Usually those eyes are filled with joy. Every now and then you get to see some humor or mischievous thoughts, even sorrow about certain topics. But this was the first time I had seen rage. Full blown anger that stopped just short of springing into action. Once she had leaned over to whisper into my ear, we collected our things and left quickly.
The weekend was supposed to be just something relaxing. A little work on my house getting it ready for the realtor to take some pictures. It was also Easter and a nice dinner was planned.
Now the two of us had a secret we couldn’t share with the others and it colored the rest of our time. Her watching me and me watching the door. Waiting for the bell to ring and the presence of someone who didn’t belong to impose himself.
My niece had needed to look up something at the library. Neither of us expected to look up and the visage of my former father-in-law would be looking back. For me it had been a quick glimpse as he walked by, but Susie gave me the impression he had been watching for longer.
There was a time when I would have just stood up and over him (I’m 4 inches taller than him). My voice would not have been loud, but it also would not have been kind. They had been cruel in ways that no one should experience and my niece was well aware of the story.
So I taught her to do the opposite of everything we ever talk about. We left. We ran away because she would have regretted saying anything and I would have felt guilty for letting her. And her expression scared me.
Her protective nature was in full display. Knowing that I was going to end up hurt caused her to jump into action. Everything her parents and friends have done to form her emotions over 15 years came full circle.
Dinner that night was quiet. Two cars had left Boston, both full of people. Now two of us were racing back to my house to wait out something both of us hoped never occurred. Two different reasons for that thought, but another secret that we didn’t need to giggle about having shared.
After all the boxes of paper had been loaded into the cars. Papers from drawers that visitors to my home didn’t need to see. A few other items that I also didn’t need photographed for the world to examine. We told our secret.
People weren’t happy. They were just as protective but understood why we waited. The truth needed to be spoken before we got into a car for the hours long drive back.
Everyone assumed I didn’t feel well and was hiding it. Making sure that we finished our task without me sitting in a chair or worse. But one thing was apparent, they were grateful I hadn’t done anything. They older crowd knew that was something my niece didn’t need to see. But we also know that silence came at a price. Self-respect.
Visiting the therapist later was my release valve. Her advice had been to get angry and let it out because it was the only way to deal with it. Throw something, yell, just rip a stack of paper. Anything.
Not talking about things is what caused some of the problems in the past. But that past also needs to not have such power on my present. I was told that some weakness had led to me not being able to protect my daughter or ex, but on that day I hope I showed a strength in protecting my niece and later my family by not doing anything.