Friday, November 12, 2010

Remembrance Day

I remember the fear that would seize me when I had to wake my father up from his unconscious position on the couch. Most people would suggest I meant a nap, but with the drugs and alcohol that flowed freely through his body, I could never be certain that was what I would be interrupting.

My sisters and I argued over who would do it. We didn't have any money (it was unwisely spent on drugs most weeks) so even flipping a coin couldn't resolve the conflict. Instead, my conscience flipped until it finally landed with the my-responsibility-to-keep-my-sisters-safe side facing up. It seemed to be a trick coin as it rarely landed any other way.

So I would approach him, stretching my arm as far forward as I could while my other arm held tightly to the wall to keep me balanced. For a short while, I used a ruler to gently tap his ankles, but I found it too dangerous after it became a weapon in his hands the second or third time. I used my hands now. My shaking hands. Tap, tap, tap. "Dad," I would call before racing back to an area out of his reach.

Tap, tap, tap again when he didn't respond. Like a Hermit Crab, I would creep a little farther in and tap his thigh. "Dad?" I would call just a little bit louder. Tap, tap.....

His hands would fly at me-- an arm twisted painfully behind my back, my back pressed down into the couch while his hands circled my neck-- on those unlucky occasions. But that wasn't the worst of it. It was the look in his eyes. A look of hatred, of fear, of insanity. A look absent of any compassion or humility even after he remembered that Vietnam was far behind him and in front of him was a girl who hadn't reached puberty yet.

I didn't know my father any other way until I was in my thirties. It took him that long to begin to mature. He stopped drinking and doing drugs by sheer will power. He stopped smoking with a patch. When I visit during the holidays, I have trouble reconciling this father with the one I grew up with. And I wonder, is this the real cost of sending people into bloody conflict? Does either side ever truly win?

***Daily Writing Practice ***


  1. I am speechless, Heather. That is an incredible piece. I hope it's fiction. If not, then, if nothing else, it has obviously made you a stronger person.

  2. It makes me smile when people mistake non-fiction for fiction and vice-versa, or even question which genre it is. Maybe it is an odd thing to smile about, but I consider it a job well done :)

    As far as which this is, I think I will keep it a secret.

  3. I liken it to knowing the truth behind the magic trick. I don't want to know. Either way, that was a wonderful piece. You may want to work that into a much longer story (*cough* novel).

    It is definitely "a job well done"!

  4. I would love to write a novel. I have several little pieces I have written that are related in my mind. But, I don't feel I am quite ready to take on that challenge. Thank you for your support though. I'll keep it in mind if the day ever comes that I write a longer piece, say a novel.