Cracks on memory lane.
I retain few memories of any given point in my past. If I consciously think of an event, I can sometimes pull up more information, but in general it is like I am only able to see snap shots of activity.
Some events are so threatening to my conscious awareness that i have purposefully chosen to forget them, and when that happens, I make it difficult to find anything to anchor a memory to. I delete messages so I don’t have to obsess about what the subtext might be, or to forget I sent anything in case there is no reply. I have thrown away many covert items into drive thru garbage cans to eliminate evidence of my actions. This covert part operates at all times, and is involved in what can only be described as memory optimization. It is a clever trick, allowing only the highlights of any situation to appear in the conscious memory banks. It has backfired at times, suddenly changing the boundaries of awareness and letting a memory slip in unexpectedly, forcing an uneasy reconciliation between memory and reality. Occasionally I stumble over some hidden away item that reminds me of some unnecessary shame reaction from the past.
I remember being forced to rat out my siblings so there could always be a criminal to pay for whatever ‘crime’ had occurred in the house. I was crafty, and sometimes out-maneuvered my sister in a game no one could win. She once spent at least an hour on her hands and knees scrubbing a stain on the carpet in the front hall. The stain turned out to be a shadow from a gaudy christmas decoration hanging from the light above. My sister didn’t make that stain. No one did. The stain was a metaphor for how arbitrary reality was in my home. It affected all of us. It never occurred to me that banding together might have saved us and helped us form some proper bonds in life. I don’t believe it was an option at the time, because we were reacting from a place of survival. The chance to grow up unaffected and know each other in an environment of love and support did not happen, as it did not happen for either of my parents. The legacy of lack gives a bit more of a burden to each generation that does not get what it needs.
My father had a habit of doing things that were frightening, and then getting angry when I was scared. His anger was terrifying to me. Sometimes I wonder why I wanted him to like me so badly, and why I cared that he didn’t. My sister and I were once pulled out of school in the middle of the day when he heard that one of our friends was arrested for making crack. It was true. We didn’t know this part of the boy we sometimes hung around with, because we were barely part of his life. My father rushed down to the high school to drag us home and interrogate us. He smashed our heads together to try to make us confess to doing drugs we had never even heard of. I don’t remember what got him to calm down. Probably after seeing how fucking terrified we were. He left a powerful subconscious message with me that lingers today: Drugs are bad. I now understand that this is a powerfully misleading statement. Near the end of my fathers life, I am certain I smoked pot with my favorite uncle, his youngest brother, but I don’t know if he was there. I feel like I can’t trust my memory on this. In the end, I am satisfied his warnings were more about the regrets he had about his own drug use, and not about anything we had done. I like to think he was afraid we might make the same mistakes he had made.
I like to think he would have found a way to be honest with me about what life was like for him, and I imagine we would have learned to get over any past misunderstandings. I remember his intelligence and his sense of humour, and like my highlights-only memory reel, I understand that these are the best qualities of his nature, and that parenthood wasn’t necessarily in the cards for him. The qualities I saw when he was happy and relaxed are the memories I choose to take with me of him, and my childhood family. This is the most effective way to see the past. The facts cannot be changed, but our acceptance of the facts allows kindness to repurpose a greater meaning to our struggle together. Many things are difficult to forgive, but nothing is difficult to understand if seen from all perspectives.