Monday, May 20, 2013

What I'd Like to Be

I know the previous post was harsh. I would apologize, but it is the authentic reaction to reading those pages in my mother’s journal.  In those pages were far more things than my miscarriage. There were sad things and good things, touching things. Things that remind me how much like my mother I am, in a good way.
One of those things I interjected into the last post, because I didn’t want the whole thing to be so terrible, and the other thing is a secret so terrible that my mother never even understood it. Because I read so many pages in one sitting, instead of discovering it with me, I’m going to split it out into two more posts.  The first post, this one, is about who my mother wanted to be.  The second post, which you can read here, is about big bad dark secrets.
Sat July 15
…I’m reading a book about how to get yourself from where you are to where you want to be.
What I’d like to be:
A creative person who uses her creativity and life experiences to create a safe, fun place for people to learn—to empower people to transform their lives…
Some more synchronicity for you: I am reading a similar book. I’m not sure to which book my mother is referring here, but I’m reading one of mom’s books:
Something More: Excavating the Authentic Self by Sarah Ban Breathnach (available via Amazon, and no I do not get paid for endorsement).  This book is what actually convinced me to write the last post. I didn’t want to, even though that was what was pressing into me as something I needed to do. But I read two parts of the book: the first, about the choices we don’t make, which are choices (of course) we do make (or, in the immortal words of Rush, “If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice”); the second, about how, for some reason, we glean more from other people’s suffering and rebound than we do from just reading about the (jealousy-provoking) good stuff.
So there’s a heap of bad stuff for you in the previous post. Salacious, even. 
But this post. . .
This post is about wanting for myself what my mother wanted for her. I actually broke out in goosebumps when I read my mother’s words. This is, in fact, what I want to do with my life and who I want to be. Word for word. I want to use my creativity and my life experiences to create a safe, fun place for people to learn, to empower people to transform their lives. Mom and I would join SARK and others in this endeavor. I went so far as to inquire how to start up a communal farm for domestic violence survivors to teach them basic life skills and more complex skills at their leisure, somewhere where they would be safe from men while they healed (because battered women tend to be codependent, they usually need some time away from men).
I wouldn’t count this project, Talking Back, as fun. I do hope it shows people that we cope with anything, if we give ourselves permission to do it. I wrote at the beginning of this project that I cannot and will not feel ashamed of the things others did to me, and I am working so hard to uphold that.
But I do feel ashamed, of course, and always have. I do spend countless hours on the things I could have done differently. But another item in Something More caught my eye: That just because life would have been different if we had chosen differently doesn’t mean life would have been better.
I have two children. I have a husband I love more than sunshine and ice cream. I would never, ever have been able to connect with him if I had not been through deep, terrible trauma. I just wouldn't have the depth.
Is it worth it? Who’s to say? If Garth Brooks can say his life is better left to chance, perhaps mine was, too.  What I do know is that, having come to this point, having used this evil shit to have 3 blessings, I would like to have more blessings.
I’d like to give something to women whose eyes shut at my past—not in horror, but in flashback.
To you women, whose memories have clamored because of my words: There is hope. There is change. Stick with this project/book/blog (however you are experiencing it). There’s a vital difference coming up in how I handle the past and how my mother did: the difference between acknowledging the acts of others, and giving yourself permission not to wear the Monsters’ shame for them, and hiding the pain. There’s a fungus that infects some ants that makes them crawl up to the top of the grass, then die as the fungus breaks through their heads. The fungus releases its spores from this height and infects new ants, spreading all over this way. Shame is like this, too. It will drive you to go somewhere you can spread it, such as within your own family. And it will kill you.
For all the business-minded people out there, the takeaway from today is “shame=zombie fungus”.

I am exhausted for today, and there’s so much to share tomorrow.


Willful Bleeding

July 10 (Mon)…I took Jenni to the doctor—she was running a fever—she probably has a sinus infection. She also feels dizzy and nauseated. Thank goodness for insurance. Her bill including meds was just 17.00.
The moss roses (in the 90+ heat) are gorgeous!!!
Sat July 15
I called the hotline at Biodyne on Wed. because I saw I was doing 3 things on my “smoke signals” list. It was hard to reach out and I cried while on the phone but it was a great feeling to do something self-respecting for me—self-loving—I was nurturing myself. *I* was taking care of me.
___Come back to this part later: I’m reading a book about how to get yourself from where you are to where you want to be.
What I’d like to be:
A creative person who uses her creativity and life experiences to create a safe, fun place for people to learn—to empower people to transform their lives.________

(Moving ahead about a month, will go back in time again on the next post):
Wed. Aug. 23rd.
I have been avoiding writing in the journal because I didn’t want to face my feelings. I have been down and getting angry. I don’t know how to deal with anger. I’m angry at Ron—angry at what he did to me and angry that he doesn’t want to win me back. I’m angry at Jenni for running away on Fri. and causing me to worry for so long on Sat.
. . .Jenni is letting the dog use her bedroom for a litter box—last night she bled all over the couch and rug up here. I slept 10 ½ hours last night and I’m still tired. I’m just tired of this life. I’m tired of all this responsibility. I want to go to the library and read—escape into books.

