“The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished. He punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generations.”
“I listen to his whisper, embedded deep within my skin, he calls to me. I wretch with badness, the smell of it wafts, and pulls him in, to take me. I deserve this. I must.”
My Thoughts, Tess’s Journal
Sprawled across several acres on a plain just miles from the Western mountains in Colorado was the honey bee farm my great-grandfather had. Monte Vista was a small, practical town, and it had been my father’s home growing up, as his grandparents raised him after his own mother abandoned him and his twelve siblings one cold Colorado night in their youth.
It held mysteries I hadn’t discovered, and would never come to fully know. The lives of mothers dying with their babies in their arms, and marriages taking over for the sake of raising lost children. My father, the eldest of the twelve, did the best he could to survive the odds against him and his siblings. The best, which was often times, just to remain in the silence of it all.
“Why can’t you just wait Michael? I’d go with you, if you’d just wait. I can’t take Kelsey right now, she’s too little!” My mom yelled at my dad while she nursed my new little sister, nine years younger than me, on the old orange and brown couch we’d had since I was born.
My dad paced back and forth, talking but not looking at my mother, “We can go again in a couple of months, all of us, but I need to get out there Leah.”
She didn’t say anything back to him. I’d come to notice who always had the last word. My mom could yell the loudest, but my father could win the fight with just one single word. Why didn’t she ever stand up for herself? Agitating. Am I supposed to be annoyed at my own mother? Kelsey started fussing, and it ended their discussion.
That night we packed our bags, Christie and I, to go with our father the following day up the long mountain trail from Colorado Springs to Monte Vista, in the Sangre De Cristo mountains of the very small town where I too had been born just eleven years before. Climbing into the Land Cruiser just after day broke, I began my questioning, “So, you grew up with Grandmother, right?”
“Yes,” Was all he said.
“Well, so where is your mom?”
He pauses, “Don’t know.”
“What do you mean you don’t know?”
Gripping the wheel, his knuckles turn white, “She left a long time ago Tess.”
“She left to go where?”
“She just left Tess.”
“Well, when exactly – and why don’t you know why?” I couldn’t stop. It seemed completely unrealistic to me that my own father wouldn’t have answers to my questions about my grandmother.
“She left when I as about thirteen, and I don’t know why.”
“Well, why don’t you try to find her?”
“Why are you asking me all these questions?” His voice is getting dark.
“I just want to know.” I am quieter now.
“Well, you don’t need to know. It’s not important.”
I try one last time, “I think it is.”
He takes a deep breath and suddenly pulls off to the side of the road. We are on a ledge of a mountain valley and the sun is setting through the pine trees, “Get out,” he motions to me.
Opening the door, he comes around the side and without saying anything I assume to follow him up the mountain. I hiked up behind a way when he stopped and sat down. I try to sit next to him, but my feet don’t stick and I slip. Grabbing my arm, he helps me, “Just grind the heels of your shoes in like this, “He says and shows me with his own feet.
Christie hollers out the window, “Are ya comin’ back?” My dad’s voice is deep as it falls down to the highway below, “Just stay in the car, we’ll be down in a second.”
My father points out ahead, “Tell me what you see.”
I follow his hand and look out into the huge pine tress littering the sides of the mountain across from us. I see the sun coming through them, and watch their branches sway in the breeze.
“I see trees and the sun,” I say, immediately feeling very small.
He let his arm drop down to his knees, “Do you want to know what I see?”
I nod my head.
“I see God. I see Him rocking the land he so loves to sleep by the power of His voice, as He tucks the sun down beyond the earth. I see Him hoping that I notice.”
I look again at what I thought were just trees and sun, and I see it. I don’t see the sun, but see the rays softly chilling through the tress. I don’t see the trees, but see instead the dance they perform to their great Creator’s lullaby.
“Tess, if you ever hear anything I ever say, I want you to hear this.” He says.
I wait. His voice is soft and still, and I lose my father for just a moment to hear a man let loose his soul. I expect him to tell me some great secret, but he is silent. I stop noticing the world around me and get anxious for him to speak.
“Do you hear it?” He asks me.
I close my eyes and clear my head, and for just a quick second I almost think I do. If I had known up on the mountain side what would happen to me in the days to come, I would never have gone back down. I would have believed in the God my father saw, though naive and curious, at least I would have believed in something.
But I didn’t know what waited for me at Grandmother’s house. I didn’t know that my Uncle would steal into my bed that very night and try to rape me. I did not know that I would close my eyes and freeze my soul just long enough to come back here, to this mountain side, to notice God.
But we left the mountain side. We went to Grandmother’s. I fought my Uncle into the night and though I won; the battle scars would never heal.
We left Grandmother’s and drove back to the mountain side. When I asked, “Dad, can we stop again and climb up?” He simply whispered, “No time today Tess.”
So I watched God from the rear view mirror. Wondering, as I would for years to come why I had to take the time to notice Him when He’d forgotten to notice me.