Monday, January 16, 2012

Running Away - An Overture

Despite our mother's frank conversations with myself and my sister regarding her suspisions, our family life still remained trapped in a world of skeletons in the closet, elephants in the corner and ultimatiums secretly slipped into a briefcase.

Weeks after revealing her deep, dark concerns to us, my sister and I were still the keepers of the heavy secrets. We took long walks, hoping that somehow we might not have to return back to the darkness that our home had come to represent. We turned the information over 100 times, anaylzing it for possible truth or a way out.

What we did not do, however, was discuss the impact that this secret would have on our respective futures. Our confined society was archaic in so many ways, and revelation of this secret would easily ruin any potential for my sister and myself to ever be married.

While our dedication at 15 and 13 to the future that the chuch demanded was tenuious at best, it was really the only future that we had ever been raised to fulfill. Nothing else in church doctrine mattered so much as fulfilling the Three Blessing. These first two of the three, be fruitful, multiply, have dominion, essentially boiled down to grow up and have babies. In between the growing up and the having babies we were also supposed to be matched by Rev. Moon (the Unification Church's equivelent to an engagement) and get Blessed in one of the church's mass weddings.

At the time it was relatively unheard of for one to reject their match, or to "break" the Blessing, I was pretty sure that anyone who knew the secret my family was harboring would reject us simply on those grounds. These days, having left the church far behind in my past, it becomes a little difficult to sympathize with those 15 year old's concerns. I've lived in a broader world and learned that people will accept me based on the contents of my character and not hold the past I emerged from against me. But in those days I had not yet asserted my independence and removed my mind from those cultural confines. It seemed to me that any chance of my ever being loved by a man had been stolen away from me - on so many levels.

The biggest catastrophe contributing to that erosion was my mother's decision to leave our father. He had been invited to present a paper at a conference in South Korea and was leaving for an extended period of a few weeks. Instead of confronting him in person or verbally, she wrote him a letter of accusation that was slipped into his briefcase, which enumerated her suppostion of his guilt and told him to stay in Korea and get a job. She ended it with telling him to leave our family alone.

Shortly after his plane took off, my mother had us pack up our entire house. We were running away. Our lives were safely taped away in boxes, suitcases were packed and we left everything behind. Living off of a credit card our grandfather had given our family, we lived in hotels for the next two weeks in constant fear that my father would read the note, come right back home and hunt us down.

Those few weeks our mother kept us in nice upper-scale hotels that, for our younger brothers, seemed like an surprise vacation. There were pools to play in, beds to jump on, and an unexpected break from the norm. My sister and I, however, couldn't see the sparkling water of the pools or feel the softness of the beds. If life had been unbearable before, this was like living in a constant state of terror. Our father had been turned into a villian from a nightmare.

During our sojourn across the desert hotels, my mother told my sister and myself that she would lie awake at night when we were younger, listening to my father when he would get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom. Ears straining, she would follow his footsteps to make sure he returned directly back to bed and was not engaging in any kind of abuse.

Today I think back on that letter and my heart breaks a litte. The truth of the accusations still remains unknown, but in a world of innocernt until proven guilty part of me wonders what reading that letter would have been like for our father. If, indeed, he was innocent and these accusations were simply the ghosts of our mother's childhood come back to torture her...I cannot even imagine the pain that that would have inflicted on our father.

Eventually guilt about the hotel bills piling up must have made our mother return us to that empty house in Mesa. We were living there in a strange, temporary style, when my father arrived back home. The confrontation was explosive. Our three younger brothers ran into the room my sister and I shared to take cover. As the volume of shouting between our parents increased, my sister and I dismantled the screen on our bedroom window and helped all of our younger brothers climb out into the safety of the summer heat.

Running as though we could lose the trauma that our lives had become, we left our neighborhood behind and crossed the traffic of Gilbert Road, to the safety of the local convenience store. My sister and I dug into our pockets and found enough change to buy each of our brothers a coke or a sugery treat to ease the pain.

My sister and I couldn't calm down. Visions of my father potentially hurting my mother kept flashing across my eyes. I needed to be there to protect her, I told myself. "I'm going back," I told my sister.

"We're coming with you," she replied.

So like lost ducklings we walked back to the house with a weight on our hearts like we were approaching our own execution. Upon return we found the situation unchanged and no champion to defend. So we sat against the walls, staring into the nothingness as our brothers finished their treats.

For several weeks we lived this way, under a pressure like unbearable gravity that worked to crush us all. Our lives were packed away and in storage. We were sleeping on matresses on the floor, and "the enemy" was under the same roof. It was the most inexplicable torture we had experienced up until that point.

My mother scrounged up enough money to send me away to another month-long church activity. Leaving my family behind in their turmoil killed me. When I phoned home to check it, I always called my grandparents first to ask where my family was. The first few times they were still in the nightmare house. Two weeks after I had left, I found out that my mother had yet again run away from my father; this time she had taken my siblings to "New Eden."

I've seen the nightmares,
And some counsellors,
I'm not going,
Back up in that house again.

In that house again.

I'm not sorry,
For what I'm feeling,
Blow the walls out,
Bring the ceiling to the ground.

I've had the nightmares,
Seen the counsellors,
I'm not going,
Back up in that house again.

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