Last night I caught up on this week’s episode of Glee. I can’t watch it on Tuesday’s any longer because it’s too fluffy after a mind bender like Lost. Towards the end, they performed their version of Bonnie Tyler’s classic one-hit wonder, “A Total Eclipse of the Heart.” This is one of my dad’s favorite songs. As I was listening to the lyrics, I started weeping. Not because of the choreographed ballet number and silly plot line of the show, but the words of that song spoke to me as if it was coming straight from my father.
At times he was filled with light when I was growing up, motivated by his love for our family, God, his passion for singing, playing shortstop in softball and helping the disabled. He was the head of the right to life committee at our church parish. He was all of these things in public. But at home, he isolated. Glazed over watching television or a newspaper in front of his face at the dinner table. He would go into the basement for hours while life went on upstairs. He was a powder keg about to spark. But when he left for another mass or meeting, one of the many softball games or classes, we would gather in the kitchen or living room to be together and unquiet, relieved the darkness had passed.
This was the day to day of living with someone with mental illness. This was the easy part. The negativity, the criticism, and the blame was harder. Believing in him, loving him, rationalizing with him while words poured out of his mouth violently at my mom, my brothers, my sister, and me were leveling. We’re still recovering from post-traumatic family stress disorder.
The best way to recover? To isolate. We’ve all estranged ourselves from him. There’s nothing strange about it to any of us. You cannot heal if you continue to dig at the wound. And my father is a wound that doesn’t want to heal. This love is like a shadow on us, but only some of the time now. For each one of us the triggers are different. But for me, it’s Bonnie Tyler every time.