A Life of Compromise: 2. Why Do I Remember Everything?
Last updated: 26 Apr 2020 19:26
Why Do I Remember Everything?
The earliest memory I have is when I was three years old. I am sitting in my (father’s mom) Mim-maw’s living room with my grandma, mom, and baby brother. It is dusk. I am staring out the window watching my drunk dad in the middle of the street waving a gun around as two of Haltom City’s finest slowly approach him to calm him down.
I saw that scene, and I knew that I was in mortal danger.
On the flip side of that, we are in an upstairs apartment in Killeen, TX. Sun is setting down as my dad, mom, Mim-maw, and dad’s sister are playing cards. I, at the wise old age of 4, thought it would be great to go to the apartment pool for a sweet little evening dip–never mind the fact I didn’t know how to swim.
To be honest, I don’t remember making that decision, strolling out the door, rolling downstairs, unhinging the pool gate, or diving in. All of that is assumed because what I remember is being rescued by my dad. What I distinctly remember is his wallet falling out during my rescue operation. He, of course, has to dive back in to get it as I sit on the side of the pool laughing hysterically. (I don’t remember what I thought was funny–I always told my grandma it was the fact his wallet came out.)
This is why I share these two particular memories in chronological order. What I have experienced all of my life with people that are most intimate to me is just utter confusion. And by most intimate, I mean my mom, dad, grandma, stepmom, and as I proceed into adulthood, my first and second ex-wife. And by utter confusion, I mean that these people who should have loved me protected me, and nurtured me while never causing harm to me, never leaving me unprotected nor abandoned, and thus, never betraying me. They shouldn’t have but they actually did do all of those things.
Sure, I am hurt. I have immense amount of pain from all of those relationships. It hurt my heart and soul so deeply. But the question that my little Joe self kept asking all of these years was, “Why?” Why, Dad, did you decide to rape and molest me over and over again? Why, Mom, did you chose to leave your baby boys with a monster? And why, Mim-maw, would you give me over to said monster? Why, stepmom, did you hate me so much?
Then I take all of those unanswered Why’s with all of my pain and heartbreak into adulthood and grownup relationships. “So, maybe don’t get too close and keep myself at an arm’s distance?” Answer: first divorce. “So, maybe I should ignore the one million red flags and try to do more despite knowing that this other person is not safe for me?” Answer: second divorce.
A million car wrecks as a kid always turn into a million car wrecks as an adult.
I never got the real help I needed until I was about 40 years old. And by “real help,” I mean, stop blaming other people for what I was doing and started asking for help to control what I was doing. But all the counseling, pastoring, Bible reading, and theological studies never answered all the why questions that still plagued me to this day.
But if I pushed down into my heart, this is the real question that my heart is really asking my dad, my mom, my grandma, my stepmom, my first and second wife is this:
Why did you not love me?
Is it because I am unlovable? For me to admit that I think that on some level is weakness. I would never admit that. Yet, I look at the life that I live, and that is how I felt: unlovable.
And if I am unlovable, then why did you choose to associate with me? Why did you have to be my dad and mom? If you didn’t want me, why just give me up for adoption? If you were going to let me stay with a monster, why even have me in your home? If you hated me so badly, why didn’t you have shipped out or also killed? Why on earth would you even marry me if you didn’t love me?
All I sit here with is a barrel full of Whys.
I used to long for those answers to arrive. But now I am old enough and wise enough to know I am never getting those answers.