My mom started having my cousin Jane stay with us some weekends when she was quite young. She is 7 years younger than I, and she was always a nuisance. A redheaded, freckle-faced, stinky, disheveled, wild child. We loathed those weekends, because she purposely pushed our buttons. Jane’s mom is my mother’s youngest sister. Aunt Diane held a job and paid her bills, but she was always a little . . . slow, emotionally. She has married 4 different men, all of whom deserve a padded cell in a psycho ward. Jane was always second to everyone else. My mom’s reasoning for having Jane over was, “This is the only stable place she ever goes. She needs to know that she can have more in life. Maybe we can give her hope.” When it was revealed that Jane had been sexually abused by one of her stepfathers, we were shocked and sickened. Some of her unusual behaviors suddenly made sense.
Jane finally married when she was the ripe old age of 16—with her mother’s blessing. The church they married in was forever dubbed the “Church of the Circus People” in our minds. My family flinched at the little people, the hobblers, the amputees, and the greasy masses. There was an extraordinary number of deformed people in that church. Jane cried with joy the entire wedding. The reception included a delicate blend of tuna fish sandwich quarters and pimiento sandwich quarters. It was a redneck shotgun wedding. We all expected to see a bulging belly protruding from Jane at any moment. Why else would she marry so young? Well, we were wrong. She had not been pregnant, and did not become pregnant in her 12 year marriage. She was simply ready to be important to someone.
Jane is now 30. She is divorced from her abusive, controlling husband. She is the adult in her relationship with her mother. She worked for 9 years at the same place, until recently (laid off). She didn’t flee her marriage to live with her mother and her newest stepdad—she found herself an apartment.
I met her for a drink and to listen to some music one night a few weeks ago. We talked, laughed, and discussed her dreams. She is barely scraping by and looking for work, but she is going to a technical college. She has dated, and already ended a relationship because she knew she deserved better. She is . . . . a beautiful, strong, independent woman.
I dropped her off at her house after a few hours, and as I drove away, I was overcome with emotion. As I maneuvered the winding roads, I thought of the disheveled child that annoyed us, the wedding that shocked us, and the husband that concerned us. You could not see or predict any of those scenarios when looking at her today. Tears filled my eyes as I thanked God for keeping her safe throughout the marriage. For keeping her sane throughout her childhood. And for giving her the resolve she needed to start over.
I actually prayed one of those really hard prayers. A prayer where your heart cries one thing, and your mind tries to stifle it, knowing you may well regret that prayer. But, after a moment of hesitation, I did it anyway:
“God, give her the desires of her heart. She has overcome so much. Show her your love and your blessings. I will give up the desires of my heart, if it means giving Jane hers. She deserves it more than I do.”
I hesitate to even write that. It’s such a deep, personal, difficult thing to think, worse to utter, and nearly impossible to write. When it is written, it is proof. I did it. Maybe God wouldn’t withhold my desires over a goofy prayer. But the reality is, I thought it, I voiced it, I wrote it. It is a plea from my heart to God.
Following that prayer, I texted her: “When u left my car i almost cried. U have overcome so much, and become a vibrant, beautiful, intelligent woman. So many prayers have been sent your way thru the years. I am proud to be your cousin.”
The following day, she responded via text: “Just wanted to tell u that I love u…you made me feel so good after your text ya sent me last night. I now know people see how proud I am of myself too.”