I read ahead this weekend, because I knew some of these entries were likely to come up. When I saw the first, I had to keep reading until I read Aug. 23rd.
At least now I know the day I lost my first baby.
My mom actually asked me that night, “Jen, is there any chance you could be pregnant?” and what I thought to myself was, “not anymore,” but what I said was, “No.”
Dear Mother, what’s coming next is not something you ever, ever wanted to hear. It’s not anything I wanted to live through, either, but it happened.
During this summer of 1995 (and I didn’t remember it as the summer right after you tried to kill yourself) I snuck out of the house a lot.
I just wanted to get away. It started when Dad still lived there with us, so that might have been the previous summer, and, in fact, probably was.  I had recently met Andy, recently begun seeing him as more than a friend, but we weren’t exclusive, or even sleeping together.
Mom, the Friday night you think I ran away, I suppose I did run away. I went to a party.
I don’t even know if I can write this.
I had a friend, who, looking back, is better classified as a pimp. I had a pimp who curried favor with people by loaning me out. I wanted him. I wanted him so much. I was drunk on a deep voice and the greenest eyes I had ever seen. We talked all night long, sometimes falling asleep on the phone. He was the only one who knew how much I hated my father. He was the only one who knew that I wanted to die, but he never gave me permission to end it. He wasn’t even attractive. But I wanted him and he nearly always said “no.” I used to skip school in the mornings and walk to his house to curl up in bed with him, even though he would barely let me do anything. I wanted him to love me and take care of me. I wanted him to protect me. Instead, he whored me out, put me in positions where I was surrounded and woefully outnumbered, where to get out of the situation, I’d have to play the role they wanted me to play, because they were going to take what they wanted whether I cooperated or not.  Over and over he did this, always as if he were doing me some kind of favor by “inviting” me out to go under the bridge (and I mean under, as in under the concrete “floor” of the bridge that the creek ran over) where the cave was on Union, when really I had no choice. If I wanted his attention, I had to go. I had to do what was asked, or I would suffer it being done anyway and losing a man who (I thought) cared about me in the process.
You have to understand, too, the psychology of someone molested and then given an abusive father. I was DYING for  male attention and approval. I literally would have killed myself for it.
Anyway, Mark had a new friend, Derek. It was probably the first time Mark had ever been invited to a party at Derek’s house. The whole gang, who had been doing me all summer long, and one of whom was probably responsible for the dizziness and nausea of July 10, was going to be there. And so were several of Derek’s friends.
It took about 10 minutes into the movie E.T. for the first of Derek’s friends to realize why I was there. In fact, I think it was Derek’s little brother. I was led to a room. I swear there were two beds in the room, but it could have been two separate rooms I was in that night. I spent a lot of time “away.”
Derek’s brother turned on his CD player. Apparently he was fond of the song “Gangsta’s Paradise,” this little wigger who would  have pissed himself if he ever saw anyone darker than a Mexican. He put the song on repeat.
I put myself on repeat.
As guy after guy came through the room, parts of the song would break their way through the haze:
“Why are we so blind to see /
that the ones we hurt are you and me?”
“I’m 23 now will I live to see 24? The way things are going, I don’t know.”
I was 15 years, 40 days old.  I didn’t know, at times during that night, if I would live to 15 years and 42 days.
Friday turned into Saturday. At one point, two guys who had already had me once wanted to do me again, but tag-team, this time. The terms had to be negotiated. Mark negotiated them down to separate visits.
I actually sat at Mark's foot during this, and he petted my head like a dog.
Eventually, we all slept. I was supposed to catch a ride home via Mark before the sun rose. This was important, because although I had left a note on my pillow (I always did) saying that I was out, it did say I would be back on Saturday.
When Mark and I woke up Saturday, most of the people were gone. At one point, Mark and Derek got into a fight, and Mark ran out of Derek’s house.
And left.
And now, I was stuck at Derek’s house, with only the two guys who had wanted to tag-team me and Derek, who was a big scary guy who had given me rugburn on both of my shoulder blades and my ass.
I had had nothing to drink but one beer the night before, and bodily fluids.
“What am I supposed to do?” I asked him.
“I don’t know. Jay can take you home.”
I looked at Jay and knew I’d never make it home alive. “I’ll fucking walk,” I said.
And I did. And it took 6 ½ hours. I got so thirsty in the dry Colorado heat that, when I finally made it into Black Forest and chanced upon puddles by the road in the shade, I drank straight from them. Two of them. Drank them down to the mud.
And still I had to keep walking.
It was almost 7pm by the time I made it home. I remember my mother telling me something, but I needed a drink and to go to bed.
I knew something was terribly wrong.
And something continued to be terribly wrong until the 22nd, when I was having terrible menstrual cramps. Andy was concerned; he’d never seen me in such pain. A few times in the hallway, I dropped down to my knees from the pain of the cramps. But I always had terrible cramps. Usually not drop-on-the-floor bad, but not-able-to-speak-bad.
And then I felt a chunk of something fall out of my body.
By the time I got to the girl’s room, with Andy hot on my heels, I was covered in blood. Pieces, giant clots, kept falling out of me. I begged him to drive me home, which he did.
He put me on the couch, and I laid there all night.
At one point, I took a bath, more for the heat than for the water. For those of you who are familiar with menstrual cycles, you’ll notice that the cervix usually closes up in the bathtub. You might get one or two nasty surprises, but that’s it.
Not so for miscarriages.
Piece after piece flowed out of me. Every time I pushed, a red cloud erupted. Chunks of clot expelled into the tub. By the time the cramps eased at all, The water was so full of blood that I could not see my hand even ½ inch below the surface of the water.
I was in agony. I had taken at least 8 ibuprofen in a shot to dull the pain. I couldn’t do anything. Couldn’t go to bed, couldn’t do anything.
Whenever we were sick, we slept upstairs on the couch. It’s just what we did. Mom’s bedroom was upstairs, mine was downstairs.
I had never been sicker in my life.
I realized before too long that I was miscarrying, that I had been pregnant, which I had guessed at before, but I knew for sure now. The next day, in a fit of grief, I gathered the towels and the dirty pants and washed them, then searched through what was left in the washing machine to find my baby.
I never did find my baby. I didn’t even know how far along I had been.
My mother confronted me about the blood on the couch and floor. “Jen, is there any chance you could be pregnant?”
Mom, why did you ask such a ridiculously easy question to duck? Why did you use that tense? You knew better. You just didn’t want to know.
I’m just tired of this life. I’m tired of all this responsibility.”  But what responsibility, mother? You ducked the responsibility of taking me to the doctor, of knowing the truth of the blood. You ducked the responsibility of actually seeing and dealing with how Dad treated us. You caught Grandpa molesting me and yet still allowed us to be alone with him afterward.
What responsibility, mother? You sit here, in your journal, blaming me as if I had willfully bled upon your couch.
You’re tired of this life? Really? Because your husband left you? I’ve been gang raped all summer long, not knowing any better and with no one to protect me or to help me or even to tell me that it was wrong, or that I had a choice about anything. That I could survive being without a protector?  Don’t you think I was tired, too? I was killing myself, mother. Don’t think I wasn’t.
You know that PSA announcement from the 80’s where the father goes into the boy’s room and finds the cocaine, and he yells at the kid saying, “Where did you get this? Who taught you how to use this?”
And the kid finally shouts out, “You, alright? I learned it by watching you.”
Mother, I am so angry with you right now. I am so angry with Mark. I am so angry with me, with my grandfather, with my father.
But I didn’t bleed on your couch or your rug to add burdens into your life. I hope you know that. I wasn’t trying to be a bad daughter. I didn’t mean to run away. I was trying to go somewhere I was wanted, because God knows I wasn’t wanted at home.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Persona non Grata

The goal of this project, Talking Back, is to be honest. To post my real reactions. But now that I know it’s out there for everyone to see, it’s hard to be authentic.
So we’re going to try again:
Continued from  July 8 (Sat), 1995
I made out my suicide prevention card and put it in my wallet. I wrote a letter to Paul G. Quinnett, Author of Suicide, The Forever Decision, because I was grateful for his listing reasons why suicide is not a good idea.
When the police and paramedics were swarming our barren apartment after she passed, they needed to gather all of her current medications. I tried looking in her purse, but it was so full of half-used tissues, candy, diabetes equipment, and old receipts that I simply apologized to the people around me and upended the whole thing on our table. Some of what I found were cards she had made for herself. I found these in the pile that had come from her purse, in her wallet, and later—when we cleaned out her apartment—all around her living spaces.

