The summer after I graduated high school seemed to drag on forever.
Perhaps it was because I was too stoked about leaving my father’s
house. I’d been accepted to San Mollan University, a prestigious
private school located in San Lafae, California. It wasn’t easy
getting my dad, Joe Henry, to let me go to college out of state. He
would always say, “You live in Boston, Anna-Marie. This is where all
the best colleges are. There is no need to go anywhere else.” What Joe
didn’t seem to understand was that I’d had it with this town.
“Don’t get me wrong—it’s nothing against Boston, Dad,” I
replied. But after living under my father’s thumb for four years, I
was ready to be free.
I had an aching desire to be somewhere else, anywhere else. There was a
longing in my heart to see the world. Most importantly, getting away
from the iron grip of my dad had become my number one priority. I was
going to be three thousand miles away from his rules and craziness. I
loved my dad but, after so many years of feeling like his prisoner, I
couldn’t wait to be on my own. Joe was a very good father and a good
provider, though his parenting style left me feeling oppressed. My half
sisters and I could count on him for anything. However, he was
obstinately stubborn in his views. He ran his household as a dictator
and our household as his reign. Joe was also very religious. He often
reminded us how he had come to Christ very late in life and that he
didn’t want his children to make the same mistakes he had made.
Joe was very inquisitive. “Who are you going out with? Will there be
boys at this party? Are you all done with your homework?” Even though
he already knew the answers to his questions he still had to put us
through the ringer. He wouldn’t have even considered letting us go
otherwise. That was also a part of the test. He always had so many
questions and expected us to answer them in a timely manner, no matter
how embarrassing the question was. He assumed any answer that didn’t
come as fast as he wanted was a lie. Going away to college had always
been a lifelong dream of mine. Finally, my plans had started to gain
momentum. I had been dreaming of becoming a pharmacist ever since I was
a child. I think it all started when I met my neighborhood pharmacist.
My mother needed cough medicine to treat my sniffles. She had several to
choose from but had no idea which one to give me. The pharmacist offered
his help and answered all of her questions. His kindness, knowledge, and
expertise blew my eight-year-old year mind. “Mom, tell me about the
guy you were talking to at the pharmacy earlier,” I asked later after
we got home.
“The pharmacist,” she replied with a chuckle, seeming amused. My
mother, Joanna Tims, had the most beautiful smile and musical laugh I
had ever seen and heard. Though it seemed out of place, I still enjoyed
“Yes.” I paused. “How do you become a pharmacist?” Her face
turned serious before answering.
“Is that what you want to be when you grow up?” She stared at me
with a side eye for a moment. My eyes remained fixated on her,
impatiently awaiting her answer. “Well, baby, you have to be a very
good student, which I know you already are, and study very hard.” She
touched my nose with her index finger. I wiggled my nose unintentionally
and she smiled. “If you apply yourself, nothing’s impossible sweet
love,” she added, then kissed my cheeks. She seemed pleased. I
couldn’t understand why at the time.
Getting a full scholarship pretty much sealed the deal, not only for me,
but also for my father. Even though he hated the idea of me leaving, he
wasn’t foolish enough to turn down a full ride. Finally, my plans for
college felt like they were etched in stone. There was nothing my dad
could do to mess it up for me. I spent my whole life trying to please my
father. As a daughter, I wanted nothing more than to make him proud of
me, and all I asked for in return was unconditional love. But Joe was
the type of person who gave out praise only when he was at the controls.
I didn’t want to be acknowledged only for doing things his way all of
the time. I wanted to be able to step out of his shadow and have the
assurance that he would love and cheer me on no matter what. I was
elated over the fact that for the first time in what seemed like
forever, I was going to be living life on my own terms, thousands of
miles away. I felt as if I was letting him down by not doing what he
wanted. Then I reminded myself that I was going to be in charge of
running my own life sooner or later. Now seemed as a good a time as any.
I knew leaving home would be a great experience though sometimes the
thought of being on my own was terrifying.
It was my first time leaving the comfort of home, the familiar, the
predictable, and the dependable. I loved being part of this community.
The people at church had very high regards for my half sisters and me,
partly because of my dad. He used to boast how people at church always
complimented him on bringing up great kids. Our names were never
associated with any of the other hell-raisers in the church, according
to him. The only good thing that came out of Joe’s tyranny was that I
could spot the troublemakers a mile away. Part of me was looking forward
to leaving it all behind. However, another part of me knew that I was
going to miss it a lot.
