For the past several days we’ve come to this place called Michigan where my great-grandfather lives. Everyone sits around him and talks. My body is excited about this new place so I run around in circles and squeeze myself behind chairs and dash into rooms I shouldn’t be in and use their bathroom a lot and chew my shirt sleeves and get into the refrigerator. My father gives me my iTouch and I settle down.
Out of the corner of my eye I watch my great-grandfather sitting in his chair. My other cousins are here and everyone is talking to him. Hope sings and plays the piano, and he enjoys it. I may only be eight-going-on-nine but I understand that the reason we’re here is for him. We got on a plane and came all this way for him. Time with him. I understand that he is a part of me. My heart fills to overflowing and I run and jump on his lap. All sixty pounds of me.
There is a collective gasp.
Quickly, several hands are on me, all over, pulling me off his lap. But I want to stay! I want him to wrap his arms around me like my parents do. I want to bounce on his knee. But they try to pull me off, and I fight. I hook my leg around his. I won’t let go. Someone says, “NO.”
I know I’ve done something wrong. I cover my eyes with my arm. It’s what I do when I’m scared or overwhelmed or ashamed. So they can’t see my face.
As they pull me away I hear my mother say, ‘I’ll take her out.’
But I don’t want to leave so I do The Flop.
My mother half-carries/half-drags me to a bench in the corridor.
I’m really upset and confused now, breathing hard.
My mother sits next to me. She speaks softly. She tells me that Great-Grandpa is old. His body is weak, she says, and his heart is very tired. She says I can’t jump on him or sit on his lap.
But I don’t understand.
She kisses my hot cheek, but I won’t uncover my face. She tells me she loves me so much and that I am so smart and kind and good. She says she is so proud of me.
The fire in my body begins to die down. I am safe.
A little later she tries to lead me back into the room, but I resist. I know I’ll just jump on Great-Grandpa again. Besides it’s cool and quiet out here. I want this calm with her.
Then others come out of the room and talk to my mom. My mother starts talking to my aunt about boots and school and House Hunters International. I don’t like it. Sometimes when I’m agitated I don’t want my mom to talk to anyone else.
As my aunt goes back into the room, my frustration explodes in a scream and I grab my mother by the hair and yank her head. I sink my fingers deep into her skin. When she’s finally able to pry me free I have a fistful of her hair in my hand.
She’s used to this. But I can tell by the way she’s breathing and how she’s staring at me that she feels hurt and sad. I know hurt and sad. She takes her broken hair out of my hand. I cover my face with arm. She turns away and whispers, ‘Why?’
With my free hand I slowly fiddle with my iTouch. I love jazz. But there’s this one song I like to play over and over and over on my iTouch. I play it for us now.
“My pockets are empty.
Fear’s such a thief.
You know how that goes
I used to think
You couldn’t love a mess like me
Then You came in so close
As my heart settles
You do the impossible
You change me, You change me
Thank you, Jesus
I can see You change me.” ~Bethany Dillon
I rock forward and back, and I notice Mommy staring at me again.
I love her.
I lean over and smush my face against hers. She smushes back. Always.
I can’t say I know what goes on in Rhema’s head. But I know that many of her actions are motivated by love even though it doesn’t always seem so. Maybe this is how the story above happened from her perspective. Maybe.