I’ve experienced love on many levels in my lifetime, and from my experience, true love, real love is much like having a baby. It’s something that starts to grow in you even before you know it’s there. I grew up watching people who I thought were in love doing all the things that people in love did, or so I thought. From the eyes of a child, it seemed so grand, so enchanting. Enchanting, um, a word often used in fairytales. As I grew older I came to see love through very different eyes. The white picket fence I’d constructed in my head started to weather. The paint begin to peel and crack, and I came to understand that picket fences required more work than love.
I, like many who see a psychiatrist or psychologist, was ask about my childhood, my parents, any abuse or neglect. I served twenty years in the military as a medic so I’ve seen my share of the sick, the wounded, and the dead. But when ask about abuse and neglect, no! I’d responded quickly and with confidence so as not to make them suspicious. As I recall the first bout of severe depression I experienced was while deployed to Saudi Arabia during Desert Shield/Storm. I became very familiar with the psychoanalysis question bank. My stories grew shorter and shorter the more times I had to explain them. I always thought I had the best parents ever. They were loving and aside from the more than occasional, slightly cruel but funny tricks my dad played on me, they took good care of me. But, the more I talked, the more I realized that maybe I did have some resentments, some repressed issues with security that I would come to call the “leftovers” of my childhood.
As I sit here typing, memories of seeing my parents together and loving are live-streaming in my head like an old silent movie. You know, the ones where everybody’s smiling, sitting in each other’s laps, and appearing to move in fast motion. I can almost feel the cool leather or pleather of that small black and white patterned couch beneath me, feet propped up on the coffee table, with a reel to reel playing out the scenes that were so beautiful then. All I can hear is the clicking of the film as it unwinds and winds itself from one reel to the other. Ah, nostalgia, what a warm feeling. Peace, safety, security, warmth, and love….but so quickly it’s all interrupted with noise, noise of the past, those noisy “leftovers.”
This is where the picket fence begins to lose its appeal. For many years I remember my sleep being interrupted by arguing. I’m not sure if it ever got physical between them, but I know there were things thrown and things broken. A typical weekend would start with my dad leaving with friends or his brother for a little time with the boys. Typically these nights lasted into the next morning. They usually involved drinking, fighting, other women, and polishing of belt buckles as my dad laughingly called it. At times I’ve laughed at my dad for his joking about the subject, the taunting he used with my mother to make light of it. Somehow it’s lost its humor over the years. I know my dad was young. He was growing up, doing the best he could with what he’d seen and been taught, but it did affect me in more ways than I’ve been willing to admit until recently. I hated seeing him drunk, sometimes even crawling to the bed. He’d ask me to get a milk jug and a trashcan. The milk jug was what he urinated in and the trashcan was what he used to vomit in. I feel a bit of anger welling up in me as I think of these times. I felt scared, nervous, and insecure when this would happen. But if I was doing these things, at least that meant we were at home and all together, even if it wasn’t the best scenario.
There were many times when my dad didn’t come home, and my mom and I would have to go out looking for him. My mom would warm an old quilt by the fire or gas heater, roll me up in it, and we’d go on our little road trip to find Daddy. We lived in a very small town so it wasn’t hard to find someone. Lucky for us there were only a few juke joints nearby. Eventually we’d find his car and my mom would give me the speech. “I’m locking the car doors. I’ll be back in a minute. Now don’t you let anybody in but me no matter what. Momma’s going to get Daddy and then we’ll go home.” They’d both come out with the door swinging wide open, and yelling. Sometimes my uncle would follow and try to resolve the situation, but that waned as he learned my mom didn’t back down easily. She was and still is as tough as nails. As big and strong as my dad and uncle were then, I think she probably could have got a few good licks in despite the size difference. And as much as they hated her breaking up their parties, they both respected her and loved her through it all. It’s a shame that she probably didn’t realize that. I’m certain she didn’t feel it. I saw and I felt her loneliness and pain.
Eventually the yelling would stop and we head home. Many times my mom would lock my dad out of the house or the bedroom. There was one time when she left him on the back doorsteps, another time when she left him literally hugging the toilet bowl. Once she even left him underneath the clothesline, and just for good measure, she left a dripping washrag on the line directly over his face—her version of waterboarding I suppose. There were equally as many times when we would pack our clothes and leave for Maw’s house. It hurt to leave Daddy at home, but at least Maw’s house was quiet. Then the next morning Daddy would show up and eventually talk my mom into coming home. If he couldn’t talk her into coming home then he’d coax me into coming with him which usually meant Mom was sure to follow.
This pattern we established, as odd as it may sound, somehow gave me something I could depend on. By some means, this pattern provided me with a sense of security—but not. I’m at a loss as I try to explain it. I guess it became comfortable because I knew what was going to happen. Once the trigger was pulled, I knew what to expect so some of my anxiety was alleviated. When life was good and everybody was happy, I was anxious. In my little world, as it was then, I was extremely “braced” for things that might happen. I had a new shell chambered and ready to fire. I didn’t know when the good times would be abruptly ended by the clash, crash, and the chaos that had become the norm. Raised voices set off “silent tremors” that rumbled like an earthquake in the distance that quickly gained speed and grew in size as they took over me entire body. The tremors ended with the energy leaving my fingertips as I pressed the butt of the gun tightly against my shoulder, squinted my eyes, and FIRED! From that point on, I was ok. I carried out my part in the silent movie. Gladly caring for my Daddy, nestling up close to Mom to console her, pulling the warm quilt over my face and sinking deep within the security of the beautiful colors.
At this moment I’m writing what I’m writing because I felt I needed to. I feel lead by God to put these thoughts on paper. I don’t yet know the full purpose; I don’t even know how far or how deep I’ll go. All I need to know is that this writing is in concurrence with God’s will. I am confident that the purpose will be revealed to the person or people that this is meant for. I’m not sure of who, what, or when, but I do know that the why is healing, and somewhere down the road the story ends at the Healing House.