Throughout high school and college, I had this persona. I was brash. I was independent. I was an unrepentant freak. I dressed up every Friday the 13th as if it were Halloween, usually in a Vampire Bride costume of some sort (My mother was not opposed to this; she even picked out a few wedding dresses for me). Part of that persona is real; I am weird at the best of times, but I’m generally repentant about it, or at least dreadfully sorry about my fears of embarrassing those I love. The thing is, no one I loved was around back then. My mother was lost, gone, either out with dad or, after the Attempt, sleeping. I didn’t love my father (who was absent anyway when he wasn’t a jerk), my sister lived elsewhere when she wasn’t caring for me. For two years I had a boyfriend I loved, but he was as much of a freak as I pretended to be.
So the persona held.
Part of this mask I wore allowed me to believe I had some control over my life. I pretended to be predatory, seductive. I flirted with everyone and everything, and I always, always thought I wanted to have sex with people. But the wrong people would be seduced. There’s always a “Howard Wolowitz”, but creepier, everywhere you go. People who have decided that if you so much as breathe in their general direction, you are “asking for it.”
You know the oldies song “Lightning is Striking Again” by Lou Christie, where it sounds like the singer is date-raping the girl? Yes, that is the excuse men use: I can’t stop. You brought me here (sexually), we’re past the point of no return.
Well, this brash persona would crumble right about then. I didn’t know how to defend myself. I took a guy on a date once, when I was in college, and I drove him in my car up a mountain with a barely-maintained road. There was a hatchet in my trunk (there was always a hatchet in my trunk).  And those were the only terms I would go out with him. I was even very clear about it to him. I said, “I’m driving, because if you fuck with me in any way, I’m driving your side of my car into a tree and killing you. And if you’re not dead, I’m going to grab my hatchet and cut off pieces until you are.”
But would I have done this? No.  As soon as he did anything I didn’t want (and he did), I just went passive, like I always did. Like you do, when you have a history of men ten times your size holding you down. Like you do, when you are used to having your ass kicked.
Many people asked me why I was so quiet during sex. 
I’m not. I’m quiet during rape, right when I shouldn’t be.
I despise—completely despise—people when they say, “If that had happened to me, I would have. . .”
You don’t know what you would have done. You are not that person. You probably have never been in that position. And if you were in that position, you might be just as frozen as the next girl.  I applaud women who find it in themselves to fight off their attackers, but I sympathize strongly with women who freeze, or who go along with the act just to get it over with. I sympathize with that moment where you believe you have absolutely no control over your life or even your body, because I’ve been there. Many times.  Hell, I lived there for probably fifteen years.

When my Mom tried to commit suicide this first time, her persona got ripped away in a very public fashion. The person she sometimes was but always pretended to be—happy, funny, joyful, powerful—froze, and the person who left was “The Little Brown Girl” as she called herself.  She couldn’t stand to fake it anymore, and I think she was starting to realize she had even been fooling herself about the person she was, like I had been doing for almost my whole life.
I’m glad my mom made these cards. I look at them all the time; they are put on display in our house.

 I just wish they hadn’t been necessary.

I wish my mother had known that suicide was not a good idea, and didn’t need someone to tell her. I wish she knew she was strong, instead of hiding her natural strength with a false shell. I wish she had always been this vulnerable, so she’d have learned to live with her true self long before the persona was taken away from her.
I wish she had known the wounds she needed to heal before we all dumped salt into them.
Personas are needed, sometimes, to get through lifes requirements. But Personas are not welcome--non grata--when we are alone. We should be ourselves. We should be present. We should count ourselves "in" when it comes to life. We are here, personas non grata.
It's up to Me.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Things My Mom Lived Through (Art)

This is a picture of things my mom lived through:

This includes: A tornado, pills/booze/suicide, an earthquake (I think), a hurricane, a broken heart, being in a robbery where the perp had everyone at knife point (and then tried to kill himself), forest fires, surgery. I'm not sure what the baby is. . . I'm guessing either it represents childbirth or it's a miscarriage. I'm not sure what the waterfall is.

She also was stung by jellyfish, bitten by an eel, got a concussion on Cheyenne Mountain (my fault-shouldn't have let her hike), got Giardia, went White water rafting many times, loved and was loved.



Let's get one thing very straight: I loved my mother.
I still do.
I loved her when I was a kid, and after she tried to kill herself, I learned to love the woman she became. About a year before she died, a change in medication brought back the mother from my childhood, of whom the mother for the last 20 years was a pale shadow. The real deal was back, full of questions, regrets, jokes, and smiles.  She cried at minor chords again, became curious about everything again, and began drawing again.
She shared her art with me, her love of Garden of the Gods, the great things she learned, and she also cried with me about things she wished she had done differently. She listened intently as i told her of the person who had been wearing her clothes for 20 years; also a funny, sweet person, but not always present the way she was bursting out with life.
I loved every incarnation of her, and I think my need to understand her helped me get to know her very well.
We even talked about sex, which was a little weird at first but we were both able to discuss it, and how powerful and spiritual the right sex could be. She, like I, wanted other women to know that they could have sex that was more than two bodies slapping.  And we could say that it took us years and years to learn this about sex.  We never went into details, but we could talk about it generally like this.
I want you to know, as you read this, and read my reactions to this journal, that my mother was not all bad. She was not a bad mother. She had difficulties in her life, and my hope is that, by the end, you will see and understand better.  But for now, just take my word for it: She was a wonderful lady.

