My mother and father were married at 16, I always try to keep that in mind when I think of my childhood.
They quickly became parents and acquired all the responsibilities that come with it while their friends were finishing high school.
Our little family always felt different, mostly because we were. Living check-to-check isn’t so bad when your parents will sit in a blanket fort and play board games with you.
This was my family at its very best. These are the parts that I try to remember. Because things change.
Because one day my mother didn’t arrive to pick me up from Kindergarten, the babysitter did. She told me that my mother was at the hospital because of my father but wouldn’t explain why.
The babysitter watched the evening news with her hands over her mouth. I noticed our apartment complex on TV and while they didn’t say my father’s name, I knew something wasn’t right.
When I finally saw my mother again, she explained my father had been stabbed and was hurt very badly. He could live, he could die.
In a single moment, the concept mortality goes from an intangible theory to a cold harsh reality.
Most children are given pets to teach responsibilities and so they can develop coping/loss skills. The concept is to see a goldfish floating upside down before grandma doesn’t wake up.
It’s a nice idea, maybe in the next life.
I wasn’t allowed to see him for a few days as they monitored his condition. It felt like forever.
When I finally saw him, he was there just like always but inexplicably different. The same huge crooked smile on his face, a swath of bandages covering the giant bright red scar running the length of his neck. He still had that twinkle in his eyes that now held a sliver of sadness.
Over the next few weeks we’d visit him in the hospital and just as they were putting up the Christmas decorations, he was discharged.
Once the bandage was removed, inflamed staples held a hot pink scar shut; resembling an earthworm trailing the side of his neck.
I was happy to have my father home, thought life would return to “normal”.
In most ways, it was the same. I wasn’t allowed to jump on my dad’s lap to hug him the way I used to so the staples wouldn’t tear.
When we went and picked up groceries people would stare and not stop looking at the twisted angry scar filled with shiny metal and dried black blood.
It fucked me up the way my mom could still casually hold a large butcher knife to cut my grilled cheese in half. Knives are everywhere. You use them to cook, complete household tasks and murder people
My father went to court and testified against the man who attacked him. This made his assailant extremely angry, when he was released from jail 6 months later the police advised us to move.
We hurriedly packed our belongings and moved to a new address, practiced what to do if he showed up on our new doorstep and tried our best to carry on.
But, things change and sometimes you spend a long while pondering why.
Once we moved, we only stayed for 6 months before we moved again. For the rest of my childhood, we were never in one location for more than 12 months at a time, life would never be “normal” again.
The same way that a hand can be an open palm that extends a welcoming handshake or balls itself into an angry fist.
To this day, the way I look at knives is something I try to reconcile in my mind with both the physical object itself and conceptually what it says about trust, intention, and the individual holding it.