It was raining lightly by the time I reached the cemetery where many of my forebears had been laid to rest. I walked through the gate and sought the shelter of a fir tree. I had brought my journal, for I had come to take care of some overdue business.
I sat cross-legged on the ground, staring at the grave I knew I had to visit. As I began writing, the rain picked up, and drops of moisture began to penetrate the thick canopy.
At some point I concluded that it was time to stand before the grave. I prayed God would give me the courage to face the name of the person who had injured me so deeply. I emerged from beneath the tree, going from damp to soaking wet in half a dozen steps.
When I reached the upright granite marker, I wondered how many other lives this "pillar of society" had devastated. But that wasn't why I had come. I was there to stand up to all the times and ways I had been defiled by a man whose role was to love me, to enrich my life, and to safeguard me from evil. But my maternal grandfather had not been that kind of man. With skill and cunning he preyed upon me to feed his depraved sexual desires.
As I spoke his offenses aloud, I acknowledged that there was no way I could offer him forgiveness on my own. Although I was a believing Christian, all I could present to Jesus was a heart that wanted to obey His command to forgive others as He forgave us. I prayed for Christ's forgiveness to flow through me so that I could forgive my grandfather, at the same time beseeching the Lord to heal me from the deep wounds I had carried since childhood.
While I walked away from that grave, I pondered on the journey that had brought me to this point in my life.
I had grown up in a typical 1960's nuclear family: Dad, Mom, one daughter, one son. My father was a machinist who established a successful business. My mother was the kind of homemaker who provided her family with meat-and-potato meals, homemade pies, and line-dried sheets.
Both sets of grandparents lived near us, as did almost all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. We regularly got together with relatives, and I recall many happy memories spent with family from my father's side in particular.
When did I first realize that something was very, very wrong on my mother's side of the family? As an adult I have scrutinized my memories, searching for evidence of the malignancy that smothered the Meyer family before it entangled me in its grasp. My first certain memory is from 1969, when I was eight years old and my brother and I had been left in my grandparents' care.
He led me down the hall to the furthest bedroom. I noticed that he quietly locked the door and wondered why he did.
He then sexually molested me.
I still can recall the colors of the plaid bedspread, the stale smell of the seldom-used upstairs, the loud ticking of the travel clock at the bedside. When it was over, I was sent back downstairs to finish the game with my brother. And numbly, I did just that, not knowing what to make of the events that had just transpired. Though my brother wasn't aware of anything different about me, in the 10 minutes we had been apart I had been forever changed. Grandpa's imperative words--Don't tell anyone--rang in my head, and I clearly understood that I must keep what had happened upstairs a secret.
I didn't tell, nor did I even cry. Though I didn't understand what had happened to me, I knew it was bad. Dirty. Did Grandpa Meyer do those things to other little girls, or was I the only one? In the days and weeks, then months and years, to come I wondered, Why me?
As I look back, I have no doubt that my grandfather counted on my obedience. Most certainly he exploited it. The things he did were horrible, made even more horrible by their premeditation.
Adding to that was our family's unspoken standard: Don't ever talk about anything real. A smothering silence engulfed our home and the homes of my mother's relatives when it came to anything but superficial subjects. Underneath the surface, however, roiled unspoken emotions, and occurrences.
I suffered physically, mentally, and spiritually. I came to believe that my involvement in my grandfather's wicked designs made me as guilty as he.
I hungered as a child for things of faith, wishing our family could be regular churchgoers. I wanted to know more about God and His Son, Jesus, but religion was another prickly, uncomfortable subject in our home.
I think my devout Catholic paternal grandmother knew of my yearnings, and during my childhood she took me to Mass as often as she dared. Catholic had always been worse than a swear word in our home, and my mother took every opportunity to malign the Church and its practices. To my father, one word summed up the Catholic Church of his youth: superstition.