In The Beginning
Time has a strange effect on people. I swear everything that happened in my life happened so long past, but the memories make it feel as if it is still happening today. The emotions of a time so long ago still resonate in my gut. As hard as I have held onto them, they must still be real in this moment.
I speak of the memories that you fight for. The ones that in the end you cannot imagine how they will disappear with you. I feel like I am at the end of a dream and half waking up. I can feel the world flooding at me and I am doing everything I can to hold on, but my fingers are slipping and the memories are failing me. There is this hollow feeling all around, an empty canister where I just can’t seem to find my footing.
But what fun is the end of the story without the beginning? I would be amiss to think you care about my fading life without a proper explanation of how I built it.
I could start in the forties with conception, but even now I do not like to think of my parents that way. We will just say that shortly after the allies declared victory there was a baby boom. The generation that I belong was so appropriately named and I was one of millions. I was the result of a celebration. A celebration that consisted of two people happy that their lives were not taken from them in a War that threatened to change the world.
With evil vanquished and America the victor and now supreme power of the world, I entered what we call life somewhere around nine months later. My father was a gruff straightforward man, who was largely molded into what he was because of the war. The man marched across Europe with a platoon that put their lives into each other’s hands. He had no patience for anything but trust as he had given his to his platoon for the year or so he was over there.
Because of those experiences he was very by the book. I had little room for my own youthful exploration. Sure, when I was out with friends or alone I could do whatever I wanted, but if my father was around there was no way but his. I never faulted him for that. I understood at a young age that my father had seen horrific things and survived them. I took away that I had a father that wanted the best for me and he would stand to see me make the wrong move. Although, the lack of freedom made me want to spend as little time under his watch as possible, but I didn’t dislike him for it.
My mother was a bit of a scatterbrain. She loved me very much and adored my father as if he were her creator. She was never one to be a parent, more of a friend. The only times she pushed me into a decision that was not my own was at the command of my father.
“Get his hand out of that fence, the horses will bite him.” Loud and determined words from my father’s lips to my mother’s obedient ears.
“Get back, Bobby. You’ll lose a finger!” She slapped my hand deterring me from touching the horses. It was for the best. We were watching a group of men break wild stallions.
I do not know why we were there. I do not remember even when it was, really. All I can recall from that one scene in my life was realizing that my father thought that misshapen falling over fence somehow separated us from imminent danger. As long as all my body parts stayed on our side of the wood we were safe, but one finger past the borderline and it was savagery.
I wonder how much of that was his experience during the war. Sitting in a tent just a few yards away from enemies in their own tents. Somehow those flaps of canvas meant that they were out of harm’s way.
I remember looking up at my mother and all her innocence towering over me. She nodded in an appreciation that I was not feeding my appendages to the horses. That nod felt so ridiculous to me. How could she not see the insanity that the fence was some kind of safety net. There was a wild horse on the other side that did not understand what that fence was supposed to represent. If the men breaking the horse lost control it would tear through the rotting wood without a thought.
It made me realize how devoted my mother was to my father. It wouldn’t surprise me if she followed him into oncoming traffic. But, at that age I didn’t think it was a bad thing. I didn’t have some kind of emotional scarring because my mother accepted my father’s advice like it was biblical. I saw it as a love and devotion they shared. A love that I wanted to one day have for myself.
I guess it is important to point out that my father’s love for my mother was just as strong. It was different, it was somewhat in the vein of a protector, but it was just as real and just as deep as hers.
One of my earliest memories was waiting for my grandmother to pick me up in the hospital. I must have been three or four, so there is not much left of the memory. It is almost like looking at still pictures from the past it is so vague. We stood in the waiting room, hand in hand while we watched my grandmother half jog into the hospital.
I don’t recall the words that were said when my father told his mother-in-law that her daughter was in surgery. What I recall was the waver in his voice, the fear in his eyes. He was facing a possibility of a world without his wife and it was the only thing I ever witnessed that scared him.
I am not sure if it is common, but because of them I grew up feeling like I was special. Like I was a part of a family that not everyone had. Don’t get me wrong this was not the age of divorce or free love or consensual non-monogamy. But, I always felt that my parents shared a love and connection that was missing in most of the adult relationships I witnessed.
But, in many ways their strong connection to one another made me feel a bit of an outsider. I was an only child and all my desires and passions revolved around belonging. I wanted so much to be with someone so that I was not alone and they were not alone. I wanted to be an us rather than a me.