Thanksgiving Year 1 of the Vow
I’m thankful to be alive.
Though I’m not sure what I have in my life to be grateful for… honestly…
I know, I sound so, ungrateful, but a few weeks ago I learned I’m somebody’s dad… like how do you process that?
As I suspected, mother and father question the validity of Celly’s- Caitlin’s story.
Frustrated with them, I packed my bags, and I grabbed Caitlin by the hand and I was talking off prepared to rebel against my parents’ wishes. I kissed reason to the wind, but father was prepared to fight me to wrangle me from not departing.
Knowing my combat skills weren’t a match for father, I decided not to runaway and take off with my ex-lover.
We spent the entire night packing up. All the work I did with Nike down the drain. I went with father and Caitlin went with mother, and we parted ways.
Father took me to the one place on Earth I love to be… Lake Michigan. We have a beach house there we spent every other summer when Levi and I were kids. It was the only place mother and father would bring us. If they were working a huge case, one parent would pause the project and bring us to this Midwest Oasis for 8 weeks of summer bliss. This place made me feel like my family was normal and NOT some supernatural-demon-slayers-from-an-alien-planet!
All we had to do was walk from the back French doors, not a little sandy hill, with patches of tall grass until all the sand took over, and bam, like that, we were on the beach staring out into the lake that looked like the ocean with a vastness hiding the other side.
Levi would charge into the crashing shore waves, fearless to start swimming out as far as he could go before he got tired – and he was only 9 years old with that boldness. Me, I was a chicken afraid a shark would get me no matter how much mother and father said sharks didn’t live in freshwater, I was terrified I was shark bait as soon as I would hit the water. I would stay ashore holding onto mother’s side.
Mother would crouch low and she would turn me to face off with her. She would hold my little hands in hers and she would say, “How about we go in together, and we keep a look out for each other.”
I would say, “No, I’m scared.”
She would say, “It is okay to be scared… Fear can protect us, but do you know why we don’t have to be afraid of sharks in the water?” She would ask.
“Why?” I would ask back.
“Because if one comes mommy will use her super strength to punch it so hard it won’t swim straight ever again.” She would say with spunk. Then she would gesture with her hand like a fish swimming side-to-side and moving in all crazy directions.
For some reason, that would make me laugh.
“But we must never be afraid based on lies,” she would add standing up and taking a hold of my hand. “We must take the truth to heart, and have the courage to face our fear, which most likely is fueled by a lie.” She would explain almost like a chant. Then she would whisper loudly, “Sharks don’t live in freshwater, but if they did, mother would kick their fins!”
A little louder I would say, “Sharks don’t live in freshwater, but if they did, mother would kick their fins!”
Now in a steady gait toward the water, and me racing beside her, we would repeat after each other the same phrase again and again until our sandy feet hit the muddied floor of the foamy waves of the lake. She would shout excitedly and I would shout with trailing laughter and I was convinced if a shark tried to eat me, my mother would protect me.
I think I liked the lake most from my childhood because my parents actually paid attention to me and treated me like a normal kid. Levi still had to train every day before he could play, but they let me do whatever I wanted. While Levi trained with one parent (if they were both around), I was off doing some fun activity with the other.
Father would usually wash his 1966 classic royal blue mustang, and I would watch him. After he was done, I would inspect it to see if he did a good job. Once I sang his praises for a job well done, we would take her out for a drive on the scenic route near the lake. We would make a pit stop at our favorite Ice Cream shop near the beach and we would get a scoop of ice cream we wouldn’t tell mother and Levi about.
I always thought when I got married and I had kids, I would ask mother and father for the beach house or ask for help to buy a place near it and move my family there and raise my kids there.
Father disregarded my sweet memories there and spent every waking moment training me. We started a new training, capture and torture. He literally kidnapped me out of bed, stripped me to my underwear, tied me up, and threw me down in the cellar. For days, I was deprived of food and water.
Why didn’t I use my super strength to break out of my chains?
He cut my hair!
Then every few hours, he came and beat me up.
He waterboarded me. He hung me on a sloping board and covered my nose and my mouth and doused water over my face to make me feel like I was drowning.
Mind you, he never asked me any questions like he was holding an interrogation.
