Ken, my son who lived with me, killed himself the day after Christmas. I’m still in shock and disbelief. I’ll write more later..
I walked forty steps with my walker today. Breathless afterwards and had to rest, but it’s a beginning.
The past few weeks have been brutal, physically. Today was more of the same but I decided I can’t go on like this. I have to do something! So I pushed through discomfort and fear, clenched my teeth and just DID it! Jenny walking beside me. The sun is shining, the weather is mild. I’m alive again!
Yesterday was your birthday, Scott. You would have been 50. Thinking today was the 10th, I’ve thought of you all day, trying to picture what you would have looked like and what you would be doing.
I can’t believe you’ve been gone 14 years! It doesn’t seem nearly that long.
You once told me that if you killed yourself, I’d get over it and go on and live a happy life. You were wrong, Scott. I haven’t been happy since you did that unthinkable act. Yes, I’ve gone on with my life. What else could I do? And there have been some moments of joy, not in living, but in nature.
I have not felt happiness in a long time.
Last Thursday, Beulah, one of my closest friends died unexpectedly. I’m still in shock. Then Connie, another close friend, was admitted to the hospital with clots in her lungs. Wednesday, your brother, Ken, found out he has a hole in his heart. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what’s wrong with him.
I’m not so well myself.
All this makes me wonder about life, it’s purpose, and what happiness really means. And what difference any of it makes since it all ends and is repeated and ends again.
I resent it that we have to die, that we go through life with ambitions, dreams, desires, failures, accomplishments and then have to go and leave it all behind. We take it with us, as if we had not walked on this earth, breathed in the air, watched the grackle with the broken wing, read Mary Oliver or Thomas Merton, seen “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off” three times or eaten that piece of cherry pie. Two hundred years from now, none of it will have mattered. Sometimes I think of those who lived hundreds of years ago and I honor them in my heart.
This day is almost over. I’m relieved. Next month, we have to get through the anniversary of John’s death. And so on. It seems that every month, there’s a hurdle to get over.
I’m trying very hard to find pleasure in something. To experience faith, and hope, and love. To enjoy giving while losing so much. To find a reason for it all.
I’ve been a giver all my life. What happened? The well has run dry.
I thought I’d review my experience of 2012 tonight and maybe list some wishes for 2013, but my mind took me to another place. Earlier this evening I started a novel by Helen Garner, “The Spare Room,” and I started thinking about my son, John, johnshome.wordpress.com , who died of colon cancer in February, 2001. The book is about two friends, one of whom is dying of cancer. But when I thought of John, Cancer wasn’t what I thought of.
I remembered an experience John had at a new middle school he attended after we moved to Connecticut from Indiana. He was taken into a booth in the boy’s bathroom and beat up by a boy from a corrective institution. The boy was there on some kind of grant from the government, I believe, a trial program for delinquent boys. The boy took John’s watch, gave him a black eye, a busted lip and a messed up face. John was borderline autistic, a mild mannered, gentle soul who was trusting. Even though the other boy had no marks or injuries, the incident was treated as a “scuffle between boys.”
Even though John was hurting physically, he was mostly injured emotionally. He drew into himself, stayed up late at night teaching himself to play the guitar, picking out soft, haunting tunes. He checked a book out of the library called “Violence in America.” It broke my heart.
I was so angry, I took him to the principal’s office and insisted the principal explain to him why nothing was being done about the boy who hurt him. I don’t remember the explanation, but it was lame. It was obvious that something political was going on. I took John to the head of the education board, Again, sympathy, but no help. I called the local newspaper. A lot of sympathy but no help when the reporter learned where the other boy was from.
I think John and I both lost faith and respect at that time for people in high places. It’s been a long road trying to change my opinion.
Not a very pretty story. I’m sorry I can’t do better, especially today when I should be looking back at the positives in my life and thinking about going forward. But this is real; anything else I might write would be forced.
Tomorrow, perhaps, I’ll take stock and look ahead. For now, I’m sending John a hug and a prayer, and then I’ll get back to my novel.
