The day my father left. Vol. 2
When I decided to write this, I couldn’t decide whether to do it in the form of a poem or a ‘simple’ autobiographical prose. I’m still undecided as I begin to type these words into my laptop.
The inspiration to write this came while watching of A Monster Calls. The film was very rich in emotive subject matter – making you wonder what you would do in the boys situation – having to deal with something so gut-wrenching at twelve years of age. Which then got me thinking of what the most painful parts my life have been so far… instinctively I turned to football, and the plethora of physical and mental distresses I’ve suffered over the last ten years, at the hands of sporting injuries and comfort eating tendencies. However, that just reminded me of something unnerving that I’ve been feeling for a while…’Am I over that pain?’ In previous years when I’ve flirted with retirement, the swell of sadness and tears that rose from my belly, to bottleneck at the back of my throat whenever asked to think, or talk about those spirit choking incidences would be ever-present, but now was gone. Where were the tears? I can still see the wounds, but they’re no longer sore to the touch. Does not crying for long enough eventual create a desert of your soul? Answering this in the afore-mentioned context would take a whole separate piece dedicated solely to that aspect of my life. This story is not about that, but about the way that realisation caressed my heart towards an older chapter in my life i.e. Finding this previously deep well of emotion empty, I went looking for more pain in order to empathise with the plight of the boy in the movie.
Very strangely, I thought about the day my father told my brothers and me that he was leaving my mother. Strange because in hindsight, I can’t really recall when I’ve thought about that day and given it the credence it deserved as an emotionally traumatic event. Is that just down to my forever-optimistic personality? Although, now that optimism is far more tempered then in my youth, I like comparing it to child Naruto vs Adult Naruto. An anime character, who’s been through his fair share of life altering pain (for those who don’t know). Alternatively, and perhaps more tellingly; was this the first time I employed the repressive tactic that I have since used to bury all significant pain from the conscious surface? Because the more I thought about it the more I was awakened to the memory of how much it hurt. However as the title suggests this was not the first time my father was about to leave us, and peculiarly I can’t remember if I cried or not, but I do remember weeping like the child I was when he stormed out several years earlier. Although he returning something like an hour later, it didn’t prevent me from having to watch the relatively new older half-brother and sister, I loved like full siblings I’d known since birth prepare themselves to leave with him. Hear my mum – the strongest women walking Gods green earth, cry on the phone to her eldest sister as she pleaded for help and advise on how to reason with him. I remember my younger brother ask me why I’m crying? Then, my older half brother reprimanding him for such a foolish question. You may not believe this, but it was only when arriving at the second paragraph of this piece that I even remembered the emotional connection between the two events and thus changed the title – adding Vol.2, I guess that’s just how well those emotions were suppressed. Turning events that perhaps should have been potent psychological markers of emotional development, into hollow memories of something that flickers in and out of knowing, like the song you’re tired of hearing and always skip when it comes on.
Arriving at the third paragraph, I now know the purpose of this whole trip down memory lane. I believe that just simply acknowledging the pain I felt at the second and permanent time of my dad’s leaving, and giving that moment the importance it warrants, will make me a healthier person. Therefore, I want to recall everything that happened a late afternoon in nineteen ninety-eight.
I can’t accurately remember if the sun was definitely still out, or exactly who else was in the house. Nevertheless, I remember my dad sitting the brother who directly follows me and myself down at the dinner table – my other sibling, and the youngest of my mum’s children may or may not have been there too, I can remember. Perhaps because I wasn’t brave enough to turn to my left at any point throughout my dad’s speech and look at the expressions on their faces. I do on the other hand have an ingrained image of my mum sitting on the sofa at the other side of the room; the whole time he spoke, she wore that unique pouted face of hers – complete defiance at the sorrow being brought into her life again – anger and sadness in equal measure.
My dad explained that he and my half siblings would be going to live with his girl friend ( for lack of a better word), the words passed through me easily, like on some level I had been expecting them. However, they still hurt, in a way that I don’t think I could fully process at the time, largely due to the lack of understanding of the knock on effect of such a decision on me personally and the family dynamic in the future. He made sure to keep repeating that although he was leaving, that in no way meant that he didn’t love us, something I believed without question. I remember feeling comfort at hearing the anger in his voice when exclaiming that if any of my mother’s family said that he didn’t love us, we were to tell him immediately. I guess that familiar anger and assertiveness made me feel that my dad was still the man I’d known my whole life.
I also have the image of my older half-sister crying when it came time to say good-bye to us, I think my older half-brother was too, but can’t say for definite. To be honest I’m not sure if I was crying or not at this point, but I would be very surprised if I weren’t. I wasn’t as good as I am now at releasing everything but the rain. I really can’t picture my two younger brother’s faces…it’s frustrating, perhaps I feared that looking at them and adding their pain to my own would be too much for my young spirit to handle…I wish I could have been more mature during the immediate aftermath and given them some kind of comfort through encouraging words or physical affection. But alas, my inability to show physical affection to family members is a story for another day. I do find some solace in the knowledge that over the coming years, I took on board some of the parental duties of a father with my youngest brother, who’s face on that day I achingly STILL can’t remember. What difference would it make anyway, I’m not a time traveller…I can’t go back and put my arms around him…so l shouldn’t dwell. The chronology of some events of that day are a bit messed up, therefore I’m not sure when exactly, or even if on the same day, but I remember my uncle in our house. He was passionately beating his chest as he yelled that he would be there for us for whatever we needed, and so, we shouldn’t worry or be down hearted. It was an inspiring moment to me…but in hindsight, I’m not sure how much of that help actually materialised.
Funnily enough, it wasn’t until years later once utilising the lens of young adulthood, did I start to put together all the little insidious events that lead to that day. The awareness of which, to my recollection, didn’t pain me, most likely due to my own personal experiences of the complexity of adult relationships. Moreover, how love is neither everlasting nor a guarantee of relationship cohesion. But most importantly, that my parents are only human and can make mistakes. Still, it’s a shame when some of your fondest and purest childhood memories become tainted with a mature truth.
Conceivably, I may be being too harsh on myself, and it’s actually the thick inescapable casserole of my; cultural environment, parental upbringing and genetic pre-disposition that created the perpetually pain repressing person I am today. Not poor emotional choices at key moments in my life. However, I guess that’s just another chicken and egg conundrum. Saying all that, whatever part my eternal reservoir of optimism has had to play in this psychological coping strategy, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Furthermore, perhaps there were more pros to suppressing the pain of that day and any other traumatic events in my life. It allowed me to not be derailed from my daily, weekly, or monthly path and thus continue pursuing my dreams with less social and academic strife.
Sorry for the dramatic change in topic and tone of my writing this week. It just felt right in that brief moment of clarity to write this piece, raw and un-drafted. At its onset, there was nothing particular I expected to gain personally, or for you guys to individually. I just hoped that listening to me express these years old uncovered feelings would not be too dreary for you. As a bonus, it was truly a cathartic experience for me, thank you for reading.
By Alpha Maurice Cidade Cauwenbergh
© Alpha Maurice Cidade Cauwenbergh – Storyteller, Poet & Intern at Wordsmith Inc 2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Alpha Maurice Cidade Cauwenbergh – Storyteller, Poet & Intern at Wordsmith Inc with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.