It is a horrible thing to give a child a fact and make him custodian of that truth. Doing so puts him between withholding that fact thus creating a secret or revealing the truth and causing distress. My very brave first born son shared a fact with me tonight. He has held this sliver of knowledge for nearly a month…since close to my birthday weekend. He struggled with whether to disclose it to me, knowing it opens old wounds, or to keep it secret. It was a terrible place to be, unfair and damaging. But I am blessed that he has a courageous heart and that he found the strength to risk things by revealing this thing that had become a burden, a secret, a secret that was not his to own.
And as I absorbed the news, I felt a deep wound open up. It is a wound I have been exceptionally careful not to reveal or disclose to my sons because it is closely tethered to the divorce. I have no desire to alienate them from their father. I want them to have a deep, loving and respectful relationship with their dad. Every boy needs a father. And ultimately, they are my wounds.
But every daughter needs her daddy, too.
I wept fat, sour tears and when we got home I simply had to get outside. It’s ironic, truly. For these are the traits of my father. The tenacity, the stubborn perseverance, the rumination…..the insecurity. My father kept a small newspaper clipping hanging on his desk since I was a very small child. It was a cartoon of sorts, a quippy inspirational quote that said, “I know God loves me because He don’t make junk.” I always knew this was my father’s demon, the darkness with which he wrestled. He was never quite sure he was enough. So he worked hard, tried harder, earned more, gave away more, ‘helped’ more. But he thought it made him qualify; it earned him something…..should earn him something. It’s a behavior all of his children mirrored and continue to struggle with. And so as the old wound opened up, I went outside and set to planting the rest of the monkey grass.
It only made me cry harder. I bought this monkey grass. Never in the history of my family has anyone BOUGHT monkey grass. Monkey grass was dug up from the edges of the dank, moss covered slate walkway behind my Granny’s house on Tuscaloosa Street in the late 1960’s in Mobile and planted around the Miami house on 200th Street. Some of it was then moved to 152nd Terrace, then out off Silver Palm Drive. Donations were made as house warming presents to our little house in Charleston and then when we moved to Gainesville. My father dug it all up, piling it in black Hefty bags. He knelt beside me in Foxfire Woods, silently separating the grass into individual fibrils, digging troughs and hand troweling the perimeters that now outline all the flower beds at my previous home. I can see his hands, often with a single bleeding scratch on the back of a hand, fileted open by a gentle rap on a shovel handle.
But at this house, the house my sons now call HOME…. this house has nursery purchased monkey grass sans a small donation from my sister’s house. Unbelieveably, my sister’s monkey grass traces its genealogy to my parents home, too. But at this house I’ve bought the grass one tray at a time and I’ve planted it alone.
And tonight I think about my two sons inside doing home work, the older one worried about having upset me. He is a good boy; he will be a good man. I reassured him that this was not his burden or secret to keep and I was glad he had shared it with me. I never want anything or anyone to impair or damage our relationship. And I think of that little cartoon, “I know God loves me because he doesn’t make junk.” And I know this at my core; I have no doubt. I know God loves me. I can’t understand the nature of humans. I can’t make any other person on this planet love me. I can’t expect anyone else to protect me or defend me or assume that because of blood that they are ‘on my side’. I am truly not surprised by this new betrayal. But then I think about God and all his infinite lesson plans and I smile. There is a reason I am planting monkey grass in the dark, weeping. It’s called forgiveness. It’s called letting it all go. I have no control over anything accept my own acts and heart. And I did the right thing by bringing my pain to God and not to any other human on this planet.