Rhonda writes: "I received my B.A. in Psychology from Ohio University in 1980. I have worked in Alcoholism Prevention; Mental Health; MR/DD; Case Management; Autistic Children and Protective Advocacy. In addition, I received a B.A. in Theology from the Way College of Biblical Research in 1993. I have been a student of the bible for over 30 years. I have worked in Ministry Outreach and Missions and Administration. I have dedicated my life to helping others and developing programs to enhance their quality of life. I have published two articles on “Children of Alcoholics” in the Gannett owned, Newark Advocate newspaper. AWS A Woman Saved Magazine Article 2016-2017 Issue, “Lip-Sync to your Heart” article. https://awomansaved.com/lip-sync-to-your-heart-written-by-rhonda-howard/ Also, I have a story that will be in the November 2016 issue of Today's Christian Living magazine."
Being overweight as a child was always a real sore spot with me. It was especially difficult waiting at the bus stop each morning knowing that I would get jeered at when I stepped onto the bus. Panic would strike when I took that step up to the driver and stood at the front of the bus with all eyes on me. Instead of seeing smiling, accepting glances from my school peers, all I saw was disapproval. “Can I sit with you?” I asked the lonely girl in the back seat. “Sure Katie, you are always welcome to share a seat with me.” It took everything I had not burst out into tears. “Don’t mind them, they don’t see you as you truly are,” she would say to me kindly. “But one day you will bloom and then everyone will want to sit with you.” Those compassionate words were the only thing that kept me together.
Dad was very critical of me. He was always comparing me to other girls and remarking that they are so thin and wholesome. If I wanted a new outfit, he would remind me that new clothes were for good looking girls. This kind of treatment made me withdraw into myself until I did not want to go out at all.
I knew dad was just unhappy with his own life. Mom died two years earlier and he was stuck carrying the load. Raising a young woman was not something he knew anything about. Loneliness drove him and he was struggling with his own poor self esteem.
The torment that I went through at school and then at home was grooving a path in my mind that would take years to re-route.
Like so many people suffering from abuse, I re-treated into a fantasy world. I would pretend that I was a great beauty and the next Breck Girl. You know those lucky girls that donned the back pages of magazines with their gorgeous classic features and perfectly shiny hair. Mom collected the pastel like ads mostly of regular beauties and some of famous women. She said it was every girl’s dream to be a Breck Girl when she was young.
One day I decided to cover my walls with these beautiful images. I made frames of cardboard and made my walls look like an exhibit from an art museum. I arranged them by hair color, all the blondes together and all the brunettes, etc. I would stare at the Breck Girls and imagine my picture on the wall next to them. In fact, I would sit sometimes for hours feeling all the emotions that these beautiful girls must feel. To be adored and admired was something that I longed for in my life.
After a two week visit with my aunt, I came home to find dad pretty sick. His health was declining over the past year, and he missed a lot of work. “I re-did your room,” dad said to me laughing. “What?” “No, dad.” “Why would you do that?” “Because you need to stop living in a fantasy.” “You will never be a beauty, so get used to it.”
I opened the door to my room and all the beautiful pictures were torn up and cluttering up the floor. My heart pounded to the point where I felt like I was having a heart attack. I went into the room and cried and cried. God, I cannot take anymore. I so need you right now. If you do not come through for me soon, I will completely lose all hope. I fell asleep on the floor, fully clothed and on the heap of destroyed pictures. I must have been out for some time.
“Katie, Katie, wake up.” My eyes slowly opened and the room was dimly lit. There was a strange hazy presence to the atmosphere. It seemed I was looking at an old movie. As I turned around, there was a woman sitting on my bed. I jumped and almost screamed. “Don’t be afraid.” “I am the answer to your prayers.” “What, What?” “Who are you?” “I am sent from God.” “Your prayers have been heard and I am here to comfort you.” I really felt that I was losing it now. “What are you doing?” I asked the mysterious phenomenon. “It is your portrait,” she said kindly. “I am almost done.” Then she handed me a picture of a beautiful girl and the resemblance to me was striking. “This is the real you Katie.” “This is how God sees you.” The picture not only showed me as a beautiful Breck-like girl, but there was a glow around my face. “You are chosen of God, Katie.” “The pain you have experienced is all part of your departure from this present world.” “You are hand-picked and highly favored.” “You are not alone and never will be.”
The next thing I knew I woke up in my bed and felt a great peace. Instead of waking up and crying like I always do, I felt hopeful. Was there someone here last night? I thought. I remember talking to someone. Oh I must have been dreaming.
I got up and picked up all the scraps of the Breck girls and walked out to the kitchen. Dad was sitting at the table having his coffee. “I am sorry Katie, I did not mean to ruin your pictures.” “I just don’t want you throwing your life away.” “By the way, something came for you in the mail.” He handed me a large padded envelope. There was no return address and the package smelled of Jasmine. As I opened the package, I could see that it was a picture. “What is it Katie?” “It is a drawing of me dad.” I handed him the photo and he broke down and cried. “You look beautiful daughter.” “Really dad?” “Did you have this done for me?” “Where did this come from?” “I had nothing to do with this,” dad said.
“Let’s hang it in the living room, so everyone can see it when they come in,” he said. “I am going to be a better parent to you.” “You are a good girl, and I love you daughter.”
Dad and I hugged and cried together. We may not be a perfect family, but I feel loved and beautiful now. Thanks God for touching our lives and sending us confirmation that you are watching us and caring for us.
(© 2016 Rhonda Howard – All rights reserved. Written material may not be duplicated without permission.)