I was 14 years old. It was a day before my first day in high school. My parents were acting weird. My dad quiet. My mom distant and holding back tears. My parents certainly had their share of arguments over the years and had been together since they were 14. My dad was a navy guy and entrepreneur. My mom a homemaker. I have a younger brother who is 7 years my junior. A pretty regularly middle class upbringing.
And then it happened.
The Sunday before I went into high school, my parents were yelling. I tried to ignore it. I still shiver when I hear yelling. My room was downstairs in the house. It was a nice townhouse in Jacksonville, FL off of a street called Collins Road. The yelling kept going so I ran upstairs, no sign of my little bro. His room was next to their room with a hall closet behind me as soon as you get up the stairs. My dad was sitting at the desk with his head in his hands. My mom in tears. She yells, “Your dad is a drug addict!” At that moment, I saw my dad begin to sob as the air rushed from my body. Devastated is an understatement. The man I most admire was the butt of jokes. My dad might have been a crack head, a baser or something I heard my peers kid about in school. My mom was crying. My dad was apologizing and still no sign of my brother. I think he was around, but I couldn’t muster enough courage to find him.
My mom and I were standing in the door frame an hour later and she said with tears in her eyes only one of 5 or 6 times I’ve seen her cry say, “I just don’t know what to do.”
It was one of those days you remember. I remember the days that are simply childhood. The holidays and birthdays along with the slumber parties and family meetings. This day changed my life.
And as the years passed filled with sad days and happy days and simple days, it stands as the day I was drawn to God. It was the day both parents fell of the pedestal I put them on. It was the day I look back on and remember I often thought, “Life isn’t a bed of roses”. I realize now it is more nuanced than that; it is a tiling of the soil, minding the land and watching the ebbs and flows of life. Life is seasonal. You know it can be “winter is coming” type stuff. And in the tilling, you see why the seeds were planted, that YOU are minding the grounds, and accepting that some plants simply won’t grow this season.
My parents gave me a life that was a bed of roses filled with thorns and beauty. Through their parenting, their experiences and love, I saw first hand that Life is in the dark and the light. We went to 12 step program for families after dad got clean. He has been clean for 18 years. We continued family meetings. My parents divorced years later and became great friends again. Through it all, I became acutely aware that life is lived when you embrace the dark and remember the dark, the very dark, the stuff we cast away is too the God we pray to, hope for, believe in and don’t believe in. He/She/It is the love we want and the hate we feel, pulling us to a place where we can look back and say, “Man that was hard, but I lived.”
I learned from my parents what they allowed to be so vulnerably seen and that I am eternally grateful for: Grace.
By Ebonni Bryant