All I have to do is take one look at her and I know that I am loved.
Part VI: Lemuel
Lemuel’s eyes are fixed on the broken sky. His big sister Cassie is planning to sneak out again tonight. This will be the fifth night in a row. Lemuel is not a snitch, but he’s been itching to get Cassie into trouble since she ratted him out for eating the last thin crust pizza, their Mom’s favorite. This behavior is not what he expects from Cassie, she’s never jumped ship on a “babysitting” gig before. Although Lemuel was thirteen and could practically fend for himself, he was blind. Their parents depended on Cassie to make sure Lemuel’s well-being was positively maintained.
“I’ll be back. I put some leftover barbecue chicken in the oven for you. The timer is set for thirty minutes. I’ve heated up the mashed potatoes and the spinach only needs two minutes in the microwave. Don’t forget to take the aluminum cover off this time, Lemuel. For God’s sake, just don’t.”
Lemuel nodded in his sister’s direction and did not utter a word. The timer dinged, signifying the sweet morsels of honey-glazed barbecue chicken and Lemuel skirted his way into the kitchen. In the dark, dank, confines of the tiny space, he could hear soft whispers,
“Tattletales go to Hell.”
Lemuel ignored the whispers, surely he needed rest. He devoured his dinner, remembering to remove the aluminum cover on the spinach. Before he could swallow the last bite, he heard the chant once more. This time, it filled the walls and filled the cracks in the floor. Lemuel’s parents came barging in the door, one after the other. Lemuel couldn’t wait to let them know about Cassie leaving every night this week when she was supposed to be overseeing his care.
The voices grew louder and louder. Lemuel’s parents gazed at the boy, finally believing his days were numbered. “Cassie isn’t here. I don’t know where she is. And, she’s been leaving every night this week.” He felt a sense of pride revealing his sister’s secret.
“Tattletales go to Hell.”
Lemuel pointed to nowhere in particular as the voices grew louder and louder. He smiled in his parents’ direction and bit down lightly on his tongue before opening his mouth.
“Cassie, she’s been…”
Thunder roared, the floor in their kitchen shook, and hands erupted from beneath Lemuel and his legs were the first to disappear. The souls pulled Lemuel under while his parents watched him sink in a fiery heap.
At that very moment, Cassie walked in. The only thing she could think to say was,
“Tattletales go to Hell.”
I think about how crazy my upbringing was sometimes and there are bits and pieces that stir me up in ways that I cannot clearly understand or explain.
I am a child of divorce.
A further description: I am the eldest child from a divorced parents home who remembers so much more than her siblings and who has a lot more good memories of her Father to hold on to than her siblings as well, except her youngest, which is her sister.
To be frank, I am head over heels about my kid sister. There is nothing (within my power) that I would not do for her. Being nineteen years older than someone gives you such a distinct perspective on life when there’s a need to share experiences and my kid sister comes loaded with questions. She’s an intensely intelligent young lady and I am not surprised by this. Often the saying in our family to her is, “You are so much like Tre.” Or different variations of that phrase and I want to shout to everyone telling her this to stop!
While I’m appreciative of their comparison, I see the dismay and feel the worry from my sister as she struggles to make a name for herself. I am so proud of her. I do not know what it feels like to have a Father raise his daughter beyond twelve years. That connection has to be an intense one and my sister has that. She has had our Father since her birth and at the age of nineteen, he is still very involved in her life. My Father and I only recently began renewing a bond that fell from its pedestal when I was still in grade school and it is awkward, but we are both growing within this process.
Last year, my sister entered a University in close proximity to Atlanta, GA. The kid has a full ride, Presidential Scholarship and is excelling in every way possible. Again, I am not surprised. From the moment she began speaking, I could tell that she was going to press on in life in a way that could be considered unstoppable. I did not/ do not worry about her. Not in that realm. I had/have other concerns about her growth, like first heartbreak and how will she heal from that? But, those bridges have not yet formed, so we cannot cross them.
What sparked this post? Our Father’s worry over her entering school for a higher education four hours away from them. Not within his immediate reach. My kid sister was sheltered. Someone’s eyes was always on her. I grew up quite independent and left for college at eighteen, worked full time, and never returned home. I have been out of school for fifteen years, however, last year, when my sister was beginning to make her path into an unknown world, my Father called me up frantic and nearly in tears.
“Tre! Hey. Hey. Can I talk to you? Will you tell me about your college experience?” The question came as an instant gut-punch to me. I thought, “Now, you wanna know about my college experience?! You mean, the one you had no hand in, the one I struggled with, the one in which I worked full time and had classes full time, busted my face too many times to count regarding love because I had no MALE figure to point me in the right direction, the college experience that left me with debt after a lost scholarship?! THAT COLLEGE EXPERIENCE!” I thought these things, but I did not say them. I am good at pushing my feelings to the side in order to cater to someone else’s and I could tell my Father was hurting. The one child he truly raised was beginning to leave the nest. It wasn’t a time for me to break fool on him.
But, I did so after our phone call. I cried. I thought about the many years I spent time giving myself to boys, men, girls, women, searching for that love I did not have from my Father, and I just broke down. I screamed. I shouted. And then, I thought about something my Father said before we ended the call and it helped me put things into a better perspective. “You were always so independent. You did everything fast; walked, talked, learned, and became an adult before your time. I did not have to worry about you. You had it altogether. I worry about your sister. She’s not like you in that aspect, baby. ”
I knew what he was trying to say, but it didn’t make me feel any more loved. It actually made me feel like he had an idea of who I was but did not know I had to be who I was because of what I did not have, a Father. Parents do not know what they do to their children unless they’re told. They do not see us when our pain is most visible. In that moment of my breakdown, I felt second best. I felt as though my life was no longer a concern, I am grown, there’s nothing more to my growth that can be watered on me to help me grow even stronger, and I did not like that feeling.
I have yet to tell my Father how his asking about my educational life so many years after it has taken place makes me feel and I doubt that I will. When you have voiced your opinion on so many things with one person and you get reactions that are often wrought with accusations and finger-pointing, you learn to just be quiet and accept it for what it is. It is a part of life that keeps me on my toes. Truthfully, I have to be.
There will come a day when my sister will ask me of my college experience and I will tell her all that she wants to know. But, that day isn’t here yet. But, I will be ready when it arrives.