir.
So. I went down to Old Man. Confronted him. With love.
He denied saying it. We had a long, drawn-out conversation but I left with this. I said, “You said this in front of my husband and daughter. They heard you too. I have PTSD and was abused by my father most of my life. I had thyroid cancer just over a year ago. I work hard all week doing my job (coaching kids) and taking care of my family. I’m not lazy, sir. Watch what you say. I love you. God bless you. I hope you have a good rest of the day because I will not.” Mic drop.
And I walked away having confronted my brother in love and in tears as Christ has called us to do.
Longview, I hope you keep doing the kite thing. We loved it. Until about 4:27 pm.