This was a piece I wrote in January of 2006. It has sat, completed, in my draft blog file for quite a while. I think I am ready to share it now.
I have had a series of very odd dreams the past three nights. People I have long forgotten, or consciously banished, have been strolling through my subconscious waving at me.
Being a very tightly controlled external person has meant that I have always had vivid and specific dreams. Some will tell you that they can't remember anything they dream. I almost always remember - down to the transitions between dreams.
I get out alot of aggression in these dreams. I scream. I yell, I tackle people. I beat them up. They were much worse before I started therapy many years ago. You don't need to be Freud to figure out why that was. Those were the years of the nightmares. Being pursued, always by the shadow man, who - if he caught me brought terrible things. Much worse than death. The shadow thing hasn't shown up in many many years. But my father showed up last night. I woke up panicked and startled this morning.
I assume that my father was the shadow man for the many years I dreamed of that archetype. My flight in the face of that unknown evil was understandable. As I got older and began to name - out loud- my experiences with my father, the Shadow man disappeared. I had robbed it of it's anonymity. He had a face. That face was my father.
My recovery has come in fits and starts. I do some work, I rest. I do some more work, I rest. As all of you who have been in therapy know, the evolution of understanding is not a straight path. There is no pre-defined time limit to unlocking the reasons you do the things you do. As much as the HMO's would like to say that Depression can be fixed in 12 visits, it isn't true. As much as the pharmaceutical companies would like you to believe that their drug will fix you, that also isn't true. Prozac has helped me tremendously in straightening out my lousy brain chemistry, but Prozac has never resolved any of my family issues. That was done all on my own, with very patient therapists.
In writing about my brother last week, I was inviting some of these memories to come out of their closets and play in my subconscious. I believe that I did this knowing that the wave would come and wash over me within the next few days. It has.
Today I have recalled a couple of very specific incidents. I write these down as a way to exercise them from the silence of my mind. I have only spoken of them in therapy a couple of times. In my determination to never be seen as a victim, I rarely allow these to come to the surface. In my determination to be a professional, a mother, a wife and a woman who has her shit together, I have rarely allowed time for these memories. It is clear from my dreams the past several days that they demand to be heard.
It must have been 1973 or maybe 1974. I can't recall if my brother was born or not, but I do know that we were living in a Trailer in Ohio. I was picking up the pasta my father had cooked ( plain just butter) with my fingers and eating them. Hardly something that a 3 or 4 year old would not be expected to do. My father warned me. He said "stop eating like an animal". He left the kitchen. I promptly started eating with my fingers again. He returned and caught me eating with my fingers. He said "If you're going to eat like an animal, you can eat with the animals." He dumped out the dog food from the bowls on the floor and put my pasta in the dog's bowl. He stood over me and demanded that I eat like a dog. I did it. I was afraid.
He later shot these dogs in the winter because they were howling at night. After warning my mother to do something about those dogs before he did something about them, he ran outside and shot them both with his shotgun. My mother called the police who said that he had a right to do that if he wanted. She had to clean up the bodies and the blood before I discovered them.
The next memory is from 1979 or so. My mother had left my father but he had my brother and I for 4 to 6 weeks in the summer. I suspect he did not want to see us so much as give my mother the proverbial finger. He was in the Marines and he was also dealing a great deal of a variety of drugs. He left us home alone every day while he went to work. I was 9, Donnie was 5.
One night, he woke us up and told me that he had to go see a friend. We had to come with him. He bundled our sleepy selves into his car and drove. I fell back to sleep. When we got to wherever we were going, he woke us both up and had us stand together, holding hands. He walked with us in front of him. He walked us into this apartment and introduced us as his kids. The man in the apartment lifted the top off of the coffee table and displayed a dazzling assortment of drugs. I recall the colors. My father purchased his goods and walked us back out into the car. Many years later, as I pieced this memory together, I realized that my father had used my brother and I as a human shield. He was afraid the guy was going to rob him.
I do not tell these stories to gain a sympathetic response. I do not tell these stories to be told how strong I am, or how I survived things which - for many - may be unsurvivable.
I tell these stories because they are mine to tell and because when I do the invisible power that the memory of my father can still exert dissipates like glittery fog. It is in the telling of these bits and pieces of my childhood that I regain ownership and control of who I am today. That this is one more band-aid I don't need and can let that skin breathe out in the light.