Disembarking the Crazy Train.

Dear Diary,

Seven years.

Seven years is how long it takes for me to think if I try hard enough, I CAN achieve that Norman Rockwell visit with my mother.

Seven years is how long it takes for me to forget that we can’t hope for Norman Rockwell, because we are more of a Norman Bates clan.

Remember that trip I took to the Redwoods earlier in the summer? I invited my mother to come along. In most families, that would be a good thing, but in mine that is a certifiably crazy thing.

My dear narcissistic mother.

Seven years is how long it takes for me to forget that she doesn’t like me. I shan’t forget again. Of course I said that seven years ago, and I did.

No matter how much I plan, how perfect I make it, how much money I spend, or how much I think all of that will make it Norman Rockwell…it doesn’t. In fact, I’m calling bullshit on you Norman Rockwell. I don’t think that ideal family picture exists for anyone. And if it does, I don’t want to know about it.

It started out so perfectly innocent, like in the horror films where you go on a family vacation and don’t expect that one of you will morph into a monster. A Momster I mean.

Except this is not new. This is not a virus. This is not the result of a rabid animal bite. These behaviors are based on a 57 year old dysfunctional relationship.

It’s always the same. She gets mad at me for some perceived slight and I cower and beg for her forgiveness. She stops speaking to me and I beg her to tell me why. I apologize over and over even though I have no idea what I did to warrant her anger.

So why did I pick the time my daughter and her fiancé were with us to stand up to my Momster? I haven’t got a clue.

Why did I choose to stand up to her in the confines of a Chevy Suburban where none of us were able to escape? I have no idea.

But I’m not sorry.

I am sorry that my daughter’s fiancé had to see me turn into a crazy person, but baptism by fire I say. Let’s see how serious he is about my daughter. Let’s see how much he can take. I am laughing as I type this. Crazy maniacal laughter.

My husband said it best when he compared my Mother and I’s relationship to fish. It’s good at first, but after three days it starts to stink.

I hate it when he’s right.

Ever since I have been home from that trip, I have been wracked with regret, anger, confusion, and worst of all…self loathing. So much self loathing that I imagine doing myself harm.

I don’t wonder why my sister committed suicide. I know why. I’m going to kick her ass when I see her again for leaving me here all alone to deal with our Momster.

I have healed just enough from our vacation to realize I may have gotten out of the Suburban, but I’m still riding the crazy train. And so is she. In fact, my Momster is the engineer.

And just like every time before, she is sending me the predictable hate mail. The follow up letters. The one where she uses bible scripture to outline why I’m going to hell. The one where she drudges up childhood failures. The one where she takes no responsibility whatsoever for getting angry for no apparent reason. She never remembers that part.

Luckily I was in Havasupai Arizona when the poison penned correspondence arrived. My daughter opened it and was horrified at it’s contents. She threw it away in an attempt to save me from it. Little does she know I already know what it says. It’s the same as all of the those before it, and the same as those yet to be written.

Because she is far from done with me yet.

But I am going to have to disembark the crazy train. I have reached the end of the line. As much as I have been trained (pun intended) to ride it out with her, I can’t do it anymore.

Until I forget again.

Only seven years to go.



Pacific Coast Highway Day 4 – Gualala to Trinidad, CA

Dear Diary,

I can describe Northern California in just one word – Spectacular.

But again, I am getting ahead of myself.

Maybe because I knew I would have the shortest drive day thus far ahead of me, or maybe feeling accomplished (having conquered a part of Highway 1 the day before that made the stretch between Carmel and Montereey look like driver’s ed), or maybe just being awoken by a gentle surf, I rose with such a feeling of tranquility.

I would say that on a map Gualala is unremarkable, but my soul had been fed by the Gualala River/Pacific Ocean estuary outside of my window, the redwoods at my back, and the incredible South African transplant I had met the afternoon before. Gualala is quite remarkable in that regard.

I also got to meet and speak with another transplanted (from my area – LA) very young couple who managed the motel where I stayed. They had moved here to make a go of the solitude of this place and hopefully start a family.

I encouraged them to tell me how they felt about their relatively new digs over the complimentary continental breakfast served in the motel office. This is another perk of traveling alone. There is nobody demanding your attention, so you have the luxury of directing it toward absorbing what the moment is offering.

Remember, my husband is the energizer bunny with the AAA personality type. He is always pushing me to hurry, hurry, hurry which leaves no time for anything but the task at hand.

The couple told me they loved Gualala, but the transition had been difficult. The nearest Walmart was 3 hours away (driving time one way) and while they had chosen this place because of it’s remote location, they found themselves longing for the option of stimulation (restaurants, theater, museums, sporting events, amusement parks, etc.) and conveniences (groceries, shopping malls, medical/dental care, etc.) that we who dwell in the city take for granted.

