“I flew to Dallas today to spend a weekend visiting Dad and Delia. I wish I could say it went well, but that would be a lie. Seeing the both of them, Dad, so diminished by age yet still so stubborn and well, angry makes bridging the gap between us unlikely if not impossible. Delia as always cool, polite, and distant. Maybe it is a response to me. I try to check my anger at the door, but at the first provocation it snaps. Sometimes I wonder if my Dad ever loved me, before my mother died, before Delia. Delia certainly never did, no surprises there, but Dad. What can I do other than pray? It just hurts. Every time I think I have forgiven, let it go, I find more forgiveness work to do.” From Eleanor Brown’s Journal
Delia set the cup of tea on the side table next to the wing chair where the Colonel had evidently been since before dawn . She had awakened to find his side of their bed empty and cool. Snatching her robe she moved to find him, at 82 his mind remained sharp, but a fall the year before had alerted her to the fact that he was no longer the agile man, he, both of them, wished he were. She often worried that he would get up in the middle of the night, a habit he had always had, trip, fall, and lie helpless and alone.
At 74, she still maintained a rigorous physical regime, exercise class, swimming and some cycling, but even she admitted to herself at least, if not to any one else, that her body was declining. There were aches and pains where there had never been before. She sighed. The news about Eleanor had rocked both of them. His stoicism ramped up several notches as he retreated to someplace within himself that she could not enter.
For her, the shock waves served to open old wounds and face self-incrimination. The words she had intended to speak, the letters, written, wadded and tossed she had intended to send, perhaps it didn’t matter. Only in the last year, after years of running from God had he blindsided her with a love that swept through her in such a way that she saw herself as she was, bound and gagged by bitterness. The process had been painful at times, but from that incredible moment, mid-sentence in a tirade in the pastor’s office, had she suddenly heard herself, seen herself, known herself,
They sang a song in church sometimes, “Heaven came down and Glory filled my soul.” So not everyone had a “Damascus Road” experience, but Delia Brown did. She had been struck silent. She supposed some would say “senseless”, but she knew it was the first truly sensible moment in her life. Her pastor’s face changed from forbearing to stunned, priceless, comical in her memory of the event as he rose tentative at first to come to her. His voice quivered.
“Delia, are you alright? Do you want to sit down? Can I get you a glass of water?”
She had laughed out loud for several seconds then collapsed into a chair in a spasm of giggles. What on earth was she feeling? Giddy, no Joyful…she felt joyful! Looking up at Pastor Paul, she declared, she, Delia Brown being of sound mind for the first time since early childhood, declared to her startled pastor.
“You can sit down here next to me and tell me what do I do to be saved!”
And he did, bless his heart. After all the years of putting up with her constant criticisms to his face and behind his back, Paul Cunningham had shared the words of life. True she had heard them before but this time they made sense. She could no more explain what happened any more than she could explain why it had taken so long.
Colonel Francis “Frank” Edward Brown was another story, but her own experience allowed her to love him and wait for God. Still since the news of Ellie’s accident, she had felt an urgency she had not felt since her epiphany. Somehow she knew the loss of one’s only child could take a person either direction. So she prayed more fervently than she had before for this man she had lived with for more than forty years, loved superficially for most of that time and deeply since that day in the pastor’s office.
With the cup of tea in place, Delia stood, her hand resting on his shoulder and looked out over the span of yard which appeared to hold his focus. Several moments passed in silence.
“I left that child on my mother’s doorstep, Delia.”
“I know, Frank. We both did.” She refused to enumerate all the reasons for that decision, Ellie’s rebellion against her, the Pentagon job with all its traveling, his career, her career…for Delia knew now they were only the excuses they both used to rid themselves of the responsibility.
“We need to go. I need to see Clara, not that I have any sort of grandfatherly relationship with her.” He still stared at a point in the distance. She patted his shoulder, prayed silently and said,
“I will make the arrangements, call Clara, and get us packed.”
He nodded. Delia knew she had been dismissed.