Kindred Spirit Lodge Presents
A Birthday Gift for Lady Aria
Proverbs - Part 1
August 23rd, 2007
I had a case of criminally negligence homicide brought before me once. A young lad threw a ball at his fellow player, which hit him hard on the chest - shortly thereafter the playmate dropped dead on the ground. A physician gave his expert's testimony in court before me. Commotio cordis was the term he used. Commotio cordis, he explained, occurs as the result of a blunt, non-penetrating impact to the precordial region, often caused by a blunt trauma to the chest, which transmits to the heart and disrupts the heart's electrical system. In some cases the impact seems relatively benign. The impact triggers a change in the electrical rhythm of the heart from a normal rhythm to a fatal arrhythmia, like ventricular fibrillation. Commotio Cordis involves sudden cardiac death after a chest blow without physical damage to the heart.
With my own heart, however, the mechanism wasn't Commotio Cordis, but a long, procrastinating and gradually less and less agonizing process of dying and necrosis. I've heard people say that just because you’re through with your past, doesn't mean your past is through with you - And not without merit, I should think.
I remember being 3 years old when I first heard this verse from the Book of Proverbs, presumably written by the wisest man in the world: "Spare the rod and spoil the child".
I remember it being a warm autumn Sabbath's afternoon. My parents insisted on resting and forsaking all labor on the seventh day, like God did after his creation of the world had been completed, or so my parents would have me believe.
In the early afternoon I got out of bed and went to my parents' bedroom, I can’t even recall the incentive. I saw both of them naked, my father on top of my mother asserting himself in a peculiar manner, which at that point in my life had been foreign to me. Innocently enough I thought they were playing and it filled my heart with joy. It took me a few years to understand what I had walked in on.
I remember him darting out of their bed, his face livid. Oh and how quickly my joy was distorted into fear as I ran. A few moments had passed before I saw him again, fully clothed and fuming. He held a rod in his hand.
"You are old enough to comprehend now why you're being punished." He said as I focused my attention on the deep wrinkles between his thick eyebrows. "You are being punished because you disobeyed me. I told you not to get out of your bed."
I know now that was not altogether true. That couldn't have been the reason, or at least not the main or only one.
"Spare the rod and spoil the child" He said sternly.
That first time my father smacked me, I smirked, thinking with a smile I would reach in and find the father whom I had known and not this enraged stranger hitting me. As he kept at me, my hands were burning from the lashes and I began to weep, which was what I should have done in the first place because only then did he stop.
My father was a large robust man, easily capable of terminating me with a single blow. You wouldn't have known it by looking at his raging face, but when he beat me, he was never out of control. On the contrary, he was in full control of his wrath and mastered his faculties. His hands were steady; the strikes he delivered were very precise. He never broke any of my bones nor has he left a scar on my skin. He never left a mark that wouldn’t fade away after more than several hours…A true believer in corporal punishment, he was. And I observed and absorbed his measures and proceedings.
My parents, my father in particular, were devout, ardent in their religious beliefs and true to a zealot’s genuine nature, I suppose, they did their very best instilling those beliefs in me. My father used to rattle my bed in less than gentle manner each and every morning just before dawn for morning prayers. He gave me a small prayers book and showed me which verses to cite.
“Why?” I asked him once.
“Because God is the creator of the universe and He rules it. He’s omnipotence and He provides for us. He is our Lord” My father impatiently explained. He sounded as if he couldn’t comprehend what had been the point of explaining the obvious.
“I have no Lord" I said not sure whether it had been my defiant spirit, or whether it had been sloth, hating to rise while it was still dark outside.
However, whichever it had been, the hard slap to my face proved to me that I had made a severe error. My mind was never structured for the concept or dichotomy of believing and disbelieving - in my world as I perceived it, there was only what I saw and didn't see, what I heard and didn't hear and what I knew and didn't know. Notwithstanding, I was born with the existence of God in my reality, born and raised by my parents. I should have known better than to say what I had said.
By the time I've reached my seventh year of life, a good while after I had learned that in order for the beatings to stop, my correct response should be sobbing, I became willed enough, spiteful enough and resentful enough to deprive my father of my crying. Whenever he would take his rod to me, I would determinedly bite down my lower lip with my milk teeth, fight the quivering of my proud held high chin and oppressed my tears. I would leave my aching body and go somewhere else magical beyond my father's grasp.
