Grief is a tidal wave that over takes you,
smashes down upon you with unimaginable force,
sweeps you up into its darkness,
where you tumble and crash against unidentifiable surfaces,
only to be thrown out on an unknown beach, bruised, reshaped...
Grief will make a new person out of you,
if it doesn't kill you in the making.

Stephanie Ericsson

 
I Was Seventeen

I don't think I've completely healed yet. I'm not really sure what that means except that I don't think that I have. Not completely, not really, maybe not ever. Actually, I know that I haven't. Does one ever heal completely? Even when the skin is cut and then heals, a scar is usually left behind (no matter if one has to look at it very closely), a reminder that there was a time when blood oozed out and pain, or at least some discomfort, was experienced. One doesn't think about the scar for one has moved on. But the scar still remains.

The scars remind us of the scrapes and the accidents we get into. Careless accidents. They remind us and we are, perhaps, more watchful in the future.

And then there are the memories which also serve as a reminder of the things that we said or did, the words that we wished had never been uttered, or deeds that we wished had never been carried out. And sometimes the deeds were not ours but someone else's.

I sometimes wonder if another member of my family would downplay what happened between my father and I. It is still important -- to me -- that I am believed, that what happened should not have happened, that my father did something very wrong and that it hurt me. If this is being self-absorbed, so be it. No one else lives in this body but me. No one lives my life but me. The same goes for everyone else and his or her life. In order to heal, I have to acknowledge what happened. Not only do I grieve for what I have lost, whether it was my innocence or the father-daughter relationship that I wanted so very much later on, I also grieve for what happened that night as well as other occasions.

My father touched me in the most intimate of places. He molested me. No, he didn't force himself on me. There was no sexual intercourse, nothing of the sort. I was sleeping beside him and he caressed my hair. I heard him whispering. What he was whispering, I'll never know. I never knew then either. But there were whispers in the dark. Caresses and whispers. He also put his finger inside me. What the hell was that about? Why on earth would a father insert his finger inside his young daughter's vagina? He also took my hand and guided it to touch ... something. A part of him, I think. A very private part of him that I should never have touched. Did he know that I had awaken? Or did he think that I was still asleep throughout?

Then there was the time -- I was a little older -- when he passed behind me, my back facing the front of his body. And I felt his privates brush against me as he passed. He was wearing his usual night attire -- a pair of shorts -- and the material was light. And if I could feel him brush against me, surely he could feel himself brush against his daughter's bottom. Maybe it was unintentional. Maybe it wasn't.

And yet I don't hate him. I can't hate him. Not anymore. Even when I was younger, I never really hated him. Naturally there were conflicting emotions. Love and hate went together. But I also missed him very much, wishing very much that I had a father to go to, to talk to, a parent who could advise me. I had my mother, yes, but she was my mother. She wasn't my father. I wanted my father to be there for me. But he wasn't there. And I know that I also put him -- or the memory of him -- on a pedestal. Did I put him on a pedestal because he was my father? Or did I put him on the pedestal because he was no longer there, just a memory of him that seems to get a little more blurry and faded with time?

Even now, as I write this, there is a part of me that remembers the sexual contact, and that part of me can't help but be furious with what happened. Then there is another part that misses him. And what does she miss? A father. Husband to her mother. Father to her brothers. Those emotions aren't so strong anymore but I cannot deny that they spring up every once in a while, taking me by complete surprise.

There are several scenes in the motion picture, Field of Dreams, that are like a magnet. They pull me in and I am even mesmerized by the dialogue. There is a conversation between Ray Kinsella and Terence Mann that is particularly memorable:



Terence Mann (James Earl Jones): "What was the terrible thing that you said?"

[Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) turns to him.]

Terence Mann (James Earl Jones): "To your father."

Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner): "I said that I could never respect a man whose hero was a criminal."

Terence Mann (James Earl Jones): "Who was his hero?"

Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner): "Shoeless Joe Jackson."

Terence Mann (James Earl Jones): "But you knew he wasn't a criminal." [There is a pause.] "So why did you say it?"

Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner): "I was seventeen."



I was seventeen when my father died. I was seventeen when he had his first heart attack at home. Then I witnessed it again when he was in the hospital. It was painful to watch. And I couldn't do anything.

There was a time when I said some hurtful words to my father. I wasn't seventeen but a teenager still, maybe a year or so younger. They weren't aimed at him but I knew the words, as I said them, were about him.

"Father pig!" I shouted to my younger brother. We were having a quarrel and I used those words, knowing very well that my father was nearby. Maybe it had nothing to do with my father. But no, it did. I knew it then. I knew it very well.

Everything would have been different, I'm sure, if he were still alive, or if he had been alive during the rest of my teens and my twenties. If he had survived his heart attack, or if he had lived, what would our relationship have been like? What would I have been like? Would I still be this quiet and uncertain at times? Would I be this meek and mild-mannered, and at the same time, holding in my emotions, allowing the anger and frustration to simmer below the surface? Would I have been a better person? Or am I a better person now precisely because of those experiences? Enough of those questions for it's futile and I know it.

He didn't live beyond his fifty-seventh year. My father died when I was seventeen. And each time I watch the movie, Field of Dreams, those three words spoken by the character, Ray Kinsella, always manage to jump out at me. They serve as a reminder of what I said -- or didn't say -- to my father. They remind me what happened one night at home when I was seventeen, before the physician arrived and brought him to the hospital. And I remember my father. Of course I remember him throughout the movie for that is what the movie is about, anyway. Reconciliation. Healing.

There is still more healing to be done. I'm sure of that. I still grieve for what happened between us. I still grieve for what I lost. And I grieve for what would have been if the molestation had never taken place. Maybe one day, if I do get to Heaven, my father and I will meet each other again. And the healing will be complete.

 

 

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