~Be sure to check out Brandie’s work on Youtube and Instagram: @the_diary_library. We’ve been in touch via Instagram for some time, and this is her first submission.~
“Set up: I’m riding up to my ex-step father’s house in his car, waiting for my own car to be done at the mechanics, and with a mission of retrieving some of my belongings that had been left behind when I moved out of our family home, in which he still resides. Post-divorce, our family dynamics haven’t quite been the same (he had been with my mom for 17 years).
‘Date: September 12, 2016 (Mon)
When we pulled up to the house, I could see in the daylight what I couldn’t see in the dark a few nights prior dropping my sister off. The yard was terribly overgrown and abandoned. The house now has ivy climbing its walls. Wood rot is rampant. It seems as though the house is just as dilapidated as our relationships with him. It was sad, really, to see the state of the house outdoors. Almost as forgotten about as any good times spend together.
We got inside, walking down the hallway that connects the two garages with the rest of the house, and I asked if he was okay. He turned back at me and said “That’s relative.” Thinking about it later, I wondered if he was having trouble with his girlfriend. Who knows. I didn’t press for any details.
It was weird walking through the house. Some things have changed but some hadn’t. It was like seeing a ghost of our family home and the touches my mom had put on it, or they did together.
I followed him up the stairs to his bedroom where the attic is. Walking into his room felt..odd. So many times before I had gone in there when it was also my mom’s room. And now it wasn’t, but from I could see, the furniture was still the same. The only thing that wasn’t the same was that there were clothes and other debris littering the floor, the counter tops, the walk-in closet. My mom would never let that mess happen. Other than that, it was like I half expected her to be sitting on the bed (since that’s where they used to hang out together), excitedly greeting me. It’s only now that I realize ghosts of the past are so real.
We climbed the attic stairs, a noticeable change in temperature half way up. He quickly showed me the corner where all of my stuff (or the majority of it) was supposed to be, then promptly left after telling me he’d come back and help take the boxes downstairs. To say the attic was “hot” was an understatement. I’ve never poured sweat off my face before and yet I barely noticed. I was on a mission to find my old blank journals I’ve been waiting to write in and all my old photos. I went through many boxes, finding a good amount of stuff. You would have thought I struck gold with how I felt once I found my journals! It was the same once I found my pictures.
While I was waiting to hear from the mechanic about my car being done, I opened the box with all my pictures in it. I saw my twelve and thirteen year old face. My fourteen and fifteen year old self. I hadn’t seen that girl in a while. Something in me wanted to show him that face. I selected first a picture of me holding my youngest brother as a baby. I was thirteen. For two seconds, I could see in his eyes his guard go down and he smiled. As quickly as it appeared, it seemed the most recent years of sadness and stress came rushing back in. It was hard to watch. That flicker of happiness, even if it was for what used to be,was a small flame and easy to extinguish. I wanted so badly to re-plant a seed in his mind about our family. OUR family that includes HIM, that he helped CREATE. Just a tiny seed to remind him…of what was lost? To somehow bring him back to it and start to think about the family he has left? To remind him that we did once have a family and those people need healing? I’m not sure. Maybe even to remind him he seemed like a family man, cut the crap he’s doing now, and remind him he still has a job as a father. All he did when looking at the picture was comment on how big my brother’s head was, which is pretty much what anyone says.
I walked away, only to return and shove another picture in his face, trying once more. It was a picture of just me, still thirteen, but at the end of the year. I commented nostalgically how long ago it seemed and how young I looked. “Do you remember that girl?” I asked. He looked and responded with a flat “Nope.” To say I was a little crushed was…I’m not even sure. There was no feeling behind that one word. No recognition that he helped raise me and he was there during those times to watch me grow and become a young woman. God, I’m tearing up just thinking about it. It really seemed he didn’t want to go there and keep me at arms length. It hurt. It just did. Things are different now than what my thirteen year old self experienced. She’d be devastated.’
a.k.a The Diary Library”
~thank you, brandie~