The Hungry Heart


I remember thin covers and always feeling cold. I remember an empty stomach that ached to be full. I remember leaving the table, and still feeling hungry. How hard that must have been for my mother. I look at pictures from those times, and she was so thin. So was I. But the weariness in her face still haunts me.

My father drank, A LOT! I did not realize that my father often came home drunk, until that one, dreadful night when I was five years old. I sat on the couch, with my mother until the wee hours of the morning, waiting for him. It was just starting to get light outside, when he finally stumbled through the door.

“You’re drunk!” My mother barked, her words coming together like great blocks of ice.

“I got robbed!” My father replied, staggering. He was covered in stuffing from the seat of the old car he drove. Big chunks of cotton stuffing clung to him.

“Someone jumped into the car,” he explained, slurring his words, and “I’m lucky to be alive!”

The would-be robber stabbed the front seat of the car, instead of my Dad. The seat lost the battle. There was a thick tension between my mother and father. It hung there, like an accusation. A dark cloud fashioned by my father’s lie and my mother’s unbelief. He’d been carrying $500 of his boss’ money, and now it was gone forever. So was my father’s job. Lord only knows where the money went or what was the truth of the matter.

This was not the first time my father had lied, nor was it the last. I never got used to his drinking…nor the stories, nor the excuses, nor the lost jobs. We were like a band of rovers, transient travelers, who always left town in a hurry. I kept hearing that our first move came after we “lost the house”. It was years before I realized that we were not moving around, “trying to find that lost house.”

My father went from town to town, state to state, and job to job. He ran from his debts, but there was always room for more debts, so we just moved on and on. Every lost job, every lack of opportunity was always someone else’s fault. It took me years to comprehend that my Dad was an embezzler; that he lied; that he drank himself senseless, always with the excuse that the rest of the world didn’t understand him. It never occurred to him to hunker down, to honestly work hard, and to make someone else happy.

I wanted him to be the dad of my dreams – sober, honest, hardworking, even heroic. I wanted him to be a man of honor, but he just wasn’t. Instead, he was a drunk, dishonest, a malingerer, and, often, he was downright mean. There are things about my father that I would never speak of, except in whispered prayers in the dark watches of the night. I am so thankful that I had God to turn to.

To give my father credit, I must admit that he was creative, artistic, and brilliant. When he played the violin, he could make me cry. He wrote some of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard. As a chef, he was without peer. Towards the end of his life, he was sought out to become head of the cullinary arts department at a nearby junior college. His ship had finally come in.

Not much ever changed for my mother. She was still a prisoner in her own home. She couldn’t drive, and he took her nowhere. He kept her out in the country, far away from her family, and she made no friends. Around that time, I came home to recover from a divorce, and for a short time, my mother and I became close again. She shared with me some of her hopes that she had dreamed as a young woman, and she also shared her dreams about me, and my future. It was a bitter-sweet time, as my mother slipped from forgotten dreams into hopelessness. But I do have warm memories of the stories she told, and the hopes she had for my future.

As I began to understand my father, I began to look for ways to be different than he. And I found myself running for my life! It was very hard to shake off the shackles of my past, and to discover what feeds the hunger in my soul. However, I have found that the pursuit of spiritual food is a journey well worth taking.

I can choose to have honor. I can choose to be kind. I can take responsibility for who I am, including my faults and imperfections. Through the grace of God, I discovered that I CAN CHANGE MY COURSE! I found that I can choose to be excellent. I can choose to be a good woman, and I have found that within that framework, keeping my eyes on my goal, that I can be free! © Jaye Lewis, 2002

Jaye Lewis is an award winning writer, and Heartwarmer Gem, who writes about her life from a unique perspective. Jaye lives with her family in the beautiful southern highlands of southwestern Virginia. Jaye testifies that anything good within her, any wisdom that she may have obtained, was given to her through the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. Jaye is a grateful woman. She can be emailed at jlewis@smyth.net

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