I couldn’t sleep because he would flood the airwaves with obnoxious noises from a stereo.
I lost count of the days, but one day, he came into the cellar, unchained me and said, “Your capture and torture training is complete. You didn’t die. Good.”
I was fuming with anger. How could the LORD let him treat me that way? What purpose did I have to suffer this abuse?
“Why did the LORD direct you to do that to me?” I asked.
“He didn’t, I decided to do that. Trust me, if it ever happens to you, it will be a cake walk.” He said leaving me alone to find the strength to climb up the stairs to get free.
I got to the top of the stairs from the cellar. I stepped out into the freezing cold, grassy backyard and I passed out. When I woke up, my nose was engulfed with the aromas of a Turkey dinner.
I showered. Got dressed. I made my way downstairs to the kitchen.
Mother was cooking sides. Caitlin was helping her. Mother saw me and stopped whisking her bowl of homemade cranberry sauce. She rushed over to me and wrestled me into her embrace. We swayed side to side as she boasted about how much she loved me and that she missed me.
She released from her clutches and ran a hand over my cut, ratty hair.
“You probably won’t be fighting strong until the new year. Congrats on passing your father’s test! I’m proud of you.”
As much as I wanted to share my thoughts out loud, I didn’t. Like father would kill me, I was the only son he had left.
Father was watching football in the living room. I sat far away from him on the recliner while he was sprawled out on the couch.
We ate when dinner was ready. Mother and father spent the whole meal sharing their fondest memories of me here at this lake. A lot I had forgotten about, some were about Levi and for some reason, I thought they were about me…
Caitlin was hard to read. She smiled and responded. She seemed trusting of my mother and the two women definitely had a bond, but I couldn’t feel the emotion she expressed on her face. Then I remembered my hypersensitive empathy could be off, with no hair and all. I had to read the room the old fashioned way.
Now I pen events in my journal because well, it was hard to keep a journal while tied up in a damp, cold, musty, cellar!
Dec. 9th, Year 1 of the Vow
Father and mother sent me to collect Caitlin from the beach.
Though it was freezing and snowing, that girl loved to walk the beach bundled up in a coat and a blanket. She looked like a walking sleeping bag burrito, waddling down the sandy beach, like a human penguin.
Too lazy to climb down the hill, I shouted, “Time to come inside!”
Of course today, would be like the others, and she either didn’t hear me and didn’t want to hear me.
Grudgingly, I involuntarily ran down the hill to jog after her. As usual, my nearness would spook her and she would gasp spinning around to yell at me, “Don’t sneak up on me!”
I expected to turn around and to say my typical line, “Time to go inside.”
But today, she changed the script. As I turned to walk back toward the beach house, and I opened my mouth to say my line, she said something new, “I woke up this morning missing you, Jude.”
Curious by what she meant, I asked her, “What do you mean? I’m right here.”
Her gloved hand reached from my stupidly bare hand and interlocked our fingers, “I missed you, Jude… I know I’m not the Celly you know, but there was a part of Celly that is me, Caitlin.”
Though her warm gloved hand generated warmth to me, I retracted my hand.
Caitlin was not the free spirit Celly was. They looked the same, and shared the same voice, and laughed the same, and yes, were technically the same person, but they were NOT the same person.
I turned and walked back toward the beach house. She continued talking, keeping pace with me.
“I’ve just been thinking… maybe we could try dating for real and see if there is a spark?”
Not even sure how to respond to that, I stopped moving and looked to her, “What?”
“Well, we… share a daughter… and frankly I’m jealous I didn’t grow up like you with two loving parents… if we dated and fell in love, maybe we could get married so when we get our daughter back, we could be a family.”
“If she’s really my daughter, maybe we could consider dating…” I said not sure if I meant what I said.
Nike and I texted every day since after I got out of the cellar. I haven’t told her a thing about Caitlin and the child that was potentially mine. Truthfully, my crush on Nike could be turning into love and I am not going to miss out on true love to be the good guy and to do the right thing.
“No family is perfect and children just need to be properly loved, whether their parents are together or not doesn’t mean a kid can’t turn out alright.” I added.
We got back in the house and we had an unexpected guest, Blaze Samuelson. And he was angry enough to behead a man with his bare hands.
*Edited by Kristen Wenneborg