Quiet is what they called him
He wished he could start his essay as Scott R. Sanders had. With ” My father drank… ” Those circumstances were clear cut. However confusing it
will always be for a child, ( To say the least ) Scott knew more or less, where he stood.
Mark’s father, never drank. He was a self-erased man. A man people would call, ” quiet “. As quiet as a mouse hiding in his hole from the big white
A self-imposed cat.
Robert,( his father ) was a shadow, moving silently, going in and out of his house, about his business, never acknowledging nor muttering a polite greeting.
He was absorbed in his tortured sickly thoughts, obsessed by negativity, doom and gloom.
As children, Mark, a frail blond boy, and his siblings, never had much contact with Robert. He was there but wasn’t. He officially was their father,
but wasn’t either. In their eyes and heart, he didn’t matter much.
He probably had, what you’d call today, ” an alcoholic personality “.
Thinking of it, Mark could count on his fingers, the playful moments, shared with him. Those moments, fooled them, into believing, happiness was within their reach. Those same moments confused and blurred their senses of right and wrong.
Cruelty became kindness, compassion. It was justified, was a consequence of their acts. Was legitimate. It was teaching, molding them into correctly-behaving
Kindness became twisted with Robert and Anna’s ( Mark’s mother ) guilt.
It showed ugly, tortured faces. It wore sometimes, the mask of truth, the dented grin of uneasiness. The inadequacy of their love, made the children cringe
and retreat with disgust, hate, love, a load of question marks and riddles, burning into their hearts, engraving their souls, marked by a burning rod, as a cattle to his master.
Belonging yet fighting for an identity as for a lost cause. Trying to disown their loaded past, but confronted time and again, after long periods of comfort
and peace, as with this essay ” Under the influence “.
This essay had opened Mark’s wounds. It had opened his conscience. It had woken him up after long years of slumber. It had given him, the possibility, to write down, on a pure white page, the long dreaded words. The words, that would kill, hurt him to the core, and label his past, in a way, where retreat into denial,
wouldn’t be an option anymore.
It would throw him into finality, into acceptance. There’d be no going back. No way of waking up into some kind of fantasy. No room for doubt. None, for the hope
of mistake, miscalculation and yet, as painful as that was, he could say it. He could let it soak the page. Take its place and belong to a past, in order to be able to live the moment, while gazing toward the rays of a bright light and creative future.
Mark could finally say, after two pages of warming up, plucking up his courage, ” my father was violent “.
Robert, a square looking short man, went into fits of rage and manipulatively hid behind false principals as, education, religion … Whatever worked.
They lived on tender-hooks. In a make-belief. When all was quiet in the best of worlds, and life flowed on peacefully, their family appeared to belong to the
” regular ” category. But the flows were treacherous. It was a volcano in the making.
They persuaded themselves into the life of their own invention yet, lived in anticipation of the next outburst. Living in a haze, a daze, with no defined lines.
They lived life without using the pair of glasses usually given to see the definitions, the colors, feel the wind, see the sun, appreciate the beauty of
handwork, a carved stone…
Their souls slept in waiting.
Never suspecting life could be a happy place to be in.
Anna, their mother, was … who she was. Hysterical, manipulative, couldn’t protect them in time of crisis and sometimes, provoked them herself. Went into fits
of rage and then tried to make it up to them by using tears and guilt as a means of patching up the shreds of their hearts, the pieces that left behind them a trail, that followed them obsessively. Which they tried to shake off but clung to them like poisonous jelly-fish. Never suspecting until this day, the impact,
her behavior had on them.
The terror, of all hell let loose.
The desperation of a child put in a situation, that was beyond salvation. Nor did Robert either. It’s only, as a much older Mark, wrote this down, did he realize,
the sheer madness of it all. They were all living then, on a time-bomb, in a pressure cooker and until this day, had not seen it.
As he wrote page after page, his throat burned, his heart ached, his eyes filled and his stomach was a painful knot. What tricked them, most of the time, he realized, was that on the surface and ” in between ” everything appeared to be normal. But what was normal? Could they compare? A child is not provided with
two homes ( unless their parents are divorced ) two sets of parents, the happy ones and the dis-functional.
Yes. Dis-functional. He had to reach a ripe age to accept that their home had not been entirely regular. It had a name he could use to define it.
Those were the first hesitant steps toward recognition and admission. It was a clinical word, as cold as a surgeon dissecting a body to get down to the causes of its death.
Because that’s what eventually happened.
As time went by, rifts widened, incomprehension seeped in, hurt crept back silently, love was still there, but was smothered by the twists, their characters had
been shaped into as a result. By the deep differences, the personalities, each sibling had taken and adopted as a mean of survival. The very few friendships that
lasted, were the ones that shook under the shock but never yielded under the weight of the wind blowing, the rage of challenge, the temporary madness of their parents, flaring up again, rearing in all its magnificent ugliness with a power stronger than they could ever recollect.
But the family as a unit, a whole, had gone forever.
