Submitted by Dr. Misee Harris
My dad recited the same Bible verse, Matthew 26:26 every Sunday during Communion, “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying Take and eat, this is my body.” Soon after communion, that is when the offering plates were passed around and the real “bread” that my dad was mostly concerned with, was the giving. At the young age of 7, I had no idea that this hard earned money given by the people of the church was actually financing my brand new swing set, pool, sand box, and my brothers’ custom basketball court. I had become accustomed to this lifestyle. Nice presents for my birthday, big Christmases and shopping sprees. Mom always acted as if everything was just fine. She never skipped a beat. My life was as normal, if not better than, any other 7 year-old; at least that is what I thought.
I was 9 when my mom filed for divorce. Things had progressed from bad to worse at my house. Mom started sleeping in my room at night, which really infuriated my dad. He was such a control freak. Everyone in the small town of Lewisburg, Tennessee, thought he was the best man ever. I mean he was the pastor after all and the most self-righteous man they had ever known.
It was a Sunday night when mom and I planned our great escape. Dad came in reeking of alcohol. He burst through the door in my bedroom and stood over my mother in a state of rage. I witnessed the entire thing. You see, I had started sleeping with a knife underneath my pillow out of fear that my dad would someday try to harm my mother. It was only a butter knife but I kid you not, the way I had planned to use it was to poke his eyeballs out if necessary. He then jerked my mother from the bed and demanded that she get out of the house. I jumped up and slid my feet into my house slippers and followed my dad as he pulled my mom out of my room and down the stairs. After had dragged her out of the house, he finally let her go and we ran up the road. It was a very dark, humid night and my newly pressed hair quickly turned into a large afro. I, with my pajamas on and my mother in her house coat, began the journey of leaving our lives as we knew it behind. When we stopped running to catch our breath, I turned around and looked back down the street. I could see my dad in the front yard ripping out all of the pages of my mother’s expensive nursing text books. My mom exclaimed, “We are never going back, never!” I was happy. I had grown tired of my dad being so controlling. I was so proud of my mom. She was in the process of finishing her nursing degree as well as trying to gain her independence.
We walked several miles until we made it to Renee’s house. Renee was one of my mom’s classmates in nursing school and, for the most part, knew everything that was going on in our house. She knew that my mom was ready to leave my dad. Renee welcomed us into her house and made a place for my mom and me to sleep. Mom braided my hair into two cornrows and reminded me that my nappy hair would not be an excuse to skip school and that I would be going to school the next day. Renee was Caucasian and definitely didn’t have a hot comb in her kitchen drawer, so the chances of getting my hair straightened was slim to none.
Mom and I were only able to stay at Renee’s house for a few days. My dad found out where we were, and kept vandalizing Renee’s car and mailbox. Mom couldn’t allow Renee’s family to be in danger so the only choice she had was for us to move into the projects.
(Continue reading in the book When Family Does You Wrong)