It was pouring down rain that morning. My dad was really upset because my mother had told him he had to take me to school. But my dad had something else important to do, and taking me to school interfered with his plans. I remember looking up at my dad’s face from the passenger seat and feeling a deep sadness and regret. He didn’t talk about the rain or the time, or ask me about my homework. My dad was not happy and it was my fault.
On the way to school the car started acting up and my dad got really mad when the car finally stopped. He turned the key several times and nothing happened. He got out in the rain and looked under the hood for a few minutes trying to figure out what the problem was. I remember thinking that now I was really going to be late for school, and somehow the car breaking down might be my fault also. If my dad did not have to take me to school, he might have been closer to where he really wanted to be. I started to squirm with nervousness as I followed his movements through the rain splattered window.
Now what would we do?
I watched my dad come around to my side of the car and open the door. “Get out. I can’t fix it. We’ll have to take the bus.” I didn’t ask any questions, but quickly grabbed my school bag and climbed out of the car into the rain with my angry father. He didn’t hold my hand or carry my school bag. I tried to keep up as he marched toward the bus stop.
I remember getting on the bus and sitting next to the window. I watched the rain slide down in crooked lines as we rode along. My dad did not want to take me to school, and now he was really going to be late for his important meeting. Probably it was my fault we had to leave the car. Every time the bus stopped, I tried not to look at my watch or my dad.
I remember my dad saying,”here is where you get off. The school is right up there.” I stood up and waited for him to join me. I asked, “Aren’t you coming?” “NO!” He yelled. Maybe he didn’t yell, but after all the silence it might as well have been a shout. I remember my eyes filling with water. Maybe I told him I was scared and I did not want to go by myself. I don’t remember. I remember his voice, being as cold and hard as the rain when he said:”Don’t be such a water head. The school is not that far and I’ve got to be somewhere. Now go on. Get off. I am not going with you. ” Maybe I asked if I could go with him and skip school since it was so late. “No!” “Now hurry up and get off.” It was very clear that I could not stay on the bus and that he was not coming with me.
My dad had not wanted to drive me to school; why did I think he would walk with me in the pouring down rain.
Stupid little girl.
I couldn’t see the school when I got off, but I went in the direction my dad had pointed.
I am sure he did not wave good-bye as the bus pulled away.
I walked, ran, and stumbled in the rain.
My thoughts were as chaotic as the rain beating down on my head.
It was 9:00 a.m. and school had long started.
I would have been marked absent.
There was nobody to explain what happened.
What if the teacher didn’t believe me?
Everybody would look at me.
I did not have a note.
What was I going to say?
How could he leave me?
I can’t believe he left me.
Why couldn’t he just come to the door and tell Mrs. Parker what happened?
Why, why, why?
My eight year old mind was flooded with thoughts and fears I did not know how to handle. Some were rational and others were not, but to an eight year old, they were all critical.
By the time I got to the door of my classroom I was a complete wreck. I was flat out bawling. I was soaking wet from the rain and the tears streaming down my face. I was breathing hard from the running and the crying and just everything. I was shaking from the cold inside and out. If my dad thought I was a water head on the bus, I don’t know what he would have said if he could’ve seen me then.
I did not know Jesus at the time, and so I was a wretched little creature with no one to call.
No memory verses to recite.
No reminding myself that Jesus loves me.
No idea to pray.
I never felt so alone and terrified in my life.
My dad had left me. He had told me to go away.
It would be thirty years before I realized the impact of this event had on my life.
I remember yelling at myself in my head; maybe out loud – “Stop it! Stop crying. Get a grip, Ethelyn! Get- a - grip. Don’t let people see you like this. You have to go in. You can’t stay out here all day. Now GET A GRIP! Stop this crying, you water head!”
And I did.
I took deep shaky breaths, and wiped my face on my wet sleeve. I took another deep breath and opened the door to Mrs. Parker’s classroom.
I remember all eyes looking my way as the door opened, and then the memory fades to black.
I never found out if my dad got to where he needed to be that morning.