The Rose Garden: A Daughter’s Story

Every human being is at some point confronted by evil. How we deal with it will shape our lives and our character.

The Rose Garden is the story of how childhood sexual abuse impacted my life. In it, I attempt to trace the origins of this particular form of evil in my own family, to confront old demons, and to find my place in a greater design.

My purpose in telling the story was to lift the veil of secrecy that so often shields abusers, and offer hope to other abuse survivors.

As a survivor, I am in select company. None of us would have asked to join this club, if given the choice.  Sexual abuse can have devastating physical, psychological, and spiritual impact.

But as someone who has regained her voice, I feel an obligation to speak out for those whose voices were stolen, along with their innocence.

Ultimately, The Rose Garden: A Daughter’s Story is a story of compassion and forgiveness. That is not in any way meant to excuse abuse. Whatever his or her personal history, the adult in a situation of child abuse remains the responsible party.

Review

“Rating:  Excellent!…[The author’s] courage will be an inspiration to others…There are many moving passages in this book…” John Lehman, BookReview.com

Read an Excerpt

White Rose, Photo by Audrey, Source flickr (CC Attribution, 2.0 Gen)

Chapter 1

The Giant

There is a public space in the northeast corner of the Bronx known as Pelham Bay Park.  Irregular in shape, the park nestles against the less affluent (some would say forgotten) end of Long Island Sound, covering more than 2700 acres.

Unlike most urban parks, Pelham Bay does not consist largely of pavement.  The park offers locals both grassy vistas and wooded areas.  As the result of recent civic improvements, Pelham Bay is today reasonably well groomed.  Due to budgetary constraints, however, the park was for many years left by the City of New York to fend for itself.

Pelham Bay represented wilderness to me as a girl.  In my young mind, the park was vast and uncharted, holding an irresistible appeal.  My father and I would drive to the park, and walk in the woods there.  Once I learned to bike without supervision, Pelham Bay Park – some five or six miles from our home – was within my own range.

It was, in fact, at Pelham Bay that my father taught me how to ride a bike.  As with most children, the moment is etched indelibly in my mind.  The event took place in the paved lot behind what my father called “The Giant.”

The Giant was just that, the stone figure of an athlete approximately eighteen feet tall, farther elevated above the nearby park grounds by a small concrete stadium.  This vantage afforded the Giant and those moved to climb the full height of the stadium a bird’s-eye-view of the surrounding countryside and a feeling of great, if temporary, self-satisfaction.

Though fond of the view, I rarely experienced that feeling since my father was always insistent on climbing to the Giant not by way of the steps provided, but by the concrete risers comprising the stadium seats.  “Keep up, Annie,” he would call.  This route posed a formidable challenge to my much shorter legs, requiring complete concentration and leaving me breathless by the time I reached the top.

My father seemed a giant to me as a child.  He would dominate dinner conversation; his personality, fill a room.  He could do no wrong.  Anxious to please him, I routinely made the ascent at Pelham Bay, but regularly experienced the effort as a failure on my part.

Not so with bike riding, at least not on that first day.  For several weeks beforehand, I had ridden the blue, two-wheeler with training wheels in place.  That was entirely different from balancing precariously on the bike without training wheels as my father pushed it across the rutted parking lot from behind.

Nor did training wheels prepare me for the exhilaration of suddenly riding the bike forward at full speed, under my own power.  In that moment – the wind in my hair – freedom was mine.  Endless hours of joyful, if often solitary, exploration followed.

My father was known around the neighborhood because of his own bike.  Whatever the weather or the season, my father rode that bike – in later years, usually with my mother trailing along behind him on foot.  Devoted to my father, she would knit him vests and earmuffs to wear; make sure he changed his shirt.

There would be many later bike rides during which I lagged as far behind my father as I did when we climbed the Giant together, and were many races lost to him.  Though I regretted my “obvious” inadequacy, I never begrudged my father the gratification he clearly derived from those races.

The time spent with him was enough.

The Rose Garden:  A Daughter’s Story, Copyright 2008-2017 Anna Waldherr.  All rights reserved.

