|Biographical Non-Fiction posted March 11, 2009||Chapters:||...43 44 -45- 46...|
Valerie's father dies. She attends the wake.
A chapter in the book A Leaf on the Wind
The author has placed a warning on this post for language.
Sexually abused as a child, Valerie sufferes from severe pshycological damaage from the abuse. Her adult life is a mess. She is separated from her husband and trying to rase two small children on he
"If you look inside a girl’s heart, you’d see how much she really cries. You’ll find hidden secrets, best friends, and lies. But what you’ll see the most is how hard it is to stay strong when nothing’s right, everything’s wrong."
It had been another difficult night. I hadn't slept well and I woke with a terrible headache. Although I wanted to stay home, I didn't dare. I already missed two days of work that week. I called work and told them I would be coming in late.
After getting the girls off to school, I gulped down a quick cup of coffee, took a single bite of my toast, and then raced out the door.
I sat down at my desk feeling the throbbing pain in my head grow with every passing second. I opened my purse, took out a large bottle of aspirin and swallowed a handful of pills. Suddenly the phone rang, snapping me out of the foggy haze between simple headache and full-blown migraine.
It was Teresa. I hadn't spoken to her in more than two years, and was surprised to hear her voice.
"Valerie, I have some bad news,” she lamented. “Daddy died last night."
I heard the words but I felt nothing. I knew I should say something profound, but I couldn't think of anything. Teresa told me the funeral would be on Friday. I thanked her for calling, said goodbye and quickly hung up the phone.
Despite feeling no emotion whatsoever, I used my father's death as an excuse to ask for the rest of the week off from work. By the time I got home, my head was about to explode. I unplugged the phone and went straight to bed. However, sleep eluded me.
When the girls arrived home from school, I told them about their grandfather’s death. Neither Tina nor Sarah knew him so, while sympathetic, their response was unemotional.
Over the next two days, I struggled over whether or not to go to the funeral. I knew everyone would expect me to make a scene, and to be honest, I wasn't sure I could keep my composure watching everyone cry over the son-of-a-bitch. I knew Auntie Bea would be there and I had no doubt she would insist on speaking. She would go on and on about what a wonderful husband, father, and brother he had been. She wouldn't miss an opportunity to tell everyone how sad it was that Daddy was prevented from following his dream of becoming a Catholic Priest.
I had heard the story a hundred times. According to her, my father gave up his life long ambition when he learned that my mother was pregnant with my sister Diane. However, the truth was, Daddy hated the church. He hadn't set foot in one since he was twelve-years-old. Once, I asked him why he stopped going to church, but he refused to tell me.
When Friday finally arrived, I sat at the kitchen table drinking a cup of coffee. Teresa called a few hours earlier and when I told her I still didn't know if I was going to the funeral, she criticized me for not finding it in my heart to forgive Daddy.
"I know Daddy made mistakes, but that does not give you the right to treat him so badly,” Teresa complained.
“Whatever he did is in the past. It is over and done with. Why can't you move on like the rest of us?"
I thanked her for calling and hung up the phone. Teresa's sarcastic tone helped me make up my mind. I would not go to the funeral but wild horses couldn't keep me from the wake.
I arrived at Teresa's before everyone else. As usual, the door was unlocked and I went inside. Teresa's kitchen looked like a liquor store. Along with six cases of beer, several cases of 7-UP, Coke, Sprite, and Root Beer were neatly stacked on the floor, there were also several dozen bottles of whiskey, vodka, rum and cognac on the counter. The dining room table was covered with enough food to feed the entire Murphy clan for a week.
I made myself a drink and, standing alone in Teresa's big empty house, I quietly enjoyed the calm before the storm. I heard a car pull into the driveway and when I looked out the window, I could see a long line of cars pulling in behind Teresa's shiny new bronze Mercedes. I took a deep breath, counted to ten, and quickly rushed into the kitchen to fix myself another drink. Filled with panic and cursing myself for thinking it was a good idea to come to the wake, I ran up the stairs and hid on the landing.
I heard the front door open and a familiar voice called out my name. It was Margaret, the niece of Daddy's best friend.
"Valerie! Where the hell are you? I want to talk to you right now!"
Margaret was an odd character. Originally, from Ireland, her accent was so strong it was often difficult to understand what she was saying. She adored my father. To her, he was a saint. Margaret was definitely not someone I wanted to talk with.
Suddenly, Margaret was standing on the landing in front of me with her hands on her hips and glaring up at me with an angry expression on her face said, "Why the hell didn't you go to yer da's funeral?"
I tried to remain calm and simply said, "I really don't think this is the time to talk about it."
