The Father's Rage
He came charging through the door and before Sarah knew it, a resounding slap landed on her face.
Her little boy jumped from her lap and hugged her neck in fear. Before she could ask why, she was hit again. When his mistress Maggie came in, Sarah understood. With her hands around her son’s trembling body, she braced for the next blows.
She shook on the bamboo cot and endured the beating until her face felt numbed. Her son’s hands tightened around her neck as he screamed, “Mommeeee… Mommeeee…” Blinded by her tears, she held her son’s head down to protect him from her father’s rage.
The little boy’s screams mingled with the cries of Sarah’s younger brothers and sisters huddled in one corner. Their screams and cries were drowned by the engine roar from the nearby automotive shop. The smell of grease and gasoline made her head spin and she fought for consciousness.
Mother and son clung to each other as the onslaught of blows continued. He swore with every blow. “How dare you call Maggie names! Who are you to talk to her like that? Where is your useless husband?”
Self-pity consumed her. She took the blows helplessly because she lived in the house that he paid for and she ate the food that he provided. She and her son were at his mercy because her husband did not have a permanent job.
“You are useless! You are a burden to this family. Your son is another mouth to feed who will never amount to anything, just like you! You’re nothing!”
That was twenty-six years ago and Sarah was going home.
“Why don’t you let it go? I doubt if he even remembers that incident,” her husband said as the plane took off.
“I could never forgive him for beating me while my son was shaking in my arms.”
“Your son,” her husband grinned, “has grown up and is alright. And you… you have a wonderful husband,” he winked, “and a comfortable life. Success is the best revenge, you know.”
In spite of herself, Sarah could not help but smile at her husband’s antics. She leaned back and closed her eyes. She never heard anything about her father except once.
“Maggie is dead. He’s grieving,” her sister said on the phone.
“What?” her sister asked.
“That’s German for happiness in the misery of others.”
The Fall of the Mighty
The reunion went well until their mother suggested that they visit him. “Your father will be happy to see you all. I’ll stay and take care of the children,” she said.
Still the martyr wife, Sarah thought. Her mother must be the only one who allowed her husband to live with his mistress in comfort while she and her children lived in poverty, making do with whatever he would throw their way.
Sarah vetoed the suggestion but she was promptly outvoted. They drove to a far-flung barrio where their father lived with one of his daughters by Maggie.
“He lives in a hut near Lily’s house,” Emelie explained.
Emelie had always been her father’s favorite. Unlike Sarah, she never gave him a problem when he left their mother. “Why don’t you take him to your house?” Sarah asked her elder sister.
“I tried… but the old man cannot get his pride out of his system.”
It was drizzling when they stopped at a rundown house with a neglected ground. The woman who met them with an umbrella looked like Maggie and Sarah disliked her instantly.
“Ay, I didn’t know you’re coming. I could have prepared…”
“We’ll go see Papa,” Emelie cut her off and opened an umbrella.
Sarah shared her husband’s umbrella and they followed the small procession to a hut a few meters away.
The door was hanging on its hinges. When closer, Sarah noticed they were not hinges but ropes used to secure what looked like a door.
They crowded inside. The floorless shack was muddied and a tin can sat on the bamboo cot catching a drip from the leaking thatched roof. An old man hunched on the dry corner of the bed with a blanket barely covering him.
“Pa…you have visitors,” Lily said and he stirred. He was clearly surprised as he struggled to sit up, pulling his tattered blanket to cover his frail body.
“So how are you?” Emelie asked as she took his hand and placed it on her forehead. Their brothers John and David followed except Sarah who glared at her husband for doing the same.
Lily opened a covered plate on a stool and the smell of dried fish drifted in the air. “Ay, you did not eat your lunch,” she said when she saw the untouched food. “You’re hard-headed. You’ll get sick…”
“Get out! Leave me alone,” he interrupted in a raspy voice.
Lily backed off and muttered, “I’m in the house…”
“Everyday, dried fish…” he murmured. “That’s all they can provide…” his voice trailed.
Sarah knew how hard it was for him. He was a man who always wanted good food on his table. And there was no table, just a stool for his food.
“We brought groceries and food for you,” Emelie said pointing to the bags on the cot.
“There’s no need to bother. I don’t want to burden my children.”
Still the proud and mighty, Sarah thought.
“My goodness!” Emelie sighed. “How can you live like this?” Emelie sat on the bed and shivered. “Your bed is too cold and your mat is in shreds. Your roof is leaking and you are not eating well. And you say there’s no need to bother?”
He did not say anything as he pulled his threadbare blanket closer to him.
“Why don’t you stay in Lily’s house?” John asked. He swore under his breath and said, “This is a dog house… with a leaking roof. Lily’s husband cannot fix that?”
“He is busy in his job.” He looked at John and slowly shook his head, “And I can’t do it anymore.”
“Then you should stay with them in that house,” David said as he looked out.
His voice quivered when he replied. “If I am strong and can work, this will not happen to me. It’s so hard to be helpless.”
“Yes… it’s hard to be helpless,” Sarah said in a cold voice.
Her father turned to Sarah, noticing her for the first time. He stared at her and she stared back. Then she knew he remembered. “This is my punishment,” he said as he dropped his gaze. To their surprise, he cried and his body shook with anguish. “I wish I were dead,” he said between sobs.
Let Go of the Past
They drove in silence until they reached home.
“We have to find somebody to fix that roof,” Sarah blurted as they got off the car.
They turned to her as she continued, “Maybe put some flooring on that hut and a good door.” Sarah saw smiles on their faces.
“That’s a good start,” her husband said as he squeezed her hand.
Yeah, it’s a good start, Sarah thought as she felt a load lifted off her.
“To Forgive is to Set a Prisoner Free and Discover that the Prisoner was You” – Lewis B. Smedes
© 2015 Virgo908