Still, they were not going back. The traffic, fight for parking, crime, cost of living, and the lines you must stand in for ANYTHING kept them on track to continue to adjust. What fantastic role models for braving new frontiers they were.

Yet another notch in my fascinating people belt.

With both my soul and stomach satiated, I packed the pony, put the top down, and hit the road again. I was blazing an unfamiliar trail from here on out. There is nothing quite like the excitement and anticipation of penetrating the perimeters of the familiar, liberating yourself from the chains of your own making that bind you to your quotidian.

I was ever so slightly becoming aware of something else. Just a dawn of awareness if you will.  The only way I can describe it is something twisted, turned, and pulled too tight. Like a rubber band when you twist it around and around while pulling it between your fingers to the point right before it breaks. The pinch points seem to be at each end, but in reality is every twist in-between.

I am not big on self-awareness, not because I have anything against it, I just never had time for such a self-indulgence. When self-awareness has crept in on its own in the past, it was usually as a result of a tragedy or horror. Not anything I wanted to spend any time analyzing that’s for sure.

What I was feeling was entirely new. A gentle awakening. A look inside that however fleeting, was generated by a calm desire to understand the obstacles lying between where I was, and where I wanted to be.

I also become aware that this journey was both physical and metaphysical. This is not something I had planned. Was it as a result of me taking this journey alone? Was it as a result of the time and distance I had put between the year’s events?

All I wanted to accomplish with this trip was to answer the question…WOULD I BE ALRIGHT ALONE. I still didn’t have an answer, nor did I have an answer for all of the rest of what was happening. It seemed like I was becoming more of a mess than I was straightening myself out.

The drive between Gualala to the point where I would turn back inland to join the 101 again was nothing less than stunning, and what I had envisioned when planning this journey. The sea became much more untamed than So Cali’s beaches, and I drove so close alongside it that I could feel the spray, taste the salt, and smell its incomparable fragrance.

Fort Bragg

Who needs Calgon? Take me away Pacific.

For the first time I was eager to go inland. I was looking forward to driving through forests of my favorite tree – the California Redwood.

Let me say I am not what you would consider a tree hugger, but when it comes to this tree I would do whatever it took to preserve it. The tallest and longest living tree in the world grows only in this place.

My love affair with these ancient living monoliths began when I first laid eyes on them as a little girl. My mother introduced me to them and her love for them was infectious. She in fact wants her ashes spread among them which is going to be a trick, since I’m sure that’s probably illegal.

I digress.

Since our first meeting, I have spent time with them but in inland places like Sequoia and King’s Canyon Nat’l Parks. Never enough time.

The old growth forests, like its mammalian equivalents the land elephant and ocean whales, were logged nearly into extinction. The giants were so threatened by tourists and loggers alike that the “Save the Redwoods League” was formed at the turn of the century and the preservation fight that continues today was born.

Since it takes a redwood tree 100 to 200 years to mature, every Californian (and for that matter everyone everywhere) should be concerned for their future safety.

Reacquainting myself with them by foot by way of the Newton B. Drury bypass was planned for tomorrow, for today I planned to enjoy them from my convertible by way of highway 271 (old highway 101) that parallels the new highway, but would allow me to drive through the forest on just two lanes.

It didn’t disappoint. I followed the Eel River through these magnificent trees for 31 miles.

Eel River

The sun dappled road and the perfume from these one-of-a-kind trees is like no other. It was so much warmer here that I was actually shedding layers as I drove. The sweet explosion to my senses was intoxicating. A one-dimensional photo leaves so much to be desired in capturing the experience.


I joined the 101 again to its 8 lane meander through this magnificent stretch of land as it bypasses the Lost Coast, and coincidentally the object of my Next Big Thing.

As I finally got closer to the coast again, the weather changed dramatically from sunny and warm to grey, wet, and cold. I approached Eureka with much anticipation, since I knew this place was lousy with old Victorian homes and a colorful history that only a town built by salty seamen and brawny loggers could render.

I kept putting back on layers with my pink t-shirt, pink sweatshirt, pink ball cap, and finally my new pink Monterey wind breaker with the hood pulled tightly over my ball cap as it started to sprinkle.

Hello Kitty does Pacific Coast Highway.

As I entered into Eureka I was met with a much different sight than I expected, which attributed to it being dramatically worse in my memory than it actually was.

Good people of Eureka, forgive me in advance of what I am about to say.

There was people wandering everywhere on the street in the middle of the weekday, and they seemed to be walking in a daze like zombies. I would later confirm this with a Eureka resident I met in Redding, Eureka has a serious drug problem.