As days went by, I noticed that focusing on planning my trip to
California gave me a chance to take my mind off of what I was going to
be missing and helped me gain a new perspective on everything I was
going to gain by taking that big step. I wanted to rent a car and drive
to San Lafae. That had always been a dream of mine. I’d often pictured
myself driving on the highway, the wind blowing through my hair in a
topless convertible. I think it was a scene from a movie or a TV show
that sort of stuck with me. Joe flat out refused. He gave me two
choices: “Either you fly there or stay here.” Worried I might lose
it all together, I quickly complied. He was my father after all, and I
really loved him. I knew that everything he had done had been out of
Joe drove me to BostonLoganInternationalAirport, a forty-minute ride,
which he took full advantage of by imparting last-minute advice and
wisdom. “Remember, Anna-Marie, birds of a feather.” He turned his
head to glare at me to make sure he had my undivided attention. “If
you hang with a bunch of doctors, people will automatically assume
you’re a doctor even though you’re not.” He shook his head and
raised his eyebrows.
“The opposite is also true. If you have a bunch of thieves for
friends, people will also assume you’re also a thief. So be very
careful when choosing your friends.” He turned his head from the road
to glare at me. Then he mentioned something about how actions have
consequences, one of his favorite sayings. I knew he would talk about
that. Joe wasn’t saying anything I hadn’t heard before so I mostly
nodded until he was done talking. Then, the next phrase he uttered took
me completely by surprise. “Anna-Marie, I never thought you’d be
going to school so far away from home.” Joe folded his lips, looking
“An opportunity presented itself, Dad. I didn't want to pass it up,”
I responded, staring at the red car in the lane next to mine at the red
light, not really understanding his comment.
“Are you sure this is what you really want?” He took his eyes from
the road to stare at me for a while.
“Of course, Dad. It's a free ride for one of the best schools in the
country. How could I say no to that?” I turned toward him, meeting his
gaze. I couldn’t believe he was testing me at this late hour in the
game. I won, dad. Get over it. You’ve oppressed me all of my life. Now
I’m free, I thought to myself with a smirk dancing on the edge of my
“I worry that I didn't do such a good job preparing you for all of
this freedom. I sheltered you too much.” He pressed his eyebrows
together. The highway seemed free and clear. I was delighted.
“I think you did okay, Dad. You did the best you could,” I fibbed.
He was too heavy-handed as a father. Still, I didn’t want him to feel
sad. I never liked being responsible for him feeling down. It always
made me feel so guilty. No, Anna-Marie. Not this time. You need to let
it go. You need to give yourself a chance, I kept telling myself. I was
finally leaving him. That was the only thing that seemed to matter to me
at that moment. I laid my hand on his shoulder and rubbed it.
“I realize now I should have given you more freedom just to see how
you'd deal with it. I've been watching you too closely all these
years.” Joe rubbed his hand across his forehead. I turned to stare at
him thinking, You’ve been downright overbearing, Dad.
“I'll be okay, Dad. Try not to worry so much,” I chuckled. “It’s
not your fault you love with a closed fist.” I held my breath waiting
for his rebuke, then exhaled at his response.
“Wow, I never meant to love you like that. I was too unyielding. I’m
sorry. I just wanted to keep you safe.” Joe sounded morose.
“I’m not complaining. It’s made me stronger. You did the best you
could. It wasn’t fun but it served its purpose.” My voice cracked as
I realized I wasn’t saying the right words. Joe squinted as if he’d
been stabbed. I scrambled to find the right words to comfort him. “I
love you, Dad.” I leaned my head against his shoulder. Okay, I’m
going to shut up now. I felt so guilty.
At last, we arrived at the airport. I was running late, which was a good
thing. My dad seemed like he had a lot more on his mind he wanted to
share. He handed me a paper shopping bag. I immediately grimaced as I
took it from him. I didn’t even bother to look inside. I had no time
to waste. I already had a carry-on bag on wheels to drag behind me. And
I hated carrying too much stuff in my hands. In addition, I had two
suitcases to check in.
Excerpted from "Beloved Bone Of My Bones-Rapturing Love" by Myrline Pierre Fils. Copyright © 2017 by Myrline Pierre Fils. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.