Look at the stars in the sky, the sun shining, clouds blowing by. There you are.
When I look out on the ocean, smell the salt on the breeze and grey vessels passing by, I see you.
Gestures and words we used together, a wink, that smile never failing to curl the corners of your mouth… you.
Driving with all the windows down, no one ahead and no one behind, I look over at the empty seat beside me. For a moment, I can almost see your eyes, brown-green and great big lashes.. are you still there?
No, you are not. You are gone. You left.
I am here, still holding real-estate for you in the empty space that was my heart.
I was asked why I wasn’t happy because I am “home”. Home. That is a loose term. If you know me, this is the part where I am rolling my eyes back to last Tuesday.
When Mali was alive, I knew right were home was. I built a life there with my family. Work, schools, ball games, concert recitals, debates, grandchildren being born, chores, dishes, grocery stores, errands, bills and all the other shit on top of making sure everyone in the family was fed and happy. That daily grind of being a wife and mother as well as being a woman in the workforce was mind-numbing and rewarding.
Life just stopped when Mals killed herself. Not in the sense that the world stopped turning. That keeps right on going.
Mali’s suicide paralyzed each member of my family and stopped us from supporting each other. All of us. Life and this idea of home became more like a desert with so little water everything was bound to dry up.
Back to the home thing. The definition of growing roots and raising a family is foreign to me. I have lived in many places as a child and as an adult. It wasn’t until our second child was born did we decided to make roots. That was scary and cool all at the same time. I drank the kool-aid and put myself aside to raise a family with my partner.
I find myself rootless again. No home. Move along, nothing to see here.
I grew up in Northern California. It has always been home to me no matter where I was residing. Now that I am here, I don’t feel home. Southern California was also a home to me at one point. I have friends and family there. Nope, home isn’t here either. What about Sioux Falls? I left everything there; my tattered family, my children, my child’s ashes in the mausoleum, the best job ever, my friends, all of my belongings, except for the clothes on my back. This was supposed to be home. This was the compromise. The place to raise our kids so they would be safe from the dangers of living in an overpopulated, smog-ridden city. Sacrifice, so we would be closer to his Father……..I am going to spare everyone from my cynical musing tonight.
To answer the question “Why am I not happy being home?” Seriously? That can’t really be what you are asking me. You know well enough I am not happy because, what was home was not a place. It was the people I love and will continue to love. Home is the commitment I made as a wife and mother.
Here is an analogy about removing one component of this mythical place called home:
“Taking the meat out of stew, much like removing a piece of your family, doesn’t make much of a stew or a home. The person being served meatless stew is probably not happy about it. The stew meat that was discarded is probably not happy about that either. Unless you go vegetarian then, by all means, shovel that shit in”.
In case you are wondering, that little analogy is all mine.
I have been in Southern California about 6 weeks now. It seems like a lifetime. I took a walk on the beach today and collected shells for a project I am going to work on.
Picking up those shells scattered along the sand reminded me of my life. It was low tide but high tide was making its way in.
Every shell along the way reminded me of fragments of my life. Some were broken, some were whole. All of them, ranging from white to red and black in color. All were flawed in one way or another. The tide was rolling in drowning every shell in its way.
There is a whole plethora of words to describe the day. Broken, drowning, sad, defeated, angry, weak, unloved, lost and alone. The good thing about this day were the other words in my head dying to come out. Hopeful, grateful, present, strong, loved, supported by my best friend on the planet.
I am uncomfortable in my own skin. I am definitely feeling sorry for myself.
I have said before I haven’t felt angry about Mali dying the way she did. I should be but, I don’t have any anger with that beautiful girl. What a grand mess she made with her departure. Or did she? Maybe that mess was always there? Honestly, I believe it was.
I have paid an extremely high price, in retrospect, for a life that I constantly bricked and mortared just to keep together. All the brick and mortar on the planet cannot keep back a tide that eventually washes everything away. I thought the meaning of unconditional love was taking the hard road. Trying to do the right thing. Always being available to my family. I was wrong. After everything was said and done the brick and mortar broke. Maybe I am wrong…. Does it really matter anymore anyway?
A child is equal parts Mom and Dad. Perhaps, when children are small, they gravitate towards their mama partly because we carry them but, there is a social norm that defines women as the primary caregiver.
