That Time I Got Hit by the Crazy Train

Dear Diary,

I broke a bone yesterday. It’s ok though, the bone is a small one. I know what caused it too, I got hit by a train.

Even though I got hit by the Crazy Train 9 months ago…the physical manifestations of a hit that hard take a long time to show themselves.

Remember when I wrote about disembarking the Crazy Train back in October? No? You can read it here…Disembarking the Crazy Train.

I was woefully ignorant on how far the crazy engineer (my Narcissistic Mother) would go to make me pay for that.

Stupid me…acting all strong and thinking by disembarking the Crazy Train I could actually get away from it. Oh no…that’s not how the crazy train works. By disembarking I actually bumped the Crazy up to a whole new level. I should have seen it coming, but I got hit from behind.

After a lifetime of crazy, what could possibly have affected me so deeply that it has taken me 9 months to actually write about it? That’s easy. She hit me in the place where I am most vulnerable. By inviting all of the people I love the most to ride her Crazy Train. The people I hold dearest. Who are those people you ask?

My children and my deceased sister’s children (also my children I like to think).

She wrote one of her poison letters to me and sent copies to all of them. The most poisonous of all. She has outdone herself.

By the grace of God, I was out traveling when my copy came in the mail. My daughter picked up the mail, opened my copy and read it. Evidently it was so evil that she threw it away (or so she said), and never intended to let me know of it’s existence. She intended to try and protect me from my own Mother.

It worked for a few weeks evidently, but she felt guilty deceiving me and finally broke down and told me about it. My daughter said the letter was so bad that she was hoping none of it was true. She went on to say that we could  pretend it never existed, but there were copies sent to other family members.

With just those few words I was pushed, and started freefalling, into a deep crevasse. Like anyone who is falling, I tried desperately to self arrest the descent. Clawing at the sides of the deepest and darkest places in my mind to keep some sight of where the light might be so I could find my way back out.

I started with damage control. I called my niece to ask if she had received a copy of the letter. I could tell by the pity in her voice that she had. Here’s how the rest of the conversation went.

Niece – “Auntie did you read it?”

Me – “No, Daughter (not her real name ha!) intercepted it and threw it away.”

Niece – “Good for Daughter, nobody should have to read something like that.”

What? I thought I knew what my Narcissistic Mother was capable of, but how bad did it have to be that NOBODY should have to read it?

I assured her that none of it was true…but this rang hollow with both my niece and I since I hadn’t actually read it.

With that I was yet again sent spiraling down the rabbit hole even further.

I called my son. “Yes Mom, I got it.” I tried to downplay it with “well you know how Nana is.”

“Yes he said, I know how she is. I called her and she told me that she never wanted to see or hear from you again after how badly you abused her when you took her on vacation with you last June.”

WTF?

Trying to self arrest again I said, “You mean when I tried to take her to one of her favorite places in the world and make it perfect for her because she may never make it there again? That time?”

My son replied, “Yes, but Nana has a much different story Mom. She said you abused her, are evil, and you will bring us down with you into hell if we go around you. Don’t worry Mom, we know that can’t be true.”

Falling…still falling.

Before I bid him goodbye I tell my son, “Please don’t tell me anymore of what Nana said. Not if you love me and want me to stay on this Earth.” But he continued on anyway…”she said to tell you never to contact her again, and when she dies she doesn’t want you at her funeral.” I think he thought by telling me this he would be igniting a fire in me to fight back. But that’s not how this dysfunctional relationship ever plays out. I may be mad, but I know better than to get into the ring with a narcissist. They fight dirty.

I told my son I had to go and hung up the phone.

Injustice has always been something I can’t endure. And now…I stand accused and convicted of a crime I not only didn’t, but wouldn’t commit. Evidently there was much more slander in the poisoned letter, but who cares what it said. Just this little taste was so toxic I was rendered paralyzed. She played the “victimized little old blind lady” card.

So here I am. In a deep hole. So dark that I have no  idea which way is up. I am 5 years old again and so full of self loathing that I am quite sure that not even Jesus could love me. So enraged that if I have to share heaven with her, I don’t want to go.

Depression has always been an ugly word to me. I know it’s real, I have the suicides of my Daddy and little sister to remind me. But I hate the word because my dear Mother used it as a crutch to make everyone wait on her. “I’m too depressed to get up.” was her mantra, thereby (as the oldest) creating a overdeveloped sense of being responsible for EVERYTHING and EVERYONE around me. I loathe the word.

But a perfect storm was already set into motion and depression was bearing down on me. Just a couple of minor things happening at the same time as my Mother’s newest betrayal and I was down for the count. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t even get out of bed for a couple of days.

I normally am a master of disguise. I can fool even the most intuitive of audiences. So I feigned illness (well I feigned physical illness anyway), which is another of my taboos, while I desperately clawed at the sides of my dark prison to find a way out. The more I struggled, the deeper it seemed to get. Like a psychotic quicksand.

When I finally was able to get up and put on my cloak of normalcy, I was out of step with the world. Standing in line at a store, I looked around me and wondered if they could tell I was an illusion? Would they notice the real me was being held in a prison of pain with no hope of being helped back out?

That’s the conundrum of depression. When you need to be saved from yourself, you cannot ask for it. Depression steals hope. It steals even the idea that you might be worth saving. I didn’t even bother talking to God because I was sure he could not hear me from this place.

The more I told myself that I didn’t care, the more my auto-immune disorder was fueled into a full blown flare that even now is not quieted.

So the months passed in this suspended state of desperation. Going through the motions of daily routines so that the dark musings in my mind could not be detected. How often did I wish for death to deliver me? Every. Single. Day.

But as I clawed desperately at my prison walls, I remembered a familiarity of this place. I had been here before. Many times. In the past, when I finally made it out of this dark place, I would block out the memory that I was ever there. And now it is a slow realization that this is the place my Narcissistic Mother and Abusive Step-Father made me call home when I was growing up.

So I stopped clawing. I sat quietly and waited for redemption, if there was to even be any I couldn’t be sure. My mother had pulled the rug out from under me and I was left with all the dirt I had swept under it. So fresh I could still taste the blood in my mouth from the beatings, so real I could feel the terror as I heard my step-father’s car door close when he came home from work. And so alone.

