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.