Thanksgiving what a joyous occasion, my first with my new love and her family. Making their acquaintance, embracing Mama for the first time, inside I felt warm and secure. At home, like family they welcomed me at our first meeting. We discussed life, culture, family and especially Jesus. Some things needed to be discussed; Mama is strong and not everyone was welcome, not if their intentions weren’t pure. If you didn’t love Jesus you couldn’t love her daughter, period! Good Mama… good. Guest, old friends arrived out of the blue. They were greeted warmly as well. I could tell that there was history between the two families. I couldn’t understand everything being said because most of what was said initially was in Creole as they greeted one another in the native tongue of Haiti. The friends were a family of five. Mother and father, son and daughter in their early twenties and younger daughter age ten. The youngest of the children was an affection sweet little girl afflicted with down syndrome. Mama warned her friend against having a child so late in life and the possibility of the child being born with the disease. Her friend responded that she had this child in her belly for fifteen years and it was time she had it. That’s what she believed. I was asked to say grace and relished the opportunity to bless the table on such a memorable first holiday spent with what could quite possibly be my new family. I became a little redundant in my prayer but it was well received by all in attendance. The meal was wonderful; Mama cooks well. I was a little disappointed however. Being an African American Man I was really looking forward to enjoying some traditional Haitian food; there was a variety of foods but none cultural. I still enjoyed the meal tremendously and Mama promised to cook me some of her favorite Haitian dishes in the near future. I enjoyed the conversation of the friends and the children, a loving holiday gathering. Mama constantly encouraged the oldest daughter throughout their visit. The young lady was twenty-one but she could have easily passed for thirteen. I was curious to know why Mama was taking such an interest in the young lady telling her positive things about herself that I felt we should all know about ourselves. The friends left and were off to visit other friends. They lived in Georgia and were only in Central Florida for a short period of time; so they wanted see as many friends and former church members as possible. The night ended with hugs, kisses, and promises to visit soon and of course packed plates. We arrived home and I watched my beloved Philadelphia Eagles pummel the NFC West leading Arizona Cardinals 48-20 on the NFL Network. Donavan McNabb, our beloved quarterback, and head coach Andy Reid had been under fire for poor play and questionable decisions but they put all doubts to bed that night. As the game concluded I finally stopped yelling about McNabb’s four touchdown passes and Brian Westbrook’s four touchdowns, two rushing and two receiving, my love told me a shocking and sad tale about her family’s friends.
The father was on several church comities and boards during the time he and his family resided in Central Florida. In speaking with him, it seemed to me that he was a devout man who obeyed God’s laws and loved his family. His son was going to college and majoring in criminal justice. All though the young man excelled in school, he had changed his major three times earlier. He had a penchant for allowing his heart to dictate his life decisions; whatever his girlfriend at the time, studied he wanted to study. None the less he was excelling. His sister, one year his junior, was not encouraged to pursue academics instead she was discouraged by her parents. My love told me of a time that the father of the family beat his wife to the point of her being barely recognizable to her friends and family. I was astonished by her statements. I asked to reconfirm. “You mean that nice man I just met at your mother’s house, I would have never suspected. I thought he was a good family man.” She remarked that at the time, her family was surprised at his behavior as well. The man professed to love the Lord but was cruel not only to his wife but his children too. I asked my love why her mother encouraged the girl so much and she explained to me why. Apparently the girl’s family constantly told her how unintelligent she was and that she was incompetent. Her mother had even remarked in the past how the younger daughter with downs syndrome had more sense than her. This statement angered Mama and she didn’t communicate with the mother quite as much. Mama, like her daughter, was an encourager. I can attest to that. The adult son wasn’t immune to his father’s abuse either; he still occasionally found himself on the business end of a slap or punch. Ten year old handicapped daughter was also routinely beaten. Thinking about it, I almost shed tears as I prayed for the family later that night. The oldest daughter had it the worst. There was no school or job because she was too dumb according to her parents. She just stayed in the house, did chores, watched TV and waited for her next beating. My love explained to me that the girl might have had a slight learning disability but was far from stupid. When she and her brother arrived in the US as children, they mastered the English language in just weeks. The girl held ambitions, dreams and goals for the future but kept them to herself for fear of angering her father. It was as if her aspirations of finding a purpose in life hurt him and he routinely responded with violence. I thought of the girl and the family from time to time over the next two weeks until I was given an update on the family’s situation from my love. Apparently the oldest daughter was still in Central Florida and she was enrolled in school. A price had to be paid for her freedom. That price was one last and severely brutal beating in the company of others. Father wasn’t stopped until daughter lay near dying in the middle of the living room floor of her new home. A plan was in place to relocate the young lady to Central Florida and Mama was involved. She and the mother of the other family that they visited here in Central Florida were planning to talk to the parents and negotiate the daughter being allowed to come to the area and begin her life. Mama wanted to do things right. The girl had other ideas. I guess in her mind she figured that she was here now and to go back to Georgia just to try and find a way back to Florida didn’t make much sense. She was where she wanted to be. How many more beatings would she have to endure before she was allowed to return?
When it was time to go she simply refused; she knew that she was welcome where she stood and that she no longer wanted to live under her father’s oppression. When asked if she would be sad if her sister were to leave, younger handicapped sister replied. “Good, she should go because Daddy hits us.” She, such a sweet little girl; living with and needing to be rescued from the same pains. When father heard daughter’s refusal he ripped into her with punches and kicks usually reserved for mortal combat. He stomped her small frame and attempted to choke the life from her. He bashed her skull and brought her to the brink of death as the other family and his wife looked on. No one intervened until absolutely imperative to save the girl’s life. It was not proper to get involved in a man disciplining (or abusing) his family. As she lay balled up on the floor sustaining cuts, bruises and knots feeding her father’s wrath she prayed to Jesus. It seemed that the more she hurt, the more he wanted to hurt her. She felt empowered by her decision and she knew in her heart that this would be the last beating. She thought at times that she might not make it through the vicious assault but she knew in her heart that he might be able to kill her body but he could never kill her spirit and with each blow he was discovering that. Curses and threats spewed from his mouth but she would not relent. She was not getting into that vehicle. As she lay there she vowed that she would never go anywhere with him ever again. When the abuse concluded, she remained in a defensive posture on the floor, still protecting herself as her father was led from the room. Soon her family was asked to leave and they were on their way back to Georgia, minus one family member. Daughter is now a Floridian with the help of her friends here in Florida. Mama was horrified to hear what happened to the young lady after leaving her home. It would have never taken place in her home but then again cowards know exactly where and when to commit their cowardly acts. Daughter’s external bruises healed within weeks but it will take years for the damage done to her by her family to be undone. She is now enrolled in school, attending church and loving life. She finally has a life, a life free of constant emotional and physical pain and torment. Mama is helping in every way that she can. Mama is strong and good. I believe she is who and what she says she is, but I will forever be weary of the devil In Sheep’s Clothing.
In Sheep’s Clothing