Being at the corner of the basement meant that there was no need to darken windows or deal with outside noise interrupting their peace and quiet. With the door closed and Helga working on patient files in the front room, it was nearly silent except for Horace’s deep, slow breathing. Dr. Freda was well aware that the energy she transmitted into the room would affect Horace, so she also kept her breathing slow and regular, her voice soft and soothing.
“What do you see as you are climbing the stairs?” she asked Horace, whose eyes were closed in a deep meditative state.
“My father is upset. He is waving his arms and yelling.” Horace recounted from his childhood.
“Can you see who he is upset with?” Dr. Freda asked in a low, calm voice.
“No. I can just see his head and shoulders.” Horace replied.
“Climb a little further.” Dr. Freda instructed.
“I don’t want to.” Horace resisted.
“You are invisible…no one can see you. This memory is distant and safe, seen through the veil of time. Take a few more steps and hear nothing but see what is to happen.” Dr. Freda guided in a slow, poetic cadence.
As Horace ascended the basement steps a bit more, he could see the top of his Mutter’s head. He recognized her golden hair pinned back the way she always wore it. He could see that his father was very animated, but the movements were slow as if underwater. He could not hear what was being said, only muffled voices in the distance. He rose a little more so he could see her face. She was crying. She appeared to be pleading with his Pater. Their motion slowed gradually as his Pater drew a fist back. When his elbow reached the apex of the blow, far behind his back, the motion slowed to a stop and all was still…almost. His Mutter’s hair seemed to glow with its own light and though nothing else moved, her hair seemed to ebb and flow gently in the warm, misty light. She had drawn her hands up to cover her face as if she were afraid to see and as Horace reached the top of the landing, she turned slowly, hair flowing, to look directly at him, abject fear etched into her radiant features. Very slowly, she began to yell one word at him and though he could not hear, he felt her command take hold of his soul as she tried to protect him…”W-e-g-l-a-u-f-e-n!” (“R-u-n–A-w-a-y!”). Horace started awake, tears streaming sidelong down his face. Freda was standing next to him handing him a handkerchief.
“You always knew, didn’t you?” Dr. Freda asked.
“I think I did, but I only remembered him hitting me when he was angry, never her.”
As Horace sat up, taking the handkerchief from Freda, he swung his legs off the chaise and sat forward, staring down at his hands. Freda returned to her chair at the foot of the chaise, taking up her notepad and pen before sitting.
As she began to write, she asked “Do you remember if this was a common occurrence?”
Horace was already weeping, but his tears intensified as he answered “Yes, I think all the time.” He raised the kerchief to catch the tears as he went on. “I should have done something to protect her, but I was always hiding until he found me. I should have been there for her.”
“You each had your own way of handling a man who was too angry to control himself. Whether or not you think you should have done something differently, you could not have.” She finished appending her notes and looked up at him. He was regaining his composure somewhat so she continued “I will not tell you not to blame yourself because it appears you already do, but I will say this. Your mother loved you or she would not have tried to protect you…and if she loved you, she would want you to forgive yourself and live a happy life.”
He nodded to himself and said “Yes, I believe she would. Thank you doctor.”
(Copyright 2020 by Phillip Johnson. Written and reproduced May 20, 2020 by Tom Loesch. All rights reserved.)