Just want to wish everyone a healthy and happy new year. May 2013 bring peace and safety to all parts of the world. Thank you, my blogging friends, for your interest and support in me and my imperfect blog. I’m amazed by the warmth and caring I’ve found here. I can’t tell you how I’ve benefited from knowing you. I hope to have more to give to you in 2013. Love and hugs. XO Mary
Happy holidays to my fellow bloggers and other friends who stop by. I wish you peace and many blessings now and always.
- My Top (and Bottom) 10 Favorite Christmas Songs of All-Time (mommabethyname.com)
“It’s a Wonderful Life” is on the TV tonight. Scott loved that movie. He watched it every year. I’m surprised at how just knowing its on fills me with dread. It’s been 13 years since Scott killed himself and I still can’t watch his favorite programs, look at his photos, his handwriting, anything that reminds me of him. He loved sizzlers, Seinfeld, Star Wars, roast, rice and gravy.
I often wonder what he would look like now, if he’d be married, if he’d have children. I loved him so much. I still can’t believe he’s gone. And I miss him.
I’ll be glad when Christmas is over. Next, I have to get through his birthday, January 9th. He’d be 49. The hurt never goes away.
I’m really into food. Mostly healthy food. I think about meals a lot, like I used to think about boys when I was young. Breakfast. Lunch. Supper. What do I want? Wht do I have? What do I need to order? Food is about the only pleasure I have left.
I’m also into nutrition, nutrition that will benefit my physical conditions—low sugar, low fat, low salt.
So I order cookbooks and books on nutrition from Amazon– Dean Ornish, Joy Bauer, Dr McDougall. I watch the Food Network on TV. I have my own page with Dr Weil online. It’s personalized and includes health tips for my particular problems and the latest health news. I get a daily menu which includes three meals a day and a library of meals I can choose as substitutes.
Today I roasted vegetables (my own recipe) for lunch and made hummus for supper. I substituted peanut butter for the tahini because it’s healthier and, surprisingly, I don’t taste the peanut butter in the finished product.
Making those two things and cleaning the kitchen used up all my energy for today. And I did most of it sitting in a wheelchair. The things I fix these days must be quick and easy. So I’ve had to put away most of my old favorite recipes.
I tried Meals on Wheels but the meals aren’t all that healthy or good. So, it’s a struggle, but I can still put a meal together; and though what I do now is far removed from what I used to do in the kitchen, the food I cook is much better than having it brought in. And I’m grateful for that.
When I worked at Newington Veteran’s Hospital as a psychiatric nurse, one of my duties was to teach classes on suicide to medical personnel—nurses, interns, aides, and students. I informed them that those who were serious about ending their lives were often secretive about their intent. And that the male’s method of suicide was usually more lethal than the female’s. Guns or hanging vs. drugs or self-mutilation. I advised them of warning signs: withdrawal, change in personality, loss of interest in most activities, looking depressed, poor work or school performance, change in sleep patterns, alcohol/drug abuse, talking about death or suicide, careless in appearance.
Then my husband and I retired and moved from Connecticut to Missouri. Chris had separated from the navy, was married, living in Texas; Scott, divorced, was in the Air Force in California; Ken was working at a television station in Connecticut and John, married, a recent survivor of Hodgkin’s disease, was working as a computer analyst in Connecticut. Separated and scattered, we were all involved in our own interests. We communicated by phone, internet and regular mail.I took my retirement as an opportunity to seriously follow my life’s dream—writing. I took a few creative writing classes at a local university and then some online.After Scott separated from the Air Force, he lived with Forrest and me while pursuing a degree in computer science. Forrest became a master gardener and his interest turned to our yard. I spent my time writing poems. After graduation, Scott took a job at Hallmark in Kansas City.
About that time, a few physical problems I had worsened and I began thinking about the uncertainty of life. I started a memoir about me and our family for my sons to read after my death. I always regretted that I hadn’t asked my parents for more information about themselves. I know very little about my ancestors. A bonus, for me, in the writing was that going back and looking at my life in retrospect changed my perspective about me, the family and life in general.
I was involved in my writing project and welcoming John and his family who’d just arrived from Connecticut for a visit when a call came from Scott. He’d driven himself to a hospital in K C because he was suicidal. I knew he’d been depressed and had even overdosed (that’s another story for another time). A few months before his call, we’d brought him to Springfield and admitted him to a hospital here. He was discharged after a few days. Forrest, Scott and I then looked for a house for him here. I wanted him close so I could keep an eye on him. I gave earnest money on a house he liked, but he went back to KC and as far as I knew, he was doing fine. I was keeping in contact with him closely by email and by phone and had no idea he was suicidal.