But I kept still in my dark place. I knew that nobody would come for me. I was trapped deep in my mind. So deep, I couldn’t even find myself. I dared not look in a mirror. I would be looking at a ghost.

stock-photo-a-woman-covers-her-face-reflected-in-a-broken-mirror-or-the-shattered-life-concept-141673471

And then I saw it, a tiny crack of light. Through the tiny crack of light, I heard a voice. A familiar one say, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Oh my gosh. I remembered how I got out so many times before now. I remembered that it wasn’t me that found my way of my own private hell, it was my faith. I remembered that nobody can be so far gone that they can’t be found.

Even though I thought I could never write in my Diary again (because remember I have to be honest), I remembered that I am already a MAD baby boomer …so I have set the bar low. I can’t really let you down then, can I Diary?

My daughter asked me to find something in her room for her recently (she is living somewhere else but hasn’t actually moved out of her room yet), when I ran across the letter from my Mother she said had been trashed.

On the back of the envelope it said, “I know you are prone to throwing things away, but you really need to read this.”

No…I don’t Mom. I really don’t. You are done here.

I promptly trashed it.

I am still deeply angry at my Momster for running me over with her Crazy Train. I am still paying for it through my dis-ease. My dark auto-immune passenger is not easily put back to sleep. But I remembered that the best medicine is also the sweetest revenge.

HAPPINESS.

So I do what I always do when faced with a long climb to get back to the top of the  happiness scale. I turn to my bucket list and book a trip. I can happily announce I have six months to get back into physical shape and be ready for hiking, biking, and kayaking NEW ZEALAND!

As for all of the kids? Nothing’s changed. Turns out that the letter really says more about her than it does about me. And the broken bone? It will heal. They always do.

Yay! I’m so excited and HAPPY! Did you hear that Mom?

I win.

Until next time dearest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Messages in Bottles – A Suicide Soliloquy

Dear Diary,

I am deeply regretting not getting a flu shot this year. I have had the flu basically for all of 2015, but it’s not the virus that wrecks my body. It’s the Auto-Immune fallout that is kicking my ass. Any little bump in the wellness road wakes up my “Mixed Connective Tissue Disorder with Autonomic Involvement” and it gets very angry. No matter how hard I try to get it under control, I’ve learned I can do nothing but ride it out. It has only taken me 14 years to learn this.

I’m a slow learner in the book of self awareness.

Evidently physical illness is not going to be the only beezy in January either. Normally I sail through this time of year on the calm waters of ignorant bliss. Totally unaware of what the end of January is the horrifying commemoration of until it is passed and I can once again thank my self protective subconscious for doing a bang up job in getting me through.

But not this year.

This is the first time in forever that despite the 13 years that separate the events, time is flowing toward the anniversaries of both my Father and Sister’s suicides in the same week.

Normally I sail fast and smooth like a schooner in 10 knot winds, just lay back and nap with my subconscious at the wheel and before I know it I awaken to February.

This year I woke up and the storm is in full gale at 70 knots, and my subconscious has abandoned it’s post at the helm. I am heading into rough waters which are so dark I dare not gaze into them.

I suspect a perfect storm was brewing inside my vulnerability from both the physical aspect of a battered body and the mental aspect of being cut off from all human interactions due to my self imposed quarantine to contain this beezy of a bug.

My husband quit asking how I felt 2 weeks ago, which is a bastard thing to do since he gave me the flu, but I forgive him because he is keeping me fed. So I have been sitting here in my head for two weeks which I can tell you is a dangerous place to be under the best of circumstances.

It was during this time when I was distracted with my Auto-Immune engine failure in my little boat of a body, that the perfect storm hit with such a huge wave of conscious realization that I didn’t have time to batten down the hatches. It struck me so completely and violently that I was left struggling to catch my breath and reeling with pain.

I have been here before though.

On my first voyage I was sure that I would sink and never be found. That the dark waters would swallow me whole before I even had the ability to send out an SOS. Terrified, alone, helpless, confused, mute and running blind, it wasn’t until I reached the other side and back into calm waters that I realized Jesus had been at the wheel all along. Why do I always forget that?

But he knows I do.

After my Daddy’s untimely death in 1988, not only was I wracked by a raging sea of grief, but the added anguish of not knowing what happens to a soul of suicide seemed like cruel and unusual punishment.

Is it robbed of it’s place in eternity because of a moment when it lost all hope? My Daddy was a good Christian man, was I to believe I would never see him again because he defied God by choosing the time to be freed from his broken mind? Would he be forever damned because he felt he could no longer bear the weight of his shackles of depression and commuted his sentence here on Earth?

Even after I donned the everyday coat of grief and set about going through the motions of life, the deeper darker issue haunted me. I dared not ask the question of the final destination of a suicide soul out loud, I was either terrified of the answer or that my fragile psyche would be put on display to be judged or damaged beyond repair.

And so I spent the first years of my Daddy’s suicide in this unchanging state of agony. I did not blame God, I did not blame my Daddy, I blamed society for applying such an unforgiving stigma on suicide that the survivors are left in a collateral damaged fugue state to fend for themselves.

When people asked how he died, I would vaguely reply that his heart had failed,   because it tends to do that when you shoot it with a .45 caliber pistol.  I would just leave that last bit off. Most wouldn’t pry for details because of my obvious sorrow.

I was caught in a viscous “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” loop that was eroding my sanity in agonizingly slow motion. Robbing my sleep of any peace or restoration. Where was my Daddy? Where was my Daddy? Where was my Daddy?

So my soliloquy begins with the message sent to me from the other side of the veil to answer that question, a message so impossible to believe, but leaves no room for doubt. A message delivered in a bottle, because the bottle does not create the message, it merely is a previously empty mode of delivery.

I had gone to Oklahoma in 1991 to meet the husband of my half-sister, the other child he had after my Mother brought me back to California at 6 months old and he remarried the Step-Monster. We are only a little less than 3 years apart in age, but since we were not raised together (and in fact she did not speak to me for the entire year I lived with them when I was ten because she so resented having to share him with me) we are worlds apart in all other ways.

