Trophos, writing at The Dancing Professor, posted about her impending move to a new home.
She has been discussing the ‘stuff’ in her life. All of the important, and not so important but thoughtfully needed stuff that one collects. If any one of us has ever moved a home, then it’s likely very easy to relate to all the stuff that has to be packed, moved, unpacked, gone through and decided upon. She has described herself as being somewhere on the hoarder spectrum. Not full-blown, but someone who most likely keeps things that really don’t need to be kept. Trophos admits to the fact that much of her need to keep things probably stems from specific levels of poverty during her lifetime.
Her words brought to mind one of the little essays I wrote during my time away from this blog. It’s not good writing, by any means, but it was the best way at the time that I felt I could convey just one of the harmful aspects my spouse grew up with. On those days when I least want to put responsibility for failure squarely on myself and/or him, I tend to look at his childhood. Rather I am correct or not, I believe I see things that influenced him greatly, much more than he will ever admit.
One of those things was his father, and that relationship, I believe, carried over into adulthood and into his relationship with our children. He knew poverty, in much the same way trophos discussed poverty in her life. In just one example of many, poverty touched him and his siblings heavily by manifesting in hunger as children and obesity issues as adults. He has struggled the entire time that I have known him, gaining and losing and now dealing with health related issues associated with obesity.
I feel as if I need to share the story. A few more comments will follow.
He was about nine. The oldest of the boys, one still unborn – not even planned in fact. He decided that the monster must have sneaked in through the kitchen door when his father left for the last time.
This monster story must begin from that final day. As the narrator, standing outside looking in and lacking most knowledge of the before time, I can only imagine that there were most likely other monsters, already living in other parts of the house. I can easily picture one monster, shaped like a claw to a child’s imagination. A big heavy man-size hand-made of iron and always demanding to be obeyed. Perhaps there were smaller monsters as well. Little, nagging irritating incessant whirlwinds with mouths stretched wide open. They would twirl and whirl and spin all over the house, close to the floor, searching. Always hungry. Never quite satisfied. Chattering in a smacking, wet nonsensical gibberish to each other.
The boy decided that the demanding monster began to fade away soon after his father left for the last time. He felt calmer with the knowledge that one had moved on. He didn’t know it then, but those insatiable whirlwinds…they became even more purposeful after the man-monster left.
When this new monster made it’s way into the house it quickly came to rest in the kitchen, under the stove. Not completely formed at that point, yet it still had the ability to send out long, snake-like tendrils that could silently search out the corners and crevices of each room. At first, it remained quiet. It watched and planned. It took stock of the boy, his siblings, his mother. It knew about the whirling, chattering group that made their home in the farthest corner of the kitchen. That group was going to be useful, but the new monster knew it would have to be patient.
The monster would watch the little group, learning how they often following one or two of the children, or hovered near the mother just out of sight. She often seemed sad, defeated. Both the monster under the stove, and the boy would often catch the mother crying silently as she moved around the kitchen, searching, stretching, trying to find something hidden from sight.
Within a few months the boy began to see the whirling monsters that lived in his home. They were quickly becoming more than just a passing flutter swirling around his middle, or a funny voice talking to him from inside when lunch and dinner was late. His siblings, the older sisters and a few of his brothers, were also coming to understand that they had monsters living in their house. The monster under the stove sensed this new awareness and knew that it was time. As each whirlwind shot past his hiding place, mouths open and searching, it let loose one of it’s tendrils and grabbed each small monster, one after another. They tried to spin away, tried to reshape themselves, but the new monster held tight until they had all been collected. The new monster enveloped each small form, and the energy from this raucous horde ignited a power in the new monster. It stretched. It slithered out from its hiding place. It looked around the room. It watched the boy, his siblings, and their mother. It listened with a smug smile on it’s oversized mouth. It’s sharp teeth gnashing back and forth like the blades of a saw.
“I need all of you to sit down a minute,” the mother said.