July 8, 1995 (Sat).
                I hope I read all the above if I ever date again. I'm feeling better all-around. I still feel like being quiet and by myself more than with groups of people. One or two would be nice--but not a group.
                I said goodbye to Anne (psych) this week. Another Goodbye! 1995 is one hell of a year! Lesley seems nice, I won't see her for 2 weeks but I can go to the crisis class any day if I need it.
                Last night I stayed by myself for the first time while Jen was at Arry's for their joint birthday party sleepover. I slept for 14 hours. It was so nice.
                On the 4th of July I went shopping and bought 2 outfits--the pastel green and the jungle outfit and a couple of summer blouses. Then I realized the day was slipping away, without me doing anything about it, so I bought barbecue from Bennetts and Alice came over. Alice didn't want to go to the fireworks so Jenny and I went by ourselves and saw the fireworks. I realized I could do it--go to public places. It was so cold we wore winter coats, blankets and the old bedspread.
                I still wish for someone to take care of me and take these burdens off my shoulders. But I don't wish for it as hard as I did. Then, I even wanted to be admitted to the mental hospital. Now, I don't. I wish Bass would call me and seem to want to take care of me but I have to accept that *he* doesn't want that.
                I scoffed inwardly at a woman in our self-esteem class who said she wanted a man to feel complete, but then I realized I was having sexual fantasies about practically every man that I saw, talked to, etc. Isn't that dependency on a man, too?
                I got a card from Genie and Lydia called to invite me to a barbecue next Sunday. They are so good to me.
                I can even eat crackers and red hots now.
No one is ever going to believe me that I didn't write my comments before my knowledge of the entry for the day, but I didn't. I mean it.
I never meant to be a "burden" to my mother, but I think, at this point, any responsibility was hard. After she passed, for the first three weeks or so, I wanted a standing ovation whenever I did *anything*, including taking a shower by myself. When I didn't get the applause, I got angry and hopeless.
People don't know what depression feels like, but I describe it as this: everything is so damn hard. Calling someone on the telephone is hard. It's like picking up a boulder one-handed.  Getting out of bed is the worst possible thing you could do. Your whole head is screaming at you not to do it, but you force yourself and then there's absolutely no reward; only more criticism.
Everything is squeezing and pressing on you. Not just physically, although there is physical discomfort involved, but mentally. People's expectations and judgments are pushing at you and pushing at you, shoving you into paths and courses of action you would not choose on your own.
There's just no point in fighting, because you're not fighting anything tangible. You are fighting inertia. You are fighting antipathy. You are fighting apathy, too. How do you fight apathy? You don't care. How do you fight antipathy? The more you hate that you hate doing something, the less likely you are to do it. It's a terrible cycle to be in.
When I was 10 I was put on anti-depressants. Partly it was for bedwetting (hello? sign of abuse?). Partly it was for behavior. I took myself off at 11.
I went back on anti-depressants at 20. Took myself off again. I may have gone on one more time.  I hate them. Not only because I don't want to be like my mother, who was on anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, and anti-psychotics, but because I don't like to be so blunted.
I fight depression all of the time. Sometimes it's worse than others. I have a lighter case than my mother, I think, but the same processes go through my head. Probably not just as intensely, or perhaps I learned to manage my thoughts more because I hated drugs. My point is, I know whereof I speak. Mom knew I knew what it was like to live with depression.
What Mom didn't know, because I never, ever told her, that I, too, had a problem sexualizing every relationship I had. Well, almost every one.
It's not uncommon for victims (survivors) of abuse, especially sexual abuse, to have this as a long-term side effect. In fact, you show me a slut, and I'll show you someone who was abused sexually at some point in her life. It's not hard; 1 in 6 is the official number. In my experience, it's 1 in 2.
I hear you, Mom. I hear your journal. I know it was hard. You can't hear me, but I'm giving you a standing ovation right now. You did good July 4, 1995. I still remember it. We went to the Air Force Academy. We had a great time. I loved spending that time with you. It was one of the first of a very many good memories of just you and me.
Good job.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mother's Day

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. My first without her. My husband came through, with such an outpouring of love and understanding that I ended up crying more from being touched by the beauty of his spirit than for mourning my Mom.
Thank you, sweetie. I need that bolster of love before I dive back in.
July 1 (Sat), 1995
Why do I always hope? Hope slaps me with a large hand. Hope always hurts. Why don’t I ever learn? Why do I try to get the attention of withholding men? This is what I want in a man:
·         Someone who is eager to talk to me
·         Someone who is eager to see me
·         Someone who puts me before his work
·         Someone who likes to give me things
·         Someone who likes to take me places
·         Someone who reserves time for me
·         Someone who is a gentleman towards me
·         Someone who sends me notes and cards
·         Someone who is not afraid of commitment
·         Someone who does not work out of town
·         Someone who sends me flowers.

My mother wanted my husband.
This is the thought that rings in my skull. And in a way, I’m glad. I’m glad because she was happy for me. I’m glad because she got to experience almost all of these things, even if it was just in a son-in-law.
But I’m split in the middle. My breath catches. If I could have wished my husband on my mother, I would, but I can’t. I want him for me. Not a step-dad.
This is weird, I bet, to even think about these things. I want my mother to be happy. I want her to have a man like my husband. But she can’t have him. Not that he’s a commodity to trade—if he chose to date my mother I wouldn’t and couldn’t stop him, I’d just run away and take a lot of showers and try not to imagine anything.
Three days before my Mom died, when we thought she was just loopy from a change in meds, we brought her home to live with us. For those three days, she got to see what being treated like a princess was all about. Hubby made her tea. Hubby drove her anywhere she wanted to go. Hubby talked and talked and talked to her. When I wasn’t home, she was his top priority. When I was home, she was our top priority together. We spoiled her rotten.
Partly, she engenders being spoiled rotten because she was so damn sweet. Partly, we wanted to convince her to live with us long-term, because her mental state was not always reliable.
I’m glad this is my Mother’s day entry.
She was lonely, and angry at herself for falling for someone (is this Dad, or some other man?) who does not care about her. But, once in her life, she experienced devotion.
And I stop here, because I know there’s darkness ahead, and I don’t want darkness today.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Toilet Paper Slayer

June 30 (Fri) 1995
Now I’m eating solid food and went back to work on Tuesday of this week. Even though I only work for 4 hrs. a day, I get exhausted—I come home & sleep 2-3 hours each afternoon.  I still feel like my mind is off—not right. I can feel it. I feel depressed tonight. I didn’t go to Cowboys, even though I’d like to see Bass. It didn’t feel like that would be a good place for me. I wonder if my anti-depressant is working? I don’t dream (that I can remember) or cry.
As a child, I do not recall my mother sleeping all the time. After The Attempt, a 12 hr/night sleep was absolutely required. When she worked 12-hour shifts, and couldn’t get 12 hours a night, she’d have to sleep in on her days off. And she’d have to take naps.
I just read an article on this, not too long ago. Patrick McNamara, in Psychology Today “Dream Catcher: the Neuroscience of our Night Life”.  The basic premise is that depression is a lot like REM sleep, and antidepressants also end up suppressing REM sleep. I wonder if this is also why she slept 10-18 hours a day.
Depression, or the antidepressants, made her sleep, but robbed her of her dreams (and I mean that fully loaded).
I grew up on stories of my mother’s crazy dreams. The Toilet Paper Slayer was my favorite dream of hers. In it, she was being pursued in a church by some crazed lunatic with a very large butcher knife (the same one she chased her brother with, perhaps?).  The church had long flights of stairs that went up and down and sideways like the MC Escher drawing, and Mom would scurry through the maze of steps, but the lunatic with the huge butcher knife would always be just a few steps behind.  Eventually, Mom would find the ladies’ room, and she’d run in. She’d pick a stall and lock the door, somehow not minding that the crazed killer could come under or over the door at his/her leisure.
Sure enough, after sitting on the commode for a moment, she hears the bathroom door open. She watches black stocking feet (a ninja?) slowly walk past the stall she’s hiding in.  She covers her head as she watches the feet enter the stall next to hers. The feet disappear! The prospective murderer must be standing on the toilet! Even though she does not want to, my mother looks up at the top of the bathroom stall, and as certainly as pigs shit, here comes the silvery knife down toward her.
She’s gearing up to scream, when she notices the knife has stopped in its decent. The arm hangs over the bathroom stall wall, swinging with the knife still clutched in its hand.
Swinging like a pendulum, the black-clothed arm and the gleaming steel knife.
Perhaps if the killer thinks he’s cutting me, he’ll go away, she thinks.  When the arm swings past, she reaches the toilet paper roll and pulls it.
The knife cuts through the toilet paper, clean.
Mom waits for the arm to pass again, the pulls the toilet paper.
And again.
As long as she pulled the toilet paper, she knew she was safe. This could go on for hours (in her mind), her pulling of the toilet paper and the swinging arm slicing it as neatly as could be.
All fear would vanish, and the absurdity of the dream would leave her laughing as she woke.
She loved her dreams; the crazier, the better. Her whole zaniness came out through her dreams. Her unique perspectives on life, the depth of her imagination. I could lose myself in my mother’s head.

