This I Believe

Virginia - Jacksonville Beach, Florida
Entered on April 19, 2007

I was six years old when I first heard the story of my past. Up to that point, I had let myself believe that my mother and father and both been in a car accident, in which my mother was badly injured and my father was killed. It was in the drive-thru of a Burger King that my false reality was shattered. My mother calmly asked me what I would think if I was told that my father was not, in fact, dead. After my many denials, she preceded to tell me the truth: that, in a hate-filled rage, my father had shot my mother in the head, leaving her with a glass eye, no sense of smell, and severe damage to her brain. Being six years old, I had no idea how to react to the news. I barely even understood it. I wanted very badly to “put on happy face,” as we were taught to in my first-grade classroom, but I found it nearly impossible.

In the sixteen years following this moment, I have been in many a hospital waiting room. I guess you could say I grew up in them. They taught me about death, about healing, even about how to be thankful. At the time, I wanted nothing more than to escape those hospital waiting rooms. They stank of formaldehyde and reeked of bad-news, and were always wall-to-wall with noise and distraction. The on and off of fluorescent lights like the beating of hearts. The beep-beep of the heavy machines that seemed far too complicated to simply keep someone breathing. The nurses always whispering what a miracle I was, what a miracle my mother was. And the broken sobs and sporadic screaming which were more often than not drowned out by the television.

It was easy to spot the hate in those rooms. Hating legs for breaking, cars for hitting, bullets for puncturing skin, but most of all hating the fingers that pulled those triggers. And through it all, there was the television. It was in a hospital waiting room where I first discovered comedy. I loved how the actors in shows like Saturday Night Live were able to poke fun at themselves, and make light of even the most serious of situations. I began adding these qualities to my own life, making light of my situation in order to survive it. I have never pitied myself, choosing laughter over tears, and jokes over melodramatics. I believe in defense mechanisms.