A few months before we found out my mom had cancer things were no bueno in the McKinney family. Some of us had made some dangerous decisions that had the entire family wondering which way was up. And that image of a perfect family with its crap together felt like it was a distant memory.
I was at work when things were going down, and texting Mark real-live updates/panic attacks. We were living with his parents at the time, waiting for our house to close, and somewhere in deluge of texts I asked him to not talk about the McKinney’s family drama with his parents. It was too big and was way too fresh (like, happened 2 hours ago fresh) and, well, I just didn’t want them to know.
Mark didn’t read that text. And he had shared the drama with his parents because he knows they care about my family and truly didn’t think there would be anything wrong with them knowing. I mean, we were all family, right?
No, no, no, no, no!
In that moment, finding out that “outsiders” knew some really ugly details about my family before any of us had time to sort out what was happening made me want to throw up. I immediately became defensive because I was sure that they were judging us and looking down on us and I knew I would be ready to brawl if any of them said anything even close to judgmental about my family.
Remember how I said we were living with them? So, I’m mad because I’m imagining they’ve sat around all day casting judgement on my family and now I have to go home and see them?! And I can’t go to my family’s house and hide out because a nuclear bomb went off just hours ago.
I let Mark know that no one should talk about anything with me. That when I got home everyone should talk about the weather or a funny Youtube video they saw that day because if anyone even hinted at my family’s drama I would lose it. I did NOT want to hulk out on them, especially since I knew they didn’t deserve it.
When I got home that night there was tension, and I’m pretty sure everyone was scared to talk to me. I couldn’t take it, and was so thankful that they were respecting my wishes, that I went and found Mark’s mom in her craft room (I’d almost bet she was hiding from me).
I was most afraid of her reaction to the drama. I was terrified that she would say or do something that would suggest that she thought my family was beyond repair, and that I would literally lose it on her.
I shared with her that I wasn’t trying to be mean, but I didn’t want to hurt our relationship. I didn’t want to misinterpret her or her concern, and that it was better to just not talk about any of it right now. Connie is wonderful at giving advice and sharing wisdom, but everything was too raw and I knew that I’d interpret every word out of her mouth incorrectly.
Letting her know that she wasn’t “in trouble” seemed to melt something in both of us (probably more me). I didn’t feel defensive any longer, and I could see that the look in her eyes was one of love and tenderness.
“Is everyone ok?” she asked gently.
I think that was when I broke. A whole day of wondering if everyone was going to be ok and whether I was the worst daughter, sister, and mother in the history of the world took their toll, and I broke down in the window seat of my mother-in-love’s craft room. I was able to break down because the look in her eyes and gentleness of her smile told me that she loved me and my family, and the ONLY thing she cared about was whether everyone was ok.
We ended up having a really wonderful conversation about not knowing what to do when your family goes nuts. And making bad choices and hoping people can forgive you. And having faith even when things look the very opposite of hopeful.
It’s not exact, but sometimes I think our little powwow was a lot like the one between Jesus and the woman accused of adultery. Something about Connie’s presence, the Jesus in her, stood in between me and all of my accusers, the thoughts I’d had all day long about how I’d simply failed at life. And instead of the condemnation I expected, she gave me a beautiful gift of love and grace and mercy. Just like Jesus.