A Death in the “Family”
I received unsettling news this morning. I was just sitting here at my desk at work when my phone let out a little bling. It was my brother. I knew before I opened it something was wrong. We hardly ever talk and we don’t text or chat. I looked at the icon of his smiling face, opened the message to see; Are you OK w/ not good news in message form?
I was pretty sure I knew what was coming next and I was right. Last night my birth mother took a handful of sleeping pills and made her exit from this world.
I’m not sure how I feel about that and, not very surprisingly, neither does he. I’ve always considered myself the lucky one in this strange situation as I got out at birth but he was stuck with her and she was pretty damn crazy. There’s no nice way to put that and glossing over that fact doesn’t do anyone any good. I had a very tumultuous relationship with her for a few years and then I spent a good deal of time trying to get rid of her because, like I said, she was nuts. Then she’d go away. She’d come back out of the blue. We’d try again, it would work for about a week then she’d go off the rails. She’d go away. She’d come back and repeat the process. It went like that for well over a decade. Yes, mine was not the storybook reunion one tended to see on talk shows a few decades ago. We’ve talked about that here before on many occasions. Still, I didn’t wish her dead just out of my life. I was pretty damn firm about that the last time around until she finally left me alone. In fact, I hadn’t heard anything from her for years. I hadn’t even thought about her.
As we chatted in text messages I looked down at the date on my computer and realized her birthday was just about 2 weeks ago. He said to me he knew she was going to do this when he didn’t hear from her on her birthday–typically a time of year she was known for having a blow-up of some kind either in his direction or, for a while, mine. We tried to hash out how we feel about this and basically came up with ‘a little sad and a little numb but not shocked’. I feel for him because he had to deal with her the most and that wasn’t easy on him. Still, she was his mother and everyone on some level wants to love their mother but it isn’t always possible. When it isn’t then one shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about it or for trying to make the best they can out of their lives for themselves and their families. Now he’s worried about going to the funeral because he’s afraid he’ll be blamed for her actions. That’s just messed up. But, that’s the kind of ‘family’ we’re talking about here. I told him to grieve and to say his goodbyes privately, no sense in putting yourself in a situation like that at such a delicate time. It wouldn’t be good for him and it wouldn’t be good for them. He can always visit the grave at some point if he wants to and if it gives him some peace. Me? I don’t do cemeteries. There’s no one there. The idea of talking to a headstone gives me no solace. If I want to talk to the dead I can do it the same way I talk to the Gods; with an open heart and from wherever I am.
For very selfish reasons, I can’t stop thinking about the timing of this event. I can’t help but wonder if I should dedicate “Prodigal Son” to her, after all, she’s all throughout that series in the background but never a character. Not really, but, well, maybe she was ‘Adelaide’. Who, incidentally, killed herself. More than anything she was the catalyst for the story line. I started writing the Sister Christian series shortly after I was able to get in contact with my brother without her being in the way of the relationship. No, I’m not ‘Hannah’ and my brother is not ‘Mason’, still I wish my birth mother had been as strong as ‘Hannah’. I wish she’d been able to see her life from a different perspective but she always seemed to choose to wallow in the bad stuff. And then blame it on everyone but herself. I wish she would have read the series and maybe gotten something out of it but, then again, she liked to tell me I was “a shit writer”. So…maybe she wouldn’t have seen it for the dramatized reflection on the situation that it is. I suppose the ending would have made her angry on some level. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil that for you because you might read it one day and it might make you happy. Maybe instead of her I’ll put my brother in the dedication. That seems appropriate.
I can be here for my brother and do my best to help him find his way through this. After all, he is the one good thing that came out of that entire mess and I don’t want him to feel alone. Not that he is alone, he has a beautiful family that loves him. I’m glad that I get to be a small part of that.
Other than that, I guess all I can really do is say; Rest in Peace, Toni. I hope you find in death that which you never seemed to find in life.