Luckily as adults we rose above the resentment thing and are still very good friends.

Back in 1991 she was the only other person on Earth who could share the grief of what we lost. His babies. That’s what he called us. There is a kindred ship of souls that are wrecked. Misery doesn’t love company, it just recognizes it when it sees it and gravitates toward what it knows. I am still the only person she will speak of him with. Even then she can only mutter a few sentences and she’s done. While I sail on the waters of despair to find the calm, she is marooned on an island of fear.

I had been there a few nights of the week that I would spend when she came into my room and sat on my bed. All of these things are out of character for her. She’s not an intimate communicator, and is profoundly respectful of other people’s privacy.

I sat up and waited for her to gather her courage to tell me what was so important that she would so utterly abandon her comfort zone.

She couldn’t look at me and spoke slowly and deliberately, I could tell it was hard for her. She said she had to give me a message that Daddy had sent to us just a couple of months before I arrived.

WTHeck? A message from the great beyond? Really? She is uber pragmatic and to have this coming from her lips was quite surreal. But I dared not speak for fear of stopping this reluctant flow of information. By the time she was done, she had been so thorough I had no questions. It went like this…

She said that she was awakened in the middle of the night by the coldness of the body of her husband lying next to her. He was under the covers, but his body was as stiff and cold as a cadaver. She shook him but he was unresponsive. She jumped up and shook him again while shouting his name, her panic raising to a point of hysteria within seconds of the first shake.  

She reached for the phone with one hand while shaking him with the other when she felt his body immediately become warm and he began to rouse himself as one does when trying to awaken from a deep sleep.

When he opened his eyes they were filled with terror, and his skin became wet in a thin but distinct sweat. She asked him if he was ok, assuming he had suffered some sort of seizure or extreme night terror, and asked him if she needed to call 911.

He said no, but give him a minute to compose himself. She left the room to get him a glass of water, and by the time she came back he was sitting up in bed. He told her he had an experience that was going to be hard to explain, but was imperative that he try.

He said he was asleep having some sort of dream when it was interrupted by being awakened and floating above himself where he saw my sister and himself sleeping peacefully in bed. He was frightened by what was happening and tried to wake himself up, but couldn’t.

This is normally where I would check out and express skepticism, but I stayed silent.

She continued on. Her husband was instantly transported to a dark place with dense fog and a long corridor he was compelled to go down. He didn’t want to go down it, he was terrified but was helpless against whatever force was controlling the experience.

He walked down the corridor a long time until it opened up onto a very small dock. The fog was gone and it was a clear starry night on a dock by the sea. He could smell it. He could hear the water lapping against the dock. There was a young man of about 20 years old in a vintage Naval uniform standing there who held out his large and uniquely lined hand to introduced himself as soon as my half-sister’s husband stepped out of the corridor and onto the small dock.

The young sailor introduced himself as the Daddy of the woman my brother-in-law had married. Her Daddy. My Daddy.

I was stunned at this, but continued to hold my tongue. Just barely.

My brother-in-law could not speak, but the sailor obviously was not expecting him to because he did not pause once the introduction was made. My Daddy went on to say that he had two Babies, he had another one in California.

My Daddy continued on in his signature amicable style (to know him was to like him) by saying that he had spent quite a bit of time on that dock and that his ship was finally coming in, but before he sailed he had been granted the rare opportunity to send his babies an important message.

Daddy’s message was this; he had been forced to wait on that dock until the time of his natural death. The never ending starry night by the sea until the ship to pick up his soul and transport it to it’s final destination finally arrived as originally scheduled. Jesus was finally coming to lift him up out of the dark into the eternal light…but it was imperative that the message get to his babies to not do this. No matter how bad or hopeless things may seem, we cannot and must not do what he did. Daddy told him to take care of my half-sister and to tell his baby in California that he loved her always.

My brother-in-law shook his head affirmatively, and then my Daddy turned toward the ship of lights which was coming into the small harbor and  illuminating his peaceful face. It was when Daddy turned that he let go of my brother-in-law’s hand and in the same instant he was being shaken awake by my half-sister.

Her story didn’t end there. She was stricken by this and demanded to know how he would know what Daddy would look like. Daddy had taken his life on the very night he had moved into the new house he had built for the Step-Monster, long before my sister had ever met her would-be husband. The photos of him had never been unpacked.

After meeting her husband to be in the year after Daddy’s death, she had never spoken of him, much less shared a photo. Her husband had never spent time with any of her family alone where a photo or conversation could have been shared without her knowledge. He didn’t care for the keeper of the box of photos anyway…the Step-Monster. Huh, what a surprise.

In the weeks that followed my half-sister became obsessed with determining if the experience was really a message. She was aware of the physicality of it by what she had seen herself, but that could of been just a strange physical manifestation of a dream.

She asked friends to give her photos of men in uniform from about the time my Daddy served in the Korean War on a battleship. She showed them to my brother-in-law and every time the answer was no. Her husband went on to say that his hands were large and unique. He described them in detail which sent my sister into fits of crying because they were her Daddy’s hands. She wouldn’t tell him that though. She wanted more definitive proof.

Finally she went to her mother (the aforementioned Step-Monster to me), and got a photo of my Daddy and his cousin who had also joined the Navy at the same time.

She brought it home just like she had done with so many other photos of young sailors by then. When she showed her husband in the middle of their meal, he dropped his fork and became slightly terrified again. He said the man on the right was the man on the dock that night.

The man on the right is my 20 year old Daddy.

Daddy

She was done with her story. I was stunned. We talked about why he wouldn’t have just come to one of us, and years later I would realize that we would not have been the empty bottle. It would have been dismissed as a dream. A simple misfire of grief stricken neurons.

I cannot tell you what that message did for me. I knew where my Daddy was, and he was finally at peace. He was finally home. I also held onto his warning. When times got  hard I would always remember what he said, and taking an early exit was never an option because of it.

Until January 2001. When my sister that I was raised with, my best frenemy, my charge, the one I loved since I could remember, the one I protected, the one I talked to every day on the way home from work, the one that could make me crazy and sane in equal parts…took her life.

