What She Asked of Me

My dad had a little red convertible when I was about three or four years old. I can’t imagine how he acquired this car. Seriously. It baffles me when I think about it now knowing what I know about the ongoing financial state my parents were in.

But, oh, how my dad loved this car.

And now that I think about it, maybe the car didn’t belong to him at all…. maybe it was a friend’s, and dad just borrowed it from time-to-time.

Much more likely.

But he sure drove it like he owned it…

his smile exposing the dentures he’d been flashing since the age of 17, and dark, horn-rimmed glasses sitting awkwardly on his small, always too-thin face.

Bless.

Dad loved cars, but he wasn’t educated about cars. He could change a tire (with the help of his children, of course), and he was OBSESSED about checking the oil level, but these were the extent of his mechanical abilities. Really, I think he just liked the feel of a steering wheel in his hands and the long stretch of highway in front of him that spoke of possibility.

Are all addicts dreamers?

Asking for a friend.

Two weeks before he died, weighing all of about 100 lbs, he somehow charmed a car salesman into selling him a used car…completely on credit with no down payment, no income, and ON HOSPICE.

The man wasn’t even well enough to drive.

And never would be.

EVER AGAIN.

For crying out loud.

But in 1973 dad could drive just fine, and that little red convertible made for a sweet ride. Those were the days when seatbelts weren’t a thought in the minds of most drivers, and carseats for toddlers didn’t even exist in the US, so you better believe this four-year-old Evel Knievel wannabe was happy as can be standing on those red leather seats with the smell of the Southern countryside in the air and her long black hair blowing in the wind.

My mom, who didn’t go with us, always had a curious way about her before we left. She made sure to stop me on my way out the door, where she would put her hands on my preschool-sized shoulders and say, “Kaysie, don’t let your Daddy drink while he drives.”

I think my mom, in her desperation as a 23-year old young woman grasping at whatever she thought might give her something solid to hold onto in the chaos of our world, grasped hold of me.

Of course, I’m sure I said “yes ma’am” just as I should and probably skipped on out the door with nary a second thought.

But, yeah, I felt responsible.

Guess what my dad did just as soon as we pulled out of sight of the front door?

That bastard reached under his front seat, pulled out a Pabst Blue Ribbon, popped the tab and started chugging while singing the little song he’d made up just for me, “Kaysie is my little girl… yes, she is, my little girl…”

I kind of loved and really hated that song at the same time.

Driving with that stash of beer under his seat was dad’s signature move. He had a way of hiding things in plain sight with a genius level naiveté.

I don’t know if dad feared that his young daughter would tell his wife he’d been drinking and driving and she’d get all up in arms about it. But he needn’t have worried.

I never told.

And then I was seven when I woke in the middle of the night to the desperate sounds of my mom’s wailing. I ran to the living room where I found her on the floor holding the phone to her ear, sobbing and trying to talk. It took a couple of minutes for me to swallow the panic threatening to choke me and understand that she was so upset because my dad was out of town somewhere and had been arrested for drinking and driving. He was calling from jail and would have to stay the night there.

I sat with her on the floor of our wood-paneled family room while she continued to cry and talk on the phone – you know, the kind of phone that was mounted to the wall and attached to the receiver with a coiled cord…very old school, people.

We spent the rest of the night in their bed, her warm body against mine. She cried, and I lay there nestled up against her.

But I was definitely not the one being comforted.

It’s difficult for me to talk about these moments in time, but my brother and I have been talking about this little project of mine, and he is of the mind that it’s time to take you, the reader, inside the “house” so to speak. To give you a better picture of what life was like inside our little three bedroom on Archwood Street, where I seem to be hovering in these posts of mine.

He’s right.

It’s painful to admit, by the way. I’ve always had a problem letting him be right.

Like, it causes me physical anguish.

Thankfully, I don’t have to do it very often.

But, the truth is, when I write about my life inside the house, my memory is stirred just a bit, and it helps bring to mind important experiences I need to remember as I walk through the journey I am on in therapy.

And, yeah, my therapist is pretty glad I’m doing it, too.

I’ve been learning more about memory as it relates to trauma. I think that my loss of the general facts around so much of my life (which has always frustrated and confused me), including the who, the what and the where, has to do with the state of hypervigilance that I lived in for much of my childhood and adolescence.

The thing is, though, I didn’t know I was hypervigilant.

Being the me that I was, I managed to cover up all that fear and anxiety with a good dose of anger and ego (and maybe some unnecessary risk-taking because, man, that helps)… until the me that I was collapsed around the ripe old age of 19.

For the first time.

And then I bolstered myself up and managed to hold it together quite well for another 15 or so years when I crumbled again.

And so on and so forth.

You get the picture.

I’m trying to stop doing this.

It’s not much fun.

This last crumble – more like a slow descent into hell, really – has been the undoing of all my hard cover-up work. It’s almost like, instead of feeling my big feelings at the time that I experienced them because I just couldn’t for whatever reason, I took out a loan against all my emotional pain… and now that loan is being called in.

It’s one hell of a loan.

And what she asked of me left me broke without the resources to pay that loan back.

2 thoughts on “What She Asked of Me

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