New to the site? Start with Part One of the story: Divorce and Departure.
In the days after the worst day, which was Christmas break from school, I met a new family. Nineteen-year-old brother, step-mother, and two really sweet dogs. It was unreal. I lost my mom and walked into a ready-made family of strangers. Everyone acted nice, but I still tried to lay low. I remember making my bed faithfully every morning; I didn’t know what might set my dad off.
Turned out, nothing ever did.
I spent the next five years in my dad’s house, living like a normal teenager. After attending the same junior high school for the rest of 7th grade, then all of 8th and 9th, which was definitely the longest I’d ever been at one school, I went to high school with all my friends. (Honestly, that was really very awesome!) I started going to church and got baptized, and I got some really great discipling that cultivated the seed planted at the time of my salvation so many years earlier. Looking at me, you’d think I was a happy kid with lots of potential. You’d be only half right, though, because I struggled with inner turmoil the entire time and did a whole lot of pretending.
Frankly, I figured out what people wanted. For the most part, I did it. I wasn’t perfect, but I was generally a good kid and still kept laying low. Get good grades, follow the rules, don’t argue much – that’s a pretty safe recipe for teenage success. It works especially well if you just want people to leave you alone so they can’t see what’s really going on inside. (Makes so much more sense to me than the kids who act out and get in trouble all the time; don’t they see how much worse that makes everything?) Even though I was pretty successful in academics and extra-curriculars, and even though I had a solid group of great friends, I battled anger and confusion. I doubt I really need to explain the anger, but I should say that I don’t think I even recognized that it was there at the time. I discovered that years later. Confusion, though – let’s talk about that.
You see, I wouldn’t have been confused if my father had beaten the crap out of me. Or screamed at me constantly. Or anything else that showed the type of malevolence I expected when I first met him. Any of that would have made complete sense, but he didn’t do any of those things.
To compound the problem, I heard a whole new set of explanations and stories that didn’t match what I had known about my early life. I was stuck in the middle, which felt more than unfair, and it was too much for me to handle.