There was quite a bit of police activity, and I became painfully aware that my purse and canon camera were laying on the passenger seat in my convertible for anyone to grab. I felt scared and vulnerable. I didn’t even feel safe enough to pull over and put the convertible top up.

The outskirts of town (despite being on the coast), were industrial and for lack of a better word…ugly. Why had San Francisco done such a good job with its shipping docks, and Eureka so poorly?

In a word…money. Eureka’s long financial descent started with the gold and lumber booms ending over the last century, then the economic hardships of the 70’s, 80’s, and most recently in 2009 had hit this city harder than it could recover from.

I would have thought coming from such a metropolis as the LA area would have better equipped me for this, but I was at a loss to ingest the desperation on Eureka’s streets. In LA prosperity and everything in between co-exist with poverty, but not in this place. There was no tolerance in any of it.

I was so glad I had not planned to bed down here. I couldn’t leave fast enough, and again I apologize to the Eurekans. I know I didn’t give you anything even resembling a chance.

On to my destination of Trinidad, CA. I was terrified at this point that Trinidad was going to be more of the same I had seen in Eureka. I felt very alone and…well, Hello Kittyish. I pulled off of the busy Highway 101 to Trinidad with much trepidation, all the while my mind was scurrying for a plan B.

I was “wowed” as soon as I left the interstate. The sun came out to meet me like a cheerful greeter through the dazzling mossy canopy.


I had a heck of a hard time finding where I planned to bed down for the night as it was a Bed and Breakfast and not your standard hotel. While it was beautiful terrain, I was still skeptical about its hospitality.

I finally found my destination and discovered a note on the door “Back in 3 hours”. I knew I was a bit early for check-in, but seriously? Now what was I going to do if I didn’t feel safe here? My window on options was closing fast.

I drove down the street a piece to Patrick’s Point State Park. This photo is not very good (taken from over my windshield again) so you can imagine how green it really was in 3 glorious D.

Patricks Point State Park

Green is not a color I am accustomed to in So. Cali.

After paying the park fee, I struck out with my trusty map of the small park to find, you guessed it, the sea.

I parked and reluctantly left all of my worldly belongings in my trusty steed, and headed out on foot to one of many trails in the park.

And there it was. The mighty Pacific in all her glory.


There was a couple on Outlook Rock (where I took this) that were taking turns snapping photos of each other. I offered to take a photo of them together, and I knew he was from LA by the reluctance with which he handed me his camera.

We have trust issues.

I took the photo and confirmed my suspicions…he was from LA. In fact, he was an oncologist and also on the board of directors for the UCLA cancer research center, where my niece (Susan’s daughter) was working to get her Masters Degree in cellular and molecular biology. When I asked if he knew her, he said he did. Small world eh?

He returned the favor by taking a photo of me with my camera, in all of my Hello Kitty Layers and Steroid Swelled glory.

Outlook & Me

I asked him where he was staying, as this was still a worry for me. He gave me the name of the exact Bed and Breakfast I had booked to stay the night and had found the “be back later” note on.

Thank you God.

It couldn’t be bad if this doctor was staying there. I asked him how he liked it, he stated that they liked it so much they cancelled their plans to spend time in Napa Valley so they could extend their stay.

Thank you again God.

Once again he put someone in my path that renewed my energy, filled me with happiness, and was such a genuine and unique people (both him and his wife) that my life is richer for knowing them.

We parted ways after chatting and I went on to explore the park with a much lighter heart. The sun was beginning its descent and I wanted to take in a little more. The photographic possibilities were endless.

The forest floor…

Forest Floor

The biggest slugs I have ever seen in my life were plentiful (I was careful not to step on one and make a mess of my shoes and their life). Ew.

Giant Slug

I headed back to the B&B and found the door open and my host inside. I had spoken to the owner on the phone when I made the reservation, and at that time she had prompted me to ask if any of the large rooms on the second floor were available for an upgrade.

I did so and she replied “No, we only have the smaller room downstairs available as all of our other guests are staying the week.”

I imagined staying in a coat closet with a toilet.

When I took my key and made my way to my room you can imagine how wrong I was when I opened the door and caught sight of my view.  My Room - Trinidad

Thank you God.

This was the small room? Really? I couldn’t even fit in this photo the office, changing/make-up room (yes a seperate room for that) and ridiculously spacious bathroom, but who cares with this view? And my own stove/heater thingy in my own sitting enclave. I was already sorry I was only staying one night.

I walked out onto the deck and gazed at Turtle Rock outside of my room. Turtle Rock was very loud with barking. What the heck?

