Cracked But Not Shattered
Open doors. Closed doors. French doors. Sliding doors. So many doors. Doors are a part of my daily life. Yet the worst kinds of doors are slammed doors. The sound of a door slamming stirs a painful chord in my past. A slammed door signifies the brokenness of a relationship. I have heard is said that, “When God closes a door He opens a window”. I have never taken great comfort in this axiom. I’d like to think that if, for some reason, God were to close a door in my life it would be only to teach me a lesson. Once having learned this lesson, I would like to believe that another door, bigger and better, would be opened in its place.
A door slammed will always remind me of the day when my father left us for good. He, on a regular basis, left my mom and us kids for other women. But he always came home, with his tail wagging triumphantly behind him. My mom always took him back. I think he left us emotionally long before that final door was emphatically closed. The events leading up to that point are not so clear simply because we had gotten so used to being in the middle of the third world war that constantly raged in our home. But this last fight was different.
The door slammed so hard that the walls shook, causing our pictured that were hung on the walls to hang at strange angles. This punctuated my father’s exit from our lives. Although they did not shatter, the small glass panes on our front door cracked upon the slamming of the door. The dust that had accumulated for some time on our doorjambs had now become a cloud, as the slamming of the door had allowed it to escape from its perch.
My father was an angry man. The slightest thing would set him off. God forbid if you didn’t pick up the phone before the second ring. Or not finding socks that matched his pants for one of his nights out. The sky would fall if he didn’t come home to a dinner that sizzled and talked to him on his plate – even if it was 2:00 in the morning. Mostly, though, my father was angry with my mom. She was everything he wasn’t. She was happy; he was miserable. She was hopeful; he was hopeless. She dared to dream; he existed from day to day. Throughout their marriage she had become his verbal punching bag. He hated her more than he hated himself.
Usually my mom dealt with his tirades as any saint of God would – with a loving heart, with patience and when all else failed, she fell to her knees. Every once in a while she would stand up to him and fight back. This would be met with a violent rage. Mom would run and close the door and throw herself before God’s throne of mercy.
She would arise with feelings of empowerment. She had just received her fill of His love for her. She would get up with her servant’s heart and calm and soothe my father’s harangue. She would stroke him or cook up something special. She loved him. We witnessed with confusion every aspect of their lopsided marriage; her unending love and devotion and his fiery anger and contempt. She doesn’t know this but we even witnessed that final tear as it rolled down her face, as we knew that my mom had had enough.
Yes my mom loved him. But this man, my father, was not the man she married. She had married a prince. Throughout the years my father had changed. This man had become a royal beast. Even her special kisses couldn’t bring him out of the spell he was under.
Although she trusted in Jesus, these episodes, occurring more and more frequently, were causing mom to lose faith. She was reeling. The harder she prayed, the more painful and ravaging the attacks on her heart and soul became.
Mom decided that their marriage, as it now stood, was over. 43 tumultuous years of marriage were all that she could bear. She would tell him tonight that he had to change or he had to leave. This ultimatum would not be easy, but she was ready to fight for her marriage. She waited up late one night for my father to come home. The sun rose the next morning and my father still was not home. She went about her usual day. Again, nighttime came and she waited. Terrible thoughts were running through her head. “Where could he be?” she asked herself. “Who is he with?” was another thought that plagued her mind. “Lord, I really need You now” she quietly whispered, “give me strength to do what I must do”. Another night went by and still no sign of my father. Finally, on the fourth night my father decides to stroll in as if nothing happened. One look at my mom’s face and my father knew that this was not going to be an ordinary night. Her eyes bore into him like a laser beam breaking into a stone. He sarcastically smiled and sat down and waited to be fed his late hot meal. This was one night that a hot meal would not be served. Righteousness was on the menu tonight.
The battle lines were quickly drawn.
My mom was standing and softly but with holy might confronted my father. She would not allow another day to pass where she was his doormat. She told him that she couldn’t, no, she wouldn’t live this way anymore. She had had her fill of unhappiness and despair. She was a woman of value and worth and must be treated accordingly. “Where is the man I married?” she implored. “The man I fell in love with a long time ago cherished me. He respected me. He cared about me” she exclaimed. “I can’t live this way anymore. I won’t live this way anymore” she said, “Don’t you know how much I need you?” Throughout my mom’s beseeching words the smile never left my father’s face. Mom stopped talking. She waited for my father to respond. None came.
My father in silence got up from the table, carefully took his jacket from where it hung behind the chair. He methodically put it on, first the right sleeve then the left. Button by button he closed his jacket, all the while still smiling. He slowly walked to the door and stopped. He had his hand on the doorknob for what seemed like a million years. His knuckles had turned white. Still, he smiled, at no one in particular. He unhurriedly opened the door and took a deep breath of the fresh night air. He turned and looked at my mom’s tear-stained face. My mom could barely breath. He was not moved. He stepped outside and dramatically slammed the door behind him. No words ever came out of his mouth. He went into the night and was gone from our lives.
Only the slamming of the door marked my father’s departure from our lives. This was his goodbye. He left my mom standing there, staring at the closed door. The door had closed on the abuse and closed on the life she knew. This closed door meant a new life for her and for us. The closed door meant, “no more”. This closed door was a blessing in disguise.
She quietly walked to the door and locked it. She looked at the cracked panes and in spite of her tears she smiled. She never looked more beautiful to me. She was a triumphant warrior; wounded but victorious. Her heart was bleeding but still it beat strongly with hope and beauty. We were all up and standing at the doorway to the living room. She turned and smiled at us. She spoke words that I will never forget, words that still ring in my ears and words that have helped me in my daily walk in the Lord. She simply said, “Look at the panes of glass on this door. This is how each one of us is. We might have cracks in our hearts but we are not shattered. We have come through the fire without being burned. The Lord is with us. We will get through this just fine”.
My mom is the bravest person I know. She stood her ground in the face of peril and never backed down. We all, including her, had survived. I couldn’t wait to see what the opening of a new door would have in store for my mom.
© Leticia Caroccio 2004