A small box sat on the kitchen table. It was one of those breakfast cereal boxes, half full of sugary bits and pieces that all the smaller monsters had loved to search out and devour. The new, larger and more powerful monster could feel the rumbling inside his dark shape as the whirlwinds tried vainly to reach the box.
The boy’s mother said, “This is all we have tonight, so we have to share.” She looked at the older children, the girls and the boy. “I need you three to give some of your share to your brothers tonight.” The monster, and the boy could see tears shining in the mothers eyes.
“I promise that tomorrow, first thing, I’ll try to get us more. It’s just been really hard and payday isn’t until Monday. I think your aunt and uncle are going to help us until then.” The mother turned away, ashamed, and incapable of watching as the words of this lie fell onto six anxious faces.
The monster, now large and strong, knew that this night would be repeated, over and over again. As the boy and his siblings sat down, the monster reached out with its tendrils to snake its way around the waist of each child, first as a tickle, but then squeezing tighter. The little ones wiggled and tried to make the strange tight ache go away by gobbling down their sweet treats. The boy wanted to do the same, wanted to be little again so that he could have more than the others. He wanted to reach out and grab and cram every piece of that cereal into his mouth and swallow it without chewing just to fill his belly. But he didn’t.
The monster wanted to make sure it had a firm hold over all of them. Part of his plan was to make sure that they all knew just how powerful he was, how much of a hold he would always have over all of them. The boy ate his share and glanced down toward the corner of the kitchen near the closet. Just a few weeks ago, those shelves had held food. Tonight they held only pots and pans. He saw the monster there. He saw the swirling whirling dark shape. He saw the long tendrils that were wrapped around his siblings. He looked down and saw the dark extension of the monster wrapped around his own waist. The monster squeezed at that moment, and the boy twirled his head back to the corner to gaze at his captor.
The monster opened its mouth wide, the razor-sharp teeth suddenly lined every side of the tendril wrapped around the boy’s waist, and he could feel them gnawing into his belly. He knew that he would remember that feeling forever.
My spouse has very little self-control around food and god knows he has tried. I too have tried to help over the years, sometimes by example, sometimes with nudges toward healthier eating. With good intentions he has bounced up and down in weight. My words seem to have fallen on deaf ears often, and as with other areas in our lives, attempting to suggest, cajole, plead, or even get angry at him and his obsession with food has proved futile. The point came when I decided that there was nothing I can do, because there is nothing he wants, or is able, to do.
I do truly believe that this issue is linked to his father as my little story suggests. I know very little about the father. Stories circulated within my husbands large family, but he was not spoken of by my spouse save for a few brief times early in our marriage. Even then it was with contempt. Perhaps hatred. I met the father once, for a very brief visit. I found him pleasant enough. I don’t remember how my husband behaved around him. Some years later we learned that he had died. At the time my spouse was still in the military. He was in Japan I think, when his family learned of the death. His superiors were bending over backwards in their efforts to break the news to him. They told his commander first so that he would be able to tell Jerry, to ease the ache of hearing the words father, and death. They were all set to put him on a flight heading home. From what I recall he took the message in, thanked his commander, and then told him that there would be no need for him to leave the crew and mission to fly home. The man who died had not been his father for years. He had no need to say any goodbyes.
When he returned home I was lost as to what to say or do. My actions and concern and need to help was dismissed. It was clear that we weren’t supposed to speak of his father. The door, which had never truly been open to begin with, was closed and locked as tight as it could be. The key flung as far away as possible. The man, who caused the pain in my story, and likely other pain that I will never know of, was gone. Clearly he was meant to be inconsequential and forgotten, wiped clean. Clearly irrelevant he was not and I believe he has hung over our heads since. I didn’t know the man. I cannot be angry with him, but I find myself angry with my spouse because of his refusal/inability to see what his own anger and hatred is doing to himself, and what it has done to our family.