Time for oversharing.
One morning I was woken by my very agitated father. He urged me to get up and follow him downstairs and outside, where, apparently, a police officer stood waiting for my statement. My car had been found on some farm road a couple of miles away, crashed into a bollard. Both my father and I knew that it hadn’t been myself who crashed the car. However, until shortly before, neither my father nor I had had any idea that my car had been involved in a crash in the first place.
My mother had taken my car the night before. Without my consent, of course. I had gone to bed already. She had been drunk and I (or my father, I don’t remember this detail) had hidden away the keys to her own car, so at some point she must have decided to take mine. And at some point she must have crashed it. And after that she must have returned home some way, probably in part by foot, in part by taxi. Anyway — at the time the police rang at our front door, my mother was sound asleep in her bedroom.
On our way down the stairs, and through the hallway, my father briefed me. I was to confirm the story he had already told the officer, namely, that I must have forgotten to lock the car, and that some youngster, or youngsters, from the neighbourhood must have taken it for a ride. And confirm the story I did. The officer mustered me carefully, and for some reason decided not to press the matter further. The details, again, are somewhat blurred — but I think that my father arranged for the car to be towed away, and for the bollard to be replaced or paid for, and I suspect that the policeman didn’t want to get me into trouble. I’m sure he thought that I, or one of my friends, had caused the crash.
My mother and her relationship to cars. I have an early childhood memory: Her speeding on the autobahn for no discernible reason, myself in the back seat, afraid, not understanding why we were driving so fast, and why my mother seemed so strange, tense and silent. At some point my mother took the exit close to Lüttelforst, and we visited my grandparents. There was no talk about the autobahn. Much later, when my much younger siblings were of primary school age, she took them on a nocturnal drunk drive. She then left them in a parking lot in front of a bar, to sleep. She returned to her car because some other customer had noticed my brother and sister in the back. My mother got into a fight, the police was called, she tried to escape the parking lot, ramming other cars — and I was told that my brother tried to calm my sister down when all of this happened. I wasn’t at home at that time. Neither was my father, but I have no idea where he went that night. At any rate, I was crushed when I heard about the incident the next day.
I don’t remember whether the parking-lot incident was followed by my mother’s first stay in a psychiatric ward, or whether it took place in between what would eventually become a handful of hospitalisations. There were many more incidents, not all — not even most — of them involving cars, I lost track of some. There are fragments that stand out, which my memory returns to from time to time — but the order of events is hard to reconstruct for me. My siblings were too young to remember as much as I do, and my father rarely talks about the years that were most intense. My parents are divorced by now, and my mother has been relatively stable since 2010, roughly. She has managed to keep her job, and she lives in a flat by herself. Needless to say, she doesn’t have a driver’s license any longer.
There’s so much shame involved in a family history like that, or at least there was for me. For years, I spoke to almost nobody about what had happened to my mother, or to us. Her repeated stays in psychiatric wards were burdensome, and yet it took me about a year to tell my then-roommate, who had long (tried to) become a friend and repeatedly asked why my mother didn’t come around to visit, about the “problems at home”.
I felt lost for so long, unable to connect. I was afraid of people, except for very few very carefully selected humans. And then I became afraid of things like shopping, or riding a train, or going outside. Or speaking. When I was around twenty I experienced a severe bout of depression. I tried to be interested in something, anything, but I wasn’t. Again, the chronology of things in this post might be a little messed up, but at some point I went to a doctor, was prescribed SSRI and things slowly improved. Thankfully, I have never felt that level of desperation again. Now, even if I feel bad about some thing or other, there are always good things, too. Like horses, or my running buddies, or the vegetables I grow.
I guess that, all things considered, my younger brother and sister and I are pretty resilient. I read somewhere that, in these cases, there’s usually a person that provides a semblance of the much-needed stability and normality. During my childhood, youth, and early adulthood this person has been my grandmother, whom I loved and love very, very much. When she died in 2016 it felt like I had lost the one person who nurtures and protects like no other. And for close to fifteen years now this tether has been my partner. I sometimes look at him with surprise and ask myself how on earth he bears living with me, for I couldn’t live with myself, that’s for sure.
Writing this post felt intense, but in a good way. I regret that, once again, I belie the motto of this blog. No bookmarks to go with these remarks. Maybe I should rename the blog Confessions.