When I was a kid, I got a glass of water, drank it, and put the cup back in the cupboard. It just had water in it, and I was young enough to not know about germs and invisible ickies. My cousin, however, was quite old enough. He also had a severe case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. After he saw me do this, he was triggered into an episode of hyper-obsession. He washed his hands until they bled. He washed the dishes several times each before considering them “clean”.
My father died several years ago. For the first time in years (maybe longer) I had a nightmare about him. Below is my “too damned early in the morning to be typing” transcription of that dream.
He comes out of the house, holding a wooden sword. New king and queen, SCA family all around. He asks if I know how to use the shaved down staff/baseball bat in my hands. I think, “Hell no, I only picked it up because of stories about someone with a staff beating the hell out of someone with a sword,” but I say, “Let’s give it a go.”
We go out into the the woods, near a house. We begin to fight. I am as ruthless as I expect him to be. I get a few hits in, nothing major.
I pin him down, and choke him out for a minute. He never passes out, and I give up on him. I grab my bat/staff. I gather my things. I cannot find my shirt. Who cares? I don’t see his things, but I’m not too worried about it. He’s a grown man, who can figure it out.
I head back to the house, where our friends are waiting. On of them is holding a ticket. The ticket says that my father was admitted to the hospital at 9:51.
“That’s impossible,” I say, “I was with him after that time,” I say.
My friends don’t believe me. They want to go check. They are upset that I left him alone out in the woods.
I head into the woods, calling, “Daddy,” remember him commenting on that in the past. He always liked that I called him that, which I still think is strange.
He’s not there. There are people, many people, floating along like dementors, towards an unknown location. I follow them…
I come to a little hospital of some sort. Inside, my father is being treated. He told the doctors that his wallet had been stolen. He described some “Mexican” to them, careful to not say too much.
The doctors and police took the information down, and then the nurses kick everyone else out, so he can talk to me. A few friends stayed, though I wished they’d get lost. They obviously didn’t trust me alone with him anymore.
I try to explain, but he doesn’t want to hear it. People are talking about what happened. “What was he thinking?” I suggest that he was thinking that there are new people in the responsible roles, and he doesn’t have to take care of himself. He was upset, and he got up in arms. Decided to try something new/different. I don’t apologize. It doesn’t even occur to me.
I sit there, while my father tells our friends, “I love my son, but I do not like him. After all these years with my wife, convincing her, fighting for him.”
I am run over with shame. I hate myself. What else could I do? What else should I do?
We go to sleep, sharing the bed in the hospital, with a kind of normalcy that only comes from a dream. When I wake up, I keep getting confused about where his beard is. [fucking dreams] I see him at the dining room table, ’cause in the dream a hospital room is an apartment.
I have the urge to rub his shoulders, talk to him, apologize, anything. Instead I go to the bathroom while everything rushes past me.
The dream ends without resolution. My father dislikes me, after all this time. I couldn’t imagine. He’s gone. There’s nothing to do.
Now I’m awake, and I remember that my father never said anything like that. I never put him in that position. We didn’t hurt each other. We loved each other, if from a distance. Thanks, dreams. You sure know how to wake me up in the middle of the night. Jeez.
I was thinking about my old house again (go figure), and I remember a nasty old well we had. Our water source had been converted over to County utilities years before we came to squat in my childhood home in Arkansas. Long before the fire got the property, the ice wreaked its havoc as well. That ice would give me a very fond memory. Strange enough, it’s a great memory of Dirk. Sorta.
Dirk was a smart man. Cruel, but very smart. Unfortunately, this made him think he was right all the time. Like all the time. In my ninth grade year (I think) we had a mean cold-snap, and Dirk thought that us being frozen at home was a great time to get in some child labor. He decided we were going to remove the defunct gas stove, and replace it with the new electric stove. It was under twenty degrees.
As ever, Dirk expected young, scrawny, malnourished, and abused children to be able to bear the strength and skill of an adult. Comically, he forced Oak and I to help him drag out a huge vintage gas stove out through the “back room.” The back room was a room which had a collapsed ceiling, and served as storage for things we were unofficially getting rid of. Saved hard conversations with kids, you know? “Oh, the ceiling collapsed again! I’m sorry, son. God must have thought we had too many things. It’ll be okay.” That kind of stuff.
Back to point. Oak and I did everything we could to help, but it was fairly useless. Dirk mostly just dragged it out on his own. He then indicated that he’d like us to help him set it on top of the cistern. If you’ve never seen a really old well, a cistern is a pit, or pool, which holds water that the well has pumped up. The bad part? The cistern was frozen, full of ice, and the concrete lid was, well, ice cold.
For those of you with science on the brain, you might see where this was going. Oak and I flatly refused to help once the stove was out of the house. Neither of us wanted anything to do with a huge frozen slab of concrete. Either of us could tell you what would happen when Dirk dragged the huge stove on top of the cistern. The lid snapped clean in half.
I stared, dumbstruck, as Dirk was wedged between two huge slabs of concrete, a steel stove, and the ice slab below him. For my life, I cannot remember how we got him out. I know we didn’t get outside help, because the roads were totally frozen over. Not that Dirk would have been even a little okay with asking someone else for help…
I do remember Dirk’s leg was screwed up for a while. He blamed Oak and me, which was only to be expected at that point. At the time, I felt guilty, crushed by the weight of not helping. I was terrified that somebody I loved was going to die, or worse. It was painful to see him hurt, and it cut me to the core that he held me responsible. My overwhelming sense of guilt and shame would haunt me for years.
Thankfully, I’ve received some serious therapy since then. I’ve learned perspective regarding my relationship with Dirk. I now get to feel proud of my young self being aware of how the world works. I’m thankful Oak and I didn’t get hurt. We could have died, just as easily as Dirk could have. He was lucky; so were we. I would be lying if I said I don’t feel a little pleasure in his past pain. It’s a coping mechanism, what can I say?
Jenny just told me that I already wrote about this story. Well, shit. Guess what? It’s actually a pretty different angle, so I’m running this one too. Pretend it’s not a real post, if you like. I still enjoyed writing about it, which is the point.