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Friday, September 18, 2009

Key to the Door


My eldest celebrates his eighteenth birthday on the 30th.

Which is also the eighteenth anniversary of my mother's suicide. She physically died five months later, but to all intents and purposes that was the day she took her own life.

Initially, my siblings conspired to delay breaking the news to me. Matt had been a 10lb baby, a difficult forceps birth, I had been in labour over 24hrs, and had lost enough blood to require a transfusion. All the same, I couldn't wait to share my joyous news with our family, and was eager to tell my mother of the birth of her first grandson.

No one could bring themselves to tell me she was in a hospital bed on life-support.

When I couldn't reach her, my sisters claimed my brother had invited her to his holiday trailer-home in the Lake District. It was in an isolated spot, not hooked up to a telephone line. I guess, mum being as unpredictable as she was, I felt hurt but not too surprised at her absence. What I couldn't understand was how my brother would disappear with her at this time. I mean, with me being actually ten days overdue, it did seem pretty inappropriate for them to both up and go incommunicado in that way.

It still amazes me how my siblings found the loving strength and presence of mind to rally round to protect me on that devastating day. Despite their own shattering grief and shock, they were determined to let me recover some before my having my heart pulverised.

Back when our parents divorced, dad had gone a-wandering, only to periodically turf up, usually homeless, always brain-wasted, and ever chained to his alcoholism. I'd lost count of the places I'd found and furnished for him, only to find them abandoned and empty a month or so again down the line. When it became evident he could no longer care for himself, I'd moved him in with me, but it was short lived - besides being an abusive drunk, he simply refused to stay put, and I couldn't place him under lock and key. When he'd upped and fled, as he always did, no one had a clue as to where he was, or even if he were still alive.

It was the way with him.

(Later, he actually surprised us all by surviving to the grand old age of 70, and even then it was the lung cancer, not the alcohol, that took him off. He eventually had no choice but to stay put, spending his final year reluctantly captive and totally unrepentant, living under my, his self-confessed very least favourite daughter's roof. Oddly enough, no one else would volunteer to have him. By then, it was far too late to hold him to book for all his wrongs. I never did find the courage to stand up against him. Well, that's not entirely true, I was a rebellious teenager, and often stood between him and his beating of my mother, a transgression he rewarded by once fracturing my skull. One reason I left home at age 15. That said, he remained a tyrant and i was afraid of him right up to the end.)

We did, somewhat miraculously, track him down in time to attend our mum's funeral, a decision we lived to rue. We should have known he'd hi-jack the day for himself.

For the remaining last five years of his life, he successfully managed to elevate his often battered, mentally-ill, ex-wife to the Sainthood status he felt she had finally earned, mourning his soul-mate with the perfect amnesiac clarity that only he, and he alone, could so beautifully achieve. Even so, not a one of us dared to contradict him.

A long-diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, my mother had had plenty dress-rehearsals to achieve her life-long ambition, but a little like with the boy who cried wolf, we were dulled to the actuality she might one day truly manage to pull it off. Having saved, and saved, and saved her so many times, I guess we took our eye off the ball.

For the longest time I told my children it was her heart that had killed her - not too far from the truth, if you give it some thought. I fessed up to them only a couple of years back, as well as to finally coming clean about the details of her illness. I never did disclose the actual date to them, but perhaps one day I might. None read my posts, well not up until present. Should they decide to, I am okay with that.

It's an odd feeling to be planning a party on the same day of your mother's suicide, but it's just an uneasy twinge for me now, not that gaping open wound that it used to be. Letting go of the anger allowed the healing to begin, and with the healing I've found an understanding and the peace to forgive her for what she felt compelled to do on the day I first gave birth.

Yes, in many ways, my eldest turning 18 is a landmark, indeed.

20 comments:

Akelamalu said...

What a sad anniversary for your son to share on his birthday. You had your share of sadness and strife honey didn't you with your parents.

I hope you can put all that aside and enjoy the joyousness of your son's birthday. x

mrsnesbitt said...

What a dilema Carol. Your strength, honesty and integrity have really moved me, right now sitting in my study, sending you hugs across the miles.

Dxxx

San said...

Carol, you've had more than your share of heartbreak. The birthday coincidence is just too tragic. I remember the two days I gave birth as the best days of my life. You remember one of them as the best and the worst day of your life.

You have moved on, despite your pain, with the determination to make your own children's growing up as good as possible. That takes real courage. HUG.

And Happy Birthday to your son. 18--that's a big one! You've brought him into adulthood, replacing the mistakes your own parents made with all the good you have inside.

SJ said...

The 18th birthday is something to celebrate and the other anniversary you seem to have found strength to deal with.

Happy birthday to your son.

jay said...

Good grief, Shrinky, tough times, indeed! Fractured skull ... heavens above!

You were a saint to take him in and care for him in his last illness. Kudos to you, my dear. And how awful to have your mother commit suicide, and on such a day, too.

Happy birthday to your son! And all credit to you for having been the parent for him that your own parents didn't manage to be for you. *Hugs*

B.T.Bear (esq.) said...

Oh dear.