The one when I was planning her funeral and how to care for her kids I felt my life force draining. The one when I told God that I didn’t want to live anymore and he asked me to hold on for an hour. .

The one where I didn’t care about sailing my boat into calm waters, I was happy for the dark watered eddy to swallow me up and end the struggle.

But I was too busy with my kids (my 18 year old son had found her) and the grief of my mother and figuring out with the 2 fathers of my 3 nieces what the new normal was going to be, and I had that pesky agreement with God that I would hold on for a little while.

But where was Susan, where was Susan, where was my beloved Susan? The horrifyingly familiar torture was back. I knew I wasn’t strong enough this time to endure a lifetime of this question endlessly circling back around…unanswered.

Just a few months after my sister’s death I got a phone call at 4 in the morning. I don’t normally get calls at that time (accept the one I had gotten months earlier telling me of her death), so naturally I didn’t want to answer it, but I did.

It was my ex brother-in-law, the father of my sister’s two older girls. Even after their divorce, he still loved her and always wanted her back, but she was done. So he just became a fixture in the family. We kind of forgot that he wasn’t really supposed to be there.

Calling at 4 in the morning though was not normal. When I answered the phone I didn’t realize I wasn’t breathing until he said hello and I exhaled. I asked him what was wrong and he said that he needed to tell me what had just happened to him.

Really? He needs to do this now I asked? I hadn’t really deeply slept since my sister died, but even though I was already awake I really wasn’t in a conversational mood.  He said yes he needed to tell me now,  he sounded terrified and in fact stated that he was.

He said he had just had an out of body experience. I half listened on the phone.

He said he was asleep when he suddenly felt cold just as he was transported out of his body and could see himself sleeping on the bed. He tried to wake himself up but couldn’t. He was suddenly at a beautiful park. The sun was shining with white puffy clouds dotting the blue sky and there were flowers everywhere.

He was looking around and saw my sister in the park. He tried to yell her name so he could get her attention, but he could not speak. He wanted to run to her but could not move.

So he just watched her. She was laying on the park bench and she was about 18 years old, the age when he first met her. My little sister had her Imaging Technician uniform (hospital scrubs) reclining on a park bench.

He had my attention now. I can picture my beloved sis at that age still, as I write this. She with such stunning beauty that I used to tell her she was adopted and make her cry.

He continued on to paint the picture and said he had an urgent need to do so. I let him.

He said she was relaxed and had her arms up and folded under her head as she stared into the sky above her. Her legs were stretched out on the park bench with one leg lazily over the other. The expression on her face seemed peaceful, until the second she jumped up and took off running.

A van came out of nowhere and an arm reached out of the front of it and pulled her in through the windshield opening.

I have always pictured the Scooby Doo van when he told this story and ever after. I’m not sure why.

The van then drove back to the park bench where the arm deposited her and all returned to how it had been when he first saw her.

He then woke up in a sweat and terrified. He felt warmth return to his body. He didn’t know what was going on.

I did. I knew exactly what was going on. The message wasn’t for him, it was for me. Jesus was letting me know he’s at the wheel. It’s all under control.

I knew my sister would be ok then. She is in good hands with the angels in the Scooby Doo van. The wait in that park for her ride to the ever after will be a long one though, she was only 40 when she died. She was scrappy, so I can easily see her trying to pull off an escape from her beautiful purgatory.

When I see her again I will ask her why she didn’t try that hard to stay in this one.

Right after I hug the crap out of her.

Until next time Dear Diary.

 

Pacific Coast Highway Day 6 – Gold Beach to Yachats, Oregon

Dear Diary,

I really couldn’t wait to leave Gold Beach, and ahead of me was the most anticipated accommodation on the entire trip – spending the night in the Heceta Head Lighthouse keepers Victorian bed and breakfast. I was very excited.

Little did I know that I would be spending the night with a ghost. Not just a bump in the night ghost, this one spent most of the night with me.

But that story in a minute.

The southern Oregon coast is a well kept secret. If I had my way, I would retire in some little house on this coast and live out the rest of my days in beach combing bliss.

oregon_isls

I finally stopped for a full meal. Even a greasy spoon tastes wonderful when your staple has been PB&J sandwiches. I followed 101 both alongside the Pacific as well as inland, although with the trees blocking my view of the sea, sometimes it was hard to tell whether I was inland or not.

I came upon Coos Bay Bridge, and what a marvel of engineering it is.

coos-bay-bridge660

As beautiful as it may be, like any other Californian I don’t like spending too much time either on or under a bridge. When you’ve lived in California for 50 years, unpleasant memories can pop up at the most inopportune times…remember the Oakland Nimitz Freeway collapse of 1989? Three levels of freeway reduced to one during rush hour?

I do. Just sayin’. nimitz-freeway-collapse1I had better get used to it though, Oregon has so much more water than Cali and the 101 will traverse many a bay, river, creek, and lake before I’m done.

I pass Florence and the Sea Lion Cave. I had wanted to stop there, but the reviews were lukewarm so I passed. Heceta Head Lighthouse was in my sites, and only about a mile away.

Please see Bucket List Value Added – A Ghost In My Room for a full account of this amazing place, the ghost that haunted me, and her suspected reason for doing so. The rest of this post will not make much sense without that reference I’m afraid.

After my night with Rue (also known as the grey lady) I can count her as one of the fascinating women I encountered along the Pacific Coast Highway, even if she was invisible and terrifying.

I took away far more than a ghost story from that night however. I was at total peace when I climbed back into my car the next day. I can’t say that the too tight twisted rubberband completely let go of the grief link, but I can say that it relaxed it’s grip on my soul.

I’ll never be ok with my Sister and Daddy choosing suicide, but I felt the weight moving off of me, like taking off a dark heavy cloak for the first time in a long time.

Rue also left me with a surprising truth.

We who persevere, who wake every morning and no matter how hard the day may be we endure (I always feel guilty when I say that, it’s not like I’m being tortured in an Iraqi prison, but so much is relative I guess). We who cherish and hold onto the hope of good times to cushion us when we fall on the despair of bad times. For those of us who trust in God even when it seems like he is nowhere to be found…we get credit for time served.

