The Message

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"For I know the plans I have for you...."
 
The Message
by Andrea Lena DiMaggio

“You’ve got to be kidding me…Oh, God no. What Will everybody say? Hell no!” She walked up to Doug and stood over him, her fists balled in anger as tears streamed down her cheeks.

“How could you? You’re going to tell everybody?” She shook her head and ran from the room, Terri went to get up but Theresa put her hand on her shoulder.

“No, honey…I think I need to talk to her. It’s going to be okay.” She kissed Terri on the forehead before turning to face Doug. He shook his head as his own tears fell from his face. She smiled and repeated her words.

“I swear…It’s going to be okay.” She walked quickly from the room. Terri got up and sat down next to Doug. He looked up and tried to speak but just sobbed. She hugged him and just said over and over,

“It’s okay, Daddy.”


 
Previously

“I signed up because I love you, and I’ll follow you anywhere…we’re in this together…if not here, then somewhere else. If not in a church…then in a soup kitchen or an orphanage…you can counsel in a school somewhere. I can get a job nursing anywhere, right? Just as long as you and I and the girls are together, that's all that matters.”

“You’d do that for me?” His eyes pled with her, scared that she was holding back…failing miserably in knowing his wife.

“I already did, Danielle, eighteen years ago.”

He blinked back his tears as his eyes widened at the sound of her words.

“Danielle?”

“Yes, my sweet, Danielle.” And then she pulled him closer and kissed him…really kissing her for the very first time.

"My sweet Danielle!"


Saturday morning at the Calabrese home

"Mom!" Angie called down the stair well.

"Just a second, hon, I can't hear you that well,” Theresa yelled as the washer made a metallic click as she set the cycle. She pushed the start button and walked over to the stairs.

"Mom?" Angie’s face was covered with a sheepish, almost confused look.

Honey...what's wrong?" Theresa looked up into her daughter's eyes, trying to discern the seriousness of the moment.

"Is there something bothering Daddy?" Her face indicated deep concern.

"Oh...what?" Theresa tried not to laugh but her face was betrayed her.

"What's so funny...All I did was ask a question. He’s in the living room sitting reading a book and he sorta looks all serious and upset. He’s talking to himself and talking about some woman." Theresa tried again, but her grin once again betrayed her.

“Oh, nothing…he’s working on his sermon for tomorrow. You know how he gets.”

"Not like this. He’s really worked up.” Theresa smiled and just shook her head.

“Okay, Lady...GIVE!" She laughed nervously.

"I'll fill you in a bit. Can you go to the kitchen and pull out some bacon and put it on the broiler?"

"Sure." Angi shrugged her shoulders and went to turn.

"Is Terri up yet?"

"NO! Lazy girl that she is, she's spending the morning looking at the inside of her eyelids!" Angie teased. Terri didn’t have a lazy bone in her body; she was still struggling with insomnia, and the family had been worried, although things had been improved. Angie tended toward humor to deflect conflict; she realized in this case it was misplaced and she frowned at herself.

“Sorry, Mom.”

"After you get the bacon on, go get her and meet me in the kitchen...we can make breakfast. We have company coming this morning…sort of. Let your sister know, okay?"

"TERRIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!"

"Okay... I suppose I should go see how the newest member of the Calabrese family is doing." Theresa almost sang as she climbed the stairs.

An hour later the family sat in the living room. Doug and Theresa sat on the couch while Terri and Angie sat in the two armchairs across from them. Terri noticed first and used her head to gesture toward their parents with a shrug of the shoulders. Angie shrugged back, evoking Terri to mouth, “Look!” Doug’s eyes were red and it looked as if he hadn’t had any sleep. Theresa saw the exchange and spoke.

“We have something we need to talk with you girls about.” She bowed her head slightly, causing Angie to begin,

“Lord, bless our time together, Amen.” She smiled until she looked once again at Doug, who by now had tears in his eyes.

“Daddy, what’s wrong?” The ‘sensitive’ one of the two girls, she could barely watch anything moving on TV or on a DVD without crying. Tears came to her eyes as she leaned forward and touched Doug’s knee.

