The day started with some EMDR with Jill today, visited a memory I have from 7 or 8 years old, a vision of my father bleeding in our kitchen in Wyoming. It ended with a memory of five years ago, a night exactly like tonight, but entirely different. Perhaps I should start this over. Perhaps we can’t start anything over.
My EMDR session was amazing. Jill asked me to visualize a target, focus on the feeling in my body that comes with the memory, and a negative belief about this specific moment which we’d then switch to a positive belief. When I was 7 or 8, I remember standing in the kitchen waiting for Dad to come home. He always rode motorcycles on the weekend, dirt bikes up through the dirty hills nearby, and when he’d come home I could smell the grit and sweat on him. He looked like a wild man. His hair always blown by the wind, and the look of racing death in his eyes, I could always tell when he’d been on his bike. This particular day he came home and had been flung from his bike, he had landed on a log, and one of the branches had impaled his arm, on the inside of his left, just below the elbow. I remember blood, his blood soaked bandana that he’d been using to stop the bleeding, the image of that bandana is something that never left me. That was the day I realized my dad isn’t a superhero. I realized he isn’t invincible. I realized he could die.
I’m not sure if he and my mom went to the hospital, or what happened thereafter, all I remember is the blood. Today I focused on that visual, the image of the red drenched bandana, his arm, his hair. I put my mind into that and the phrase “I’m not in control,” focusing also on the sick feeling in my stomach. Through the process, I explored the emotions that go with that incident, and Jill would guide me, occasionally saying “stay with that” or “push through that”… Every 2-3 minutes she would check in and ask me where I am, and what is going on. The first time through, all I could see was his blood, the shiny dishwasher behind him, his pale furry arms. By the end of the round I could see a gaping hole in his arm, a chasm of blackness that seemed to take up my entire view.
The second go around the bandana was still red with blood and I told myself I’m not in control, but from that image I went to us sitting in our living room in Concord, watching motocross on TV, eating saltines and peanut butter and drinking milk. I would look over at his scar and it would be shiny like the dishwasher, fresh skin that didn’t quite match the rest. My mother came to check on us, but she was always baking something in the kitchen, and when she left, I turned back to the scar. I remember being in awe of how the hole had closed. How there was still this huge visible mark but no blood. We ran the process again.
The third time the bandana wasn’t red. It was white, and pristine. I kept telling myself it was supposed to be red because he was bleeding, and little red stains would try to invade the cloth, but it never stuck. I remember he took it off and was fine. He tried to gross me out with the scar, like any dad would his first daughter. I would touch it, afraid that it would hurt him but my little fingers never caused the damage that branch caused. The skin was soft, and waxy, and at the beginning it was more red, and then faded to blend in with the rest of his skin. I could only tell what had happened because I reminded myself a scar existed there on his arm. I saw the scar when I saw him in September this year, we were standing on the pier in Oceanside and I looked for his scar, the proof that I’m standing with my father. And it was there, but had faded so much I had to squint just to see it. I cried because so much time had passed since I’d looked at that little mark, so much time has been gone since I’ve sat next to him eating saltines and peanut butter. I cried because it’s amazing how we can heal ourselves if we clean the wounds and take care. The mantra changed from “I’m not in control” to “Everything heals with time.” And from there “I can heal too.” And “I want to heal.” Finally, “I deserve to heal.” We completed our first session of EMDR without a hitch.
I cried through every session, the first over the amount of blood and the realization that my dad can die. The second because it had started to heal, but was still this red terrible mark. And the third because so much time had passed since I’ve seen him, and his stupid fucking scar.
I left therapy fuzzy, and it was the most beautiful day, partially because the rain had cleared the smog and I could see all the way to the snow covered mountains in the distance. And partially because I was on sensory overload. I went home and laid on the couch for a bit, watching TV at Deezy’s house, snuggling Saucy and waiting for 4pm to roll around.
At 4, he showed up (the he from my amends day), and we went for a hike up the canyon. We talked about life, about crazy Sauce, about what happens now, and what happens tomorrow. We talked a little about what happened then, but left the past where it lives. As we were walking back to my house, we passed the Magic Castle, and he paused, asking me:
Him: “Do you remember when we came here?”
Me: “Of course…I had to buy a new dress because I didn’t own anything appropriate to wear out with your parents.”
Him: “That was five years ago today.”
Me: “How do you even know that? That it was today?”
Him: “Because it’s my birthday.”
I told him happy birthday, took his arm as we strolled back. Saucy exhausted and me reeling over how much has happened in five years. I feel like I’ve lived a thousand lifetimes in that span, but standing here with this man it’s like nothing has changed, even though everything is different. I can see him clearly now, and my memories of him from that part of my life are in pieces. His eyes here, his smile there. I can see his whole face now and it is a lovely face.
I’m not sure where I stand right now, or how to file this entry. The mountains were beautiful this afternoon and from the top of the hill, we saw the orange sun as it sunk into the pacific. The sky stayed clear into the evening, and when he dropped me off at my apartment, I could see my breath.