Going home. It is a phrase that evokes strong emotions within me. When I think of going home, it is not so much a “place” that I remember, but more a “time”. A time of innocence, when my life was happy and carefree and all was right in the world. It is a place I would willingly travel back to if granted just one wish, although some might not understand why after reading my story.
It has been said that “absence makes the heart grow fonder”, but whether this is true or not, I am unsure. I sometimes think that the absence of a loved one makes you forget things, especially when it has been close to 30 years since you have seen them.
I am the daughter of an alcoholic. A drunkard, some would have called him. I remember that as a child, we moved eleven times in seven years. My father couldn’t keep a job because of his inability to remain sober for any length of time. Uprooted from family and friends, on my own to make new friends in a new school at a moment’s notice. I am quite certain that my mother loved him, because she stayed married to him in spite of the fact that he would sometimes disappear for days after a bad drinking binge. When he would return, they would talk quietly behind a closed bedroom door, him promising not to ever do it again and her promising that it would be okay, knowing that he would. Eventually, they must have come to the conclusion that the talks weren’t working. They separated, he moved away and I saw him only occasionally after that.
Once, during my fourth grade year, he came to visit me at school and told me that he was going to come pick me up that weekend. I waited on the old wooden porch swing after school, bags packed for the excursion we had planned. When it began to get dark, my mother brought a sweater out for me and sat on the swing with me until well after my bedtime, holding me as I sobbed wet tears of disappointment into her apron.
It was right before Christmas break that I found out what had happened. My mother, unexpectedly home from work, met me at the door when school was over and guided me to the couch to talk. The sun’s rays filtered in through the window blinds, casting light on the dust particles suspended in the air, while the smell of vinegar from the floor’s recent mopping tingled the hairs of my nose and made it twitch. In typical nine year old fashion, I assumed from her posture I had been found out for some horrible deed I had done and immediately began formulating excuses in my mind as I ignored the words coming out of her mouth.
“Karen, did you hear me?” she asked.
“Um..no ma’am,” I replied truthfully. Honesty at this point was always the best policy, I had learned this from years of dealing with my mother.
“Well, I was saying that the Bible says there are seasons for things – “a time to be born, a time to die…” she trailed off, choked up.
My sense of alarm springing to attention, I asked, “You’re not dying, are you mom? Is Donald dying?” Donald was my brother closest in age to me and closest to my heart.
“No, honey. It’s your daddy,” she said. “He died a few days ago and I just got a phone call…” She couldn’t go on. It wouldn’t have mattered. I didn’t believe her.
I told her she was lying. It was a horrible joke and how dare she be so cruel to me. Eventually though, I surrendered and my resolve that this was not the truth disintegrated as she tried her best to comfort me.
The ability of the brain to store and recall memories is such a profoundly technical and complicated process. My memories of the rest of that year as well as the one following it come in short 5 second bursts, at best. I can remember riding in Donald’s Volkswagen Scirocco, my seat laid back, gazing up at the stars and wondering if my daddy could see me. I remember telling my best friend I had to lose my daddy so I could know what it was like to help some other little girl when she lost her daddy. I remember lying in my bed at night, my tears falling freely on my pillow, crying out to God and asking him “Why? Why did you take my daddy?” But I remember nothing else. My brain has chosen to erase those days from the banks of my memory so that I cannot recall them. I have forgotten the sound of his voice, the way he smelled, even what he looked like in the process of suppressing my ninth year.
Some thirty years later, I have decided I will choose to remember the good things about him. I ask those who know him what he was like. I want to share with my children something about him, so his memory doesn’t die with me. I tell them that he was very loving and kind and would have given the shirt off his back to anyone (and had actually done so). I tell them about how he taught me to read before I ever went to school by sitting me in his lap and reading the newspaper with me, his finger slowly moving under each word as he said it. I tell them that he was saved and they will one day get to meet him in Heaven and he’ll be so happy to get to know them.
But there is a very minute part of me that secretly wishes I could go back to being a little girl again — to run home from school and find my daddy sitting in his easy chair, reading the newspaper, his glasses perched on the end of his nose and fall into his arms one last time.
~This post has been submitted to Scribbit’s “Write-Away” contest ending April 16th on “Going Home”.
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Technorati Tags: grief,death, memories, Scribbit’s Write Away Contest, Texas
EmilyApril 13, 2008 at 12:57 pm (15 years ago)
this is a beautiful entry – so well written. the emotion behind it is powerfully real — thank you for being willing to share it with us.
MzzterryApril 13, 2008 at 5:07 pm (15 years ago)
This is beautiful. A lovely, real tribute to your Dad.
I know firsthand the pain of being a child of an alcoholic. My Daddy is still here on earth, but I pray I can honor him in the same loving, forgiving heart that you have shown. You have challenged me, sister. God bless you.
ScribbitApril 13, 2008 at 8:35 pm (15 years ago)
That’s a great point–it isn’t so much a place as a time. Well said.
FleaApril 13, 2008 at 8:52 pm (15 years ago)
Beautiful and painful. I love that you choose to remember what is good. Tho think on THOSE things.
AmandaApril 14, 2008 at 11:39 am (15 years ago)
Amazingly beautiful post.
DorothyApril 14, 2008 at 11:44 am (15 years ago)
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Karen. It is a privilege to get to know you better.
MooBeeMaApril 14, 2008 at 9:30 pm (15 years ago)
What a beautiful post. Heart-wrenching and beautiful.
DaisyApril 19, 2008 at 7:26 pm (15 years ago)
This post tugged on my heartstrings. Children and adults, too, get hurt by the alcoholics they love — even though the people really do love them. I’m glad you are able to see beyond the alcohol haze to the person.