I kno my Mummy tried to do that, too. Sumtimes she feels she wud like to hav anuther try, but sez she holds on for Granny an Daddy. We get upset an worreed wen she is low in cayse she wants to not be heer enymor.

I think yu shud sellybrayte yor boy's berfday as a tryumpf over sadness, like a new start tryumpffin over a sad end.

If thare is anuther life, like heven, then she will be heeld now an want yu to hav a nice day an be happy. If thare issent, then it duzzent matter enyway.

I am sendin yu nose-hugs an cyber-cayke.

Mushy said...

Thank God you've broken free from the chains of the past and are living life in the light your family's love.

You are a strong spirit my dear.

chewy said...

Shrinky,
If there is no need to tell them the actual date, then don't. Let it be your son's celebration day, his birthday, his special day.

Rachelle said...

thinking about you... love you my friend.

Shrinky said...

Akelamalu, it was another lifetime ago hon, and yes, I plan on having a wonderful celebration on the day!

Aw Denise - gerroff, you big softie, you! Grin.

Thank you San. You know, both my amazing sisters have gone on to make wonderful successes of their lives, it's not where you start, it's where you finish up that really matters. Smile.

Yes, sj, I have much to celebrate.

Oh Jay, he led me such a dance that final year, that's a whole 'nother post unto itself, believe me! If he hadn't died, I may have ended up poisoning him myself..

Nose-hugs back to you too, B.T. - and give your mummy an especially warm cuddle from me, will you? Look after her, she's a very special soul, much loved by everyone.

Mushy, we most of us have equal shares of the good with the bad in our lives - I got the bad over with early, that's all!

Yes Chewy, I think you are right - it serves no consequence to dwell on the negative aspects of what is to him such a special day.

Hey there, Rachelle! You always wrap a smile around my heart (x).

BRUNO said...

No wise-crack comments from me, on this one.

One of the few things I can "hold-up to the light", and look back on as positive, was the fact that I did have a basically "normal" childhood, family-wise.

You gave ME the "boost" I needed earlier, with your "Real Artisans" e-mail. So, here's my "boost", to YOU:

"UN-N-NGH!!!---(push, groan!)"

Well, hopefully that got you at least HALF-WAY outta that bed, today...!(sheepish-grin, here!)

B.T.Bear (esq.) said...

Today be bein Talk Like A Pirate Day an I be talkin likes a pirate awl day.
So be my crew ov Beary Pirate cutlasses, arrrrrrr!
Be yu a joinin in, or be yu swabbin the deks?
Arrr!

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Shrinky, (Carol) I am grieved as I read this...what a weight you have had to bear...such a co-mingling of sorrow and joy...you are strong, resilient, brave and inspiring... rising again and again from the pain that threatens to overwhelm...I applaud you, my friend...but somehow, that seems insufficient...I love and admire you! ~Janine XO

simon said...

Well, I am 1/2 awake and reading this and it has sent a shiver down my spine. Just how do you cope? what strength lies in you to celebrate a birthday and to remember all this as well?
Just so much "texture" ( thats not the right word but it will do)

I have a friend who crashed his plane on Christmas eve killing his brother in law, this year is the first anniversary. I wonder how he and his family will cope with christmas eve this year.

I hope you will enjoy his 18th! they grow up so quick!!

Thanks Shrinky. reminds me of this quote " I used to complain about my shoes until I saw a man without feet"

What a journey.

Scott from Oregon said...

*hugs*

Shrinky said...

Oh Bruno, you always lift everyone up - thanks, my friend. I have to confess you were the first person I thought of when I saw that wonderful series of photo's - I am so glad you loved them as much as I did! x

ooooh Bob, my poor old knees can't take swabbin' the decks - guess I'll need to haul myself over, pronto!

Hi there Janine, my friend. We all have our own personal demons to do battle with, hon, don't we? (Hugs) I have been thinking of you a lot as of late. I so hope all is well where you are.

Oh Simon, such a tough, awful situation for your poor friend to deal with. I hope he finds the strength to not blame himself for what happened. It's an old adage that with time, pain does ease. It is also (irritatingly) true. It's probably too fresh for him to grasp that right now, but let's hope eventually he will find the peace to move on. Yes, I like to think I am a strong person - I feel proud of my journey to date. Smile.

Hugs back at 'ya, Scott! (Grin)

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Thank you, Carol! I love you. You're truly someone who has been there; done that...and your spirit and love are indomitable! Your friendship means so much to me! ~Janine XO

Novice Writer said...

When I read this post, I really din know what to write..I have no idea how you managed to cope with all these difficulties..I congratulate your strength and courage..
Happy Birthday to your son..Like everyone else here, I hope you would celebrate his b'day with cheer and give him a wonderful day to remember..
*Hugs*

Mojo said...

Do yourself a solid Shrink. Don't let your mum hijack the day. I hear just a touch of self recrimination in your story and that just doesn't need to be.

I'm starting to understand now that the huge crush isn't just 'cause you're easy on the eyes. There's quite the beautiful soul in there too.

Shrinky said...

Oh Mojo (lump in throat) stoppit', ya' daft lump, your making me go all soppy, now!