Note: This was triggering to write, it might be triggering to read.
One of us has said that “My father’s chair” would be an excellent title to the book of our life. This isn’t to say that we are going to write an autobiography, but rather that this chair was pivotal to our life for so many years. To give you the context, I’ll tell you a little of our family hierarchy. We were the youngest of four children and the parents had an interesting relationship where the mother was the dominant force in many ways. We were all scared of the mother when it came to discipline, she would yell at us and enforce physical punishment. In contrast, the father sat in his chair in brooding anger.
As far as I’m aware we had two sets of lounge furniture during my life in that house. I don’t have any memories of the first one, but I know from family stories that it was a 3 seater couch with 2 chairs. When the renovations on the house were done, a new set was purchased. It was a 3.5 seater couch and had larger chairs. Even with this second couch, I was relegated to the floor as I was the youngest and smallest child. The older siblings would simply push me off the couch and use me as a foot stool. Because of this, I was often invited to sit on the father’s lap.
You would think that this would mean that I hated that chair. I think some of us did and still do, but I also know that we felt some sort of tie to the chair. When we wanted to be far away from the sister’s boyfriend one night, we curled up on the father’s chair. I’m not sure if this was to gain some sense of strength from the chair, or possibly it was to try and kick-start the dissociation.
One of the enduring memories of this chair is the view from behind the chair, looking at the father sitting in it with his legs crossed. Often there would be a beer in his hand. It is amazing how his silence could fill the room. How his anger could fill the room. I know that some of us used to bait him by making fun of the rugby or cricket. I tried not to let that happen too often as the consequences weren’t pleasant.
His anger could make everyone in the house walk around on eggshells. Some outbursts of anger were expected – the sister getting a new boyfriend, the brother being in a car accident, school report time. But sometimes he would brood for days or weeks. During those times I had to carry and fetch for him. I remember the mother saying we were his favourite so he wouldn’t hurt us…
When the marriage ended and the house contents were sold, the lounge furniture was split up. The couch was kept, but the chairs were thrown away. I remember R coming forward and saying he wanted to burn the chairs. The mother laughed at this, thinking it was part of the game where we now all hated the father. She didn’t see the rage behind the statement.
It’s been hard writing this without falling into a flashback. Sometimes the flashbacks are so strong in their pull, they suck you in and take you for a roller-coaster ride through hell. I know I’ve glossed over much of what occurred in and around that chair. But you all don’t need to read the details.
What I will share, is that the father’s anger was thrust upon me through the actions of those around me. I’ll never understand why they chose the youngest and most sensitive child to act as fetch and carrier for the angry force in the house. Yes, we were his favourite, but that wasn’t a good thing. This role encouraged me to feel responsible for his anger. It made me feel as if his explosions were my fault. As children, we often feel as if we are responsible for the anger of our parents and desperately try to fix things. But most of the time we have no idea what was broken, so we look around for a miracle cure that doesn’t exist.