It’s awful. The bad memories just keep flooding my brain. I try pushing them away, but they’re so anxious to be recollected that they’re practically tripping over one another in some sort of crazy race to see which one of them can reach my consciousness first.
It’s getting so that I can’t close my eyes at night without having some painful, long-forgotten, childhood memory creep into the crevices of my restless brain. No matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, I cannot keep them from appearing in my mind’s eye.
It reminds me of a book I used to read when I was younger. It was about a boy who couldn’t think of anything better to do one rainy day, but complain to his mother that there was nothing to do. Frustrated, because she couldn’t get any of her chores done, his mother finally sent the boy to sit in his room with instructions that, whatever else he did, he was not to think about a white bear while he was there.
Needless to say, no matter how hard he tried, everywhere that boy turned, he saw white bears. He saw one up on the ceiling, and he saw one under his desk. He saw one on top of his bed, and he saw one in his closet. He saw one in the toy chest, and he saw one sitting in the corner on the floor.
And that’s exactly what’s happening to me. Everywhere I look, I see my “white bear” – forgotten memories of my life with a dying mother.
For instance, on Saturday night my father accidentally woke me up in (what seemed like) the middle of the night when he came in to check on me and tried to tuck me in after I’d kicked my blankets off in my sleep. He apologized as he kissed my forehead and tiptoed out of the room.
All I wanted to do was go back to sleep. But, as tired as my body was, I just couldn’t doze off. My father’s apology had triggered another uncomfortable memory. It had reminded me of the last time I had been unexpectedly wakened in the middle of the night. As a result, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t close my eyes without seeing that memory play itself out in my head, over and over and over again….
It’s late. The middle of the night. At least, it feels like the middle of the night (but because I have been in bed since seven-thirty I have no sense of the actual time). I just know that I was asleep one moment and awake the next. And somebody is snuggling in bed with me. It’s my mom. What’s going on? I am disoriented. Confused.
My mother starts to talk. She explains that she came down to check on me because she was afraid that I’d heard my father yelling, and she wanted me to know that I shouldn’t be worried, because everything was all right.
Apparently, my mother had fallen out of bed, and my father had yelled at her.
But, he hadn’t really yelled at her. He’d only yelled because he was scared. And because he felt powerless, and frustrated. And because he was caught off guard by this unexpected evidence of my mother’s weakening spirit.
At least, that’s how I view the incident today.
But, of course, my mother didn’t actually say any of this to me at the time. She just told me not to worry because my father hadn’t meant to yell. And because she didn’t get hurt when she fell. And because it had all just been a silly misunderstanding.
I did worry. Unnecessarily.
If my mother had only taken the time to find out whether or not I had heard anything in the first place, then she would have known that it was her presence in my bed that had wakened me, not the sound of my father’s raised voice.
If she hadn’t come downstairs and told me herself, I never would have known that she had fallen out of bed. And, I never would have known that my father had yelled at her. And, I can’t help but wonder why my mother decided to tell me this awful story in the first place. Was she really trying to ease my mind? Or, was she just trying to ease her own?
I seems to me that maybe she was upset, herself, and that she just wanted to get it all out of her system (kind of the way that I am right now). She wanted to get it off of her chest. And she wanted to snuggle with her little girl for a while. And she wanted to try to forget about everything that was happening to her. And that’s OK to do sometimes. Isn’t it?
I mean, as upsetting as this incident was, it’s not as if it consumed my life or anything. In fact, the opposite is true. Until my father woke me up on Saturday night and (unintentionally) brought it to the surface, this memory was hidden – deep down – where all of the others had been. With the stickers from Emily…and the pumpkin from Christopher…and the wig…and the canes…and the wheelchair. All of it.
I’m beginning to feel like Pandora. You know, the girl in the ancient Greek myth whose curiosity got the best of her. The one who opened the forbidden box and released all of the evils and miseries out into the world. Except, in my case, the forbidden box was actually a forbidden note. And, instead of releasing all of the world’s evils and miseries, I have just released all of my own evil and miserable memories.