 (Continued from June 30, 1995)
Last night the girls and me went to see Bridges of Madison County. Clint Eastwood looked so old—it made me feel sad.  The movie was good and Meryl Streep was superb. Today is Dina Saunders’ last day of work and Karen called tonight to say she is leaving for Pueblo & closing down her shop—she split with Art. She’s going to take care of her mother who’s dying. I have 4 days off (three the 4th). If I don’t start feeling better I will call the Hotline number. It’s hard to ask for help.
…Let me amend my previous statement. I could get lost in my mother’s head. I think I am lost on this one.  I see you are focused on negative events, and I see you struggling in the beginning for the positive. People dying, divorcing, getting old—is this what fuels your depression? Do you think of you dying, of your divorce, of what Dad did to you? Do you think it is work that’s making you tired, or do you realize now that this feeling may never, ever go away?

(Continued from June 30, 1995)
I guess I had hoped for an epiphany after I didn’t die. I thought I would get some clarity about why I was supposed to live.
But nothing comes to me.
Do I have to say it aloud? OUCH. I wish maybe my 14-year-old self had been even a half of a bit of a reason. Or the 19-year old daughter who was struggling to feed herself, let alone take care of her little sister.

Fuck, mother!

No Thought of Rescue

(Continued from June 23, 1995)
How could that have been me? That part of me was so calm and so detached. My mind wouldn’t allow me to think of the reasons why I shouldn’t do this. I had no second thoughts—no desire to be rescued.
Less than a week before she died, my mother told me the story of her preparations 20 years ago. What possessed her to tell me, I don’t know. She confessed a lot of things that night. Vickie thinks she was already actively dying. It’s possible. She sure spoke of things she normally kept from me.
She said she was so afraid of being discovered and thwarted—so paranoid—that she packed the car slowly throughout the day. Now, we lived in the woods. Deep in the woods, where we could not be seen by anyone, not even our next-door neighbors. They call it “black forest” for a reason.
But she snuck her bags into the car anyway, trying to look casual in case someone realized she was up to something. She packed the car 2 hours before she left, so when she left, she could just hop into the car and go.
I often wonder what she was wearing to kill herself. Did she dress up? Sometimes people dress up, or pick out their funeral wear. Is it sick that I want to know that?
She drove hundreds of miles away for privacy. To a town she didn’t know, but liked the look of. She booked a hotel. She got out the pills. Some reduced anxiety. Some slowed down her heart, because she had an arrhythmia. Some were anti-depressants.
She took them all.
I wonder, too, if she ever had a moment after she took them that she wished she hadn’t, but I don’t think so.
She laid herself in her bed (she told me this right after the Attempt), and went to sleep.
She never expected to wake up vomiting.
And vomiting.
And not being able to even make it to the bathroom, because her muscles would not follow her directions anymore, she was vomiting so hard.
The irony: she thought she was going to die. I didn’t point it out to you then, Mom, because I knew it was mean to point out, but I thought that bit was kind of funny in an exasperating kind of way.
She crawled across the floor, vomiting more. Screaming vomiting. Whole-body heaving. She didn’t hear the emergency people come in.
Did they break down the door? Did they get the key?
Did you leave the door unlocked?
20 years later, I still hope that there were some things, even small things, you did to facilitate rescue. Even if you say you didn’t want to be rescued.
And if you really didn’t want to be rescued, then that must have royally sucked: failing again. Failing at failing in life. Can’t even kill yourself properly, is probably what you thought. Yet another thought that kills people regardless of a suicide’s “completion”.
It’s funny, but that’s really how they (psychologists, police, etc.) refer to suicide attempts: complete or incomplete.  I think they knew what I discovered rather rapidly with my Mom:
Suicide is always successful.
Even if it’s not “complete”, the mother I had before the Attempt was not the mother I had after.
I remember my mother sipping her Ensure, because she could not eat solid foods. She cleared her throat a lot. She joked, even. But she was never one to shrink away from talking to me about the hard stuff, if I wanted to know it.
I don’t think I did, not that time.
I can’t remember if there was hugging and crying. My mom and I had a lot of hugging and crying. Not too long ago—last year—Mom was in the hospital (voluntarily). I came out to help her transition to home, and to keep an eye on her for a little bit.
God, my heart throbs typing this and I haven’t even gotten to it.
Alice had needed some time off Mom Duty. I was recently laid off, had a nice severance package and nothing to do. Of course I was out there in a flash.
I stayed in a hotel down the street from her. Her apartment was straight out of “Hoarders”, and the smell was something out of my childhood I could not tolerate for long. The sliding glass door was unlocked, so I let myself in, navigating around the matted cats and over the piles of books and discarded mail.
“Jen?” I heard her croak.  She stumbled out of her bedroom; I could see the piles of clothes behind her like parti-colored mountains.
Her cheeks were red, shining with tears. Instinctively, I put my arms out to hug her: “Yeah, Mom. What’s wrong?”
   A long time ago, when I was a prickly teen with an attitude problem, I had a sad day. I don’t remember what it was about, only that, the second I saw my mother—the absolute moment I saw her—a sob broke out of me. She put her arms around me and I demanded to know how she did that; how she just pulled down all of my walls and left me a little child in need of my mommy.
This day, a year ago, the same thing happened in reverse. She burst out into a sob:
“I’m sorry I was a bad mother!” she nearly shouted in my ear.
I squeezed her. “You weren’t a bad mother. You always did your best.”
“I didn’t protect you girls. My job was to protect you.”
“Mom, it’s OK. We turned out OK, right? So you must have done something right. Give yourself credit. You know it wasn’t Dad.”
Her whole body shook. I shushed her and hugged her, rocked her like she would have done for me—had done for me on so many times except—sadly—when it really counted.
“I love you. You did just fine. It’s OK.”
We hugged and cried.
