For the explanation of my current series, go to the first installment:

Out of Control:
A Christian Parent’s Victorious Struggle with Child Abuse

A Memoir by Kathy Collard Miller

Chapter 13 
Surprise Party

June 25th

“Yes, Claudia, that’s right. The party is this Saturday. I’m glad you can come.” I was relieved Claudia had called to let me know the invitation had arrived safely. I hoped I hadn’t forgotten anyone.

“Kathy, how are you going to make the party a surprise if you’re having it at your house?”

“That’s the best part. I had Jim ask Larry to play tennis with him that afternoon. Everyone will arrive at 2:30 and Jim will bring him back at 3. Doesn’t that sound great? I’m so excited. You know, I’ve never done anything like this before. I sure hope it works.”

“Well, it sounds foolproof to me. I just hope Larry feels like playing tennis that day.”

“That’s the least of my worries. Larry will play tennis any chance he gets. What he may not like, though, is coming home all sweaty and tired to find twenty people waiting for him. And guess what? I’m going to have a casket here.”


“Yes, a casket. Sandy’s husband made a wooden casket for a Halloween party they had and he’s bringing it with them. Can you believe that?”

“That is hilarious. Wow. Maybe you can get him to lay down in it.”

“I’m not counting on that, but we’ll see. That would be fabulous, though. Hey, gotta go. Still have lots to do. See you Saturday.”

I hung up smiling. If this doesn’t earn his love, nothing will.

During the next few days, Darcy really got on my nerves. I had so much to think about and organize, and she seemed to sense my tension, demanding even more attention from me than usual. As I tried to plan the menu, she wanted to play with modeling clay which I knew would make a big mess. But I also knew saying no would only elicit persistent begging and a temper tantrum. I was not prepared to handle that, so I relented.

In the meantime, my mind swirled with plans. I’ll make the cake on Friday night while Larry is at work. Sally can keep it at her house until the next day.

On Saturday morning, I could barely sit still. I tried to keep busy by cleaning the house. But Darcy and even Mark seemed to sense my nervousness, whining and crying for attention.

“Darcy, please let me get the house clean,” I pleaded. It would be so embarrassing to let people see my messiness and dirty floors. 

Finally, the house was beginning to look better and I hoped Larry hadn’t noticed my unusual furious pace.

As he walked out the door at one, I grabbed Mark and could smell his diaper. I had changed him just thirty minutes before but now I’d be delayed even if only for a few moments. I had no time to spare.  

After putting him in the crib with a clean diaper and shutting the door, I walked down the hall, but heard him crying. That’s funny. He usually goes right to sleep.

When I walked back in, he reached out to me. “No, Mark, don’t do this to me. You’re my good baby. Go to sleep.”

Although he continued to cry after I left the room I had to get Darcy down for her nap. When I explained she needed to go to sleep because friends were coming, I realized that was a mistake. She had a thousand questions I had no time for. I raised my voice to make my point for her to sleep and closed her door behind me. 

By the time I’d rocked Mark to sleep and rushed into the kitchen to continue working, I gasped when I saw Darcy sitting on the tile surrounded by hundreds of tiny pieces of modeling clay. “Oh no, why did I leave that out on the counter?”

I raised my hand and shot it down, slapping Darcy’s cheek. She covered her face with her hands and screamed hysterically. “I don’t care if you cry all day. I need to get too much ready! Can’t you ever do anything right?”

By the time I’d picked up most of the mess, my anger had seeped out of me and Darcy’s tear-filled face crushed my heart. “Oh, God, I’ve done it again. Is there no hope for me? Please help me! I’ve been so patient lately. I thought I was over this.”

I picked up Darcy roughly and headed to Sally’s to retrieve the cake. My shame covered me like a water-soaked blanket and I couldn’t even look at Darcy, much less apologize. By the time I returned home, I put Darcy in front of the TV for a cartoon and readied as much as I could in the time left.

By the time everyone arrived, the house buzzed with excitement. When Larry walked in the door totally shocked with everyone singing “Happy Birthday,” I stood beside him with a big grin. “Happy Birthday, Honey. I love you.” 

“Oh wow,” he exclaimed. “I can’t believe it. You’ve got to be kidding.”

He draped his arm over my shoulders and gave me a hug. “How did  you pull this off?”

“Not very easily,” I joked, but I knew the price had been high–too high.