13 responses to “The Rose Garden: A Daughter’s Story

  1. Dear Anna,
    I got your book by this same title today from Amazon and am looking forward to diving into to it. Thanks so much for sharing your story with such wonderful word pictures! You are truly gifted and the Lord has given you beauty for ashes and the oil of joy for mourning!
    Michael

  2. Dear Anna, You are a special blessing in the eyes of God and to me and I am enjoying your book. I am about a third of the way through so far. God bless you, dear sister!
    Michael

  3. Anna, I just finished your book and I am amazed the most at how Jesus has kept your heart unto Himself through all these years of trials and sufferings you have gone through and how you still reach out to all who are weak and abused as you have done with your book. You made yourself vulnerable that others might be helped. This is the true heart of Jesus. I was also touched by your salvation story how He used the story of Ruth and then that Hymn to touch you. Surely our Jesus KNOWS your name!

    And I entreat you also, true yokefellow, help those women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other of my fellow laborers, whose names are in the book of life.” (Philippians 4:3 KJ2000)

    Your brother in Christ,
    Michael

    • I am genuinely glad you liked the book, Michael. I do what I can for other victims, in the knowledge that many have suffered a great deal more than I have — not that there is a calculus of suffering. The credit, in any event, goes to Jesus Who sustains me.

      All blessings,

      A.

  4. Dear Anna, your book is so touching. In parts I cringed, and had to shut the book before continuing, when I was reminded of my own experiences. I liked the historical aspects of it as recounted by your parents, but I must say I found your own views, thoughts and feelings most compelling. Some similarities also made me smile: like the way your parents and my parents married within a month of each other, mine in March 1953 and yours in April. My birthday in October 1953 (my mother was pregnant on her wedding day!) and yours a few months later in January.

    I came away from reading your story thinking that there are shades of abuse (this is not to say that all abuse is not abhorrent), but I guess if you have strong loving relationships (as with your sister, grandparents etc) while the abuse is taking place, the strength of their love can help you to heal. It can be harder to heal when there is very little love in the household and especially if your mother is not fond of you on top of everything else. A mother’s love is so important in a child’s life and when that love is missing, there is always a gaping hole that needs to be filled.

    • I cannot tell you how much your comment means to me, Marie. I’ve never been satisfied that the book is sufficiently expressive. We need not, of course, be eloquent about pain to experience it. Still, deep down, I’d hoped to turn something ugly into something beautiful. Just a writer’s vanity…or a child’s forlorn attempt to rewrite the past.

      Unlike you, some readers may not find the historical aspects of the book relevant. Digging into the past, however, helped me understand the origins of the abuse, and find my place in the story. I agree completely that love (from siblings, grandparents, friends, etc.) can help us heal. Tragically, many victims receive little or none. That by itself can leave a deep scar — assuming children survive at all.

      I’m glad you liked the book (and delighted at our similarities)! More than that, I’m truly grateful our paths have crossed. You have a great deal to offer, Marie. All the world, I think, shares that “gaping hole” of which abuse victims are so intensely conscious. Both as a talented writer and a loving woman, you have the courage and sensitivity to address that ache at the world’s core. That is a special gift.

      With love,

      Anna ❤

      • Anna, I am so touched and encouraged by your wonderful complimentary words and cannot quite believe that you think that I am a “talented writer” with a “special gift”. I shall take that and hug it to myself and bask in the beautiful glow it produces. I have my own memoir that I wrote a little while ago, hidden away, perhaps I might re-visit it and if I am courageous enough, one day share it with others.

        Before I read your book, I always commented on your eloquence and how articulate you are – so my eyes nearly popped out of my head, when I noticed in your narrative how unsure you were about your writing, and how you wished you were more articulate and eloquent. My goodness, you have nothing to worry about on that score – if I was even a quarter as eloquent as you are, I would consider myself more than gifted. I don’t quite know how I discovered you amongst the thousands of bloggers on WordPress, but I believe that our paths were meant to cross and for that I give God thanks. With much love, Marie xx

      • Thank you for your kind words, Marie. God certainly knew what He was doing when He brought us together. Friends help one another through this world. I like what Solomon had to say about friendship, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. If they fall, one will lift up his companion” (Eccl. 4:9-10 NKJV). You are a great encouragement to me.

        Love,

        A. ❤

  5. I am anxious to read your book, God is so faithful.. He is our shelter from the storm.. It is so wonderful that you can help so many by sharing.

    • I hope you like the book. It amazes me how God can use even our scars for good. I really believe that victims — who, in many cases, have been so downtrodden — have a unique capacity to help one another. May God bless and protect you. ❤

  6. pur1fy

    Such wonderful writing, I look forward to reading more.

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