My dad was a difficult kid. He was arrested for the first time when he was 13, because he'd stolen a car.
My dad was adopted in late childhood—I think he was 7 or 8. His adopted family were missionaries. He lived with them for a few years before they adopted him. Before that, he was shuffled from one family member to another, one family friend to another—no one wanted the difficult kid. Not even his parents.
So he was old enough to know that no one wanted him, and old enough to know that he was a problem. He knew that long before the day he got arrested for stealing that car.
He knew it when his adopted mom locked him in the closet.
It was dark in there, with his cheek pressed against the taut vacuum bag, his back leaning against some shelving that pressed a line between his skinny shoulder blades.
He knew he'd been bad. He knew he was a problem. She made that very clear before she closed the door and walked away.
He didn't know how long she left him there. It always seemed like hours, but even a minute probably feels like hours to a 5 year old locked in a dark closet. I wonder how long she considered appropriate punishment for the crimes he had committed.
Did she ever forget he was there? Did she find her car keys and drive to the store while he sat frozen in fear-soaked darkness?
When I think about my dad in that closet, I don't care what he did. I find it extremely unlikely that he had done anything terrible enough for me to find her actions justified.
I look at old black-and-white pictures of my dad, and I smile at the image of him pulling a wagon with a dog sitting in it, but his face always looks serious. His eyes are large and round. I don't think I have any photos of him smiling when he was a kid except for studio shots for the school yearbook.
I wonder if he smiled much.
I wonder if he smiled ever.
I wonder how often she locked him in that closet. Did he ever get used to it? Did he cry? Did he cry every time?
I think of my dad in black-and-white darkness, those shelves biting into his back, that vacuum cleaner pressed to his cheek, and my anger rises up like a sword, a weapon in my hands that I can wield across time, an axe I can use to break that closet door to splinters, a hammer I can use to knock his adopted mom across the room in her prim flowered dress.
How would they like that at the Prairie Bible Institute, with their missionaries and their bibles and their dark closets? How would they like it when I came striding, righteous, with my shining sword to rescue one small boy?