In the book of life it is noted that we lived our lives fully, we took the good with the bad and rode it out to the end. Our butterfly wings influenced the world in ways we will never know just because we kept flying.

For those who sought to end their strife/grief/pain in taking their lives, I think there may be a harsh reckoning in that they didn’t end anything. The ultimate price, for what did they pay? At least in Rue’s case, she was here a hundred years before I got here and how many hundreds of years after I’m gone?

There is tremendous merit in working through whatever it is that may be stealing our joy while we are still here on this beautiful Earth as mortals.

When I left this unforgettably scenic and mystical place the next morning, I took much comfort in knowing that we have a choice in which path we take, and the hard road reaps the most rewards.

I choose to stay and ride it out.

Thank you for indulging my ramblings, and I hope that by now my dear readers know they are really my diary. Until next time.

 

 

 

Did They Know How Much I Loved Them?

Dear Diary,

This is a question that haunts me. No matter how many times I hear someone tell me that they did, I want to ask them myself. I want to hear it from them. I want to reassure them if I detect even the tiniest hint of doubt. I want a chance to tell them, “I loved you then, I love you now, I will love you forever”.

There are moments in our lives that are frozen in time. Those significant occasions that stay with us. A marriage, the birth of our children, you know what I mean. You probably just flashed on one of your own.

Then there are those moments that are very subtle, but no less significant. So subtle that if we tried to explain them to someone else, the significance would get lost in translation. So we don’t. Until now dearest diary. I am going to tell a long story, but I swear it has a point. Try to stay with me.

I write not because I would flatter myself in thinking I could help someone else through the telling of my story, and not because the writing of it is cathartic, but simply because I hope someone else will know that they are not alone.

And I want to know that I am not alone.

My story begins with the arriving home from my first day of kindergarten. I had been ecstatic to start school. I had packed and repacked my lunchbox for weeks before the actual day. I endlessly rehearsed walking back and forth to the bus stop, even though it was only steps away from my Grandma’s driveway (my Mother, Step-Father, little sister, and me were living with her in preparation for the big move to Hawaii after the school year).

Me and My Susan

Me and My Susan

My only trepidation was leaving my little sis Susan. At 5 years old I was not aware of why I was afraid to leave her. I just was. I loved my little pixy of a sister more than anything on earth. She was a literal living doll to me. We were only 2 ½ years apart, but had different fathers. My biological parents divorced when I was 6 months old, my Daddy stayed in Oklahoma while my Mother brought me back to California (where she had met him while he was stationed after being injured in the Korean War). My mother went on to meet and marry my Step-Father and viola, 9 months later my living doll was born.

Backstory done, let’s get back to that day.

5 year old me was walking up the driveway, anxious to tell my Mother and 3 year old Susan about my extraordinarily wonderful first day of school.

I almost made it to the front door before I heard Susan calling me from above. Huh? How could she be calling me from above? I’m outside after all. She would have to be calling me from the sky.

I turned around and followed her voice. Not on the roof. I continued to follow her calling me until I got to the big tree by the driveway. I looked up and dropped my cherished lunchbox, now forgotten, to the ground.

My Susan is so far up this tree that she is actually swaying with the breeze. I can still see her clearly. Her little pixy bangs rustled by the wind, wearing her little dark green corduroy pants with the elastic waistband, along with a great big fearless smile.

I froze in absolute terror. Oh.My.Gosh.

How in the heck am I going to get her down? I can’t climb past the second set of branches before I get paralyzed with fear. I know this because I’ve tried it before.

I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I must get her down before she falls the 40 ft. or so to her death. I’m guessing it was about 40 ft. My 5 year old mind really didn’t know footage yet.

So I began to climb. Brand new school dress and all. I get to the second set of branches and sure enough, I am frozen. She is laughing delightedly because she thinks I am joining her up there.

I started to cry. I told her I couldn’t go any higher and I am going back down to have Mom call the fire department. Like helping a treed kitten. I’d seen pictures of that before.

Right before my terrified and blurry with tears eyes, here she comes scurrying down like a monkey. From branch to branch with the speed and agility of something that lived in a tree. When she got to me I hugged her so tight that she couldn’t breathe, and she looked at me like I had lost my mind.

I lost my mind with terror that something could have happened to her.

This was the subtle yet significant moment I just knew that our Mother could not be trusted to make sure that nothing happened to Susan while I was gone. I knew she loved us, she was just so fearless of danger she didn’t know to be afraid for us. Or I was just afraid of everything for both of us. I made it my solemn duty to take over the job of keeping my living doll alive.

Our Mother proved over and over and over that she was blissfully unaware of what we were doing at any given time. She didn’t ask where we were going or what we were doing or when we would be home. She just assumed we would, and she ended up being right.

From that moment in the tree on, I was the bossy big sister. I had to make Susan understand what was ok and what was not ok. Climbing to the top of the tree was not ok. Ever. And she minded me.

That’s why I was afraid to leave her on my first day of school, I was just too young to know it.

I didn’t get to see my Daddy as often as I would’ve liked. After we had lived in Hawaii for a few years, I finally found the guts to march up to my Mother and announce that I would like her to divorce Susan’s father and marry mine again. As a problem solver, it seemed perfectly logical to me. I was tired of being afraid.

Whoops. My bad. That wasn’t a good thing to do. I would later (again after I grew up) realize that people who live in a fantasy world do not like to be faced with the truth. Yours or anyone else’s.

At 10 years old, I was promptly shipped (I flew actually) to go live with my Daddy in Middle America. A man I hardly knew (but I knew he loved me, I still don’t remember how I knew that, but I did) and a Step-Mother with two kids of her own and my half-sister that was the product of my Daddy’s and her union. They named her Sue (what a coincidence huh?). She was 3 years younger than me, so I considered her to be Little Sue.

I learned almost immediately that my Step-Mother, hereafter known as Step-Monster, was no better deal than the cruel and lascivious step-father I had left behind. Even before we arrived to their home from the airport, my Step-Monster had gone through my white purse (my mother may not be aware of much, but was awesome at making sure Susan and I were impeccably accessorized) and discovered a half-eaten candy bar.

