Bitter Fruit

My parents taught me nothing about mercy. Nothing about grace, or compassion, or forgiveness. They took the lemons life hands to all of us and pelted them at each other. Their aim was accurate and deadly. Mean drunks, both of them,

they never found a fundamental balance, a place to meet, an agreeable understanding. All the pain they couldn’t swallow, the bitter lemons, never made lemonade.

It’s not easy, being responsible for your children. Even if you’re sober. They watch your every move, and if your words don’t line up with your reality, they’ll be the first to notice. My parents taught me little about truth. Their truth was never trustworthy. Go outside and play and I’ll take you to the zoo. There was no zoo, yet I fell for it. Why would a father lie?

I’ll put the check in the mailbox, for your aunt and uncle. No check. My aunt would cluck and shake her head and I was just a little bit ridiculous for believing him but why would a father lie?

We have made mistakes, for surely, but we’ve always been honest parents. No hidden agenda, no subterfuge. If we think we can, yes. If we think we can’t, no. Simple, not always easy. All I ever wanted was the truth. Why is your mother wearing sunglasses? Don’t say, to hide her black eye. Don’t say, my dad got mad and slugged her. Don’t say much of anything. To anyone. Just keep it to yourself, it’s no one’s business.

That much is true. It’s no one’s business. But you can only keep so many secrets before the dam bursts, and it gets ugly. The people who tell you to be nice, to smile and act pretty? I started to wonder if they cared about the lemons in my backpack. Heavier each year and where to dump them, how to be free of the useless weight of them. Even the smell of them, sickening.

My parents taught me this, though, that I didn’t want to live like that. That was a blessing. It’s surely what I love about Jesus. He never fidgeted and hedged about reality. He called it as He saw it and He always saw it true, and said so. I wish I had been brave enough to “Cling to the rock” when I was younger, but I didn’t know how to do that. I didn’t know what that meant. Like a father loves a daughter didn’t translate into strength (I’m sure my father loved me. My mother? Only she would know).

Mothering has taught me so much about compassion. Judge not, lest ye be judged, makes infinite sense to me, now. We are all struggling with some burden in some sack, some heavier than others, dragging it until the sheer weight of it makes us finally let it go. Be free of what holds you, riveted. Be willing to let it go. Leave all your lemons and walk away lighter.

LBM 9/20/2022

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Lori McCray

Photographer, Poet, Musician, Mother, Mystic, Gardener, friend of wild creatures, swan whisperer. Find me on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wingthing/