Daddy did more than stay sober my eighth-grade year. He also went to church, and he went without missing a Sunday. To an outsider, sobriety and religion may look like a blissful combination. To me–an insider–it was anything but.
Words erupting from my father’s mouth in volcanic rage each inch of the mile to church were the same trash that spewed out when he was drunk. Not only was I frozen in familiar fear, I was confused. Why was he being Mr. Hyde? Daddy was sober. Why wasn’t he Dr. Jekyll?
Halfway through that year, one thing changed. A baby boy usurped my two-year-old sister’s space on Mama’s lap. My three other brothers and I still sat stony silent in the back seat while Daddy’s loud curses blanketed the newborn too.
And thus our family went to church Sunday morning after Sunday morning until my father received a pin acclaiming perfect Sunday school attendance. He seemed eerily glad when he stated, “I’m not going back. They’re a bunch of hypocrites.”
From that point on, my father attended church occasionally. His drunken sprees outnumbered those. There was one redeeming event, however, in that sober year.
It was when my mother was going to give birth to my fourth brother. She stood stoically at the stair landing, ready for Daddy to take her to the hospital. All of a sudden, she shrieked. My father rushed across the room, reached his arms around her, and moaned, “Ohhhh, does it hurt?”
That was the first time I saw Daddy embrace Mama or show her a hint of affection. His flickering tender moment for my mother has never gone out in my heart.
How true is the proverb: “The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy” (Proverbs 14:10 ESV)!
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