Copyright© 2012 by Robert McKay
Gill and I forced ourselves not to intrude on Hadassah that night. When we went up to bed there was no light under her door, and it was quiet inside, but we were sure that if she was asleep, she'd cried herself to sleep. And we decided that if she was sleeping, to let her sleep; strong emotion is exhausting and worry is exhausting and we knew she had to be terribly exhausted just then. We certainly were, and we were merely the parents – if "merely" is the right word.
But we didn't sleep well. The silence of the house seemed sinister that night, full of evil imaginings, and in that silence the ordinary sounds of a sleeping house – the creaks of the building settling, the sporadic hissing of the water heater, the occasional hum of the refrigerator which I'd never before realized carried through the fabric of the house so well – seemed to come from under a murderer's foot. I would just about get to sleep when one of the noises would wake me up, or Gill would roll restlessly over and jar me out of my doze.
Saturday morning Gill and I were up early, after that restless night. I was sure that one of the times I woke up, through the wall between our room and hers, I had heard Hadassah crying, but when I'd gone out into the hall I'd heard nothing through the door. Perhaps she'd been crying just then, perhaps not. But when she came downstairs in her pajamas late that morning, it was clear that sometime during the night she most certainly had cried, for her eyes were red and she looked as tired as I knew she must be.
Gill and I were sitting on the sofa, holding hands and saying nothing at the moment, when Hadassah came into the living room. We looked up at her, and she looked at us. Her black curly hair hung over her shoulders, shoulder blade length, covering her in front and back. I examined her, seeing anew the face I loved so much – the large almond shaped black eyes, the olive skin, the nose that was just slightly flattened from the black ancestor who rumor had it lurked somewhere in my family tree. Gill was a blonde, roots and all, and Hadassah got her dark coloring from me. I realized that she was no longer a young girl, but a young woman, her shoulders broad and her hips equally so, her figure grown into more mature proportions than I'd realized. And with a start I realized too that she was taller than I'd imagined – taller than Gill, perhaps as tall as I was. Her breadth of hip and shoulder, and her slightly stocky build, had masked her height, making me think her chunky. And I knew then, in a way I never had before, that she was truly beautiful, not just beautiful to me as her father – I knew that men would find her beautiful as a woman.
All that flashed through my mind in an instant, and then came the fact: My daughter is pregnant, without a husband. And I dropped Gill's hand and got up off the sofa and took three steps, and folded Hadassah in my arms and hugged her tightly. For a moment she was stiff, and then she relaxed and hugged me back. When we released each other Gill was there, and they too hugged each other. And then Hadassah looked at us and said, "I love you too."
She remembered exactly where we'd left off the night before. I don't think she could have forgotten if she'd tried to. And I was glad that instead of returning to her pregnancy, she had instead let us know that she had heard what we told her, and believed it, and returned our love.
Gill and I drew her down to sit between us on the sofa. I noted idly that the flowered print of the fabric was showing its use; it was no longer as bright as it had been when Gill had picked it out. "Hadassah," my wife said, "your father and I don't want to hurt you or pressure you. But we have to know who the father of our grandchild is."
"Yes," I told her. "We do need to know who the father is. But whoever he is, and however this pregnancy came about, this is our grandchild – our grandson or granddaughter, whatever it may be. We can't deny our flesh and blood." I held out my right hand – Hadassah was holding my left – and said, "'Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.'"
She gave me a faint smile. "That's Isaiah 49:16."
"I'll accept your attribution; I teach theology, but you, daughter, have memorized more of the Bible than I've ever been able to." I looked solemnly at her. "You know the verse. Do you know what I mean by it?"
She nodded. "I think so. You, and you, Mom, love me because I'm your daughter. You said it – I'm your flesh and blood. And so is my baby, and just as Jesus loved His people and inscribed them on the palms of His hands, so you've inscribed me ... maybe not on the palms of your hands, Mom and Dad, but ... in your hearts?"
Gill nodded, holding onto Hadassah's left hand. "That's exactly right. Now I won't deny that we're hurt and angry. We taught you better, honey. You know better than what you've done. But our hurt and our anger are because we love you. If we didn't care about you, we wouldn't be so upset with this situation." Gill was trying to speak calmly, but her voice shook, and her eyes were bright with her pain.
"It's like Daddy wrote in that book ... what was it, The Pain of Sin?" I nodded, confirming the title. "It's like he wrote there, isn't it – that God hates sin so much because He loves us so much."
"Yes." I wiped a tear from Hadassah's cheek. She was wearing no makeup, and her skin felt like silk under my fingers. It was no wonder that someone had found her attractive enough to lie with her; I might condemn the action, but I could see her beauty and recognize the hold it might have on a man. I'd felt that sort of attraction years ago when I'd met Gill, before I'd come to love her. "It's our love for you that makes this such a painful thing." I took a breath, and held it, and let it out shakily. "And though I'm afraid it's going to hurt you, we really do need to know who the father of your baby is."
She nodded, looking now at the floor between her feet. I knew what she saw – gold-colored carpet, with a medium pile, comfortable to walk on in bare feet. Her hair fell around her face, shielding it from my gaze, a familiar shield she'd used since she was a little girl when she was scared or embarrassed. Her hand tightened down painfully on mine. She was a goalkeeper on the Calvin Academy high school soccer team, and had strong hands. "I don't want to tell you. I don't want to get him into trouble, and I don't want to shame him."
"But he's as responsible for this as you are, honey." That was Gill, reaching over with her free hand, awkwardly, to rub gently between Hadassah's shoulder blades, and then settling for the easier comfort of resting her hand on Hadassah's shoulder. Gill's tanned skin looked very good against the white cotton of Hadassah's pajama top.
"You mean you don't blame me?"
"Yes ... and no. Yes, honey," Gill said, "because it required your participation. I'm not a novice – I know where babies come from, and unless someone raped you, you cooperated. But no, we don't blame you, not entirely, because so did he need to cooperate. You didn't get pregnant by yourself, Hadassah. And this man, whoever he is, has an obligation to share the blame and to share the responsibility for raising your child."
I leaned over and whispered in my daughter's ear. "Your mother's right. We need to know, not just because we have to know, but because we're your parents, and it's our responsibility to care for you – and that, now, includes seeing to it that this man treats you with justice and respect."
She looked up at me, and I saw that, though she had made no sound or movement, her face was covered with her tears. "I can't, Daddy..."
I withdrew my hand from hers, and my left arm went around her shoulders and drew her to me, and I held her firmly there as I spoke. "You can, daughter, and you must. To honor your parents, and to begin raising this child in the ways of the Lord, you can't hide behind anything. You can't allow him to hide. Perhaps we should have realized you were ... sleeping with this man, but we didn't – and you hid it from us. It's time for that to end, Hadassah. Only complete honesty before God will serve now."