I watched an episode of “Bones” once (a TV forensic’s show) where the reveal of who done it had the young-ish mother (who belonged to a street gang) and her son (maybe 8-10 yrs old at best) sitting across from the FBI agents who tease out the truth – the son confesses to killing his mother’s abuser/lover. There’s a heartfelt moment when he bears his soul to her, wanting to protect her… then dead calm for 3os (a lifetime on TV) after which she launches herself at her little boy and tries to strangle him.
Her words were, “What gave you the right! He meant more to me than you ever will. I can make another child any time. He (meaning the gang by proxy) is my family – not you.”
The emotional impact of this scene and the horror plastered all over that child’s face is something I’ll never forget.
Just as I will never forget my father’s words to me (or about me to others) at various time during my teenage and adult life:
“I never wanted kids. If your mother hadn’t trapped me I’d have been in Europe by 25 (years).”
“Why don’t you ever finish anything you start?”
“That’s quite the bounce as she comes down the stairs.” (Said to an older friend & his son as they watched my ample bosom.)
“You didn’t do anything (in that play). Why did I bother coming?”
“I’m not sorry I didn’t walk you down the isle.” (I got married just after I turned 22. He thought I was too young. I’m still happily married 15 years later… his marriage to my mother was a rocky 6 years, ending when she was 23.)
And those are just the highlights that stay with me the most. That and…
“Send me a F**k**g email.”
That’s the one that started our 7 year estrangement after I phoned and cancelled last minute driving out over an hour to his place when I needed to finished marking papers for report cards that following Monday. That’s the one that had me fearing walking into his hospital room 6 days ago. Not because I thought he would make a scene (which was entirely possible) but because I was, and am, still so angry with him.
He died 2 days ago.
Nothing has been resolved and while I spent much of my life loving him dearly, I did not expect his death to hit me as hard as it has. The emotional ups and downs, the raw tears and reigning in of spent emotion so as not to scare my young son has left me far more confused than I was 8 days ago, before I even got word that he was dying.
You see, he was an alcoholic. 7 years ago he was hospitalized and told to stop drinking but his pride and stubborn nature only saw another man trying to tell him how to live his life… he said “sorry” to my step-mother when he broke the news to her. Nothing more. That’s the only apology he’s ever uttered that he didn’t take back a week later – though I suppose this time he couldn’t…
My father was always “the good guy” when I visited him on weekends as a child. My mother never spoke ill of him and let me leave her to try living with him and my step-mother at age 16… My mom later told me that I had to learn what he was like for myself – that nothing she could’ve said I would have believed until I’d experienced it myself. It was true but it was a lesson I wish I never had to learn.
It is often said by many an honoured writer that we must go to these places of hurt to be able to tell our story – whether it’s a memoir, fiction, or work of sci-fi/fantasy.
In book 2 of the Chronicles of Xannia, Cadence of Consequences (to be released this summer), my main character Taya must also confront a tumultuous relationship with her parents. Her understanding of self has already begun to crumble at the beginning of the story, but when she’s forced to face the demons of her past that delicate piece of her soul that once housed her understanding of family shatters.
I can only hope that in the days, weeks, months and years to come I will have a similar sense of fortitude to face my anger and find a place of understanding, if not a place of peace. And I will continue to examine those darker parts of my own soul through my characters and in my writing.