I had eaten only half in case I was lost somewhere between Hawaii and Oklahoma and had to survive on my own for a little while. I was used to having to think these things through. As it turned out, I only made the connector flight at LAX by sheer luck that someone spotted me wandering aimlessly around. My Mother had failed to fill me in on what a connector flight was. See what I mean?

My Step-Monster put that half eaten candy bar on the shelf over the kitchen sink as a reminder of how selfish I was that I didn’t bring the other 3 kids in the house one. I offered to split what I had left, but she thought I was just being a smart aleck. I knew what being a smart aleck would get you with my Step-Dad, so it wasn’t something I indulged in.

I was intuitive enough to know that my Daddy couldn’t handle knowing what my Step-Father was like. If I didn’t mention it, I could pretend like it never happened. So I didn’t.

For a year I looked at that candy bar every time I did dishes and thought about how selfish I was. Once again, I didn’t realize until I grew up that the candy bar signified something far different, and had more to do with my Step-Monster than with me. I don’t believe my Daddy ever knew about the candy bar incident. He never did dishes.

Then came the day that I broke my arm at school. I’d been dumb enough to stand on a teeter totter and when someone got on the other end,  I went flying through the air and did not stick the landing.

After my Step-Monster picked me up from the nurses office, she promptly took me home and did her own assessment of my injury. Evidently she decided it wasn’t broken and proceeded to shove it into a bowl of ice water to soak.

I have never known such pain before or since that day. I have been through 2 childbirths, too many root canals, bursitis, spinal surgery etc. Nothing can compare to how badly it hurt to have my broken arm pressed into a bowl.

After my workaholic Daddy finally got home and asked her why I was crying, the Monster informed him that my arm wasn’t broken, it was sprained and I was crying for attention.

It was another subtle but significant moment. The moment that I knew I was not safe there either. It was the same as the other family with one notable difference; I didn’t feel that I had to keep Little Sue alive. She was the apple of both her parents’ eye and my Daddy was such a kind man, his step-children were not at risk. In this family, it was only me that was a stand out. With all other things being equal, I felt an urgency from then on to get back to Susan.

The next day I stayed home from school because getting dressed was painfully out of the question. I had not slept because I couldn’t get my arm comfortable. I sat on the couch the entire day and did not move. I had to go pee but I dared not since it would require me taking my arm on the trip. My only ally (my step-sister who was the same age as I) was sympathetic but could do nothing to help me. I still appreciate that of her though.

When Daddy came home, I remember him taking one look at me and getting instantly enraged. I had never seen him angry before. A quiet transition for a quiet man, but a transition nonetheless. He was shaking when he told my Step-Monster to get her purse and get in the car because he was taking me to the hospital.

That was when he very tenderly picked me up and his voice broke when he whispered to me, “Don’t worry Baby, it will all be ok now”. And it was. Another significant moment. He was and forever would be my knight in shining armor. I felt loved, and safe as long as he was around. Which wasn’t that much.

At the end of that school year I was sent back to live with my Mother, Step-Dad, and Susan who had moved back to California by then. I would never leave Susan again. I told my Mom about my broken arm and the candy bar and other things the Step-Monster had done that year. Whoops again. My Mother and Daddy never got along after my disclosure. I learned to keep my trap shut.

I only got to see my Daddy a couple of summers after that. He begged me to come and see him and so I did, but I always had one eye on the Monster. I wasn’t 10 anymore. They were the best summers of my life if only because I had him and he had me.

As for Susan, it’s not to say that I wasn’t a typical big sister. She was beautiful and looked so different than me (I looked like our Mom) I convinced her she was adopted. She would cry until Mom assured her it wasn’t true. Then Mom and I would laugh. I got my wicked sense of humor from her.

And we grew up, Susan and I.

We were predictably out of the house as soon as we legally could be. I would spend as much time away from home as I could until that time. So would she. But we were always there for each other, no questions asked.

We had our first children 9 days apart. I accused her of not letting me do anything by myself. We laughed about it. I was already married and separated by then. Susan was married to her second husband by the time she had her oldest child at 18.

My Mother and Step-Father had also divorced. It was messy. All his dirty secrets had finally been exposed. My Mother never recovered after being forced to face the truth. She lost some of her marbles as a result. I hated that for her.

Susan would go on to have another child with her husband and then divorce (the second of 4 significant uncoupling’s for her).

It was around this time that I got the call.

There are those moments that are frozen in time because they are joyful, then there are those that are quite the opposite. When something so unconceivably tragic occurs that you are thrown off of your axis into a new plane of reality. Although nothing may change in your everyday routine, just knowledge of the event changes you, and consequently  the familiar is suddenly alien.

An example would be on 9/11 when the twin towers were hit. I remember it vividly, like it was yesterday. It is still a horror that will never be reconciled. We as a nation will never be the same. In a moment, an entire country was of a single mind. A single shocked, grieved, horrified mind. I’m still very very mad about it.

Those moments occur in our personal lives as well. Except the rest of the world is going on as if nothing happened while our world has been rocked beyond description.

*****Warning – Graphic Written Content – Post Contains Description of Cause of Suicidal Death*********

When I answered the phone on Januarys 19, 1988, my Step-Sister was on the other end and said that she had called to tell me something and I needed to prepare myself. Prepare myself?

Daddy was dead. He had shot himself in the woods behind the dream house he had just finished building for himself and the Monster. In fact, that very night would be the first night they were to spend in the house, but he wouldn’t make it.

He was still sitting upright in his truck when my Step-Sister found him. He had shot himself in the heart and thankfully for her sake, the scene was not gruesome. Most of the gore had gone through the seat behind him and wouldn’t be visible until his body was moved by others.

She told me after the fact that I screamed. I don’t remember. Everything after that is a blur until the funeral. I flew back to attend the ritual, but mostly to talk to him face to face. I needed to know why.

I waited until it was just him and I in the viewing vestibule and posed the questions…Why would you leave us? Why would you leave ME? Did he know when he blew a hole through his chest that he had done the same to mine?

Everyone who knew him was broken hearted. But his kids, both blood and by marriage, were forever altered. I even felt sorry for the Monster, although I have never forgiven her for wearing baby blue house slippers to his funeral. Odd thing to fixate on I know.