“Th…hhh ….I….I….m sssoooo sorry. Um…I….I.” He paused and swallowed. Theresa handed him her bottle of water. Taking a sip, he smiled at her and began again.

“I’m…I’m sorry girls. There…We….I need to tell you something about me.” Terri’s eyes widened, expecting the worst.

“Did…..are you…sick?” She shook her head.

“Nnno…no, honey. I’m okay…It’s just something about me we need to discuss, okay…Give me a moment to speak, alright?” She nodded okay, her gesture mirrored by her sister. Theresa squeezed Doug's hand.

“You know how I’ve been seeing Dr. Suzanne, right?”

“The shrink….yeah…she’s really nice.” Terri smiled. Suzanne Davidson was Doug’s psychiatrist. She’d been working with him and the family concerning his memories of his childhood. Between her and the family support, he had made huge strides in overcoming his past. But other issues had arisen. Issues that now demanded….sought to be heard.

“Your Dad has made so much progress since last year, wouldn’t you say?” Theresa begged without need. Angie interrupted her.

“Daddy…you have done so well…We love you and we know it’s been hard for you and Mom, but we know by watching you….well…whatever you need to tell us…” She looked at Terri and continued.

“I think we’re old enough to hear.” The details of Doug’s past were never an issue of discussion but the girls knew that both their parents had been abused as children. Theresa had known all along while Doug had only learned with great pain and sadness that his past had been buried deep within his mind for years and had only come out on the event of his sister’s death.

“It’s not anything bad.well at least we don’t believe it is, but it may appear that way to others.”

Theresa’s eyes flashed with a brief glare of anger over the misunderstanding between Doug and the church elders when he had discussed his problems with them. He sought prayer and understanding, which he received, along with some doubt and misgivings by one of the elders, who had no idea of the depth of Doug’s hurt. The problem had been solved when the elder agreed to read some literature that Suzanne had recommended for them and for Doug’s brothers, both of whom had been completely unaware of the hurt that had visited their brother and baby sister as well.

“Hon…we can’t look at this and expect things to be any different. In fact, I’m concerned that things could be worse.”

“Like the way Pastor Vincenti acted toward Terri?” Angie was the angry one now, but her anger wasn’t a brief glimpse or flash.

“She had no right to exclude Terri. You even said that the official church policy was one of openness and acceptance.” She shook her head and tears came to her eyes as she looked with sympathy toward her sister.

“Yeah, but she did apologize…and even to everyone in the Sunday service.” Terri smiled weakly.

“I know…she was really pretty good after that, and even some of the girls came up to us to apologize to Terri and Alice. But…I know you Daddy…if that was difficult what are you going to tell us that has you crying.” She bit her tongue, anticipating some horrible secret or problem.

“Do you remember that show we watched on ABC a few months ago? The one with the family where the dad was living as a woman?” Theresa had barely gotten the words out of her mouth when Angie jumped up.

“You’ve got to be kidding me…Oh, God no. What will everybody say? Hell no!” She walked up to Doug and stood over him, her fists balled in anger as tears streamed down her cheeks.

“How could you? You’re going to tell everybody?” She shook her head and ran from the room, Terri went to get up but Theresa put her hand on her shoulder.

“No, honey…I think I need to talk to her. It’s going to be okay.” She kissed Terri on the forehead before turning to face Doug. He shook his head as his own tears fell from his face. She smiled and repeated her words.

“I swear…It’s going to be okay.” She walked quickly from the room. Terri got up and sat down next to Doug. He looked up and tried to speak but just sobbed. She hugged him and just said over and over,

“It’s okay, Daddy.”


“Angie…Angie, can I come in?” Theresa heard no answer, one way or another. She pushed softly on the door and it opened. Angie was lying on her bed sobbing. She turned and sat up at the sound of her mother’s steps. Her face was twisted and red with pain.

“Mommy…I’m so sorry….you know…you…you …” she stammered. Theresa walked quickly to the bed and sat down. She brushed the hair out of Angie’s face and spoke.