What about a father? When we think of a typical family, fathers are “breadwinners”, “read the papers after a hard day at work”, “leave child rearing to mothers”. Is this really true? Probably not.
Mali’s Dad was unique in the fact that the first year of her life, he was her primary caregiver. She was his world. He held her first when she came into the world. She gravitated towards him and shied away from me when I came home from work. All the firsts; walking, eating new things, playing, haircut; all experienced with her Dad. Those two had an inseparable bond. As she grew older her music choices, views of the world, astronomy, traveling; all reflected Mali’s and her Dads musings. He was the last one to hold her the day she died. I think about that and I am speechless. What that must have been like to have been there when that precious girl came into this world and when she decided to leave.
I cannot speak to what it feels like to be a father who has lost his babygirl. Throw suicide into that mix and I really have no clue. I am not a father.
Men are programmed to be stoic, hard, unwavering in the face of indescribable pain and suffering. On the outside, everything looks in place. Men break, fathers break, husbands break.
The point I am trying to make here (most likely badly) is that father’s are not forgotten in the quagmire of losing a child to suicide. Just in case any fathers that read this, I want you to know that your child loved you. It’s not your fault. You have real feelings about your child’s death and you need to express them. They are important as you are important. Even if it takes you a long time.
If the thought that people are judging you silently because “You must have been a shitty parent and that’s why your girl killed herself” know that their opinions means shit and they can go fuck themselves. Your daughter adored you and you know this.
Something I have thought about often lately is that families are all built differently. Some have both parents. Some only one. Children can be both alive or waiting for us on the other side. It still makes a family.
When you feel you are all alone in your pain, know you aren’t. Open your eyes and look around. There are people who love you and walk right next to you through the most unbelievable pain imaginable.
It has been a long time since I wrote anything. The world continued turning and there are days when I participate in the convoluted mess that has become my existence. There are days I choose not to. There are days where nothing matters and a vast emptiness lay before me. Sometimes I can see light and I can laugh.
There is a constant in my world. Mali. When she left 3 years, 6 months and 7 days ago life as I knew it ceased. This is the part where my family began to unravel. Maybe it was already unraveled and I was too blind to see it or maybe I didn’t want to see it.
When I started this blog, I told myself this would be real and raw. I don’t see a reason why I should deviate from that now.
So here is another unpleasant side effect of losing a child. Families can and do disintegrate after losing a child. Let’s use another word. Divorce.
When we lost our daughter, we lost our way. Family members stop speaking, others stay with one side or the other. Husbands and wives so caught up in their individual pain, drift apart.
Looking at the chaos behind me, one thing that stands out is communication, in my situation, the lack of it. Substance abuse, suicide attempts, overcompensation of ensuring the other children are provided for even if they are adults. All the things there was no compromise on and ignoring each other and their needs.
The best part? The fighting. Spouses fight. It’s part of the package. The fights we had post Mali were vicious. For a long time it was you did this, you don’t remember because you drank too much. Neglecting needs of the other and vice versa. A lot of ugliness over who gets attention, who got left behind. It hurts my head even thinking about that.
Let’s throw in therapy. We seek out relief from this unreal pain. Such unbearable pain you would do anything to escape it. Solace in others, comfort in the bottle, or the hard path; therapy.
I chose therapy after I overdosed on medication. I wanted the pain to end no matter the cost. Brick by brick I tried to erect a life post Mali. My partner of 31 years chose another path.
All the anger and pent up rage blew up in both our faces. As a result, I am on the West Coast without a home (I have a roof over my head, don’t get me wrong). Ex-husband stayed behind in what was our house with a 1600 mile buffer between us. If someone would have asked me 2 months ago did I think I would be in this situation, I would have laughed. I am not laughing.
So I have no words of wisdom to share. I am back in that place of pain. I have no family now save my two grown sons. I am grateful I don’t have to breathe ugliness and chaos anymore. I am grateful I don’t have to babysit intoxicated people and their bad behavior anymore. I am grateful the words bitch and cunt do not describe me in the least. I am grateful I don’t have to put a fake smile on my face just to please the spouse and last but not least, I don’t have to make sandwiches anymore. I do however, miss my dog.