He believed he was educating and disciplining me – He wasn't completely wrong, for these were my very first lessons in self control and shutting myself out, like a type of autism. These were the corner stones of the brick wall surrounding my heart.
My mother has never stood between my father and me, not out fear of him, mind you, for he has never raised his hand against her, but out of complete faith in his doctrine. Nevertheless, back then I was still her little, albeit freakish daughter so I've seen compassion and empathy for me in her eyes.
Two years had passed; I was coming back to their hut after I'd been guiding the sheep out in the fields for the better part of the morning. I made my way to the bathroom in order to wash away the stench of the animals. Through a crack in the door I saw my mother taking a bath. Mesmerized, I was watching her running her hands on her curves, the issue of invading her privacy for some reason, never crossing my mind. It was her mature femininity that captivated me.
"Damn that redheaded abomination you gave birth to, woman. Damn that depraved behemoth" I heard my father shouting from behind me. I paid hell that day.
A few days later a stranger came to their home. The physician confirmed my mother's suspicions that she had been with child.
My mother's confinement was a hard one. Several weeks into her pregnancy she was taken ill with rubella. That condition caused, among other things, an edema in both her legs and hands. Her fingers had gotten so swollen she couldn't even wear her wedding ring anymore. To ease her suffering, every evening after supper, I would fill up a pail with cool water and some tangy powder, which her physician had prescribed and massaged her feet submerging in the solution.
When first my brother was prematurely born I was glad thinking finally there would be another to share my father's wrath with. But when he first smiled at me, I thought if there were angles like my father believed this is what they must look like.
On account of my mother's illness he was born with one hand crooked and shorter than the other so it was fixed in a pillory, which gave out a repugnant odor. His breathing was constantly accompanied by wheezing. Being that his esophagus was poorly connected as well, a tube was inserted into him and so whenever my mother changed his diaper she would order me out of the room and close the door behind her.
Cedar, was the name my parents chose for him, like the sturdy tree - Which was a bitter irony, because my brother was so weak and fragile like a dried twig, so much so that on the eighth day of his birth a circumcision couldn't be preformed on him. Maybe because of it all, I loved him as I much as I did.
During his first months, I used to play with him going to any length in order to elicit the tiniest of smiles that would light up his innocent angelic face. My favorite chore became rocking him gently in my arms lulling him into slumber.
It was Friday midday just before the Sabbath. I was standing in the kitchen watching my mother preparing Cedar's bottle. He was seven months old.
"Go wake up your brother" She asked of me. I remember it as if it was yesterday. As I was approaching my parents' bedroom where Cedar's crib was stationed, I failed to notice that the sounds of wheezing I'd grown accustomed to hearing weren't emanating from with inside the room. Once inside, the chilling stillness slowed my paces. I knew then that something horrible had happened; Things would never be the same again. An unseen hand had altered things from the way I've known them all my life to be into something far worse.
I, like most children my age at that time I reckon, couldn’t grasp the absolute finality of death.
As I was staring at his bluish skin complexion, his purplish lips, his shut petit eyelids, I laid a single tentative finger on his forehead. He was cold. Running back to the kitchen my legs could barely carry me they were shuddering so badly.
"Mom," I exclaimed "There's something wrong with Cedar!" The bottle, which my mother was holding, dropped into the basin. She rushed to Cedar's crib almost knocking me off my feet along the way.
Then I saw her picking up his lifeless body and running with him outside to the field where my father had been working, wailing and ranting like a mad woman -- Leaving me behind alone in the hut staring at the spilt milk in the sink, thinking that just as he had prematurely arrived he had prematurely left. The brick wall around my heart half built.
Later on that day, I heard them talking about buying a tombstone. I didn't even know what a tombstone was then but figured it had something to do with his death and silly me I was excited to learn a new word used by grownups. I don't know when or where they buried him. They didn't allow me at his funeral. To this day I don't know where he's buried and consequently I've never visited his grave.
At the Shiva I haven't seen my father crying, not even once. I remember the tears in their clothes, though. All the mirrors around the house were veiled and it actually gave me some comfort for I didn't have to see my devilish reflection in them.
