Family secrets can bring on heartache, but sometimes they actually bring relief and joy.
Family secrets can bring on worry and heartache. Take the Summers family, in my new book Gone in a Flash: Anne's discovery of an undeveloped roll of film uncovers a mystery about a cousin they all believed had been killed in action while serving in the Vietnam War; his appearance in an image taken six years later brings up questions that are not easily–or comfortably–answered.
But sometimes, when revealed, family secrets can actually bring relief and joy–or something as simple as a moment of release during a time of sorrow.
After my father's death, my three sisters, my brother and I gathered at his house. After the funeral, we set out to clean the house, top to bottom. We agonized together over not being able to find the key to his safe-deposit box. My brother took Dad’s truck on a pizza run and returned with good news: He’d found the key... in the console of the truck. We all had a good laugh over that and wondered what else Dad had “hidden” from us. We each knew a few hiding places in the 150-year-old farmhouse, and we checked them all in turn.
As we were cleaning the kitchen, my sister Mim said, “Did you get Dad’s stash from under the stove?”
I looked at her blankly and said, “What?”
Apparently she knew something I didn’t, though I’d been staying with Dad a lot during his final year.
Dad’s old kitchen range had a wood-burning firebox on the left and electric burners on the right. It sat a foot or more out from the wall, and a stovepipe went up from the firebox and out through the wall above.
Mim got a broom and squeezed in behind the stove. After some poking with the broom beneath the range, she stood up with a round cookie tin in her hand. “Tada!”
We opened it and found more than $300 in cash.
The five of us had a good laugh over that and congratulated Mim on her find. Apparently she was the only one Dad had confided to about this particular hiding place. You can be sure we did an extra-careful search as we cleaned the rest of the house.
It was a small thing, but this family secret helped us all linger over pleasant memories of our dad and his quirks.
Those who perpetrated this terrible crime tried to destroy something inspirational. But as these stories make clear, they failed.
Gathered in branches outside her dad's window were the birds he called God’s choir.