I don’t remember if we hugged and cried after the Attempt. I’m sure we did, but I don’t remember it. I remember her sipping Ensure. I remember being angry a lot.
I wish I could kick the kid I was back then, and tell her that her mother needed support. That there would be time for anger and pain later, but that at this moment, Mom, you needed compassion and love and I don’t think I gave you any at all.
But I was so lost, Mom. I was so hurt and you knew nothing about it. You thought the worst thing in your life had just happened, but I was living the worst things in my life and I couldn’t tell anyone. You thought that you leaving me and trying to kill yourself were traumatic, and they were, but it was just another in a long line of traumas. I’m glad you didn’t know then what I was going through. Maybe, though, if you had known before the Attempt, you wouldn’t have done it, you wouldn’t have left me, betrayed me, abandoned me.
I want to say the first time I was raped I was 11. I’ve since learned, though, that I was molested as a child by my Grandfather, my father’s father. This knowledge helps explain a lot of my behavior before and after the rape when I was 11, which, when I was living through my behavior, I didn’t understand.
An odd fact about acknowledging molestation: The stories you tell about the perpetrator change. When I was kid, Mom told a funny-ish story of our getting ready for my maternal grandfather’s funeral. Grandpa R. was helping me get dressed, when suddenly I shrieked “don’t touch my vagina!” and ran out of the bathroom. Grandpa came out of the bathroom red-faced, and mom always said, “He was just straightening your tights, you know, this way,” and she’d give an upward karate-shop motion, as if he were pushing the crotch of my tights up with the side of his hand. “I knew he wouldn’t do anything.”
But one time, when she was visiting me in Buffalo, she told me that she had caught Grandpa once, on top of me, in the act of kissing me in a wildly inappropriate fashion and me trying to get him away. She had yelled at him, he had promised he would never do such a thing again. I was about three.
And ever after that, this story, when she re-told it to me, this story of being six and getting ready for Grandpa S’s funeral, had a different ending.
“Well, Grandma was in there with him, so I don’t think he was doing anything, but it was a funny way to fix up your tights, instead of just pulling them like everyone else would, and boy, was his face red.”
And it wasn’t funny anymore, or a story you’d tell strangers, as she had done before.
So, until I learned I was molested, I thought the first time I was raped was when I was 11. I’d watched enough Montel Williams and Oprah to know that when girls get raped, they either go frigid or become sluts.
And, of course, now I wouldn’t be a virgin when I was married, would I? I must already be a slut, and I’m just giving out slut vibes and everyone secretly knows I’m a whore except me.
Of course. This is how people think. Especially since I had “asked for it” by being flirtatious on the bus, and the night of, when I thought I was safe.
I could put myself in a nice box labeled “slut.”
So for the next 20 years, until I met my soulmate, I thought I was having sex when really I was just being raped over and over again.
And again.
And, at 14, by the time my Mom tried to commit suicide, and 15, which I turned right after, I had been raped or assaulted (because, even if you use the “asking for it by being flirtatious” argument, I still said “no” on a surprisingly frequent basis) by 10 men/boys, 6 of whom were over 18, and half of THEM over 21. There may have been more; after so long, I just don’t care anymore. Not that it doesn’t matter, but just that I’m well aware of both the existence and prevalence of monsters in this world. They can’t hurt me now that I know the secret: it wasn’t my fault, I didn’t deserve it, and I don’t have to carry them around if I don’t want to.
But back then, who could I tell? The worst offenders were friends of my sister’s, and she’d feel personally responsible. My parents were super-religious. My mother was too fragile. My father would have blamed me. He’s probably blaming me right now.
I actually remember the day, the exact moment, when my father told me all I needed to know about how he felt about my writing, our family, everything. He was downstairs watching TV. I was climbing the stairs to go get something to eat.  He said “Jen?”
“Yeah?” I put my hands on the artsy vertical stairwell beams like jail bars. I was probably 10 or 11.
“If you ever write about this family, I’ll disown you.” His steely gray eyes bored into mine. What was I supposed to say? Did he know I had just written a story about a girl whose father beat her so she ran away and killed herself? And that I outlined a recent episode in which he pulled me off the couch—the same one he was sitting on for this statement—and broke my tailbone? And hit me and kicked me and I don’t even remember anything else, because I “went away” in my head as fast as I could. Of course, I jazzed it up even more for the story, made it worse, as if the real thing hadn’t been bad enough. And I think the Dad in the story didn’t have a reason to beat his daughter up, and mine did (I had gotten a D in math and had left my math book at home so I couldn’t do my homework and bring my grade up. Because, you know, that 5-th grade math report card is oh so important to your subsequent life and the life of your father that a beating is an absolute imperative).
What I said was, “OK.”
In my house, if Dad said “jump”, you didn’t ask “how high?” You jumped as high as you could and hoped to Hell it was high enough.
So: “OK.”  And I ran upstairs.
Mom swears—no, she’s dead, she doesn’t swear anymore, she swore—that she didn’t know about Dad. That he wasn’t abusive to her (Can you hear me cough “bullshit!” into my hand?). That if she had known, she would have done something about it.
But he did abuse her. He emotionally abused her. He was unable to care about her. To give a shit, and to her, it was the worst thing anyone could do. He didn’t value her. And for she who already felt worthless, nothing could have been worse.
And I, as a selfish teenager, could not bring myself to care enough about her, either. That’s not entirely fair to me. I had nothing left to give—it had all been taken by then, all but my anger.
I wish I’d had more of myself to give to you, Mom, in those days after The Attempt, and in all days. I hope I showed you more compassion than I felt then. Because I did understand. I know what it’s like to want to die. I understand not even thinking or wanting to be rescued, because you simply aren’t worth it. I never thought of rescue, either.


