When I was seven, I saw my mother cry for the first time. Her bottom lip quivered and her forehead wrinkled, I don’t like it. I don’t like the way her eyes are all shiny while tears stream down her cheeks. I also don’t understand it. My dad just holds her in his arms under the dim kitchen light and it was as if I wasn’t there.
All I could do was stand there, my brain searching itself for how to make her feel better. At the time, all I knew of coping with a sad person was candy and hugs. But this was mom, she never got sad. My dad sees me peeking from around the corner and gives me a crooked smile, which also confused me. Usually people smiled when they were happy, but this was different. Past his smile, his eyes sagged with pain.
I step into the kitchen, waiting for my dad to tell me that moms ok and everything will be alright, but he never did. He just stares at me with that forced, teethless smile. He closes his eyes. I still don’t know why she was crying.
Realizing that the adults in one’s life are not invincible is a major shock in any kid’s life. It scares us to discover that, but it prepares us for the real world.
I have taken on this realization all of my life, but especially in my teen years. As a child, I never paid as much attention to the feelings and problems that my parents faced every day. I am seventeen, trying to get out of high school, getting ready for college, and the real world hits me hard every day already. I also encounter people my age from time to time that have clearly not had any of these realizations yet. They rely on their parents for their future without realizing that they are not able to do everything for them. They stand in the middle of the hallway complaining in irritable tones about how their parents won’t pay for their car insurance.
They wear name brand clothing. The girls’ voices are too high to stand and the boys’ are monotone. The boys sound like they are constantly on a high, without a care in the world.
I guess it’s not completely their fault, they have just been protected better in my opinion. They are envied by peers, I don’t really understand it. Once we leave this place, protection goes away and it will hit some harder than others. I have seen past the protection that my parents have given me in small glimpses.
It begins with my crying mother, and continues when I see the look of pure disappointment on my dad’s face. I was nine, and had stolen a bracelet from my favorite store. He holds the bracelet in his hands, and his mouth doesn’t move. This wasn’t the usual type of “shame on you” moment, but worse. His eyes sagged a bit at the corners and his cheeks were droopy. I will never forget the embarrassment plastered on his face when we returned the bracelet to the store.
When we are children, we tend to think that nothing can affect our parents emotionally, financially, physically, you name it. Seeing your hero become vulnerable strikes something within that is very unsettling. If they can feel pain, how much pain are we going to feel?
It continues when my brother gets really sick at age 14 and we couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. He was only ten years old, he was supposed to be running around outside. But instead he was laying in a hospital bed. Every time that my grandma brought me to the hospital, I didn’t want to look at my parents. They were always hovering in the room with tired eyes. It’s always the eyes that give it away. They turned to me and gave a fake smile that was so unbelievable. I could see my mom worry more and more as the doctor ran countless tests on him. Her strength was slipping.
I was fifteen, my dad was leaving for a three month motorcycle trip to Alaska. None of us wanted him to go, and those same tears I saw when I was seven reappeared when she was hugging him goodbye.
On one of my favorite shows, Grey’s Anatomy, the main character, Meredith, has a mother that once attempted suicide. Her mother had always been a very capable and tenacious woman, and to see her laying on the blood-stained carpet scarred her as a little girl. Ever since that incident, Meredith saw the world in a completely different way. She saw the darkness in the world, the evil.
My dad's eyebrows rose as he took in the took in the scene in front of him. We had no idea of how he would react to this. We were robbed while none of us were home and the house was in shambles. Not a single kitchen drawer or cabinet remains in the wall, there is crap everywhere. He paces around for a while and finally chooses a place to stand. He begins shuffling around some papers in his special drawer. He then looks up, his cheeks bright red.
“They took the photo albums.”
That happened a year ago, I’m 17 now. It still keeps me up at night sometimes. Not the fact that we were robbed, but in that moment my dad really had no idea what to do.
Being young and being naive go hand in hand. Seeing foreign emotions on someone that is admired is a part of ending childhood. The realization that somebody so head-strong goes through hard times let’s us prepare for ours. But what makes them strong is getting through those hard times and emotions. Some might say that there are ways to prevent being sad, but they lie to themselves. Sadness is created from within, it cannot be blocked from the outside. They say this to maintain the ignorance that blinds them from the real world: where sadness is inevitable, where being sad is not always a bad thing.
Nobody is invincible. Not parents, not teachers, not coaches. They may seem this way because they have learned to cope with bad things in life, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t affected. In this big world there is not one person that has never been scared or sad or angry or confused on some level, and so does that mean that there is no constant happiness? Maybe that’s scary to somebody, but one can never know of happiness without sadness. By the time adults seem to be “untouchable”, they have gone through countless periods of scaredness or sadness or anger or confusion. They are brave, not invincible.