Sunday, August 21, 2011

Memory Lane's Bizarre Turn; or, "OHMYGOSH I FOUND HIS HOUSE"

I took a walk down memory lane yesterday.  Literally.
Actually, I was running.  I was running and I turned a corner and BOOM--
there it was.

The last time I saw this house, I remember how I felt.  I remember what I thought.  I remember thinking, " I will never come back here.  I will never see this man again."

But then, there it was: the three-story, bird-cage-adorned house, a mere ten minutes from my own humble abode.  I have to admit that I was half-looking for it.  Ever since we moved to this town three months ago, I knew there was something oddly familiar.  And slowly, bit by bit, pieces came to me every day.  Strange pieces.  This is a strange story.  I'm filing it under my "bizarre-o" files.

In order to fully understand, I have to take you back five years ago, to 2006.

I was working two jobs - full time as a tea salesperson (yup, you heard me right) and part time as a theatre educator at the Y.  Sales is not my forte, and I was not a kid person back then.  Needless to say, I was looking for something else.  Through an acquaintance, I found what seemed like a really good fit: an assistant for an English professor at the local college.

At first, it seemed pretty cool.  I'd be grading papers (nerd alert:  I actually enjoy grading papers.   ...I know.) and helping him with odds and ends around the house.  I thought it would be good experience in case I wanted to use my English degree to teach.  But my naive, recently-graduated self did not understand the term "personal assistant."  I didn't know that it would entail him owning every free hour of my life (I was still working the other two jobs because I have had no boundaries).  I didn't know that it would require me to spend an entire afternoon (read: 5 hours) sewing buttons onto his pants while he made semi-degrading comments about my being a woman sewing buttons.  I didn't know that I would spend an entire day sorting through his 10-year-collection of junk mail.

But the worst part was that he inexplicably felt as though he could automatically adopt the role of "mentor" or "father" to me.  When he started to take on the role (without my permission), I tried to shake it off.  But he became increasingly overbearing -- planning out my life, telling me my choices weren't good enough.

There were some other odd things, too -- things that, when I described the situation to my husband years later, seem like the lore of books.  Like the room full of birds.  And that he only talked to me in German (I don't speak German).  And that we only drank Earl Gray tea at his house (no water).  And how he always talked of his "long lost love" whom he left behind in Germany in pursuit of his career.

A few words before we continue:  In total, I think I only worked for this man for maybe a month.  He decided to be my father-figure almost immediately -- which, to me, is incredibly invasive.  Besides, I think it's worth noting that I already have a father who is and has been an excellent father figure to me, whom I love very much, and who has my complete trust.  I was not looking for another father, nor did I think it was appropriate that this man act like one towards me.

The whole situation was completely confusing for me.  I felt like I must have been living in some alternate universe, and everything caught me so off-guard that I was never able to stand up for myself.  I was also very young.  When I decided to leave (or rather, when I had the emotional breakdown that forced me back home to my parents-- my awesome parents, I might add, including my awesome father), he gave me a lecture on how my decisions were wrong.  I remember sitting on the porch swing with him, listening to his chastisement, barely containing my tears or my inclination to run screaming to my car.  I couldn't wait to get out of there, and then suddenly, he gave me a gift that was incredibly thoughtful.  He had this pillow covered in birds (I love birds) that I had admired from day one.  It was his mother's from Germany; I think she made it in the 1940s.  And he gave it to me.

Note: I LOVE this pillow.  It's sort of falling apart because it's so old and I love it so much.  I'm not sure what to do with it though because it's literally going to disintegrate one of these days.

I left, pillow in hand, totally confused about what had just happened -- the pillow and the pants buttons and the room full of birds and the German and the tea and the feeling of entrapment all boiling inside my head, and I thought one thing:  "I will never come back here.  I will never see this man again."

Flash forward to 2011, and there I was:  innocently running in my new neighborhood.  And there was his house -- exactly as it was when I had left it.

And here's what I need to know:  Do I go back?  Do I take my family and walk to his house to say hello?  Because here's the thing -- here's the honest truth:  I know he has no one.  I know his misplaced, inappropriate desire to mentor me came out of intense loneliness.  And I have a feeling that although he could probably sense my desire to get away from him, I think it would still mean a lot to him for me to stop by and say, "Hey.  This is my family."

There's something in it for me too, though.  You see, over the years, the idea of this man has ballooned into mythical proportions.  I want to face the legend once more -- to bring him off the looming pedestal in my mind -- in order to... I don't know... overcome?  That was a bleak time in my life, and I'd like to think I've grown a lot since then.  A part of me feels like I just need to face him, at least one last time.

So.  What do I do?


  1. I think you were lead back there for a reason....

  2. Sounds like he led a very lonely life. That is crazy that he made you sew his buttons for him and such. I agree that you have an amazing Dad and certainly didn't need an extra one with how amazing he is. I wish your father were mine (though now I love my dad, but it took a long time). That is a tough thing to decide. pray and talk about it more with Elliott and see what he would want to do. Definitely don't go without Elliott though, even if you did spend a lot of alone time with this man in the past who is much much older and such. I pray he'll come to the Lord and know of the perfect FATHER in heaven that you have!!!

  3. He sounds like a character from a Dickens novel. And if you were living in a Dickens novel, the two of you would be inevitably forced back together, especially after a vow of "I will never come back here." Of course, that might take another 5 years in a Dickens attempt to up his word count.

    In terms of actual, real-world advice: maybe you should send him a sort of "thinking of you" card, where you mention being in the neighborhood, thinking of him for having passed his house, hoping he is doing well, thank him again for the pillow and what it means to you... that sort of thing.

    By opening a correspondence in this way, you aren't randomly showing up on his doorstep. So, you avoid that awkwardness and give him an opportunity to not be completely caught off guard either.

    A thought: Maybe he wasn't treating you that way because he thought you needed a father figure. If he is as alone as you say, perhaps something in him needed to feel like the father figure, to have someone take the place of the children he didn't have. Birds are nice, but they are no replacement for people...

    Also, I still owe you an email. Soon. The craziness of home buying, church drama, etc. is finally dying down.

  4. I like that idea a lot, actually. Totally will do the letter thing first.

    No worries about the e-mail! No pressure! I LOVE reading your e-mails but I totally understand the craziness of life.


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