My childhood encompassed a special kind of chaos. I lived in a tiny one-bedroom house with my family in Central California. I slept in a crib in my parents’ room until after turning six, when my grandmother’s Alzheimer’s Disease progressed far beyond a manageable state and she was finally placed in a nursing home. Then I relocated to her “hallway suite”. Our house was filthy and poorly cared for. Our front porch fell down bit by bit throughout my childhood, until my brother finally ripped the last few boards down so they wouldn’t fall onto us. We consistently had a variety of random critters including kittens, spiders, cockroaches, ants, and mice.
In comparison to our emotional state, the environment was heaven. Dad consumed himself with work, money, and housework. Mother struggled to care for herself, her mother-in-law and kids. She suffered from undiagnosed and untreated depression. Dad threatened to kill himself often, sometimes gambling our lives in the process. When I was four, I recall pounding on the bathroom door crying and begging him to put his knife down and come out because I needed him. Later, the car became his preferred weapon. In anger, he’d threaten to wrap it around a pole. He’d peel out of the driveway and speed out into the darkness. Other times, he sped like a maniac with us in the car, weaving in and out of traffic as we feared our immediate doom. This usually happened on our way to or from church in response to mundane issues like sibling rivalry over potato chips.
I could tell many stories about childhood; eighteen years of stories. Stories that shaped me in every way possible. Stories of existence and survival. But most of all stories of comfort and hope—filled with the exact amount of Light that I needed in any given moment.
My childhood was unstable and traumatic—emotionally, mentally, and physically. I had no sense of privacy, safety, or trust in my own value as someone who others should love. But I had hope. And in spite of a few “random” thoughts of stabbing myself in the stomach with a knife while doing the dishes, I had a reason to live.
I cannot explain, in words, the powerful force that was my faith—the joy and comfort it brought, or the peace. I felt love because every time my daddy left in his car, and I locked myself in his room with the lights off to cry and pray for his safe return, the calming blanket of love and peace washed over me. Every time. When I felt worthless, crying and praying at the altars of our church, that same peaceful loving blanket covered me, enveloping my soul, yearning to make me whole.
I found hope and peace repeatedly through prayer and meditation on the light and love of a God some might call a Phantom, who walked with me through 18 years of instability, chaos, emotional turmoil, stress, and fear. This God who I now call “Light” held my hand and led me through to another life full of hope and promise that I am still learning to embrace.