Debra by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

The P.E. teacher questioned Debra daily. Was she okay, dressing out for gym class? Were the bruises noticeable, or was this a “good” day? Depending on her answer, Debra would suit out or not. Her beatings at the hands of her father were not uncommon, but during that era, those things were “hush-hush.” At the age of 16, her father told her that she needed to have sex to keep her from being “a frozen fish” like her mother. So, Debra did.

When dates brought her home five minutes late, more than once her dad met Debra on the front porch and physically dragged her into the house while her dates watched from their cars, horrified. Punching her in the face and spanking her with his policeman’s belt were not unusual, she, the prime target who protected her two siblings whenever she could.

Her mother offered no support, daily calling her a “stupid idiot” and many times holding her arms while her father lashed away. When her dad, drunk and confusing her with his wife, held her head in the toilet, enough was enough. The police were called, but because Debra’s dad was “one of theirs,” nothing happened.

This past October, Debra’s father, at the age of 75, lie in a hospital bed, dying. His daughter visited him several times, the final one, devastating. When it came time to leave, as Debra shared, “My dad’s eyes were evil, like a demon was speaking to me. ‘Get out. And never come back.’ That was the last time I saw my father alive.”

I listened intently as this lady, a beautiful, talented, successful artist/esthetician I met through a mutual friend, shared her story, the craziest part being, her dad “knew Jesus.” I had questions. Was he bi-polar? Demon-possessed? Debra didn’t know. She knew only that her childhood was cruel and painful.

So, why is it that you are so normal, so fun, so engaging, so “together?” I asked.

Her answer? “God.”

Debra went on to share that from the time she was little and the beatings and emotional abuse progressed, she would go outside and find a reclusive area where she could have alone- time to talk to God. She admits that it makes no sense, since her parents did not take her to church or teach her about God. “I just knew He cared,” she said.

Should you walk into her salon today, you would be greeted with an open Bible lying on a countertop. Her faith is real, and she is not ashamed of it. I told her that I had no doubt that God would use her story to bless others. She laughed and said that more times than she could count, clients had shared their personal ordeals but concluded with, “What would you know? It’s obvious your life has been perfect.” They, like me, were shocked to hear otherwise.

Her mother, still alive, now depends on Debra for physical and emotional support. Debra said that she has chosen forgiveness, but “sometimes I have to tell my mom that she is not being nice when she berates me or focuses on the negative.” I asked if her parents ever apologized or asked for forgiveness. Debra said that was not part of their vocabulary.

The best part of the story was how Debra turned her childhood trauma into good. She, determined not to allow her children to have similar memories, daily affirms and blesses them. Happily married to a Florida firefighter, her life is all about being an encouragement to others, to let them know that they too can overcome. As Debra said, “That’s what God wants for all of us.”

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