(Some time ago Paula, the author of the blog Lost in Translation, published a stunning photo in one of her posts. I told her in the comments that I could imagine a story coming out of it. Her response? She would love to read one. This story is for you Paula. And published for your Thursday Special as I have come to enjoy free writing from photos.)
As I approach the house from the bottom of the hill, a flood of memories overwhelm me. Memories of my childhood. My father. Always so tall and gruff, directing our lives even though he was so often absent from it. The restrictions. The pain. The overwhelming sense of failure. I pull off the road and switch off the car. Staring up at the formidable-looking walls, I breath in deeply. I had left this place as soon as I could. And with no intention of ever coming back. I had felt no guilt at leaving behind my mother, a woman who had lost herself in the shadow of the man she had married. My desire for a life free of restrictions, free of the pressure of the belt on my shoulders, had so motivated me that I had walked down that road willing to shut a door firmly on my past.
Yet now I was back twelve years later. When I had left this place, I had struggled; I had felt hunger and deprivation. And yet I had gloried in a life in which I made my own choices. A life in which I was free from the giant who had stifled my every move. I feel my chest tightening in response to the thoughts of my childhood. He was on his deathbed and had called to me. Why had I answered his call? I still had not figured out the answer to my question.
Taking a deep breath I turn on the car and drive slowly up the hill. The dark clouds forming in the sky reflect my own turbulent thoughts. I had to remember that I was my own person now and that I was successful in my own right. I had to guard against falling into the traps of the past. Pulling up in front of my childhood home, I notice the front door opening. I see before me the woman of my past. She is dressed the same as she always was, and yet there is a difference. Her head is no longer bowed and, as she walks towards me, I notice that she takes her steps with determination. Gone is the mouse scared of the lion. In its place I see someone who more confident of what her place is.
“Mom.” Thin arms enfold me and I feel the wetness of her cheek. For the first time I realise the pain she must have gone through with my leaving.
“I am so glad you came. It is important you see him before he dies.”
She leads me through the door into the hallways of my past. The air smells musty and the gloom mirrors the complete silence in the house. My footsteps lead me to the door of my father’s bedroom. Steeling myself, I walk in. Adjusting to the gloom, my eyes focus on the man in the bed. No longer is he a giant with a strong hand quick to punish. I see before me, instead, frailty and helplessness. The stroke had robbed him of his fierceness, his independence. Now he relied on the whims of his wife to help him eat and even wash. As his helpless eyes looked at me, I understood my mother’s words. I felt his power over me loosen its hold and slowly ebb away. Now I knew why I had come back.
© Colline Kook-Chun, 2013