It might not be doomed, it might take a lifetime to take care of its deep bruises, but its future was so shaky as a result…
Understanding or excusing his parents behavior didn’t make it easier. It didn’t shape his life any differently because it was ” explainable “. It was still there
as a witness of the past.
Mark’s father had gone through war and many difficult encounters in his past. As a young orphan, he had been confronted with the tribulations of life and left
unguided. The scars ran much deeper than suspected.
He had sympathized with his father’s pain and grief but could not be of any help as it had never been acknowledged, recognized nor worked upon. He didn’t feel it
was up to him to pick up the pieces. All he had thought at the time was, ” my world is caving in and there’s nothing I can do about it “.
The helplessness experienced by a child in a time of chaos, will always play a major role in his adult life.
Anna had been an orphan too, but at a much younger age. Her war experiences, were relatively uneventful and safer. Her relationship with her sister was, destructive
and determinant in her future role as a wife and mother. If Mark’s mothers fits of rage seemed uncontrollable to him, they paled in comparison to his aunt’s.
It made hers seem like hiccups or, drops of rain on a freshly polished car. It probably made her feel as light as the feathers of an angel’s wings…
Generosity, goodness, tolerance, empathy are as easily taught as cruelty, madness, manipulation or dictatorial behavior.
It was fairly easy to understand. To peel off the layers. Get down to the root, but it did not, for them, as survivors, make any lighter their load. It didn’t erase those
interminably rigid years in the wilderness. It didn’t stop Mark or his siblings, from relapsing into a frenzy of some addiction or other.
One didn’t cure from this malady. It’ll always be lurking, in the form of an essay, a book, the testimonies of other lives on hold, with interludes of happiness, with rays piercing the thickness of fog, or the soothing voice of a song with promises of an easier future, peaks not as steep, ravines transformed into sunny valleys…
Did it get easier? Could he lick his wounds and go further? Can he train his mind to stop wandering into the torturous, sinuous paths he had borrowed in his past?
Can Mark stop hearing the voices of abuse? The cynical, despicable laughs of disdain as physical violence was applied,
The contempt in his father’s voice as he mocked Mark’s screams when it was the only mechanism of defense he had.
Only much later, did he realize, while writing an inventory of his past, that as a mother, Anna had never protected them from ” him ” nor from herself.
As a mother suffers to bear her children into this world, are there not given to her, the instincts to embrace, support and secure their off-springs in time of need?
An aptitude easily found in animals. Why was it not given to his mother? Couldn’t she give him the basic feeling of protection a child needs for it’s natural development?
Once again, his mind wandered aimlessly into forbidden zone. The zone that leads and still does to compulsive over thinking. He tries to train his mind back into friendly territories. To the life he’d built for himself ” after “. The love and sincerity, his wife Liz and children showered upon him. Her constant encouragement. Her belief in him.
When he doubted. When the colors of his pallet were mostly black, Patches of grey, Garnished occasionally with dots of red, yellow, Seldomly white.
Belief washes away the darkest of colors as a storm does. It brings back the fragrance of wet leaves, the strong smell of damp bark. Belief, is walking in a park after such
a storm and experience the ” relief ” of nature. Belief is an artist dusting off his canvas, stepping into his scenery with serenity, breathe the cleanliness of the air and bathe in the perfection of his masterpiece.
As Mark finished reading Scott’s essay, he’d realized most of the story spoke about himself. He understood with much clarity, as a veil ripping along the pages, the reasons behind
certain behaviors, reactions, he had not connected before. It had just seemed part of his identity.
He hurt, mourned and commiserated with his past all that week-end after those revelations. He understood that something of utmost importance had unraveled in his life.
Not knowing where it would eventually lead him but, hoping it would be the missing link he’d been searching for a long time. The link to the chain of life and it’s continuity.
Being ordinary is something people never aspire to. To him, the word rang the bells of hope. Uniqueness is what is usually sought. Not to him. He had never wanted to glorify
his sufferings. Mark wanted the flatness of the ground. The winters that crept in year after year. The typical greyness of an icy sky. He wanted to cover himself in layers,
in wait of a short summer. He wanted to wake up at the same time, every morning, cook the same breakfast and give the same good morning kiss to his ten year old son and enjoy
his huge hug squeeze the breath out of his lungs.
Mark was tired of the unexpected.
He was contented with ” ordinary ” and wanted it to last as long as possible.
He didn’t want to wait for pain to surprise him around the corner. He wanted it to be, the beast he had tamed, put at rest in the attic, never to wander down again.
Yes. Mark was very happy with, flat.
Scott R. Sanders had written his essay for his son, but as a result, helped and is still helping the people around the world, who had lived in confusion until then.
His love, is a snowball, rolling down a slope and growing bigger by the second until it reaches the foot of the mountain and takes place, where children and adults
can playfully, lovingly sculpt it, into the shapes of their desires.
Into the monument of their dreams!
Thank you for your kind words on my blog, and for this beautiful essay. It is a story I know well, and I can only say, sometimes this kind of pain is also the source of great beauty. And when that reveals itself…then healing can begin.