I retrieved my hubby’s trusty binoculars (as it turns out the hotel provides them too), and I found the source of the noise…California Sea Lions. They were at the base of the gigantic rock and in the rough water surrounding it.

California Sea Lions Turtle Rock

I found out from the owners that the noise was primarily coming from the male bull of this harem and all of the young males who were attempting to gain access to the rock to rest, challenge, and mate.

The other smaller rocks around Turtle Rock had groups of the pinnipeds as well. I could just make out their shiny coats in the setting sun.

Small colony

I actually went out for a quick meal (opting out of my customary PB&J with trail mix combo) and came back to sit and sip a cup of herbal tea by the fake fire and the most glorious of views.


As I sat and watched the sun shine its last rays of the day, I quite unexpectedly felt one of the tight twists in my too tight rubber band give way. The Mixed Connective Tissue Disorder with Autonomic Involvement (ever after thought of as the Lupus Link in my mind) I had been in the fight for my life against for a year suddenly didn’t seem like such a heavy burden.

I was finally at peace with it. Suddenly, and with no conscience effort.

I was again mindful of the enigmatic awareness of what, I wasn’t sure. That peaceful self-awareness that had started my day had also ended it with an incredible gift.

The internal war I had waged against the dark passenger that had ravaged my body was over. I was at peace with the Lupus Link, and if it chose to take my life, then so be it. It has been in God’s hands ever since.

Sometimes the biggest battles are not won with will, but with grace.

Until next time dear diary, I leave you with my Trinidad sunset.

Sunset in Trinidad

The Clarity List

Dear Diary,

Clarity – [klar-i-tee]

Noun – clearness or lucidity as to perception or understanding; freedom from indistinctness or ambiguity.

The Clarity List. The most important list anyone will ever make, and you haven’t heard of it because it’s the last list anyone makes. If you’re lucky, you are given time to make it. I know because I had what turned out to be a dry run at it last year.

It’s the list you make when you’ve been given a death sentence.

Your life-force is an amazing thing. It makes sure you sail through life with very little thought to the end. Even when you’ve been given the death sentence, once it’s rescinded you go right back to where you left off without giving the clarity list another thought.

That’s a good thing.

But since I DID make one, I merged it into my bucket list.

It’s hard to trick your life-force into letting you make a clarity list before it’s time. Your mind is not easily tricked. It’s always on the job.

But you should try.

It’s funny that what I thought would be important to me at the end, was not.

I thought I would care about my husband’s new wife spending my 401k. I didn’t.

I thought I would want to jump on a plane and go to #1 on my bucket list (Tahiti). I didn’t.

I thought it would be important to itemize who got what of my earthly possessions. It wasn’t.

When I was staring the grim reaper in the face it was much different than I thought it would be. It was amazing at how quickly and easily it was to see what was most important.

Not money. Not places. Not things.


Only two things became important.

Spending time with people I love became paramount. On any terms.

Seeing the beauty around me. Have you ever seen how beautiful the world is when you are about to leave it? I hope you haven’t. But you should try. Even the smallest thing like a lady bug or the green of grass is so beautiful. It’s like seeing it for the first time. Really seeing it.


No fear. All those things that kept me awake at night like who pissed me off or how much money I spent against my budget or the to-do list for next week, simply fell away. None of that mattered.

All of my little nagging fears didn’t scare me anymore.

Except dying.

How much pain would I be in? How long would I linger? Have I done enough to insure I would go to heaven? Have I done enough to make sure my family will meet me there?

Have I told everyone how much they mean to me?


I didn’t regret any of the things I thought I would regret. But I did have a few.

I regretted all of the time I spent caring about what other people thought.

I regretted not being happier with the body God gave me.

I regretted not making my kids go to church every Sunday.

Hey, I’m just being honest.

After my death sentence was repealed, my life-force kicked right back in, but I have put a few things in place as a result of my clarity list.

I am available and present with my family now. No distractions. I drop everything when a friend calls. My door is always open to those I love.

And it’s closed to those that don’t deserve my time anymore. The drama loving, negative, destructive folks have had to be let go. It wasn’t easy (they don’t like not being enabled or having to do for themselves) but they take away, rather than give to the richness of life.


I have two little chests (one for each of my children) that I drop notes into every time I think of a story from when they were little or something I want them to know after I’m gone. Like how much I love them.


I am going on my first camping trip in 30 years (where there are no bears, I am still afraid of bears no matter what list I’m looking at) and although it’s not a place that is on my bucket list, the time I get to spend with my hubby unplugged and appreciating beauty wherever I am satisfies both items on my very short clarity list.

The most important list of all.

Until next time dear diary.

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.