The Sequel to “The Tipping Point of Sorrow”
I was there.
It was a windy, clear night. I sat on the bed and brushed tear dampened hair from Michelle’s face and tucked it behind her ear. I had just overheard that our father had gotten my fifteen-year-old sister pregnant. “I envy her dark wavy hair,” I thought contemplatively as I lifted strands away from her neck needing to touch her, offer her comfort. I ached for this grief-ridden girl/child, with a profoundness that closed my throat.
Michelle was twelve when she came into my life. She was the oldest of six siblings the state took away from their mother. I was four, almost five. It would be years before I stopped asking the question, “Why?” and began asking a more useful one … “What next?”
Why was this beautiful, sad, now pregnant girl unlucky enough to have been adopted into our family? Why had any of them, Michelle or two of her birth siblings?
I remember a sunny day, visiting the Richardsons. I remember ragamuffin kids from the neighborhood joining in our game of tag. I remember three older girls, hanging out under a shade tree in the heat of that Indiana day. Don and Dolores, Mom and Dad’s friends from graduate school, sat with my parents visiting quietly on the porch. It was that day they discussed adopting those six kids, and began planning how to keep the family as intact as possible.
In the negotiations about how to do so, Mom and Dad suggested they take the two younger ones, a four and three year old, since I was that age. The Richardsons suggested the next closer sister, Joannie, and they would take the older three. Split ages down the middle. But Dad wanted Michelle. He argued that Michelle, being older, would be a great help to Mom, with the younger brood. They would live within driving distance when finished with graduate school so the birth siblings could remain close.
Maybe it was a good idea, adopting six kids between them. Mom and Dad were twenty-five. Maybe in one’s mid-twenties anything seems possible. I’ll bet it did for Mom, whose rose-colored glasses had yet to be shed. Having Michelle to help with the little ones (including me, a handful) probably seemed like a good idea to her.
It rocked my world. Hers too, as it turns out.
When I called the game on my Dad, I knew, in the deepest part of my heart, truth. I-was-there truth. Truth telling became the bedrock of my life and mission. I became fiercely protective of truth, willing to risk everything I had, except my children.
Dick told me, after I blew the whistle, that Dad – when confronted – confessed that Michelle seduced him once, and said how unfortunate it was that it resulted in a pregnancy. It broke my heart then, and infuriates me now. He began molesting her immediately following their inclusion in our family – at twelve. And, as you know if you have read “The Tipping Point of Sorrow” Dick intended to, and has now made contact with, incest’s child.
Yes, I was there, and was right about my bedrock truth.
But, I was also wrong.
The other kind of truth is malleable truth, told by those corrupt enough to take a kernel of truth, then bend and mold it to serve their purpose. That’s the kind of truth my parents told. They took truth and bent it unrecognizable, then tried very hard to mold us around those mangled stories. They did it about Michelle, and they did it about me. They were adept, canny and thorough. And Dick is doing the same thing to incest’s child.
Of course, there are many dexterous tellers of malleable truth. Think of Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” Or, the shambles of our political scene at the moment, rife with malleable truth. Or Harvey Weinstein, whose abuse of power and malleable truth is epic. Or, Kevin Spacey – the list goes on… (#metoo #StandForTruth #UnleashYourPower.)
Back to me being both right and wrong. I built up a huge body of emotion about how this newly found child of incest would be blown away. I contacted Michelle and brought back a horror she’d endured decades ago, in order to protect her. My motives were pure. But, they say that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result – or, in this case, assuming truth would be told, when historically truth about and within my family was the malleable kind. How utterly naïve of me.
My emotions envisioned circles rippling from the rock dropped at incest’s child’s door, widening to encompass the rest of us. Instead, they first pulsed to Carly, then to me, then to Michelle, and outward to extended family. Dick controlled the information given this woman, and perpetuated my parents’ lie.
It was the lightning bolt of memory that tore through me the day I saw my father playing “Tiger” with my children, that seared away malleable truth, to core clarity. (“Tiger” was a prelude, in my childhood, to molestation.) It was then I began speaking truth out loud, and untangled my family’s labyrinthine storyline.
So, what now?
I have faith in truth telling. I have hope for all who do. I love and am loved in return. And – I will keep on keeping on.