Circles by Elisha K
Life is full of circles, a round thing that has different definitions in different arenas. The geometric definition is a shape where all points are an even distance from the center. It is immersed in our culture. Suns, moons, stars, pizza, historic tables. It represents something pure, something clean and easy to understand. Wheels, lazy susans, umbrellas. Practical and simple. Circles go so deep.
I’ve been obsessed with spirals ever since I can remember. My margins in school were full of them. Spiral after spiral. Big, small, joining together or standing alone. Sometimes they’d take up three or four lines, or not even a centimeter of one. Spiral after spiral after spiral. It’s a bastard form of a circle. It shares the shape relatively, but it’s broken and incomplete. Often, the most attractive spiral is jagged, wobbly and misshapen. Maybe that’s why I liked them. I’ve always had a weakness for imperfect things. Perfection makes me nervous.
But circles I cannot shake. My life is a series of them. One circle here with some foggy path leading from one circle to the next. Each a stage in my life, but they are all related. Spirals are there too, in some of the circles. Winding down and down, but always leaving a pathway back up and out.
My father is a big man. Big in body, big in voice, big in spirit, big in heart and big in mind. He is loud, he is funny and he is strange. His intelligence is staggering, made for numbers and theorums, but also for imagination and creativity. Some of his ideas I will never understand. His minds path is also just as foggy and unclear, and there is no name for it. If there was, he’d invent it, and it’d be beautiful.
For most of my life, I have hated him.
The first memories I have of spending time with my father are the happy memories of a child. He’d read us stories from these books that had beautiful illustrations. My older sister and I would run upstairs and wake him from his nap (he took one every day) and beg him to read Leo the Lop.
‘DaaaaaAAad, say it in the voice. The funny one.” And he would, and we’d erupt in giggles. I remember making snow men. I remember jumping on our ancient trampoline.
“Stay in the center!” He’d shout. I didn’t see it as a child, but he was a nervous man. We weren’t even allowed to go upstairs when we were alone because he was afraid that we’d fall. I was a clumsy child, so maybe that wasn’t an unfounded fear. As a child, you don’t see strange behavior because your world is so small. You have your mother, your siblings, your father. They are normal, the world is strange. They are safe and the world is new and dangerously exciting. It isn’t until your peers see into your life that you start thinking your parents are weird. But even then, they thought he was funny. He’d sing embarrassing songs on the bus on field trips, but I somehow survived the embarrassment. I learned a lesson early: It’s only shameful if you let THEM shame you. It was an early foundation of my strength of character, and I can only give credit for that to my father.
I didn’t start hating him until I was a teenager. It wasn’t for the classic teenage reasons. I learned that my father was clinically depressed. That he was sad, he was lost and lonely. Anxious and sometimes cranky. From the ages of 12 to about 14, I forgave him. I happily blamed the disease. It was this lurking devil in the shadows that was the cause of all our families’ problems. It was the reason why he called me stupid for getting a C in math. It was the reason that he made my mother and sister cry when we fought.
It wasn’t until I was about 15 that I began to resent him. I no longer blamed the disease as this separate entity. I blamed him, because he housed it. I began to fight with him. Any conversation we had usually ended up in a bitter tone. Not always shouting, but certainly not friendly. I was becoming my own woman, going through my own trials. I was losing friends at that time and not yet making others. I was feeling abandoned by everyone. In my selfishness, I felt that my mother had to care about him too much to notice me, and my sister was getting ready to move on to the next circle of her own life. Why blame an abstract when you can blame something whole and solid?
And I was heartbroken. I saw my parents did not love one another anymore. In a time where I held romance on the highest pedestal, this was the greatest tragedy.
I prayed. When that didn’t work, I moved to Paganism and tried rituals, spells and healing. That didn’t work. I left the church, I left my belief because I realized that if God didn’t have time to answer a girls prayers, some which went something like “Dear God, I hear my daddy talking about suicide today. Please don’t let him do that, please let him see…” then I didn’t have time for God.
It took me until I was 22 to come back around. To make the circle back to the thinking I had in my pre-teens. The disease is the enemy, not my father. I moved out in 2008 to pursue my Bachelor’s Degree. I moved two hours to the west; not that far, but just far enough. I started noticing on my trips home that the house was quiet, peaceful, the tension was gone. I asked Mom if he had gone back on medicine. At the time, he hadn’t, and it struck me: I was gone, I was the change. Instead of feeling hurt, I felt—relieved. I realized that all I ever wanted was my dad to be happy. I had been frustrated because nothing I did made that happen. Prayer, magic, resentment; all dead ends. I had taken that frustration out on him.
And then—my mind got sick. I started worrying about the most odd things. I worried about my domicile catching on fire. I had dreams about a fire we had in our backyard. Small in retrospect, but huge in the eyes of an 8 year old, watching her mother and father get so close to a dangerous thing with buckets of water. Another circle. I began to get depressed, moody, and reclusive. I began to have panic attacks in public as people touched me, as I felt my space invaded. It brought an understanding, and an epiphany of what my father felt. Underneath the thin layer that depression has over him, my father is a good man. Through my teenage years, my own ignorance and the conversations with a certain family member made me resent him because I thought there was no hope, that nothing would ever change. I was exhausted with all the things I tried. It took me leaping through circles of life, and traveling down spirals for me to see him as he is: a kind, funny, big man who napped on the floor and who will always defend my honor. A man who has been tried and tested and who has traveled through his own circles and spirals and a shape that only he knows the name of. I know him now as my father, and as a friend.