Friday, January 1, 2016

Mission Control

My family lived with my maternal grandparents on and off throughout my childhood. And when they moved to Apple Valley when I was 12, we lived in that same house until they sold it when I was 21.

We had many different people live with us during those first twelve years. It ranged from strangers, to missionaries, to family.

One of my first vivid memories of one of my grandparents tenants is that of a rather large redheaded blind man everyone affectionately called 'Red'. I don't believe I could have been much older than 5 years old when Red moved in. I was fascinated with him. He reminded me of Paul Bunyan, he wore flannel and appeared to be dirty even after he showered. At the time, I was also watching the movie "Ice Castles" on repeat. My mother had taped it off of TV and as soon as it ended I hit rewind and patiently waited to start it over again.

I would close my eyes and try to walk around the house. Wondering how difficult it was for Red to navigate our home. He didn't stay very long, but during the time he was with us, I formed fond memories of his smile and kindness. Shortly after he left, we started a run of LDS missionaries who stayed in Red's room. They were busier than Red, they were constantly going to appointments and dinner engagements.

After a year of missionaries living in Red's room, we had a few church members stay for short periods of time, as well as cousins and aunts and uncles. I shared my room with various female cousins and we would always pretend the floor was lava and that the beds were crumbling rock. So jumping from bed to bed became one of our favorite past times. Only second to singing Wilson Phillips songs in the backyard to clumsy choreography.

After a few years of church members and cousins the missionaries returned. Elders, as they are called, don't stay long. They serve a mission of two years, which isn't all spent in one location. When they are called to serve, they are assigned an area which covers different cities. So sometimes a missionary would start off in our home with his companion, then a few months later he would be moved to a different city with a different companion.

We had some really awesome young men serve as missionaries and stay with us. They would play with my brothers and me, tell us jokes, eat dinner with us, and even though they weren't quite as intriguing as Red, it was nice growing up and learning about the places these young men were from.

One young Elder moved in with us shortly after my grandparents opened our home again for missionaries. He was crass and seemed not thrilled to be serving a mission. He taught me and my younger brothers curse words and racial slurs, and had an attitude that I hadn't seen with the missionaries before. My brothers thought he was awesome, and I thought he was rude. I was almost 11 years old when this Elder moved in with us. I didn't really like him, but I knew it was only a matter of time before he would be on his way too.

He would sit next to me at the piano when I was practicing for my upcoming recital. The piece my piano teacher had chosen for me was Orpheus in the Underworld by Jacques Offenbach, it is also referred to as the can-can. As I would practice, he would randomly press keys and laugh and tickle me. He would whisper in my ear to call him Eric. I would smile and continue to try to play. He would whisper about how the women who danced to the song I was playing would often show off their panties to men, then he would ask me what kind of panties I was wearing.

He made me uncomfortable. I told my mother about what he was doing and she told me that he was just being crude and that he would be moving out soon. I adjusted my practice schedule to times when the Elders weren't usually at home.

Shortly after telling my mom about how much I didn't like Eric, he started visiting me in my room at night.

The first night he climbed into bed with me and spooned me. He didn't say anything, he just existed quietly next to me. I could hear his breath in my ear and feel his arm around my waist. I thought that maybe he was sleepwalking and accidentally ended up in my room.

A few nights later, it happened again. He slowly opened my door, climbed in my bed and put his hand over my mouth. He whispered how god had told him to sleep with me to protect me. That he had a feeling that someone was going to try to break in my room and hurt me or kidnap me. He told me that god didn't want me to tell anyone. That he was called to this mission, at this time and place, to protect me. And if I was a good girl, I would do what god wanted.

He spooned me for a little while longer. And then left. It was difficult to sleep for the rest of the night. I kept looking at my bedroom window expecting someone to break in. I finally took my pillow and blanket into my closet and closed the door. That way if what Eric was saying was true, I would be difficult to find.

During the day when Eric and I crossed paths in my grandmothers home he would smile and tell me everything was going to be alright. That god told him that this night or that night was going to be okay. He would let me know if tonight was a night he needed to sleep with me for a little while, to protect me because he had a premonition or a feeling.

After I got used to him spooning with me and whispering that everything was going to be okay, I started feeling safer when he was with me. I started to worry about what was going to happen when he had to move on.

A few weeks went by of spooning and comforting. I would look forward to his visits because it meant that god loved me and wanted me to be safe.

He normally wore pajamas, but this night was different. He came in just his garments. He climbed into my bed and wrapped his arm around my waist like he normally did. Then he asked me to pray with him. I closed my eyes, folded my arms, and bowed my head. I remember him praying to god to protect me, and that he was so blessed to be chosen to protect someone as helpless and sweet as me. I remember him asking god for permission to touch me and then acknowledging that god granted him permission. As soon his whispered prayer ended he ran his hand down my leg and up my nightgown. I was frozen. Did god give him permission to touch me? Was I his reward for listening to god? If I were to fight back against him, would he stop protecting me? Would god be mad at me?

I held perfectly still, waiting for him to go back to his room. I felt him push up against me, I closed my eyes tighter, silently asking god for help. He gently kissed my neck and thanked me for being such an obedient child of god. After he left I got up to change into different pajamas, I couldn't sleep with the cold, sticky, wet spot that had formed where he had been pushing up against me.

I got back into bed and stared at my canopy. How could god think this was okay? I started singing primary school songs to myself and slowly started to feel comforted. I knew that god was helping me feel better because I allowed a man that he called to a mission to protect me and be rewarded like god intended.

This continued for months until Eric was moved to a different city to serve. It happened suddenly and for the first few weeks I slept in my closet or under my bed just in case someone was still out to kidnap or hurt me.


Anonymous said...

This is heartbreaking. Thanks for sharing although it must have been really painful to share. Although my situation pales in comparison, leaving the church has done wonders in healing. I hope that you continue to find peace.

knotty said...

I'm so sorry this happened to you. My heart goes out to the little girl you were back then.