When I was in high school my days always started the same way. I awakened to the sound of my mother doing the dishes. Specifically, to the sound of my mother putting the dishes in the dishwasher. Slamming them angrily into the dishwasher, in fact. This was generally accompanied by the sounds of my parents fighting. What did they fight about? Different things, usually inconsequential. Often my father would demand to know where his clean: pants, socks, underwear were and my mother would reply angrily that: she didn’t know, in his drawer, in the basement, in the laundry basket full of clean clothes. Sometimes it would end there, after a few more minutes of my father stomping around, getting dressed, and then slamming the door on his way out. Sometimes they would fight about real stuff. Stuff about me and my sister. They would fight about how each of them parented us. My dad would say to my mother: "You don’t let me discipline them." Discipline. That was his word. The complaint. He was not allowed to discipline us.
My father had words. He had developed a whole lexicon of words that meant something particular to him. Discipline was just one of them.
I cannot tell you how it feels to even type the words. When I do I hear him again in my mind, and I am angry again. I am sad. I am hurt. I would hear the fighting, the stomping, the slamming, the criticism of me and my sister. We were out of control. We didn’t respect him. We didn’t listen (another of his words.) And I would feel angry and hurt and sad. And when it was time for me to get up I would still feel the same, except you could now add to that list: tired. Monumentally tired. Tired not only physically from the interrupted sleep but also mentally and emotionally as well. I felt like every ounce of me had been battered and then drowned and then rung dry in a roller. Until there was little of me left. I counted it as a victory every day that I got up and got myself out of the house more or less on time. I can remember telling myself over and over again like a mantra: I’m awake, I’m alive and I’m here (at school.) I’m awake, I’m alive and I’m here, I’m awake, I’m alive and I’m here. It had a soothing quality. It helped me to push aside and down the anger, the hurt. It allowed me to keep going. As long as I could do those things: wake up, get myself out of bed, dress myself, and get myself to school, I was going to be okay.