Monday, June 16, 2008

Long time coming...

......sorry about that.

In the past two weeks:

Many areas around us have completely flooded, leaving roads closed, homes destroyed, families displaced, businesses forced to close, and spirits drooping. Thankfully, our home and family have been spared. The only flooding we had was in the yard, and was thoroughly enjoyed by the kids, who practically swam in the gigantic puddles.

My Darling's uncle was found, uh, "expired" in his apartment. Now, without going into too much detail, this dear man was one of 14 siblings, with 12 still living...and things are contentious between some of them at this point. Please keep this family deeply in your prayers, as they are certainly in need and will remain so for some time. I will have to put off writing too much though, because my temper's a little hot about all the hullabaloo in the family and I don't want to say something regrettable.

I have been reminded, thanks to another stellar post by Jenni over at One Thing to think about my dad. I've not written about him yet, and I need to. There are so many things that whir through my heart and mind when I think of my dad, and it's often confusing. Our relationship was something I still don't fully understand, and he's been gone nearly 8 years now (come July). I miss him. I'll always miss him. My memories are so mixed though that sometimes missing him is really painful and sometimes it's just a dull ache.

When I was a very small girl, I remember loving my dad so fiercely that it encompassed me. He was gone for days at a time because of his line of work, and I would miss him until my heart practically broke. When he would return home again, I would spend every minute I could near him, singing goofy songs with him, watching him work, listening to him make plays on words--my dad loved language, and often played with words in ways that confused and delighted me--listening to him tell stories, and listening to music with him. He loved classical (general term--all styles: classical, baroque, etc.) music and had a huge collection of records (remember vinyl?).

When it was time for him to leave again, I would hug his leg and beg him not to go until he'd have to ask my mother to kindly remove me. Sometimes he would drive off, sometimes we would take him to the train station or the airport, but always I cried. He would bring tokens of his trips for all of us kids. At that time, my oldest brother was in the Navy, and I was the youngest of three still at home. The three of us are close in age, but my oldest brother is quite a bit older--15 years older than I, to be exact. When my dad would come home, we would help him unpack, waiting patiently to see what he had brought for us. Sometimes it was a doll or a coin. Perhaps a shirt or postcard. Once he brought us each a work of art made from bark. (I have no idea what happened to those.) We looked forward to seeing him again, but I think we all really looked closely to see what he had brought, too.

Things changed in our home when I was about 8 or 9; I don't remember exactly when. All I know is that at some point I had to watch what I said and did very carefully. If the wrong thing was said, a backhand would be forthcoming. If something wasn't done right, there was hell to pay.

That phrase. "Hell to pay." Christians view hell as the eternal separation from God, and the teaching is that damnation is forever, period. Even from hell, if you were to want God, there is no chance of salvation anymore. When I was a kid, that hell for me was being constantly afraid.

If the dishes were done "wrong," you could very well be removed from bed in the middle of the night. By your hair. Dragged down the stairs. Made to stand in the kitchen and rewash the entire load in hot, hot, hot water. "Spanked" with the belt while you did it, especially if you cried.

I was afraid of being chased; it felt like I was always being chased. Up the stairs had to be my least favorite. It was instinctual to run that way, but not very smart. I mean, where can you go once you're up there? Also, ankles are easy to grab. To this day, I can't be touched on my ankles, especially on a stairway...I completely freak.

I remember running so many times...running to my Grandma's house or to a friend's house...anywhere but home. And once I was old enough to be at school as long as I wanted, I joined whatever I could just to stay anywhere but home. Tennis, marching band, yearbook club, Spanish club, musicals, whatever. Just not at home. There were a bunch of us who would "stay through" from the end of school until evening practices. And fall was heaven--tennis and then marching band. I was gone from 7:45 in the morning until 10:00 at night. I lived for the times he was gone on business and dreaded his return. He still brought things home with him, but I don't remember what they were. I don't think I cared.

All my friends knew what happened at my house. There were a few who knew that if I showed up past 8 or 9 at night with no ride from all the way across town, I needed to feel safe. They were my lifelines. None of them visited me at home. They were all scared of my dad.

I don't know what happened. I don't know why he became so angry, and why he was angry in my direction. My brother and sister were on the receiving end of it, too. The frustrating thing for us was that our younger brother (7 years my junior) was never "disciplined" the way we were. He pretty much did whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, from the day he could walk. I try so hard not to be bitter about it, knowing that it wasn't his fault he didn't get the pants kicked off him. It's not easy to keep that in perspective though.

Our relationship continued to be in the toilet for years, until I came home one day.

I never thought I'd see the day, but my dad softened, and it seemed like it was literally overnight.

1 comment:

Heather said...

I'm sorry that you had such a difficult childhood. I know that your childhood must be continue to be a painful memory to this day. My thoughts and prayers are with you as you continue to address issues from your past. I was also sorry to hear that your uncle passed away, especially in less than 'ideal' circumstances. On a more upbeat note, I'm glad to hear that your family made it safely through the flooding. I gather from the ending of your post that there was a type of reconciliation between yourself and your father. I hope that was the case, and I look forward to reading about it, if you feel inclined to share the story.