Monday, February 04, 2008

Hold On To Your Hats


The mad dash to pack lunches, make breakfast. The dog is underfoot, demanding attention, toy in his mouth, body wagging from the waist on down through the end of his tail. I know he has had his most basic needs met – food and water in the dish, the first morning pee accomplished. But I keep tripping over him as I move deliberately from the toaster oven to the sink, refrigerator to lunch boxes, breaking up squabbles over who gets the ‘best’ thermos today, who gets to deliver birthday flowers to Gail.

When the girls are settled, tummies full, lunches packed, shoes on, hair brushed, bags in hand at the garage door, I can no longer deny it. I’m headed for the bathroom. The stuffing of the last few days, weeks, months is over. The dog knew it. My body knew it. I was the only one who thought I could make it through another week or two before I came undone. No matter how many times I learn this lesson I never really learn it.
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My fourth grade teacher was Mrs. Griffith. She was my favorite. Not quite five feet tall, long wavy hair that held an electricity of its own, a slight German lilt to her voice. Her nurturing way brought sunshine to the entire classroom. This was the year I perfected my cursive handwriting, loopy, connected, flowing. This was the year I learned that I wanted to rush through things and be the first one done. I got burned over and over again in my haste and her gentle reminders to slow down were appreciated but never heeded.

I couldn’t sit still. My family had disintegrated right before my eyes and I had to stay busy. I lost my brother, my soulmate in an excruciating blow that had yet to be acknowledged by anyone else. My father had moved out of the house. My mother took a full time job. My solution was to throw up. Careful not to draw too much attention to myself lest anyone discover this was just a ploy, I crafted a schedule that I thought would work. Once or twice a week I excused myself to the bathroom down the hall. Just in case there were any teachers wandering the halls, I made sure to hustle across the shiny linoleum, not pausing to gaze through the glass display doors at past school heroes and trophies. Once inside the girls’ bathroom I locked myself in the third stall and retched over and over again. Too afraid to stick my finger down my throat, most often it was just the retching sounds with nothing coming up. When I had exhausted myself enough to produce sweat on my brow and draw the blood from my face I slowly shuffled back to Mrs. Griffith.

She always stopped talking as I entered the classroom and cocked her head to one side as I made my way to the front of the room. I took in her long peasant skirt and flowing sleeves, longing for that warm protective arm to surround me and pull my head to her shoulder. I would get sent home and my mother would have to come stay with me. A good daughter, I felt guilty at the thought of disrupting her work day, making her lose a day’s pay to sit with me on the couch and push my hair back from my face, my Dorothy Hamill hair always springing right back to where it framed my cheeks.

Instead, I ended up across the street from the school. Coat hanging across my shoulders and drooping down the front of me, backpack bunching up the fabric behind me as I climbed the concrete steps – five of them that led to the white house where my sister and I would curl up on the couch and watch TV while Jan sat in the kitchen and talked on the phone all day long. We watched TV together and waited. Waited for her son to get home and bring us in to his dark cave of a bedroom where he molested us and nobody knew.

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I hate throwing up. The mere thought of it brings tears to my eyes more violently than anything else I can imagine. I would rather choke back the bile and swallow it – push it deeper and deny it any power or release. These days I know I’m in trouble when it starts to come out the other end.
My grandfather. The man who was one of my heroes. The glue that held his family together. The one who accomplished what I could not. Since I was eight years old my mission has been to put my family back together and draw a tight band of steel around it so that it can never be split again. Only then can I truly believe that I have the right to be a mother. Only then can I truly believe that I am worthy of being part of a family.

My grandfather is gone. How can I learn his lessons now?

My father is dying. Before I can find my brother again, I am threatened with losing yet another member of my family. The little eight-year-old inside me is cowering in the corner, desperate to wake me up. “Please!” she screams. “Please fix this! I need help! I can’t bring them back by myself. Everything I do turns out wrong. I can’t scream loud enough to make anyone pay attention. I need a witness." I can’t cry quietly anymore. I need to feel the sobs coming from deep in my gut. My throat must be raw from the sounds that erupt through it. My body must shake with the effort, the tears should fly from my cheeks as I struggle for air. Please listen to me.

As I sit here and lift my eyes to the sky, feeling the streams of hot, salty tears making tracks down my throat I realize that the electricity, the horrible tingling dizziness that permeated my body from my bowels to my skin, is gone. My fingertips feel like fingertips again. Tight skin, smooth to the touch. They are no longer shimmery and holographic. For now, I can experience the world as it is again. The phenomenon that kept me from feeling anything but distorted energy has dissipated. For now.

4 comments:

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Love, love and more love to you, 8-year-old Kari. I am so sorry for your trauma.

I send you retroactive love, hugs and soulful caring.

Suzy said...

My friend,

This stuff comes out only when you are ready. Trust me on this one.
Now is the time it needs the attention. You've given everyone else he attention, love and security that you yourself have needed for so long.

It's your turn my dear.
Take this opportunity to release any all issues and torments.
You are surrounded by the light of the people who love you.

It's your time.

Love you.
Suzy

Anonymous said...

My heart laughs at Well Rounded
My heart hurts at Hats (except for the presence of Mrs. Griffith* for whom I am so grateful).

Purge away, sister/daughter/friend. You are healing!

Much love,
S

*she's a lovely reminder that we all can be/have been/will be Mrs. G in the lives of little girls.

Deb said...

Feel my arms join Carrie's and Suzy's as we embrace your brave girl and your brave self. Neither of you are alone. The healing is happening before your very eyes. Thank you for your example and your powerful writing. Much love. Many blessings. Multitudes of hugs.

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