A “loss of innocence” is a common theme in fiction, pop culture, and realism. It is often seen as an integral part of coming of age. It is usually thought of as an experience or period in a child’s life that widens their awareness of evil, pain or suffering in the world around them.
I’m just going to go ahead and give you fair warning. This whole subject makes me want to curl up and cry like a baby. Honestly, I have a time or two.
I’m not sure at what age I realized that my life wasn’t normal and did not look anything like others my age. I think my awareness began long before it should have. I know by the time I was four, I was keenly aware things were not like my peers.
By the time I was one, my mom discovered a hideous mole on my dads back. She encouraged him to have it checked out. He did and it was malignant. Melanoma. They removed a large portion around the perimeter of the mole. The portion was so large, it looked like a crater to me. My little hand fit in the crevice of the dug out space.
Getting clear margins and feeling hopeful, the doctor said, “All should be well if you see no signs within 2 years.”
Nearing the end of the 2 years, another spot appeared. This time, the cancer had spread. Chemo would be necessary. Considering the year was 1972, the best facility for treatment was at Baptist Hospital (aka Wake Forest Medical Center) in Winston Salem, NC.
Thus the journey began.
An entire week, every month, my dad would go for treatment. Sometimes we would go but not often. My dads brothers were gracious enough to take turns driving him and picking him up.
In addition, my aunt and uncle who lived in Winston helped with his care as well. Days turned into weeks and weeks into years.
His body was worn and beaten. He allowed them to try new treatment drugs on him in hopes to help others, not himself. He knew his time was coming to an end and so did I.
I think my mom tried as best she could to keep life as normal as she could but let’s be real, how many 5-6 year olds do you know whose parent is on chemo and gone for a week every month? I didn’t know any at the time. Not one of my friends and I’m not even sure they knew or understand how different my life was than theirs.
I learned, even then, to pretend that I was tough and strong. I could be like the others. You know, “fake it till you make it”. All the while, the voices in my head were screaming, “You’re different, You’re not like them.”
Then it happened, during a routine eye exam in Kindergarten, my teacher discovered I was not seeing 20/20. She informed my Mom. Mom took me first to an optometrist who had no couth told me I needed glasses pronto.. In fact, he was such a nice guy, Mom and I both left the office in tears.
Fortunately, we were given another recommendation and that’s when we met Dr. Gleaton. Not only did he have a terrific personality and calming nature, he also explained the necessity of glasses. Unlike the previous bully, he told me I had a “lazy eye” and would need to wear a patch over my good eye to strengthen the lazy one. By the time we left his office, I felt good about having glasses. Until I actually wore them for the first time.
Oh, the sneers and jeers. The jabs. The taunts. The snickers. I sat on the bank with tears streaming for what seemed like hours. Day after day. It made me see how cruel this world can really be and I was just six.
Now the voices were louder and eviler than before. Not only did I feel different. I felt unattractive, unworthy and yes, even unloved.
Here I was a kindergartner with a dying father and now being made fun of because I had to wear glasses with a patch.
Want to know what I learned? It’s called stuffing. Yep, just hide what you really feel and pretend you don’t care, even if your heart is being ripped to shreds.
On one hand, my father was sick and dying. I saw the cruelty of the disease stripping away his energy and zest for life. I saw how the chemo weakened his strong body. I had no one I could talk to, no one who understood. I don’t even know if anyone had any idea how aware I was.
Then my friends basically turned their backs on me., except one. It was just plain hard being a six year old for me.
Do you know what that year at the tender age of six created? A little thing called insecurity, which actually isn’t so little at all. Insecurity has followed me most of my life. There have been times when I’ve felt less insecure than others; but it’s always there, lurking about, waiting to pounce like a lion.
I have these voices that tell me time and again:
- You’re not good enough
- You’ll never be pretty enough
- You’ll never escape your past
- You are not worthy
What I’ve learned over the past 26 years, is that these voices will come but they don’t linger very long. I have weapons to fight against them now. I have the voice of truth echoing in my ear:
- You are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 3:20)
- You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14
- You are forgiven and free (John 3:16)
- I paid a very high price for you and I say you are worthy (I Corinthians 6:20)
A loss of innocence at such a young age has always been a challenge for me. There was a point several years back when I heard or read something to the effect that it is important to grieve the loss of innocence when it’s been stripped from you. I’d never really contemplated the need to grieve over what was taken from me as a child; however, the more I thought about what was lost, the more I realized I needed to grieve. By taking time to grieve, it has given me some real insight to how this substantial loss has influenced and affected many areas of my life. A life that God is in the process of helping me break free