Undeterred, Margaret rushed up the stairs, grabbed hold of my arm, and said, "I am not leaving till you tell me why you were not there. He was yer da fer Christ sake!"
I could feel the anger inside me grow. Who was she to question my reasons for staying away? Margaret was an outsider. She knew nothing about me, or our family's carefully hidden secrets.
"Margaret, unless you are prepared to hear the truth, I suggest you do the smart thing and walk away right now," I explained in the calmest voice I could muster.
She let go of my arm and began poking her finger into my chest.
"I'm not go'n anywhere til I get a straight answer from you."
Margaret glared at me with eyes glowing with red-hot anger. Daddy was like an uncle to her. She wanted me to apologize for not showing him more respect. She stomped her foot and yelled at me.
"You are a nothing more then a selfish bitch! Always thinking of yer self!"
I took a step toward her and in a surprisingly composed voice said,
"Okay. I will tell you why I stayed away, then I want you to walk away, and never, ever speak to me again. Do I make myself clear?"
"Daddy raped me when I was seven years old and continued to molest me until I was a teenager,” I snarled.
“Everyone in the family knew what he was doing but did nothing. So you can take your pompous, arrogant attitude and get the hell out of my fucking face right now!"
Margaret's face turned white. Her expression immediately changed from anger to disbelief. Not wishing to pursue the conversation any further, I gently pushed her aside and went downstairs to greet my family.
Auntie Bea and Auntie Miriam were standing at the dinning room table. They were laughing and joking. They didn't appear particularly sad. I glanced around the room looking for Mom. She was sitting alone in the living room. When our eyes met, I saw a glimpse of sadness that quickly turned into anger. Mom got up and walked toward me. She grabbed me by the arm and gruffly ushered me into the kitchen where Teresa was waiting. Mom closed the door and, after pushing me into a corner, began yelling at me.
"I can't believe you had the guts to show up here!" Mom screamed.
Shocked by her sudden outburst and unable to move I snapped back. "I have as much right to be here as anyone."
Mom had obviously been drinking. I could smell the whiskey on her breath. Not wanting to get into a shouting match, I tried to leave but by now, Mary and Denise had come into the room blocking my escape.
Teresa put her arms around Mom to comfort her. Mary glared at me, and in a voice filled with pure hatred said, "You are not wanted here. Why don't you just leave?"
I wasn't intimidated. Instead, I was filled with a strange sense of power. They were not angry with me; they were afraid I was going to make a scene and tell everyone about Daddy. I stood up straight and smiled at the four of them.
"I'll leave when I am damn good and ready."
Just then, the door opened and Auntie Miriam entered the room.
She walked over to me and put her arms around me. As she hugged me, I could feel her entire body tremble. In a soft voice only meant for me to hear, she whispered, "I am so sorry I ignored you when you asked me for help. Will you ever forgive me?"
Her words stunned me. I didn't know what to say. She took hold of my arm and led me out of the room and up the stairs to Teresa's bedroom. We sat down on the bed and after several long minutes of silence, Auntie Miriam finally spoke.
"Valerie, years ago when you called me about your father, I was wrong to get angry and call you a liar,” she confessed.
“I was wrong because I knew you were telling the truth."
I felt tears well up in my eyes as she spoke. I didn't know whether to feel anger over her years of silence, or relief finally hearing her tell me they knew I was telling the truth.
"Why did you get so angry with me? Why didn't you do something to make him stop?"
Auntie Miriam bowed her head and shrugged her shoulders.
"I was a coward. I was afraid you would hate me if I told you the truth."
Her voice began to shake, making it difficult to understand what she was saying. I took hold of her hand and gently stroked it.
"There is nothing you could say to me that would make me hate you," I assured her.
She took a deep breath and looked at me with eyes filled with sadness.
"Don't be so sure."
I wanted to tell her it was okay, that she didn't have to tell me anything, but she had opened the door, and there was no way I was going to close it without hearing what she had to say.
Again, I tried to reassure her.
"No matter what you say, I promise I will not hate you."
Auntie Miriam stammered and stuttered, obviously trying to find the courage to say what she had to say. It was absolute agony watching her search for the right words. However, once she started to speak, there was no stopping her.
Earned A Seal Of Quality
Auntie Miriam was Daddy's younger sister. When she married nearly 45 years earlier, she moved to Montreal with her husband. She seldom visited my father, Auntie Bea, or my Untle Terry who had died of lung cancer several years earlier. When I was 10 or 11 I called her and wrote her several letters. She never answered my letters but became so angry when I told her about Daddy, she called me a liar and hung up on me. The funeral was the first time I had seen or spoken to her since.Pays one point and 2 member cents.
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