I never said it out loud, but I suspected her of having a part in this. It was just easier that way.

Everyone told me he had been having heart problems for the last two years but he didn’t want me to know. He didn’t want me to worry.The fact that he shot himself in the heart was probably telling, but what was the catalyst? Was it that since the house was done his obligations were complete and he could go?

He had died with my phone number in his pocket. Why? Did he want to call me and tell me good-bye? Was it meant as a message that he was thinking of me before he left?

Everyone who saw him in the few days before he died said he was the happiest they’d seen him in years. So you had already planned it and were so relieved to be done with life that it rendered you giddy?

He stole a handgun from work, which is what he used to end it. He’d never stolen anything before in his life. The world was such a heavy load to bear that you couldn’t go on until your natural death that you obviously thought was impending? What about us? Did you think about what we would go through when you were stealing that gun? Did you care about the anguish you had to know this would cause?

Were you worried about the hospital bills and left to save the assets for the Monster? Please don’t tell me that’s why.

All these questions I asked him, but he did not answer. He was gone.

Over the years I have gotten over the anger. The betrayal. The bad example. The abandonment.

But not the love for my Daddy and not the pain of knowing that he left me on purpose. Whenever he comes to mind, the love and pain rush in together. That is his legacy.

Now that I am 5 years older than he was when he left, I understand that the world gets cold. It gets dark. It lets you down. There is every kind of pain. There is injustice. There is cruelty. I understand it a little better, but it still doesn’t make it ok.

I can’t speak for God, but I suspect he doesn’t like it when you do his job.

I know that Daddy is waiting for me. God let him have one more trip to Earth to warn Little Sue, my step-siblings, and I that suicide was not the answer. But that is a story for another day.

I don’t need all of those questions answered anymore. Just one lingers because I can’t remember the last time I told him.

Did you know how much I loved you?

Susan helped me as much as she could, but grief is a journey that is mostly traveled alone. Especially since she had never met him.

I’ll never be over it, but I’m at peace with it. Most days.

If you are reading this and are contemplating suicide, I am begging you not to. Please just take a moment to call 1-800-273-8255 if you are in the US. If you are not in the US, please reach out for help anyway you can. You are not weak, you are not alone, and you are not hopeless. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Every problem is temporary. Please don’t do it. Hold on.

Susan and I went on with our lives. Fast forward to 11 years later. I had one more marriage and one more child, this time our youngest children are 6 months apart. I am still married.

Susan had two more children in between the oldest and the youngest. From two more marriages. Both of them failed. That’s a total of 4 girls for her, a boy and a girl for me.

Birthday parties were always spent together. We could count on 6 birthday parties a year.

We spent every major holiday together, at my house. It was more accommodating for all of our clan, and I think it also was the constant in our lives. No matter what husband was coming or going, no matter what drama was playing out at the time, we could count on holidays being the same.

Christmas 1998 came and went. Then my daughter’s 7th birthday party in the first week of January 1999 found us all together again.

Then the unthinkable horror happened. This time it was a child. One of our children. This isn’t supposed to happen.

February 20, 1999, in the days of dial up internet, both my son and husband had been on the computer all Saturday morning. Evidently my Sister had been trying to call.

There was a knock at the door. When I answered it there were two policemen asking if I am who I am. I say yes. I am not accustomed to having police looking for me. It’s already surreal.

They say my Sister is at the hospital emergency room and needs me to go there immediately. I ask why. They say they can’t tell me. Since she works in an emergency hospital room as an imaging specialist I am not instantly alarmed. Until they tell me she is in a different hospital.

I did not know that this is code for somebody has died.

My husband drove us to the hospital emergency room immediately. Panic began to set in with me. After arriving,I gave the front desk my Sister’s name. I asked them to tell me what is going on. They won’t look at me then. They ushered us into a room. They told me to wait for a “family counselor”. What is that? Why won’t anyone tell me what’s going on? I was in a full panic mode.

The family counselor came in and explained that my Sister’s third daughter Alisha, had just passed away. I can’t accept this news. It’s only 3 days before her 12th birthday. She is a perfectly healthy normal kid. There must be some mistake.

The counselor goes on to coach me on what I am about to see. Alisha is still lying in a private emergency room. My Susan won’t leave the room where Alisha is until I get there. I need to understand blah blah blah. I don’t hear what else she has to say. I interrupt her and tell her I must get to that room now. With or without her help.

The counselor sighs and ushers me in. My husband stays behind with the kids.

This is a moment I cannot erase from my memory. I would like to. I would like to go back and not answer the door for as long as I can. But I have to help my sister. There is no going back to the not knowing.

I walk in the door and Susan is there with her 2nd daughter and Alisha. Alisha still has a tube taped to her mouth where EMP’s tried to revive her. She is beautiful and looks like she is just sleeping. Like the night before when I saw her at Susan’s. She had the flu, that’s all. Susan had taken her to urgent care just to be safe, and they gave her amoxicillin and sent her home.

I later learn the chain of events that led up to this moment.

Alisha was sleeping peacefully early that morning and Susan left a glass of water on her nightstand when she left to perform an “on-call” x-ray at a nearby convalescent home. She left her 15 year old and youngest at home sleeping also. Susan was only gone an hour.

When she came home none of the girls were up yet. She went upstairs to check on Alisha. She was not breathing and face down in her pillow. Susan called 911 and started performing CPR, but it was too late. The coroner would later rule that Alisha had died from a particularly virulent virus that had caused all of her major organs to swell and then fail. She had officially died of asphyxiation due to her airway swelling and cutting off her ability to breathe. The coroner said that even if my sister had been home when Alisha went into distress, it would have been too late already.

I didn’t  know any of this at the time. I felt this was a bad nightmare that I needed to wake up from. Until I saw Susan. Then I knew it was real.

I cannot begin to describe the agony on her face. Her hands were out, and she was imploring me to help. Help her because her baby was gone and she didn’t know what to do. Help me. Please. Please help me.

I was frozen. I didn’t know what to do. I could not fix this. I was drowning in agony. My own, my sister’s, and that of my living niece in the room was more than any one of us could bear. Time stopped. The world stopped.