“I know why…It’s okay. Daddy knows, too.” She wiped her own face with her hand before kissing Angie softly on the cheek.

“It’s like what happened with Terri all over again. They won’t care. They won’t even think about what they say.” She shook her head. She grabbed the teddy bear lying against her headboard and hugged it.

“You’re not afraid, honey? I’ve never known you to be afraid….not like this.”

“Mom…I’m not afraid for me…I’m afraid all over again for Terri, and I’m afraid for Daddy. Mommy…I know!” She sniffled and reached for the box of Kleenex on the bookshelf in her headboard. She also pulled out a book that had been reversed on the shelf. She handed it to her mother.

“I found this when I was looking for Buddy’s catnip mouse under the couch. It was squeezed between the couch and the wall. I didn’t know what it was since there’s no title. I opened it up and saw the words. ’To Danielle.’” She shook her head as the tears flowed. Theresa rubbed her back.

“Why did you read it…It’s a journal, honey…a private journal?” Theresa wasn’t angry but was concerned.

“I thought it was one of Daddy’s books…you know the ones he writes? I read it for about six or seven pages when I realized it wasn’t about A boy…A girl...it was about Daddy. I didn’t know what to do so I hid it. I figured he’d just start another one and you and Terri wouldn’t have to know…have to get hurt.” She sobbed, burying her face in her mother’s breast.

“Are you ashamed of him? Honey?” Theresa pled.

“NO! Oh god, no…Mom…never…I love Daddy. I just didn’t want anything to come out before he was ready. And then everything got sorta set aside when we went on vacation until this week. I wanted to talk to him but I didn’t know how. Does he really want to be a woman?”

“Honey, I think he can explain it better than I can but it’s more like he wants to live like the woman he’s always been.” She shook her head, not out of doubt, but wondering if she had made herself clear.

“Does he have to tell everybody…now? Are you okay with this?” Angie looked up and tried to see if something would show in her eyes. Theresa smiled.

“Oh yes, honey…I don’t understand it all, but I do love your Dad so much, and I trust him…maybe now more than ever? Even about tomorrow. I don’t know…but I love him and I know you and Terri love him too.” Her eyes sparkled with the wisdom of the ages and the love of family, at least from the perspective of a teenage girl.


Sunday Morning at the Grace Fellowship

"You are home, baby," Debbie said, reaching across the table to take her daughter’s hands. "And you’ll always have a home here."

"It’s not going to be easy," Bree said. "I still have a lot of baggage that I’m carrying around. And I … I’m not sure I even believe in God anymore, and if I do, I’m not sure I like Him very much."

"Your Momma and I have both thought the same things over the last few years," Paul said.

"We learned one thing, Bree; God isn’t out there somewhere, he’s inside each of us. And He doesn’t try to make us fit into some little box; He wants to make us see that He fits into our life. All He wants is for us to love Him, and to know that He loves us."

I wanted to read that one last excerpt. I actually talk to Breanna on line, and she’s a good friend. This passage so moved me. Some of you know already of what I am about to share. That’s why I had asked for every child under the age of 13 to be in Sunday School.

“I’m an adult survior of sexual abuse as a child. I won’t dwell on that now, but I have included my story plus some web links for anyone who would like more information. What I want to say is that the abuse in no way affects what I am about to say. It had no bearing on this at all.“ The congregation began to murmur. Things like this usually weren’t talked about in church, and never at Grace Fellowship.

“Like Bree in the story, I have a lot of baggage, as I expect some of you have as well.” More murmurs.

“While I haven’t stopped believing in God at all, there have been times that I haven’t liked him at all.” A few chuckles and a few ‘hmphs’ followed.

“But the thing I need you to understand is that I need…desperately need for you to understand that I’m just like Bree. “ He paused for a moment and took a sip of water, hoping that he’d still have more than just his family on his side when he finished what he was about to say.

“Since the age of six I have known that I was different. Things that appealed to other children…no…that appealed to other boys never really appealed to me. I never felt like I fit in.” More murmurs and a gasp of recognition. He looked down and saw Theresa. While she sat with tears in her eyes, her smile gave him the courage to continue.

