I was at my tai chi class last night (yes, I take a tai chi class), which is actually held in the basement of a church. I don’t belong to the church, and religion or lack thereof doesn’t qualify or disqualify anyone from going. That’s just where it’s held.
I bring the church part up because the basement is a multi-purpose setting. Meetings are held down there, other exercise classes, and plays and talent shows as well, since there is a stage. The stage is the key to my story here. The curtains were open, and various things were up there, including desks and chairs. The one item that really caught my attention was a little red ball.
I’ve mentioned my dissolved marriage in this still-new blog, but not the reasons why it is so. The fact is that my ex-wife and I found out my stepson was being abused by his biological father. All of the trauma and stress that came from this revelation is what ultimately did us in. I’m not saying we wouldn’t have ended where we are now anyway, because who knows, but that’s the way it happened.
This I mention now because once we got him away from his father (he lives in another state, there’s a restraining order, etc,), my stepson had violent episodes of lashing out, which is apparently common of victims once they are safe. His violence was so bad (towards us and himself) that it was a miracle if he could make it to school. This was our daily existence, walking on eggshells until something finally tripped the land mine.
He was eventually sent to a live-in therapeutic setting for children like himself. My wife and I had separated by this point. Ultimately, he was in a series of centers for three years before finally coming home. It was the memory of his second such therapeutic situation that was triggered by this little red ball.
This facility is in Piscataway, and is part of the psychology and psychiatry program at Rutgers. We would get two visits per week (My wife had come back to living with me and we were briefly together again at this point). During our visits, we could use the gym on the campus, as long as it wasn’t already in use. This was often a highlight to the visits. My stepson loved the time since he’s very athletic and active, and we made up a lot of different games while there.
This gym also had a stage area, with curtains and all, and this, to get to the destination at the end of the winding road, is why seeing a ball on a stage sent scenes rushing back from the past to fill my head. We were doing breathing and meditative exercises in tai chi class at the time, and as I was holding my pose, and focusing straight ahead, I saw the ball. I had to stifle the urge to cry, and to remain in the present.
There will be things that will bring flashbacks of such memories, of course, though it happens less frequently over time. But when they do, they will always come at a time when they’re completely unexpected.