Suicide Career

For too long now
There were secrets in my mind
For too long now
There were things I should have said

“Tears of the Dragon” by Bruce Dickinson

It's not that mommy hits that hurts me, it's when she goes away
Get home from school all by myself and won't see her for days

 My mother died a month ago. It might as well have been yesterday, or today, or just now. Sometimes I can’t breathe. Not that I can’t inhale a breath, but that the thought of breathing in one more goddamned breath in a world where my mother isn’t just reinforces her absence, and isn’t something I  want to do.
I don’t want to die.  I know what that feels like, and it doesn’t feel like this.  Wanting to die is this bleak, gray place with razors all over the place pointing at you. Pointing, but not touching. Just threatening to touch.
No, this doesn’t feel like wanting to die. This feels like those razors are already in your chest, right at the edge of your breastbone, and when you breathe in, they slice deep.
Sometimes. . ..
Sometimes it’s like she died twenty years ago, and I just now got her ashes and put them on my mantle. Sometimes her death is this old robe I’ve been wearing to bed—it used to be scratchy, but it’s been washed and worn so much that it’s fine now. Comforting even.
Today it’s just sad. I can hardly tell the period back ache from the aching in my gut. She could be on a really long trip, and I could just be missing her like some temporary thing. I know better—or worse, in this case. I know she’s dead. That she’s not coming back.
This moment, it’s actually ok. It’s life as usual, which will continue on, until I realize I feel OK about my mom being dead, and then the horror at myself and the guilt will wash over me and I’ll want to throw up, and cry extra for good measure.
Repent, all ye who have sinned against thy mothers.
But it hasn’t hit yet, so I’m still hanging in that great pause, that great Eye in grief’s storm, waiting, waiting.
I wait a lot. I wait for motivation to tackle even one item on my now 172-item to-do list. The only thing I can seem to actually do is add items to the goddamned list.
I wait for reality to sink in often. It never really does. The only time my mother’s death is real is when it’s hurting me.
I don’t even know how she died.
I don’t even know why she died.
I keep writing dieded, like a five-year-old would say. Like I can put it even further in the past by adding more “eds” to it.
My mother deidedededededed.  But then it just keeps saying “dead”, and that’s far too present-tense for me.
Right now I’m waiting again. Waiting for the courage to open up the shiny journal in front of me. I know this is the first one, because it says, “It’s been 2 ½ weeks since I tried to kill myself.”
That’s when she really started keeping a journal.
We had all gotten journals. They all had double spirals and flowers on the cover. I think Annie’s was purple, mine was small flowers. Mom’s was big red and pink flowers. Maybe mine was purple. I don’t remember. I do remember that, until my marriage, every person I had ever slept with was in that book. I threw it away when I got married—actually, before then, when I broke up with my boyfriend (who became my ex-husband) and moved in with my mother—I threw all my journals away. I wanted a new life.
I threw mine away for a new life. She started one for a new life.
I slide the book against the green plastic of the table. One day, we will buy furniture. Some day that I’m not trying to cremate my mother, or settle her affairs. Next to the journal, there’s a vase of roses and lilies from my Mom’s memorial, but the reflection’s nearly lost on the cover of the journal.
It smells like secrets.
It smells like shame.
The flowers on the cover don’t make the shit inside smell any better, and the flowers on the table can’t make a death any prettier.
My finger curls around the cover. Cardboard, strong. A good writing surface, which, with the spiral spine, makes for a great journal. And pink. My mom loved pink.
I love my mom. I don’t want anything in here to ruin that.  But I want to understand. I want to know her better. I want to know what she thought.
Don’t I?
Then why won’t I open the damn thing?
What am I waiting for?

