and yes, I am completely aware of how cliché and anti-climatic this is but it is a tiny albeit, crucially important cog, in my wheel of self discovery. I have written about my mother, my brother, my sister; even my grandparents have been mentioned a time or two but I have never really gone into depth about my father.
My siblings and I referred to our father as T-Rex, short for Tyrannus Rex not Tyrannosaurus as I recently discovered my sister had assumed all these years. The latter of course is a dinosaur and the other is Latin for Tyrant King. My brother and I, being the little word nerds that we are, would giggle in shameless delight about our little quip. Our sister would giggle too but I am now aware of the fact that she was conjuring up images of our father as a dinosaur, painfully out of touch with our generation.
Here is how I viewed my father as a child. He was a stoic, emotionally distant, painfully intense force. If you did something wrong, you knew it, you felt it and he didn’t even have to verbally or physically demonstrate his displeasure. He could silently judge and it was so palpable that I would pray for lightening to strike me or the earth to swallow me whole just as long as it gave me a reprieve from his silent scrutiny. It put the fear of God in everyone that met with it.
This silent, all pervasive, scrutinizing force would reduce my sister to tears, which I later realized made my father uncomfortable. My brother, magically, could quell the silent storm. I, on the other hand just managed to mysteriously enrage my father, which in turn evoked my own wrath and on and on it would go. Our relationship was tumultuous to say the least. So, much so that my mother turned the closet under the stairs into a hiding place. My mother called it the “prayer closet” to me it was simply “the hole”.
I spent many an evening hiding out in in that closet and I honestly didn’t mind it that much. I was blissfully left to my own devices which entailed reading and thinking. Sometimes my siblings were in there with me but most of the time not. We used the closet in this fashion for several years.
One night, while I was hanging out in “the hole,” my father came home thundered through the house (not verbally just walking hard on the ancient floors of our old farmhouse) and the closet door swung open. I was lying on the floor, feet up against the backside of the risers with a book and a flashlight. My father wasn’t pleased. Strike One.
A week later, after Sunday night services, my mother didn’t feel like cooking and asked me to drive into town and pick up pizza. She had my sister go with and as we were pulling out of the parking lot my aunt (my father’s sister) flagged us down and I ended up with my cousin in tow (they wanted pizza too). She said she would let my mother know. The pizza place messed up our orders and had to remake them. We were late getting home. My father was again furious. Strike Two.
3 weeks after that…I returned home from work. I was working as a nanny and we had been at the pool all day. I was hot, tired and sticky from melted ice cream and sunblock lotion. My mother greeted me with, “your father is getting dressed, hurry, get cleaned up. You have 10 minutes.” I had no idea what was going on but I knew better than to waste time asking.
I did the quickest change I could, which wasn’t quick enough because mother was yelling for me to hurry as I was putting my shoes on. I ran down the stairs, grabbed my purse and tripped out of my unbuckled shoes, purse went flying, I fell down and looked up just in time to see my purse collide with my mother’s face right as my father entered the doorway. Mother crying, stupid sister laughing in the background, little brother looking like he couldn’t decide to cry or hide, father beyond furious. Strike Three and I am OUT!
Yes folks that is a literal out. It wasn’t the first time I had been kicked out of the house during my teens but I was darn sure it was going to be the last. We screamed at each other for a good 10 minutes then abruptly stopped, They all left to go wherever it was they had to be and I limped upstairs and packed a bag. I went to live with my paternal grandparents and by the end of the summer the family moved to Tennessee. I did not go with.
That series of unfortunate events was pretty much the last time my father and I exchanged more than a handful of words. My mother took on the responsibility of intermediary…and that was at her discretion.
Photo: Saint and Angel, detail of Notre Dame, Paris, France
Nikon DSLR 5300 by Pamela