Throughout the Shiva, dozens of strangers were pouring in and out of the house, conveying their condolences to my parents. My mother's friends were fussing over me, preparing my meals and such in the kitchen whilst my parents were sitting on the ground in the common room. There was not a moment of serenity and peace in the house, which is exactly the point of a Shiva, not to leave the mourner alone with his woes and sorrows.
Getting up from the Shiva, all of my brother's clothes, his colorful toys, his bottles, his crib -- every shred of evidence of him ever existing had vanished from their house. It was as if he never happened. For years I've thought they did it for my benefit, so that I wouldn't be too traumatized by the event of his death. I didn't realize then that it was them who were too weak and incompetent to come to terms with his passing.
I suppose it was their assiduous extinction of his memory that would cause me to cry over him for the first time only ten years later.
The years that followed his death were burdensome. My parents became bitter, stricter, glacial and further and further withdrawn. My father would be quicker to resort to violence, using his rod on me.
They never spoke of Cedar again, at least in my presence. The only time I've ever heard my father mentioning him was when he told me once "I've buried my son. You can go to hell for all I care".
As for my mother, on these ever more often-occurring discipline sessions, that compassion I've been used to seeing was now absent from her eyes. At first I believed it had been the withering of her emotions after Cedar's death. But then she uttered that vile accusation, which the fear of it harboring an iota of truth would deprive me of sleep in years to come: "If you'd been gentler in handling him he wouldn't have died. You killed my child"…'My child' she said, as if I weren't her child and Cedar not my brother.
My mother has always been the kind of woman who didn't believe that disasters just happen. As far as she was concerned it always had to be someone's fault.
I now regret never having the nerve to tell her all those years ago that she ought to blame her God for it, and yet, I know that they had no need for God to blame since they had the Devil under their very own roof.
When I've reached 13 my father came after me and into the barn with his rod. What prompted the attack that time was what he perceived to be insolence on my part. He raised his arm readying it and as it was steadfastly making its way towards impacting with my body, I gripped his wrist halting it in mid air. Clutching it, I forced him to the ground; his back pressed hard against a tidy haystack, every muscle in my body taut and inclined, my face, as I hovered over him, merely an inch away from his.
"Raise your hand at me one more time and 'honor thy Father and thy Mother' will get a whole together different meaning for us" I hissed snidely between my clenched teeth, barely controlling the rage shivering through my body. It was the first time I have ever seen fright in him.
For better or worse, he has never laid a hand on me after that incident. That was my first nibble at my own power, but I was yet to be fully convinced.
At sixteen, After I had thrown the warlord ruling our village off power and conquered his domain by the force of my sword and determination, my subjects crowned me their Lord and Master.
At the ceremony of my enthroning, well scrubbed of my previous status as a vassal, I wore a shiny golden armor, my black Judge's robes and a mauve colored ribbon across my torso. I saw the manner in which young lads, young lasses and mature women were eyeing me, knowing I could take and have every single one of them. I caught a glimpse of my father standing in the cheering crowd and for the first time in my life I could see him being proud of me. Is this what it takes to make you proud, old man? Ovations, Ribbons, Power, the seat of Judgment? I couldn't hold back the look of contempt I cast him.
Then I looked around closer than I had before, and it dawned on me, that my father was hardly the only one. My subjects were worshiping my power. It had nothing to do with who I was. All they were seeing was the power I exuded. They were utterly oblivious to who I was and it didn't even matter to them. Power was all that was valued. I've realized then that to earn respect I could never be weak. I could never relinquish power or control. I would never submit to another.
I've never considered my childhood to be too wretched, forlorn or hideous. Years as a presiding Judge I've witnessed the atrocities people are capable of committing against their offspring and it made me realize my parents have hardly been the worst.
Nevertheless, this notion hasn’t affected me. My humanity has long been locked up like the mad woman in the attic. I might hear an occasional howling and shrieking but I do my very best to ignore it and it has been getting easier with each day that passes.
On his deathbed my father told me: "You are undaunted and immune to weaknesses. You are a Sovereign. I've made you who you are."
I leaned down and over his bed and looked into his shriveled tired eyes "Then I have you to blame for it, you foolish old man. Take a good look, for every ounce of power I either lose or relinquish, for anything stronger than a light breeze, and I crumble down like a fortress built in the sand too close to sea."
The last brick was laid down sealing my heart, completely.
End Proverbs Part 1, 'A Birthday Gift for Lady Aria' - Conclusion in Part 2 - by WarriorJudge
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