“I have been seeing a doctor…a psychiatrist as a matter of fact.” Gasps and murmurs and two amens from the back.

“She…” Huge murmur from one very redfaced gentleman in the third row.

“She has confirmed through her professional assessment as have I that I am a transsexual.”

A “What?” came loudly from the third row. The man got up and stood in the aisle for a moment before storming out of the church. Two other men rose and walked out along with one old lady. She paused and smiled.

“I’m sorry, Rev. Doug…I’ve got to go to the ladies room...Will this be on tape?” A bit of laughter and one amen from the back row.

“Yes, Mary…it will. I’ve included information and web links as well in my Pastor’s Talk for this week.” He took another sip of water.

“Would that be Former Pastor’s Talk?” Bill Moody, a good friend from Bible School shouted before looking around and shrugging.

“Well...you gotta admit it’s a distinct possibilty?” He laughed softly before waving at Doug.

“I’m going to be seeking the counsel of the elders regarding my position here. I am sorry to disappoint those who might expect my immediate resignation, but Scripture says that the call of God is not revocable. If it is the decision of the board that I should step down, I will do so. If the board wishes for me to stay while they search for another pastor, so be it. My place here is at the pleasure of God through the wisdom of the elders. My call is objective; my position is not.

As Bree's dad, Paul says, God isn’t out there somewhere, he’s inside each of us. And He doesn’t try to make us fit into some little box; He wants to make us see that He fits into our life. All He wants is for us to love Him, and to know that He loves us. And that includes those who might see things a bit different than me."

“No, Doug!” A woman said as she made her way to the center aisle. “This is so wrong.” Her eyes were filled with tears. Nancy Cavanaugh was a close friend of Theresa's, a single mom and a long-time member of the church. She walked up the aisle and climbed the steps to the platform and stood next to him as she was quickly joined by her sixteen year old son. Doug choked back a sob.

“Stay,” a girl about fifteen years old shouted from the back. “You rock!” Alice Chang, Terri’s girlfriend walked up the aisle and walked right up the steps onto the platform.

“Who here is with me?” She turned and grabbed Doug’s hand. She pulled him closer and smiled while whispering.

“What’s your name?” She stared at him waiting for a response. A look of recognition crossed his face and he leaned closer.

“Danielle.”

“Who here is with me and Pastor Danielle? Come on!” Terri stood up and walked calmly to the stage and stood on Doug’s other side, grasping his hand. She was quickly followed by Angie and Theresa. Doug started weeping as person after person stood and joined him and his family on the stage. Mary returned from the restroom and walked proudly up the aisle with Bill and his wife.

“I wouldn’t sit there and stare if I were you, Neil.”

She glared at her nephew before joining the group on the platform. Neil rose a moment later and walked to his aunt’s side. In the end, nearly a third of the congregation had joined to accept their new pastor. And in the end, just like the family had expected, Doug lost his position as Pastor of Grace Fellowship.


“Are you sure you’ll be okay?” Theresa said as she hugged Terri.

“Yeah…Alice’s mom said I could stay at their place. She even calls me her new ddd... daughter.” Terri began to weep in her mother’s arms.

“Just as long as she doesn’t mind us referring to Alice as the newest member of the Calabrese family?” She squeezed Terri and kissed both her cheeks.

“I love you, mom.” She looked over her mother’s shoulder and smiled at Angie, who was walking over to join the hug.

“Hey sis! Hope you enjoy the new school.” It was a running joke, since Theresa had homeschooled the two of them since fourth grade. At eighteen, she’d be joining her parents helping mentor the teens at the home where they were moving. One last figure came up to them. A fairly attractive woman in her forties albeit with very short hair and very little fashion sense drew close and hugged the three.

“I love you, Terri. Now don’t forget to email and post on your facebook page, “the woman said.

“Okay, just as long as I can keep calling you Daddy?” She smiled and laughed softly.

“Sure baby, sure.”

~ fin ~

Once again I am indebted to Breanna for my inspiration and to Beth, my Pastor, for my spiritual care

Exerpt from The Prodigal included with permission from the author.



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