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.
“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
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-Present Anna Waldherr. All rights reserved.