I wanted to confront him the next day, tell him that I didn't like the way he had talked to my brother. I wanted to tell him that it hurt to hear him talk to anyone in our family like that. He sat, slumped forward at the kitchen table, cup of coffee cooling in front of him, the ever-present cigarette dangling between the index and middle fingers of his right hand. My mother whispered as I walked into the kitchen, "Daddy's not feeling very well." Now is not the time.
Now is not the time took up residence in my mind right next to you're no damned good. Those two phrases together were a vitriolic cocktail that taught me not to speak up for myself.
Years later when I was the teenage subject of a similar drunken rant by my father, I wanted to say, "Shut up! You're being a jerk." But I heard my mother's voice in my head, "Now is not the time." Instead, I ran out the door and spent the night at my boyfriend's house. When I returned the next morning, Dad was in the same slumped position he'd been in so many years ago. This time he was crying. He looked up when I walked into the kitchen, and with breath that still stank of alcohol, blurted out, "Oh, Punkin, I'm so sorry!"
I wanted to tell him that his apology didn't mean anything, but that action would. I wanted to tell him that the hurt I felt wasn't hurt that would go away with a simple "I'm sorry." I wanted to tell him that I'd graduated from thinking of him as a jerk to thinking of him as a fucking drunk asshole, and I wanted to tell him that no daughter should ever want to call her father that. I wanted to tell him that I loved him, that I'd do whatever I could to help him change. But I stood, silent. Now is not the time.
I wanted to tell my school friends about my home life. They thought we were a good, happy, Catholic family. I wanted to tell them what it was really like. I wanted to say that although I was never beaten, some of the things that were said left scars that hurt so badly that it was painful to be alive. I wanted to, but I didn't. I was the friend who went along with whatever the rest of the group wanted to do. I was the friend who knew all the words to all the songs and all the good jokes. Now is not the time.
Shortly before my father died of cancer in 1982, I spent an afternoon at the hospital with him. We held hands, all the unsaid hovering between us. Now is not the time.
I never told my father how I felt. It's only been in the past decade that I feel I've really found my voice. It took a lot of hard work and courage to wave that figurative banner that reads: Now IS the time.
My circle of friends will tell you that I'm fond of saying that I wouldn't change a thing in my life because it's all made me who I am today. And I really like who I am today. Still, I can't help but wonder what would have come of that girl if she'd been allowed to say what she had to say, to take a stand. How much more of a dynamic force would I be? I don't know and it's impossible to speculate. Silly even.
At the very least it has all led me to this moment. Yes, this very moment as I am typing this and hoping someone who needs to read it is reading it. That will make every second of my life worthwhile. You see, bullies aren't always kids on playgrounds or snotty teens writing insults on Facebook. Bullies can be found anywhere and everywhere, no matter what age we are. Bullies can be found at our jobs, in our homes, in our churches, in the parking lot. Everywhere. Sometimes the bullies are even our own parents.
Please. If someone is hurting you, don't listen to the voices saying, "Now is not the time." Speak up. Keep speaking up until someone hears you. Please. Now IS the time.
***************************************For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Grace O'Malley gave me this prompt: Now is not the time.
I gave SAM this prompt: I had forgotten all about it, but that fragrance/scent/smell brought it all back.