After the call came, Forrest and I drove to KC to see Scott in the hospital. We boarded his cats and took care of some other business for him, stayed overnight and saw him again next morning before returning to Springfield to be with John and his family. I’d planned on returning to KC after John left, but a few days later, Scott was discharged from the hospital and went back to work. I thought he was doing fine. Two days before he shot himself, he talked to me about plans he had for buying a house and the new vet he’d found for his cats.
Thirteen years later, I still can’t watch “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Scott’s favorite Christmas holiday movie, look at his photos, or think about him for too long. I haven’t come to grips with the fact that I, who should have known, did not recognize the warning signs that my son was in trouble. I should have been more alert, not so distracted by my writing and other things that were going on. I’ve learned, too late, to treat each moment as if it was the only moment, and to give it all I have.
After Scott’s death, my heart couldn’t finish my memoir. Sadly, instead, I published a memoir in memory of Scott, and, later, one for John who died of colon cancer.
How beautiful and sacred life is! And how fragile! We can’t afford to be careless. I must live with my inattention for the rest of my life and suffer the resulting heartache.
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (tamu.uloop.com)
I just started following a blogger whose husband is ill and she has to care for him. Almost all her thoughts and moves are affected by how her husband will react. She plans her life around him and his needs.
I understand where she’s coming from; I, too, was once a caretaker for my husband. Keeping him safe and happy was my life’s work. It was difficult at times, but mostly it was rewarding.
And this is why:
We were in our late 70’s when he became ill. Our children had long left the nest and lived in other towns. We’d lost two sons, along with many other friends and relatives. We mostly had just each other. I was a retired psychiatric nurse, and chose that profession because my heart went out to those in need and I wanted to help them. I especially related to the sick, as I’d been quite ill as a child, often separated from friends and family, trying to deal with my fears and discomforts alone. My mother took good physical care of me but was too busy or unaware of how to comfort a sick, scared child. She never spoke of or explained my illnesses to me. Basically, I was just put to bed in a bedroom and left to my own devices.
Mother had always wanted to be a nurse, but she lost her father and brother before penicillin was discovered and had to quit school and go to work to help with the family bills. Her nursing aspirations were carried into her adulthood. She saw that I and my bed were clean and that I was well fed. When I had Scarlet Fever, she rubbed my rash with calamine lotion. She boiled my sheets and everything that came out of my room. When she learned that I had Rheumatic Fever, she cried on the bus on the way home from the doctor’s. I knew then that something bad was wrong with me, but I had no idea what it was or what was going to happen. The treatment for Rheumatic Fever back then was bed rest. There were no medications to treat it with.
Anyway, after I retired as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, I missed practicing my calling. And with the boys gone and no one to take care of, I needed a reason to get up in the morning.
My husband was a strong, controlling individual. He made the important decisions in our family, and I was happy to let him do that. I’ve always been a sensitive, introverted individual, never really sure of myself, afraid to take the initiative.
Then, after Forrest became ill, first with Alzheimer’s, then with COPD, hypertension, diabetes, kidney dysfunction, and colon cancer, I gradually had to become the decision maker and performer of all the household duties. I gained confidence, and, in fact, enjoyed being responsible.
But most of all, I enjoyed taking care of my husband—cooking his meals, buying his special treats at the grocers, seeing that he had his oxygen, clothes to keep warm, bringing his meals to him in the TV room after it was too much effort for him to come to the table, taking him to his doctors’ appointments, wheeling him in the wheelchair. We’d sit on the patio, watch the birds build nests, the trees grow, flowers bloom. Sometimes, we’d watch TV together, or I’d watch while he slept in a chair across from me. We were together. We connected. Not only was he allowing me to care for him, he was enjoying it. Sadly, it was our best time as a married couple.
The woman I spoke of at the beginning of this blog lives in Australia on a bird farm. Our experiences with illness are not quite the same, but, still, I can empathize with her. Her blog address is: http://jmgoyder.com/ She’s courageous, admirable and an inspiration. I think you might find her blog worth the visit.