â€œWe cannot change our past. We can not change the fact that people act in a certain way. We can not change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.â€ – Charles Swindoll
The talk had begun to fade by the time I returned. But I knew what they were talking about.
They always talk about me when I leave the room. In hushed whispers, with their eyes cast down, their cheeks away from me, they converse. I know what they say. I have overheard their muted mumbled tones. It is the same way they talk about the Big C. Cancer. As if a quieter tone somehow protects you from the reality that you could one day get cancer.
"Did you hear Martha hasâ€¦..cancer?", says my aunt, making a point to whisper the "C" word the same way they whisper the words they use to refer to me.
Slut. Whore. White trash. Sinner.
I have heard every single word. Those I have not heard, I have imagined on my own.
A few friends and family members are bold enough to confront me personally. I respect that. Even with a snide or offensive tone they had the strength to ask me about my child. A few will dare to ask me what I did and why.
"How could you give your daughter away? Who DOES that? (Oh, right, YOU)"
"Why were you sent away?"
"Where did you live? Was it awful there?"
"Why didn’t your parents help you?"
"Where is the father? Do you KNOW who he is?"
"Did your father beat you when he found out? I heard he called you a whore."
"What did Father Pcolka say to you? Are you allowed back in church?"
"Why didn’t you have an abortion? You should have just killed her. No one needed to know"
"Did you know that Sarah isn’t allowed to be seen with you? Her parents worry that being sexually active and getting pregnant might be catching."
But these people in front me, this family of mine, these brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles, they prefer to whisper. They whisper as if I cannot hear or as if I am not present.
Unfortunately, I am.