here are moments in time that define you. They are etched in your memory in a way that if you close your eyes you can see them again; feel them again. They are an emotional echo ---so strong, they leave an imprint on your soul.
When I was eleven, my favorite "uncle" died suddenly, in my house, while I was off at the grandparents. He and my "aunt" came to town for a week long visit after moving away one year earlier and my parents decided to throw a grand party and invite all their old friends. My sister and I were sent to the grandparents for the weekend, and I was promised the week after we could come home and I could have "Uncle Bill" all to myself!
I learned much later that early Sunday morning, my "aunt" woke up when my uncle accused her of stealing the covers. They both rolled back over and went back to sleep. Between then and 10 AM when she work up again, he had experienced a cardiac event (not his first I am sad to say) in his sleep. My dad had to perform CPR on his best friend, until paramedics arrived. I can't imagine the echo that left for him......
Sunday my sister and I were to go back home and a phone call interrupted our packing up. I knew something was wrong by the hushed tones and overheard "of course they can stay here another day".
I burst into tears as soon as she hung up. I was already disappointed I had been sent away from my own home when I so wanted to see my "uncle" and now I had to wait another day. I had already raised a fuss at home over the dismissal and so many promises were made to get me out the door, it took only a few moments to register, even in my ten year old brain, that something must be seriously wrong.
I don't remember how or why--and it sounds crazy, but I knew it was Uncle Bill. I don't remember overhearing his name...maybe I did...but I do remember a "pop"...flash...in my head that something terrible had happened to Uncle Bill.
I moved from sad to angry in a flash. Crying turned to yelling and I demanded to know what was going on.
Denial was the first response.....there was nothing wrong, the party was just going on still and they wanted me to stay with them one more day.
"WHAT IS WRONG WITH UNCLE BILL??"
Back to denial. Nothing is wrong.
"I KNOW SOMETHING HAPPENED AND I WANT TO GO HOME AND NO ONE WILL TELL ME WHY I CAN'T. WHAT IS WRONG WITH UNCLE BILL??!! WHAT HAPPENED!!"
My nana was confused. Thinking perhaps I HAD overheard the conversation with my parents somehow, I sounded so sure that I "knew", she told me he had died, at my house, in his sleep, of a heart attack.
I knew what death was. I had been to my first open casket funeral when I was six or seven--but it was an elderly relative I had only met once before. Death came to old people you don't know, not smiling warm uncles who always had a hug, a smile and so much love in their life.
And while I do remember all of this quite clearly, this was not the event that created the echo in my soul.
That moment happened the next day, when my grandparents took my sister and I to our favorite fast food place for breakfast.
While I prodded my food on the styrofoam platter, I looked out the window. It was sunny and cars pulled in and out, people entered and exited, and all around, booths filled with people, young and old, chewed and chatted and read the paper and sipped coffee.
It was the ultimate lesson in invisibility. To these people....Uncle Bill did not exist---had never existed. I was horrified.
How DARE you people go on living life. How DARE you not come to your knees in agony and suffering because this living world no longer contains Bill King? It was the first time I really understood how a whole life could seem invisible. How someone stepping off this world had no impact to millions and millions of people. It was the ultimate form of invisible being acted out in front of me.
Not "being" was terrifying. Death consumed my thoughts and when, lying in bed at night, I could psych myself into considering non-existence (not being bored while trapped in a pine box under the ground---or flying around on wings in heaven---or that other place) I was flooded with fear. Paralysing fear that started a series of panic attacks. If my uncle could go to sleep and not wake up......if the fact that this could happen and so many people didn't notice.....if the fact that this probably happens all over the world, all the time, every second of every moment of every day ....
Sleep became terrifying. Panic attacks surfaced at sleep over parties. Everyone would fall asleep and I was awake ---alone----alive---another form of invisible. Often I would wake up the parents and demand to be taken home--hysterical, and sometimes, even crawl into the bed with whoever's mom it was...just so I could feel a beating heart and breathing to know I was not alone.
I gave up sleep overs. I never went away to camp. I just couldn't do it and my parents gave up wanting me to try.
These panic attacks carried on into my adult life and I often woke up my ex-husband or current partner from a dead sleep in full blown panic and tears. When I had kids, I kept them in my bed. Warm body and breathing...keeping my boys close....gave me some comfort..and still does.
My youngest and I share a room right now. He sleeps on the top bunk and I a on the bottom. He is eleven and I know this will end soon....with the middle child moved in unexpectedly from his mother's house and the oldest back home trying to save money for university--the house is crowded. I don't sleep with my spouse--never have--just can't.
This weekend the youngest is away with the spouse and middle one. I stayed up as late as possible with the oldest watching TV, took my tiny sleeping pill, and then slipped under the covers of the bottom bunk, book in hand until exhaustion finally let me sleep.
Fear. Fear of un-being. Fear of never being anything to any one of any significance. Feeling invisible.
As I continue to tug on these threads of my soul, woven so tightly together, I never noticed where they came from, I can only hope the understanding I gain will allow me to better accept myself. How do I fix it? That I cannot say. Am I really broken and need fixing...or am I just a complex pattern of experiences woven together into this complex pattern.
To understand the pattern ....to see how it fits together. Hopefully that will allow me some peace.