Close the Curtains

Some people say that ignorance is bliss. This can be true at times, but when you’re a child, sometimes your ignorance can be what hurts you the most.
I remember very clearly, standing at the front window of my family’s old house in Redford, waiting for my daddy to come back. I’d wait in the living room, holding on to my dog, praying and begging God to make the screaming stop. It was a routine; they’d fight at the opposite end of the house from where I was, daddy would get mad and stomp out the front door without bothering to even look at me, let alone say goodbye. I’d stand at that window and watch him drive off, and I’d wait there for hours for him to come back. My mother was too shaken and upset to try to console me, but I didn’t know that. I thought this was my fault, I thought he left and didn’t come back until morning because of something I did. I remember my mother coming to get me ready for bed, and how upset I was to leave my spot at the window, because I wouldn’t know that night if he would come back or not. I would have to lay awake all night listening for the door to open, for him to throw his keys down on the table and drunkenly waltz down the hall to the room adjacent from mine. I remember the feelings of relief when those sounds I’d been praying to hear arrived, because after they did I could finally fall asleep. I would try to avoid him the best I could the next morning, I didn’t want to make him angry. I had no idea his sudden rages didn’t have everything to do with me, that’s what it always seemed like to me, when I was young and naïve.
Many years later, after we had moved from Redford to our house in Novi and I was much older, the events that had impacted me so much from my childhood slipped my mind, as they do for most people. I had forgotten all about waiting for my daddy to come back home at night, and I’d grown used to ignoring the endless fighting and yelling that shook the lights on the ceiling from time to time. Daddy didn’t leave when he was mad anymore; he retired to the basement and drank himself to sleep. Mother had grown more used to it as well; it was just a part of life. We were a normal dysfunctional family with normal dysfunctional problems. No more and no less.
The last time, however, the fight was different. It was like a trip back through time, to the days when I would wait for hours at the window and lay awake in bed waiting for him to come home. The screaming was too loud to ignore, the stomping down the stairs and the slamming doors and all the noise could not possibly be drowned out by my radio. So I turned it off and came out of my room. Mother was crying at the kitchen table. I was taken aback by this, because she hadn’t cried openly in years. “Where’s Dad?” I asked, and she motioned to the basement. As he stomped up the stairs, she left me at the table and retreated to her bedroom. As he came around the corner, I could see the bags slung over his shoulder and the suitcase he drug behind him. He showed no emotions as he glanced in my direction. My mouth hung open as I tried to comprehend what the Hell was happening. He simply shook his head, and walked out the door. I sat there in shock, unable to react and unable to process what was happening. Then the door reopened. Dad walked around to the side of the table I was frozen at, and as I prepared myself for the pain I expected, he hugged me. He hugged me, and he looked me straight in the eye and said “I love you”, then walked right back out the door.
I could hear my mother crying in her bedroom still as I walked up to the front window to watch him drive away. It was just like when I was little in Redford, except now I understood. My father’s lack of self control and rage was never my fault. I never did anything to deserve what he did to me, all the tears and confusion and sleepless nights that accompanied my parents’ fighting. As the tears flowed from my eyes for hours after that hug good-bye, I was grateful not to be ignorant anymore. I could finally tell myself that this wasn’t my fault, and I could finally believe it. It still hurt, but it never hurt the same again. My ignorance and guilt and pain were replaced with the acceptance of life’s unfairness, and the knowledge that the little girl standing at the window never had anything to be ashamed of. I wish I could go back in time to that little girl standing at the window in Redford, close the curtains and tell her that her daddy leaving never was, and never would be her fault. Back then, knowledge would have helped me out a little more than ignorance did, and I would have slept a lot better without thinking there was the heavy burden of a broken family resting on my shoulders.





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