Chapter 2:
June 23 (Friday), 1995.
It’s been 2 ½ weeks now since I tried to kill myself in Santa Fe.  I can’t really believe it myself. It seems like it was a nightmare and I haven’t really experienced it—just dreamed it—and now I’m awake and everything is like it was, although I’m still not eating solid food, I’m still not allowed to be alone and I’m still shaky and tired.
I’ve read accounts of people who say, “I will never forget that day, August 21, 1927, it was a muggy Tuesday, when we found my mother. . .”
I absolutely DO forget that day.
I don’t remember Mom not being home. I don’t remember coming home from school. I remember my sister raiding the cupboard with me for food, when she came to pick me up to stay with her. I remember her telling me to go away, when she picked up the note that was on the dining room table. I remember police. I remember my mom’s friend Genie, stepping in (and, ultimately, all over us, which was probably a good thing, but I resented her for it because she was pushy and loud). I remember Devil’s Food Snackwells. . .Mom had been rationing them, but my sister and I took them from the pantry and put them in the King Soopers bags to take to her house.
The last time we were in that pantry together was when I was 11. My sliding window had fallen off its track, and she and I were putting it back in. She was outside my garden-level bedroom, I was inside. I hit the window with the side of my fist, and it was like it exploded. I remember seeing, slow-motion, the shards of glass fly outward to my sister, who was thankfully wearing a thick sweatshirt (the same white sweatshirt my mom had stenciled red hearts and flowers on, after one of her trips to Michaels. . .one of the few times she actually finished a project).
That shirt might have saved my sister’s life. That, and the angles of the shards, which were still largely vertical when they impacted her.  It was only after the glass had fallen, tinkling and screeching onto the dirt, that I noticed my fist was bleeding. Dripping blood.  Bleeding way too fast to control.  We wrapped my hand up in a towel, and then opened up the pantry where hung a first-aid poster. I had to read the directions to my sister, who was hysterical. Exert pressure. Place wound above heart. My sister frantically called Cowboys, the bar where my parents danced. There was no point in calling the paramedics; they were 45 minutes out and we could get to the emergency room in 20, if Alice punched it. She punched it, although I had to remind her to push in the clutch.
She was there for me then, too.
But that day, the day of the note, the day of discovery, there was no poster in the pantry to tell us what to do. We did what all humans do in the face of tragedy: we looted.  We opened every drawer and cupboard, grabbed every edible thing. We stuffed bags full of whatever we could find. I don’t think I even brought clothes at first. I don’t remember. I remember Snackwells. I remember police. I remember Genie. I remember a discussion about my father.
But that would have had to have been later on, when they found her.
I can’t remember if they found her right away, in Santa Fe.  It could have been the same day; it could have been another day. There were police. There was Genie. I don’t think there were Snackwells.
The details were short; Mom was found. She was in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She had taken pills, enough pills to kill herself 12 times over. A customer in the motel heard her vomiting and vomiting and vomiting, and called 911.
They gave her activated charcoal; they pumped her stomach. She was in the hospital. She might not be able to speak for a while. She had burned holes in her esophagus, and God only knows what other damage there could be.
But she was alive.
That’s what they kept saying, “the important thing is your Mom is alive and she’s going to be OK.”
There was Genie, there was police, there was my sister. A discussion about Dad:
Genie: “He wants to drive down there to get her,”
Alice (just turned 19): “What, why? No.”
Genie: “I can go. I told him I’ll go.”
Alice: “Yes, you go. I can’t go; I have to work and take care of Jenni. You go. Dad shouldn’t go. He’s going to—what?—go be her knight in shining armor? A little fucking late for that.”
Genie: “I’ll go, then, and bring her home. You’ll be OK with Jenni? Do you need anything?”
Alice: “No, we’re good.”
We were good, for however long I stayed. This apartment, their new one on Academy, was so much better than the old one at El Vecino.
The El Vecino apartment had Rene, a friend of Jay’s. And Ron, who had an iguana and long, beautiful blonde hair.  Rene was the dark horny devil and Ron was Jesus.
The first night I ever spent there, Rene wasted no time sneaking into the living room with me and getting his hands under the blankets. I was 14. He was 28.
By age 14, I was old hat with rape. I knew what I was supposed to do: lie still and it’s over faster. Men will take what they want, no matter what, and it just hurts more if you struggle. I remember him on top of me, grabbing his cock to put it in me. I remember how much it hurt when my skin split. Who knew Mexicans had such big dicks? I whispered—hoping—that it wouldn’t fit. At 12, Damon had tried to fuck me. He was a big black guy with an insane kind of intensity, but it literally could not go in. He was too, too big, so he settled for a blowjob and took me back home.
No such luck with Rene. He gave a great heave; I went away in my head.
I don’t know when I learned that trick. I remember always having an active imagination, and now, in my mid-life, I wonder if an active imagination is, in itself, a symptom of abuse. But this wasn’t even imagining, it was simply checking out. Like passing out, but people think you’re still conscious, and you can respond to questions. The “you” that is you just isn’t there.
I came back with him pumping furiously, about to come. His dick was like sandpaper, I was so sore. There’s no way there wasn’t blood. He was huge, and not giving up.  Eventually he came and flopped on me, his big round belly crushing the air out of me. I beat at his shoulders until he rolled off. His hair was soft on my face, I remember. That, and his smell, were the only things I liked about him. Otherwise, he’d been creepy, and now I knew why.
The next day, he tried again when Alice and Jay were working. But Ron was there, watching TV on the couch, and as Rene got on top of me (clothes still on), rubbing his crotch against me, and me telling him to get off, Ron became Jesus.  He grabbed his keys and, as casually as you please, winged them right into Rene’s temple. Almost lazily he said, “Get the fuck off of her before I kill you.”
Had he been backlit and haloed in all of God’s glory, he couldn’t have been a better savior to me at that moment. You have to understrand; before then, any man who saw me being assaulted either a) did nothing or b) joined in on the assault.
I think I came. I know I tossed him his keys back and said “thanks”.
Years later, I had a dream that Rene was a giant Sandworm, like in God Emperor of Dune, and he was licking my vulva, trying to eat me out. His tongue felt like a hot slug between my labia. It was the slimiest, most disgusting thing I’ve ever felt. Maybe he did go down on me while I was checked out; I don’t know. Maybe someone else ate me out some time, and I was remembering that. Maybe it was all dream-fiction. Whatever it was, the dream was so vivid and unpleasant I wouldn’t let anyone go down on me for almost 20 years, and hated whenever anyone went down on me anyway (because, for some reason, no one has ever heard me say “no”, not matter how often or loudly I say it).
So the apartment on Academy was a definite improvement. They had no Rene, and they had cable.
I had never had cable in my whole life. I watched Lifetime movies. I watched Mtv (back when they had music videos).
Alice and I scrounged for change to buy Taco Bell, because it was the cheapest thing to eat. Sometimes I could go to KFC with her—or maybe that was only once—and have a meal.
And they had a pool.
I swear, I never had a better vacation. No one raping or molesting me, CABLE TV, Taco Bell, a POOL. . .Not that I could *thank* mom for trying to commit suicide, but, in my selfish and oblivious teenaged brain, I was actually making out pretty well, considering how bad it could be.
One day, Alice and I were floating around in the pool. I mentioned to her how angry I felt at Mom, despite the 3-star accommodations.
“Like, I know I’m supposed to feel sad, or bad for her. But I’m so mad. And I want to thank you, too, for taking care of me.”
These are how conversations with my sister go. Don’t fuck around; just say it. No judgment.
The most frustrating thing about people who survive suicide attempts (well, the most frustrating things for the survivors), is that we can’t even be allowed to WANT you to feel as badly as we secretly want you to feel. You should feel so bad about it that you’d want to kill yourself all over again, but of course we can’t wish that on you, because it would be cruel. And it would defeat the joy we really feel at your survival.
But the anger and betrayal we feel at your attempt is real, too. We are glad you survived, but angry you tried in the first place. You should feel guilty. You should feel badly about it. But, of course, you already do, or else you wouldn’t have tried.
How could you?
That’s the elephant in the room. How could you leave me and Alice with nothing but fear and doubt and debt. How could you abandon me, unformed, unable to care for myself in our culture?
How fucking could you?
And the worst of the worst: you can’t even answer that, because you can’t remember. It was like it was all a dream to you…a nightmare. There are no answers in life.
But now I’m shaky and tired, too, Mom.  Remembering is too hard; I don’t know the timelines. I’ve had to email Alice and ask her about what happened in what order 20 years ago, and drag her back into that whole mess, probably ruining her day.
The whole period of time is gray and wavy and foggy. Little episodes emerge, like childhood memories, but time got lost in the intervening years. I remember effects, but the causes have been washed away, or turned into fearful rules with which I guided my behavior to try to avoid being hurt more.
As much as I’m glad, Mom, that you can’t remember what it FELT like to try to kill yourself, I can’t feel sorry for you now for being shaky and tired.
I close the book, close up the gaping hole in my heart. I may not remember much, but the hole in my heart feels the same as it did 20 years ago. I miss my Mommy. Not the person who couldn’t cry, but my Mom, who cried at the hint of a minor key in a movie soundtrack.
I miss the Mommy in whose lap I would lay my head. She’d scratch my scalp, check for lice, and then start picking and scratching gently and any buildup of anything on my head. Mamma Monkey, grooming her little chimp. She could do it  for hours, reading or watching TV, scratching and scratching.
I miss the Mommy who would happily ignore me while I crouched on the arm of the couch, pretending to be a predatory bird or a velociraptor.
I miss the Mommy, who, when I asked her the definition of a word, would go on and on for a half an hour about “flavors” and usage and context, and, when I would walk away, she’d call to my retreating back, “Go look it up!”.
Which I did, every time.
She’d hum in the kitchen, forget the tune she was humming mid-way, and then take off on a new song without ever noticing. And when you told her, she’d laugh, and tell us the story of how, when she sang to Alice as a baby, Alice would put her hand over Mom’s mouth, so she hummed instead.
I actually loved my mom’s singing voice. She would never have been a star, but she could carry a tune and her voice was always soft and sweet.
I have to remember these good things about my mother, these sweet and funny things, to counteract the horror, the anger, the shame. I can’t let my final memories of her be colored only by her suicide career.