A few years ago, in a small town much like this one or others in South Dakota, a new postmaster arrived in town, so everyone—as they visited the post office to pick up their mail or to drop things off—was introducing themselves. Towards the end of the week, the local parish priest came to pick up the mail for his parishes. He introduced himself and asked how the new postmaster was settling into town, if he was able to find everything he needed, where he was moving from, how their town compared, and other points of interest like the weather. As the priest finished speaking with him and turned to go, the new postmaster said, “Father, aren’t you forgetting something?” The priest replied, “Do I have a package that I need to pick up?”
“Well, no, but aren’t you going to invite me to come…
Sitting in seat 1A on a CRJ200 Canadair regional jet headed back to the arctic region of the upper Midwest.
For those of you who don’t know airplanes that is a puddle-jumper. Each seat is approximately 13 inches wide.
I woke up to head home today feeling reasonably well. Popped on some jeans and easy slide off shoes. I didn’t even feel like a Jersey Milker after I got going.
Checked 2 bags (one more) than I came out to my destination with. Damn shoe fetish and 3 bags of Filipino bread call pan de sal which Sioux Falls is seriously lacking in.
I have been losing weight since Mali passed away some 21 months ago. I am down 50 lbs and I am starting to shrink or so I thought; until I met seat 1B.
Good lord. I am in a cage, giving muffin top a whole new meaning.
Put it this way. I have my entire left arm smashed into the window. I am leaning forward to try to disguise some of the muffin top but that is only pushing my boobs up and killing my back.
My neighbor in 1B is pecking away on his laptop arms on both arm rests and I am losing oxygen from trying to keep my guts sucked in.
And if adding insult to injury he’s a hottie.
Who the fuck am I fooling. I am going to use the I am six months pregnant excuse.
Yes, I know I am barren and my parts removed sometime ago.
I would rather be 6 months into dropping a kid down the chute then admit for one minute I don’t fit in this 13 x 15 inch space.
Screw Barbie and every Victoria’s secret model that has ever cat walked a runway all thin and flat chested. Real women have an ass and boobs. You alien women are wrecking my whole self image.
Ugh please God can we start descending already. Otherwise it’s going to be a Jameson’s neat and I won’t give one single fuck about my sad, pushing 50 years old contortionist act.
Thanks be to God. We started to descend. Soon I can exhale, breathe in the -15 degree air while giving a dearly missed and long overdue Camel light a tug and give my husband a hug.
We just passed 20 months without Mali. The holidays are upon us. What should be a joyous time is still marked with great sadness.
Finding ourselves so out of sorts is so disheartening. When I take steps forward, I take steps backwards. Especially this time of the year.
I went through a very dark place the last weeks. Reaching out to my dearest friends was difficult. They are a shelter for me.
Honestly I have been so disconnected, sometimes I just want to be with her now instead of living life. It sucks being in this wretched fog. I think it’s dissipating, then it’s back. Just want to fold in the cards.
Trying to remember that I belong here with people who love and need me is hard to see.
There are good things in my life. Tim, my friends who keep my head above water when I can’t, the beauty around me of the changing season, roof over my head, good job and my children are great gifts laid before me. I am grateful.
I offer my suffering to God and will try to remember who is driving.
There are a finite amount of days we have in our lives. People dream of material things while others seek the experience of the moment.
In the 17 months and 21 days since Mali died, material things matter little to me anymore. Not that it ever did really.
Life is an undulating, rocky path with small breaks of calm and peacefulness. I just want peace.
The chaos and despair that have ruled my life since she left have slowly moved towards the back of mind instead of front and center. It has to. I push it back, else I am consumed by her loss.
My suffering instead is offered up to God in reparation for the sins I have committed in my life.
How I miss that beautiful, wonderful child and the joy that radiated from every ounce of her being.
That hole in my heart will never fill. I’m holding it for her. I don’t want to fill it. It will always be hers.
I am actually starting to remember small things, moments we shared. Everyday little things that may seem inconsequential. She used to wake up on Saturday morning. If I was still asleep she would hop into bed and pry my eyes open with her little fingers. We would laugh and play. I’d make her whatever she wanted for breakfast or we would hit up the diner. One of her favorite breakfast places.
I dream about her more.
Slowly the agony that was my armor, so heavy and
clumsy I can start to dismantle and start to set aside. I hope that my wounds outside my heart may start to heal a little.
I hope I get to see her at the end of my time here. That’s all I want now. A short life and Mali at the end of it.