Knowing Sorrow

It had been five years since she’d seen Daddy.

For the first year, she’d watched the mailbox every day, always hopeful for an envelope addressed to her in his distinctive all-caps lettering. Sometimes she’d get a birthday or Valentine’s Day card. Sometimes a teddy bear. Those were happy days, the days when she got a card or package from him.

“I love you, Sunshine,” the cards would say. Happy birthday. Merry Christmas. Where was he every other day of the year?

Sometimes, when she felt like crying, she’d pull out all her cards and letters and look through them all at once. Late at night, by the glow of a little Victorian desk lamp, she’d sit in the middle of her bed, lean against the wall behind her, and open the Ziploc baggy of words Daddy had written.

I miss you so much.

I can’t wait to see you again.

I love you and think of you every day.

Why didn’t Daddy answer her letters? Why didn’t he answer the phone when she called? It had been six months, two years, three years, four. Where was Daddy?

Letters from Grandma: “Dear love, at least no one has cancer. Cancer would be worse. At least this way we’re all alive, all healthy.” Something inside her screamed that she’d rather die than watch her family betraying itself from the inside out.

Fourteen years old, Christmas Eve. Late. It had been almost two years since she’d heard from Daddy.

Christmas lights sparkled through the window, shining from the neighbors’ homes. Fourteen years old, she knew sorrow. No birthday card from Daddy this year, no Christmas note. She hadn’t sent one to him. It hurt more to reach out and get nothing back than not to reach out at all.

She sat in the middle of her bed, again surrounded by words and promises of years past. She put a Bible on her lap, but she couldn’t read the words. In the dim light of her lamp, she could see the words written in those familiar all-caps letters and she knew what it meant to hurt.

Past sobs, past words, she bowed her head and watched as tearstains wrinkled the pages of the Psalms she’d been trying to read. Sparkling lights, silent tears, years of a sorrow older than she should have known. It would be a long night.

Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord.

–Psalm 27:13-14

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