The Cold Dark Walls in the Basement of an Abused Soul
A convoluted dream of an adult child abuse survivor.
I don’t know how I got there but suddenly I realized that I was in a very familiar place. The familiarity breaded comfort while at the same time contempt. The memories of life in the house were accentuated with time. Many years had slipped away since living in the house.
There was a strong sense of fear and wonder with regard to what would be discovered. I wondered what was real, imagined or just simply the mismatched perception between a small child and a grown adult.
I felt the ghost of my father of whom I have been estranged for many years. His invisible presence was everywhere and spoke to me as though he was walking right beside me as I explored old territory, looking for clues that would lead me to an understanding of who we all were and why we did what we did.
It all started and remained in the basement which was dark and damp. A light coat of condensation covered the walls which had become in some places muddy, further adding to the sense of darkness. In the places not covered with mud there were child-like pictures, doodles, non-discernible scribbles and writing. The writing on the walls were remnants of my tortured, abused soul that cried to understand why.
The meaning behind the pictures and writing was lost to the years that followed the 16 that I had lived in the house with my mother, father, sister and brother. I kept looking for evidence of the general misery I felt about my life and the fear I felt for my father as a small child while I was growing up in this house, physically and emotionally abused. None of the writing or pictures conveyed any such story.
I felt a heaviness and incredible sadness as I slowly walked through the first room of the basement. The memory of my father, which was a huge mixture of love and hate, clung to me. As much as I feared my father, strangely enough, I missed him very much. I felt paralyzed by the confusing mix of feelings for my father. As I walked through the doorway, on the other side, like a ray of light breaking up the darkness and confusion was my mother.
As a small child, my mother was always the sunshine that existed for me in a gloomy, sad and dark world of despair. My mother was filled with inner happiness, joy and was gifted with many talents. She had the ability to transform her joy into a sort of magic that, for the time that my father was not present made us forget the fear and sadness that existed when he was present.
When he was present, the magic disappeared and the house became heavy, filled with unpredictability. One could only wonder where the evening and night would take us. When my father came home, my sisters, mother and I transformed into the people we were supposed to be when my father was home.
My mother cooked a wonderful dinner and did everything in her power to make life at home with my father a happy one. Her magic was gone though, because not even HER magic, the magic that could so easily transform me from a troubled kid to one that was temporarily light and happy could control the wrath of my father. We hoped for the best and looked forward to the next time that magic would appear.
As I walked through the doorway, my mother waved and was surrounded by her usual magic. She was talking on the phone and unaffected by the fact that after 35 years she was back in the same house that she had lived in during her youth when she was beautiful, married to my father and raising 3 children. She appeared as comfortable as if she had never left.
I wanted to feel that way but the history that existed behind the writing on the walls cried to me. The condensation on the walls, were like tears of sadness for all that could have been but never was. I didn’t want to stay there but at the same time, I wanted to understand. This, I felt was my opportunity to understand so many things, including why my mother, so filled with magic and talent could have stayed in such a sad abusive situation, especially when raising 3 children.
The walls began to cry out too loud and I couldn’t take it anymore. In the far corner, I noticed a can of paint. Believe it or not despite its age, it was still paint. I began painting over the writing on the walls with the beige color paint. I painted and painted as though I planned on staying.
Finally the paint ran out. My mother had gone upstairs. I looked for more paint and came upon some cans that were filled with mostly mud and rust. There were tiny amounts of beige paint that were barely discernible among the mud and rust.
Furiously, I kept going with the rust mixture.
I decided to tackle the darkest walls of the basement. As I began painting the walls with the rusty mixture, I noticed that the floor had a very dark, rich mud on it. As I reached my brush up to the wall to paint my next stroke, I recognized that the wall had already been painted with the dark mud by my mother.
As I thought about my mother painting the wall with the dark mud, I realized how quick and efficient she was at covering up the writing. It was as though it was never there. I made the connection. I finally understood how my mother kept things going. She quickly and methodically covered up the writing as she went along. She covered it up so quickly that it didn’t register with her and she did it so well that there was no chance she would see it. She was determined to believe it did not exist.
Covering up the writing was just part of another ordinary day. She then used her magic to assure that what we didn’t see we would surely forget. Her magic was as beautiful as she was. It was taken for granted by her husband and not recognized by her. I will always remember her beautiful magic. It was the light in the vast darkness. It kept me sane in an impossible situation.
Unfortunately, the magic was a band aide, a temporary fix for a permanent situation. There is no magic to prevent abuse from becoming entangled in a child’s memory and eventually enmeshed within the soul of the person. The abuse and the associated shame is the gift that keeps giving throughout the adult child’s life.
Unless the adult child understands their abuse and even if they do, sometimes, the adult child will continue to have dreams such as the one above and history will repeat itself. Parents, there is no way to overestimate the effect you have on your children. If you are troubled, get help. You can’t count on magic. Take it from someone that knows.