I finally convinced my sister that we had to leave. They had asked us to do so many times now. It’s past time to say goodbye. I have no idea how long we were there.

When we left the hospital my sister collapsed just a few steps outside the door. She couldn’t go home. Alisha’s jacket was still where she threw it when she got home from school just 2 days earlier. Her books were where she left them on the coffee table.

I took her home with me, along with her other two daughters (the oldest who is 17 lived with her father at the time). My husband made the funeral arrangements. It was too much for Susan and I. Susan stayed sequestered in my upstairs bonus room. I dealt with family when I had to, the rest of the time I was with her.

The funeral was beautiful. At least everyone told me so. I was singularly focused on my Mother and Susan. My Mother had lost one of her favorite grandchildren, and Susan was inconsolable. Susan went home a week after the funeral. That’s all I can say about it. It’s been 15 years and still Alisha’s death is excruciatingly painful to recount.

This time there is peace in knowing that God took her for reasons we can’t know. He wanted her and took her in the time that he was always going to take her. I’m trusting him on this.

I am still left asking the question…

Did she know how much we loved her?

We bear the pain without Susan now.

She made it almost 2 years. Susan blamed herself. There was no convincing her otherwise. I set her up with the best psychiatric care, I talked to her every other day on the phone, we moved my son into her apartment to keep an eye on her after her 2nd daughter went away to college. He was 19 then and not getting along with my husband. It seemed like a good idea. I had no clue what I was setting him up for. None of us did.

I knew Susan was struggling. She was so thin and it was increasingly a chore talking with her. She was angry. Angry at God, angry at life, angry with herself. She was depressed, but who wouldn’t be? We all were working through a tremendous amount of grief. She was on medication. I thought with time she would come around. I was completely unaware of what was coming. Did she? I don’t know.

She made it to the first month of the 21st century in the 3rd Millenium.

January 23, 2001. The phone rang at 4:30 in the morning. This is never a good thing. My hubby was at work on the graveyard shift, so I wondered if  something happened with him when I picked up the phone.

It was my son telling me that Susan was gone. Gone where?

******Warning – Graphic Written Content – Post Contains Description of Cause of Suicidal Death*********

She is dead. He had come home from a Super bowl party and found her in the upstairs bathroom, still sitting cross legged where she had bled out. The scalpel she had stolen from work was still in her hand after cutting her Carotid Artery. Her 7 year old daughter was downstairs asleep on the living room floor.

My son had seen all this. At the tender age of 19 he had the presence of mind to call 911 and the youngest daughter’s Dad to come and get her. He only lived a block away and got there in time to whisk her away still sleeping, before the emergency vehicles even arrived.

To this day this has been our secret. Just the three of us. We never told the youngest that she was home when her mother left. I know how it feels to have someone leave you on purpose. I thought it would be even worse to know that she left you on purpose knowing you would be alone in the house. What if this child had awoke before my son got there? The thought makes me shudder still.

I am still mad about it. Mad for the girls who lost their sister and now their mother. Mad for me. Mad for my Mother who lost her daughter, and I quite honestly don’t know how she holds onto the marbles she has left.. Mad for my kids, one of whom lost an aunt, and one who lost an aunt and his innocence.

I cognitively know that I did everything I could to keep her alive. But there is still the 5 year old girl inside me that feels like she failed. She is on the 2nd row of branches and can’t reach her baby sister at the top of the tree before she falls.

The only thing I remember from the rest of that day is the conversation I had with my husband, and the one I had with God. My husband came home immediately and started notifying family and the like. I don’t even remember what anyone else did.

I retired to the bonus room upstairs where I had housed my beloved sister less than two years earlier. I gazed out the window and said to God with certainty, “This is too much, you’ve gone too far. I’m not going to make it this time. It’s too hard. I’m not equipped. I’m done”. I remember it as clearly as if it happened yesterday.

I wasn’t asking him, I was telling him. I was never going to leave this room again. I could feel myself slipping into the deep end of the pool of insanity and not be able to get back out. I would go there where my Daddy, Alisha, and my sister never died. I could make that reality whatever I wanted it to be.

And then he answered me, “It would please me greatly if you could wait until tomorrow. That’s all I’m asking of you”.

I hadn’t expected an answer, but I considered it.

I couldn’t do it. I replied, “No God, I can’t make it. Tomorrow is too far away. I can’t hold on that long”.

His reply was instantaneous. “Alright. I would be well pleased if you could hold on for one hour”.

Had I already slipped into the pool and was really just having a conversation with myself?

No. I knew it was God because I would never use the term “well pleased” if I were talking to myself.

I considered it. An hour was a long time to be surrounded by this much darkness, but I would do it. Only for God. It was too much to hang on for me, my family or Susan’s girls, for my Mother, for anyone else. I would hang on for one hour for God only.

I am happy to say it has been 119, 580 hours since that one hour.

In this time I have witnessed 5 incredible children grow into beautiful human beings. I have been present at the holidays, the weddings, the graduations, the laughter and the tears, the ups and downs that is the rhythm of life.

Thank you God. Thank you for being well pleased if I would hold on for one hour. It wasn’t easy, and I am still left with the question that tears at my soul because I can’t remember the last time I told her.

Did she know how much I loved her?

When I see her again, I intend to kick her butt. Right after I hug her so hard her wings pop off. I know she is with God, he sent a message through to me. Another day I will tell you about that dear diary.

If you are reading this and are considering suicide, I’m begging you to hold on for one more hour, and in that hour call 1-800-273-8255 if you are in the US. If you are not in the US, please reach out for help in any way you can. Most importantly, know that God will be well pleased that you held on.

By the time we reach the second half, each of us has suffered loss. We’ve traveled our trail of tears. Some of us multiple times. We feel alone when the smile gets too heavy. But we are not alone. We have each other. We are all still here, and God is well pleased with us for it.

If you are busy taking a selfie, put your phone down. Look around. You may be the last hope of someone who is desperately trying to hold on. Pay attention.

As the survivor of the death of a child and the suicides of two of the most important people in my life, trust me when I say there is a time when you get back to good. I didn’t slip into the pool of darkness. You don’t have to either.

Until next time dear diary.