Once upon a time a baby girl was born in International Falls, MN. It was the middle of winter and a fierce blizzard raged. The baby’s daddy delivered the child afterwards putting her in front of an oven door. He would forever talk about the event as if he’d won the war single handedly. The war, World War II would beckon to him two years later as he donned a Marine Corp uniform and was soon stationed in the Hawaiian Islands. The little girl he left behind remembered vividly the day he left. She thought her heart would break as she saw him standing in front of him with his duffle bag and then bent to swoop her in his arms and tell her goodbye. The happiest day of her life was when he came home. Her mama and her sister and two brothers waited in Bovey, MN along with her grandparents. They were all laying on blankets on the front lawn going through the day’s mail when she spotted him. He appeared on the rise, carrying the duffle bag and she ran as fast as her little legs could carry her to wrap her arms around him and when he picked her up and held her tight she thought the broken heart he had left her with was now forever mended.
During the next few years this little girl and her family traveled all over the Midwest following her father’s work. They were such a happy Catholic family. When she was eleven they finally settled down for good in a little town in Nebraska. There she made many close friends; there she hiked in the woods, in the summer swam in the Beaver River and in the winter ice skated on it. The little town was 97% Catholic and to the little girl it was 100% joy, especially a place called Rae Creek home to hundreds of robins who serenaded her as she hiked. There she began writing poetry as she sat on the arm of her favorite oak tree. Her favorite contained a stanza she would rap her arms around a hundred times in the next few decades.
Wherever I go in the years to come,
Whenever my heart is tired and sad,
I’ll think of life in this hidden world,
And long for the moments that once I had.
After graduating from 8th grade our little girl told her father that after much thought she wanted to go into the convent and become a nun. It was all she wanted to do with her life and she knew her father, avid Catholic that he was, would be overjoyed about the decision. For the first time in her young life she heard her father bellow at her with rage. No, she would not go into the convent. She hurried out to Rae Creek and sobbed her disappointment.
A few months later as she slept with her rosary under her pillow, someone came into her bedroom. As she screamed and screamed for help they raped her. Finally, her mother, a heavy sleeper came into the room and wrapped her arms around our sobbing young girl telling her she had only had a nightmare. Our young lady experienced that “nightmare” time and again, each time more horrifying. The only place that brought her peace was Rae Creek. It became her sanctuary. Once she crossed the fence, hiked through the thick woods and headed for the creek she knew she was safe. But she no longer heard the robins sing. Large parts of her memory began to disappear. She picked wildflowers and put them on the Virgin Mary altar in church. She knelt in front of the Mother of God and begged her to help me even though she had no idea why it was she needed help. Her happy Catholic family was gone and her beloved father had disappeared. In his stead was a terrifying figure who pulled her strings as she became a broken marionette, dancing to his demands. Her mother was gone too, replaced by a woman who had her father beat her for what was going on in that happy Catholic family. It had become a war zone, a camp of mutilated and injured soldiers from some obsolete war, indescribable in its agony. All the figures were shadowy and disoriented, as if only half alive and that half living in a well of misery. They moved in and out of their days appearing to wait for some catastrophic happening, all of them knowing that once it did, they were ill prepared to handle it.
After her sophomore year her family moved to the Los Angeles area. She sobbed as they drove. They were taking her away from Rae Creek, her sanctuary.
When she was 18 she ran away from home after a beating from her father that almost killed her. For the next 27 years she went from one abuser to another. Eventually she went for a visit to the small town that she still loved and missed so. She hiked out to her sanctuary, Rae Creek, but it was gone. The elm trees had been taken by a disease and a tornado wiped out the rest. With no shade to protect it Rae Creek dried up and was now only a muddy rut. She grieved deeply feeling inside that she, like her sanctuary, had been ripped apart after two nervous breakdowns, numerous suicide attempts and years of sexual addiction and codependency.
At the age of 45 she entered a program of recovery that she would later call Repair. After almost five years she rid herself of her latest abuser and filed for a divorce. Now she was the happiest person she knew. She traveled to Nebraska and hiked out to Rae Creek. It had come alive again, the trees had grown back, the creek now babbled happily among the greenery and the wild flowers. As she had done, Rae Creek had healed and returned to that which it once was. Today the robins had returned to her sanctuary.
Happy Father’s Day dad.