New Memoir Tuesday! This weeks memoir task from the lovely folks at The Red Dress Club was; This week we want you to recall something in your life that seemed terrible at the time, but looking back, brought you something wonderful. A positive from a negative experience.
At the Dillon dinner table served alongside roast chickens with perfectly browned skin were side dishes of divorce, pregnancy and moving announcements. These dishes would be dropped unceremoniously right next to tender roasted young carrots and crisp bright green asparagus, each helping as shocking to the palate as the last. This tradition turned our family dinner table into a battle ground, every night with each member of the family competing to outdo the last with the most shocking, disturbing or outrageous announcement, better if one could hit the trifecta.
Cooking and eating together are moments I now honor deeply and drama is refused a seat at a table where my hands have crafted offerings to the family I have created. But traditions are tattooed deep into our selves and when my youngest brother and sister came to town for a visit, we three fell quickly into old habits. Red wine loosened tongues and dulled the tingle of danger.
In the midst of discussing whether or not it had been worth it for me to have been the object of anger and hatred for ratting out one of our lost drug-addicted siblings to our parents, I failed to notice that my youngest brothers blue eyes had darkened with pain. While admitting to a hole in my heart, to a deep sense of loss, my stormy-eyed brother who used to nap nestled against my chest when he was a baby and I, a teenager, blurted out words that at first my brain failed to understand.
“Yea, well, that brother that you have a ‘hole in your heart’ for, he molested me and Chloe…” and as tears filled his eyes and thickened his voice, he forced more words out with the last of the air in the bottom of his lungs “…and James molested her too.” A whisper, loud with truth.
The electrical current of shock slowed time extending the space between my heartbeats. My sister’s face grayed and her eyes widened so that I could see white entirely surrounding brown. She ran from the room and my brother looked simultaneously young, deflated, tired and free. I told Christopher to stay with him and found my sister perched on the edge of my bed sobbing into her hands. I wrapped her in love while she drenched my shoulder with the pain of being revealed against her will. She repeated for several minutes, “I didn’t know he knew.”
I should have known that the illusion of my forgiveness, long wrapped in the notion that this time, with these two, my father would be better now that he was sober, older, wiser had in fact been exactly that, an illusion. Finding myself stripped bare, my sister shattered and my brother rigid with exhaustion from secret keeping, I finally placed my huge amorphous anger correctly and stopped battling the entire world, every second of every day.
My sister and I got help. Slowly, and still, we put ourselves back together. We work hard stripping away layers of varnish to get to the natural wood so we can shine just as we are, flawed, but honest. We are cast out from our family and though we try, we are not as close as we had hoped. Sharing perhaps a history though similar, separated by too many years.
I sit down to write her the story of my childhood, of the father that I knew, in hopes that it will help her understand her own. That story is the memoir, Whispers To My Sister, that this site was originally structured around. The writing of that book helped not only set me free but awakened a writing voice long dormant. The enormity of that gift is difficult to capture and all I can really say is; thank you, Chloë.