You want to know something weird? I have zero positive Easter memories from growing up. I only remember one Easter when I was 15 years old and it was very negative. I’m 60 years old and I think of it every single Easter that arrives.
My dad battled alcoholism for most of his life. My sisters grew up with him being an active alcoholic but by the time I was seven or eight, I think, my dad started going to Alcoholics Anonymous. I’m not really sure when he was drinking or when he was dry but I do know he always had some type of breath mint or lozenge in his mouth. I didn’t know why then but I suspect I know why now.
My sisters were out of the house by the time I was 9 years old, being 10 and 12 years older than me. I remember growing up with my mother always telling me that if my dad started drinking again we would be leaving him.
When I was 15 years old he did not come home on Easter Weekend. He did not come home Friday night. He did not come home Saturday night. I remember how tense my mother was but she wouldn’t say anything to me about it. I had never witnessed dad going out on a full weekend bender.
When I woke up on Easter Sunday morning my mother was waiting for me and told me to go back into my room and pack some things. She told me that Dad didn’t come home again and said through tears “I won’t live this way again.” Stunned, I did it she asked while my mind was racing with all the normal things that would be racing through a teenager’s mind. What would this mean for me? Would we be moving? What about my friends? What about my sports? Why would he do this?
I remember sitting down at the table to eat breakfast. My plate was the only one on the table instead of the usual two plates, one for Dad and one for me. The tense silence was so thick that it was deafening, if that makes any sense at all. I heard footsteps coming up the back deck and saw panic on my mother’s face. She told me, “go get your things.”
I came out of my room with my bag and saw him standing there in his long London Fog trench coat looking like he’d spent the weekend sleeping on a park bench. The hurt on my mother’s face made me more angry than I think I’ve ever been. With tears rolling down her cheeks she said something to my dad that I couldn’t quite hear and we walked past him and out the door.
I have no idea where we’re going and then when I figured it out I was shocked. We were going to church. Church was the last place I wanted to be. I was mad at my father but I was equally as mad at God for “doing this to me” as though he pushed my dad off the wagon. I remember thinking “this is stupid” while watching my mother trying to sing the traditional Easter hits and everyone being all happy that Jesus rose from the dead. Me? I was thinking, “so what?”
We spent that whole afternoon ruining the pastors’ families Easter at his house. I could hear the adults talking in the other room and could hear my mom crying but I was left sitting on a flower patterned sofa in the other room staring at a TV.
That’s the only Easter I remember. I don’t remember little kid Easter egg hunts. I don’t remember Easter baskets. I remember nothing except for that nightmare.
I don’t know what happened but now I’m sure our church played a role in my parents patching things up and my dad getting back to battling for sobriety again. I spent almost two years not all that interested in God. I played the church game, did the youth group thing. As far as I was concerned, church stuff was all about the social. I pretended to buy in pretty well.
Now I am a pastor and our Super Bowl Sunday is Easter Sunday. Churches work like crazy to make everything bigger and better trying to compete for the people who come once a year. That has never appealed to me but I do feel the Easter pressure that every pastor feels.
I wonder if part of my non-celebratory attitude is linked at all to that Sunday when I was 15? If I wasn’t the pastor I think I might avoid church on Easter even though I love Jesus and love the community I have in my church. I’d definitely go other weeks though. I love church and celebrating the risen Christ. It’s just Easter Sunday that I have to push through.
This week I asked why all these trauma memories that have nothing to do with my cancer diagnosis or transplant PTSD are bubbling to the top. Apparently I am mentally vulnerable right now so the negatives are rising to the surface.
Am I doing more harm than good? Am I opening up a can that should stay closed? She assures me I am not and says I am doing well at taking steps toward mental health by processing things I’ve pushed aside.
I’m not totally sure I buy that yet but I can see that I’m at least gaining understanding
Memories are good. God does bring us back… only to heal xxx
Childhood traumas seem to be the hardest to get through as adults. Praying, and ‘misting.’
I never knew this and glad you shared. As you mentioned sis and I have that multiplied by many holidays and moments. Facing and understanding where our fears, anger and resentment come from is healing. As children we only see our parents , not as people handling their past, their struggles of day to day. When we become adults we hopefully can start to relate. Even after their passing I realize daily what heroes they where admits their own hurt to give what they did.
I can’t imagine the pain that this memory brings. It took so much courage for you to share it. Billie was so supportive and helpful to me when I told her I was married to an alcoholic not knowing she was as well. It is a terrible disease that effects the whole family. May our Lord continue to be very close to you and guide you through this process.