I found myself in a predicament. I’d volunteered to clean the washroom before accepting the lift home I’d been offered. I threw a pail of dirty water down the toilet; flushed it and proceeded into the strange building. Eventually I found my way into the parking areas. The people who’d offered me the ride home had vanished.
Perturbed at this I walked around the back to another empty parking lot. Nothing! Not a soul or a vehicle in sight. The building I returned to was empty so I turned heel and proceeded down the nearest street. The only living thing I spied was a grey cat.
I had to get home somehow and hadn’t a clue as to the direction I must go. Sparse traffic filled the seemingly endless and totally unfamiliar maze of streets. As the occasional car passed I tried to make contact to ask directions. Nobody responded. I felt horribly alone…. then I awoke. The clock said 7.15 a.m.
As I hurried through breakfast knowing the dogs needed their morning walk, I described my unpleasant dream to my wife who sagely replied that the dream mirrored my most unhappy childhood. My parents divorced when I was about six, both remarried and I became unwanted baggage. The most convenient place to store excess baggage, if you could afford the expense, was by placing it in a boarding school.
I first was a boarder at Strathcona School for boys in Calgary and later transferred to North Shore College in North Vancouver. Both were sort of a living hell. Strict masters. Oppressive discipline and long, lonely weekends bereft of friends or family. Severe caning of a boys’ backside was the only warmth dished out and this type of heat would leave black and blue marks across your bum for a couple of weeks.
Summer or Christmas holidays were brief sojourns into atmospheres where I really wasn’t wanted although, being young I really could not understand this fact. My mother’s husband was quite pleasant in a militaristic way, but my father’s wife obviously loathed me and considered me a burden thrown her way by an uncaring mother.
Other than these two brief holiday periods, the summer one usually consisting of a time spent at a boys’ camp after a brief period at home, I saw my father a couple of times on weekends when he’d take me for a drive. The only contact with my mother were occasional letters in reply to the ones I sent that were read and censored by one of the schools teachers.
My wife had been correct in her diagnosis. My dream was a perfect reflection of my emotions as they were 75 years ago. A lost little boy, seeking love and never finding it; no wonder at age 16 I found the wartime Canadian army a welcoming place and ever since have lavished my love on dogs who will never let you down in that most necessary part of our lives.
Although so many years have passed and love and friendship have entered my life, in the still of the night my early memories overwhelm me. The torment of youthful depravation unleashes its darkness upon me. It is unfortunately buried deep within my memories which, hopefully, will be discarded at bodily death.
Time has a way of revealing truths. It has taken me the better part of 80 years to understand my father’s plight and his actions towards me when I was a boy.
As children, we often look up to our parents, and to adults in general with both awe and the conviction that they have all the answers or that they at least know better and will always do what’s right. It never crosses our minds to think that they are as clueless about life as we are. They are bigger in size, but still struggling for understanding and meaning all the same. There are no grown-ups. We are all children in adult garments, grappling with life and trying to recover from all its blows. Parents can be their own worst enemies, and they can unknowingly do so much damage to their kids. They are human: imperfect, selfish, and sometimes uncaring. They make mistakes, and sometimes their children have to pay the price. I wish more people thought about this when they dealt with their kids, or rather, I wish more people thought about this before having kids and condemning them to a future of loneliness and misery. We are resilient as human beings and most if not all wounds heal, but some, especially ones acquired at childhood, leave deep scars: souvenirs from the past, reminders of peoples’ carelessness.
This perhaps is why I love animals. They never judge and hurt you, but always love you unconditionally. We love animals because they let us, they add to our lives and they don’t hurt us, and the only emptiness they leave in our hearts is the emptiness of their absence and their deaths.
I imagine that beyond this world, waiting for me is a joyful circle of all my four legged friends that have been my dearest loves as well. Big and small, many breeds from many dimensions of time and place, including the happy meowing of numerous cats who had shared life with me, as well as a few of my beloved horses who’ll welcome me with a greeting of whinnies.
I also am a believer in reincarnation and accept the fact that my path through life is the one I chose in order to teach my soul a lesson. Perhaps healing and closure will be mine at a different lifetime, but my hope today is that there is a spiritual dimension to life and that we all have another chance to get things right in the future. If not, we will never know what the meaning of all this is, will we? And, who knows for sure?
The answer is no one. All is faith, hope or conjecture.
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