Mr. Ramsey

But Cam could see nothing. She was thinking how all those paths and
the lawn, thick and knotted with the lives they had lived there, were
gone: were rubbed out; were past; were unreal, and now this was real;
the boat and the sail with its patch; Macalister with his earrings; the
noise of the waves--all this was real. Thinking this, she was
murmuring to herself, "We perished, each alone," for her father's words
broke and broke again in her mind, when her father, seeing her gazing
so vaguely, began to tease her. Didn't she know the points of the
compass? he asked. Didn't she know the North from the South? Did she
really think they lived right out there? And he pointed again, and
showed her where their house was, there, by those trees. He wished she
would try to be more accurate, he said: "Tell me--which is East, which
is West?" he said, half laughing at her, half scolding her, for he
could not understand the state of mind of any one, not absolutely
imbecile, who did not know the points of the compass. Yet she did not
know. And seeing her gazing, with her vague, now rather frightened,
eyes fixed where no house was Mr. Ramsay forgot his dream; how he walked
up and down between the urns on the terrace; how the arms were
stretched out to him. He thought, women are always like that; the
vagueness of their minds is hopeless; it was a thing he had never been
able to understand; but so it was. It had been so with her--his wife.
They could not keep anything clearly fixed in their minds. But he had
been wrong to be angry with her; moreover, did he not rather like this
vagueness in women? It was part of their extraordinary charm. I will
make her smile at me, he thought. She looks frightened. She was so
silent. He clutched his fingers, and determined that his voice and his
face and all the quick expressive gestures which had been at his
command making people pity him and praise him all these years should
subdue themselves. He would make her smile at him. He would find some
simple easy thing to say to her. But what? For, wrapped up in his
work as he was, he forgot the sort of thing one said. There was a
puppy. They had a puppy. Who was looking after the puppy today? he
asked. Yes, thought James pitilessly, seeing his sister's head against
the sail, now she will give way. I shall be left to fight the tyrant
alone. The compact would be left to him to carry out. Cam would never
resist tyranny to the death, he thought grimly, watching her face, sad,
sulky, yielding. And as sometimes happens when a cloud falls on a
green hillside and gravity descends and there among all the surrounding
hills is gloom and sorrow, and it seems as if the hills themselves
must ponder the fate of the clouded, the darkened, either in pity,
or maliciously rejoicing in her dismay: so Cam now felt herself
overcast, as she sat there among calm, resolute people and wondered
how to answer her father about the puppy; how to resist his
entreaty--forgive me, care for me; while James the lawgiver, with the
tablets of eternal wisdom laid open on his knee (his hand on the tiller
had become symbolical to her), said, Resist him. Fight him. He said
so rightly; justly. For they must fight tyranny to the death, she
thought. Of all human qualities she reverenced justice most. Her
brother was most god-like, her father most suppliant. And to which did
she yield, she thought, sitting between them, gazing at the shore whose
points were all unknown to her, and thinking how the lawn and the
terrace and the house were smoothed away now and peace dwelt there.

"Jasper," she said sullenly. He'd look after the puppy.

And what was she going to call him? her father persisted. He had had
a dog when he was a little boy, called Frisk. She'll give way, James
thought, as he watched a look come upon her face, a look he remembered.
They look down he thought, at their knitting or something. Then
suddenly they look up. There was a flash of blue, he remembered, and
then somebody sitting with him laughed, surrendered, and he was very
angry. It must have been his mother, he thought, sitting on a low
chair, with his father standing over her. He began to search among the
infinite series of impressions which time had laid down, leaf upon
leaf, fold upon fold softly, incessantly upon his brain; among scents,
sounds; voices, harsh, hollow, sweet; and lights passing, and brooms
tapping; and the wash and hush of the sea, how a man had marched up and
down and stopped dead, upright, over them. Meanwhile, he noticed, Cam
dabbled her fingers in the water, and stared at the shore and said
nothing. No, she won't give way, he thought; she's different, he
thought. Well, if Cam would not answer him, he would not bother her Mr.
Ramsay decided, feeling in his pocket for a book. But she would answer
him; she wished, passionately, to move some obstacle that lay upon her
tongue and to say, Oh, yes, Frisk. I'll call him Frisk. She wanted
even to say, Was that the dog that found its way over the moor alone?
But try as she might, she could think of nothing to say like that,
fierce and loyal to the compact, yet passing on to her father,
unsuspected by James, a private token of the love she felt for him.
For she thought, dabbling her hand (and now Macalister's boy had caught
a mackerel, and it lay kicking on the floor, with blood on its gills)
for she thought, looking at James who kept his eyes dispassionately on
the sail, or glanced now and then for a second at the horizon, you're
not exposed to it, to this pressure and division of feeling, this
extraordinary temptation. Her father was feeling in his pockets; in
another second, he would have found his book. For no one attracted her
more; his hands were beautiful, and his feet, and his voice, and his
words, and his haste, and his temper, and his oddity, and his passion,
and his saying straight out before every one, we perish, each alone,
and his remoteness. (He had opened his book.) But what remained
intolerable, she thought, sitting upright, and watching Macalister's
boy tug the hook out of the gills of another fish, was that crass
blindness and tyranny of his which had poisoned her childhood and
raised bitter storms, so that even now she woke in the night trembling
with rage and remembered some command of his; some insolence: "Do
this," "Do that," his dominance: his "Submit to me."

So she said nothing, but looked doggedly and sadly at the shore,
wrapped in its mantle of peace; as if the people there had fallen
asleep, she thought; were free like smoke, were free to come and go
like ghosts. They have no suffering there, she thought.

- To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf

This was powerful – so aptly describing my relationship with my father. Growing up, seeing him always as the villain. Growing up a bit more, and learning empathy, I was able to extend it to him to a certain extent, but it was always so difficult to extend it to action, to words. Because how does one rebuild a relationship that was never there? How does one even start a conversation, when one has spent one’s entire life shutting it down? And what about when he continues to terrify me, and anger me?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s