Life Traps | Pt. 30: An unpleasant memory

Posted by Maria

In this post, I will be taking a trip into the darker side of my memories to contrast the previous installment in the series, and see what I can find out. I will take a moment to recall what it was like as a child, to go through my parent separation, and then see what I would do to try and help that child version of me in those moments. I had several memories I wanted to look at, though I think this one has undoubtedly had the most effect on me.

Oh what a wonderful night, anything could happen

The song is playing in the background. My father likes the artist, he listens to it often, and it seems ironic, the song that plays tonight. It is J. Karjalainen – Oi mikä ihana ilta. I wake up to it and walk out of our room, my sister still lives at home, and we share one of the two bedrooms of the flat. But today she isn’t here, I don’t know where she went, and can only assume she is bunking at a friend’s place.

Everything is a blur, I don’t see the red and white carpet of the hallway, nor the bathroom door which is supposed to be on the opposite wall. The lights are on in the living room, the 90’s block of a computer is buzzing. It sits nicely on my father’s pale wooden corner desk, and the swiveling leather-covered chair is in front of it, abandoned. I see a bottle, a familiar, brown glass bottle.

The couch is in the middle of the living room, I don’t remember when we put it there like that. It is an old one, with fuzzy grey fabric. It has a pattern on it, like a dull version of the pixels you see on tv if you got close enough to look.

“I just wanted to be near.”

I have never before seen my father in such pain, tears running down his eyes. The both of them sit on the couch, their faces depicting the weight of the situation. 

I don’t understand. Why are you crying, father? Mother? I don’t understand. I feel terrible and I don’t know why. I cry too, as I sit between them. In the morning my father is gone.

Time goes by, I see nothing, listen to my mother weeping in the living room at night, she wouldn’t sleep in the bedroom. Until one day I wake up and hear sounds outside. I’m terrified but decide to check it out anyway. 

There is a white car parked next to the building, it looks like it’s the car of my father’s friend. I would always remember it, a white Mercedes. But why would he be there, outside? I listen, and dread sinks into my body. I don’t see anyone, but a man shouts out my mother’s name, my name, my sister’s name, and finally, my father’s name. One by one we get called. 

I call my father, I’m terrified. Everything is a haze, a blur. 

My father appears from nothing and embraces me. I don’t remember him ever embracing me. It feels safe.

Before we continue

Now I have no way of knowing how much is based on actual reality since it was at least two decades ago from the time of writing this, and my memories surrounding that time and a long while after it are blurred if not non-existent. For me it felt like my father was gone the next morning, that is what I recall from it, but I have no way of knowing if that is how it went – I certainly have not talked about any of this with my parents, and I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

What I do remember from that event in my history, however, is first and foremost the music, then my father’s words, and lastly the overwhelming sensation of sorrow. As a child, I had no idea what is happening, why my parents were so sad, and I definitely did not expect to just be tossed into the realization that my father is gone. Of course, he was not forever gone, just moved out. 

When it comes to my breakdown with the car in the yard, I do believe there was a car there, but the person calling out my family probably wasn’t. It is my conclusion that it was the first memory of an episode with psychotic symptoms I had. After all, when my mother was crying the nights away, my sister was nowhere to be found, and with my father being gone, the one thing I’d be wanting would be to have everything be put back to normal. A child’s wish.

Now let’s see what I can do for myself, shall we?

It’s nighttime, mom and dad are up. I know what this is about, I know it won’t be good news for any of us. When I see the little girl wobble out of her room, my heart sinks. She shouldn’t have to be a part of this pain. 

I walk up to her, kneel down and gently wipe the hair off her face with supreme love for her, she always has the cutest bed head. Her eyes are roaming the hallways half opened, as you would expect from someone who just woke up in the middle of the night not knowing what’s going on. 

She sees the parents, and her face immediately turns into a worried frown. She wouldn’t be able to understand, not now, not even years later. I give her a reassuring smile, and we go to them together. 

Both of them are crying, and she gets more anxious. I sit down on the ground next to her, cross my legs for a nest, and invite her to join me on my lap. We sit there and make sure her questions are answered. I hold her, so she feels safe while facing the emotions she has never seen before from her father while taking in the whole terrible situation. By the end of it, she says she loves her parents, and I take her back to bed. 

After she is passed out, I go to my parents and let them know that suddenly vanishing without any explanation is the shittiest thing any of us can do to our child. I will tell them that no matter where they go with their own pain, they have two children to consider. Two children that need their love and support now more than ever, if they are to be getting through this with any hope for a stable future. I do not leave before they agree with me.

Last thoughts

While it’s grand to think that the adult me would give a piece of her mind to my parents, it is even more heartwarming (and simultaneously very heartbreaking) to realize that I needed comfort at that moment, and probably did not get it sufficiently. I don’t blame my parents, I’ve said it before, it’s not easy going through a separation of that magnitude. Though, I can’t help but feel that there was a better way to go about things, especially when there were children involved. 

Interestingly enough, as I’ve written this chapter, I’ve understood that I was never ready for my father to leave. He took off, suddenly, and without warning (a good cry on the sofa doesn’t mean you will leave), and I was left there wondering why my father is gone. I was Maria, around 11 years old, utterly confused, scared, and powerless. The first real blow to my core had landed, and it left a nasty crack on the perfect, pristine surface.

How would you have helped the 11-year-old Maria? Let us know in the comments!

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