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The Night I Grew Up

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Dad, I remember well the night I grew up. I know you remember that night too... I know you never forgot this happening: It was 1966, an early Fall night, around 10:30 when you called the police. Jerry had been...agitated...for several days. Muttering under his breathe at dinner... “kill ‘em...the gun...the gun...” He’d shake his head briskly side to side As if dislodging unwanted thoughts. Neither you, nor Mom, nor I gave the slightest indication we had heard a word. But when the police showed up, I heard you talking lowly to them. Then...Jerry was being dragged backwards down the front lawn handcuffs...twisting, resisting, screaming “I’LL KILL YOU ALL! SO HELP ME GOD! YOU’RE ALL GONNA DIE!” They folded him into the back seat of the squad car pushing his head down and shut the door. A few windows of nearby houses had lighted briefly then went back to peaceful darkness. I knew always that much you remembered. But I do not know...and never will...if you remembered this: I had watched it all from my bedroom window. Then I heard a sound unknown: my father sobbing. Loud and deep from your chest they rose And filled the stillness of our soundless home. I quietly walked the short hallway to the kitchen entrance And saw there a man and woman embraced in torment beyond my ken. Mom held you up in her arms, embraced your slumping wracking frame as tears fell from her tightly-squeezed shut eyes. I was 14. I’d known for years — known? — felt, heard and seen was more like it...that something — unknowable — slumbered in our home In the basement lair where Jerry dwelled. Then at maybe 4, 4:30am I was asleep in my twin bed in my room next to your’s and Mom’s. I awoke when I felt you lay the length of your 5’ 8” body down onto my bed and press up firmly against my back. You were wearing your light blue boxer shorts and a white tee shirt. “Babe?” you whispered in my ear. “You awake?” “Yes, Dad, I’m awake. What’s wrong, Dad? Tell me? Are you OK?” I turned over and slipped my right arm around your shoulders. You had hunched them closely into my pillow and Had nestled your stubbly chin into my neck. Your drew in your breath sharply...then not truly to my amazement, wracking sobs burst from your couldn’t stop...they came forth, unabated. Oh, Dad, my Dad, my dear wonderful so so sorrowful Dad, I said to myself. Your anguished cries tore at my young heart. What can I possibly say...or give you comfort? So, I rocked you gently and held you closely; stroked your arm, stroked your brow And whispered words, I hope you heard. “It’s OK, you can cry, Dad. Let the tears flow...and flow... please, go ahead, Dad, I’m here, I can hear whatever — whatever! — you want to tell me.” Your deep heavy sobs subsided. Then you nuzzled your face deeply into my ear and quietly murmured: “What do you do, Babe, when your child is so very ill, so very sick, so very dangerous?” “You bring a child into this world; he looks healthy and whole... and yet how can you tell his mind is so badly damaged?” “I had to do it, Babe! I had no choice! He would have killed us! You know that, don’t you? He wants us dead!” Your words stopped then. Again I lay there thinking, “What can I possibly say to give this man I do so dearly love any words of comfort now?” words would come. I could only act instead of speaking. So again I stroked your arm from shoulder to wrist and rocked you gently, just a bit. Until finally, to my lips, came these words — a gift truly from beyond my ken — “It will be alright, Dad. Please...please hear these my own words to you, my dearest Dad, and trust them: Tomorrow will be a new day; Tomorrow is here now. You love your son, your only son. I KNOW that, Dad! I know it. And...I’m sure your only son, very deep down, knows that too. That it’s true. That you love him deeply, dearly, completely. I know that’s true. Rest now, Dad. Rest. Tomorrow’s here now. Tomorrow’s here, Dad.” Your breathing slowed; your eyes had closed. Then, without speaking, you pushed up out of my arms. Swung your lithe frame over the side of my bed and walked out without a word, Pulling my bedroom door shut behind you. Barbara Dickenson 28 December 2017

Copyright © | Year Posted 2017

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Date: 12/29/2017 2:05:00 PM
WOW! Your Father's pain and your own I felt ,tears stinging my eyes. With minds that are ill, one must act as if any other part of body needed help. Still, whole families suffer. Hope time has been a healer. I so appreciate your willing to follow me as I am you.
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