Warning – you may find this post to be a bit of a downer and if you’re easily triggered by talk of things like suicide, move along. And NO! No, I am not writing a post about me feeling suicidal, don’t jump to conclusions. But it is about my memories of someone else, so like I said – if this is a sensitive topic for you, be warned.)
This memory has been on my mind a lot for the past couple weeks – more so than it’s been since the past couple years after it occurred. I’m not sure why, though I have a few theories. Having my own family & trying to build memories for Nugget could be a factor. Having been in therapy and digging stuff up again could be another. And who knows, maybe it’s just time.
My mother attempted suicide twice in her lifetime. Once in mine. When she was 16, she od’d on sleeping pills. My aunt found her (My aunt was 9 years old.)
When *I* was 17, she attempted again – or rather, threatened. I came home from work, around 11p (I worked at a restaurant then) to find police cars in our driveway and ultimately, watched my mom clutch a gun while refusing to let anyone near her and then get handcuffed and carted off to the psych ward.
That’s really only one of the many shitty things that happened in my younger life, but that’s the one that’s coming up now. Pretty much everyone who meets me uses words like “fiery”, “fireball”, “firecracker”, “spunky”, “feisty” to describe me. My therapist has used it often and as she hears about how I was and the things I did in my mid to late teens and 20s, she told me something interesting. She said that when there’s trauma in a family, or heavy shit going on (my words), girls typically get depressed while boys act out. Because I’m “feisty”, I acted out instead of just getting depressed. (Oh, and how I acted out… another story, another day.)
There was a time when I spilled my guts on this blog – every bloody, gory, overly personal bit… and then I stopped. I had clawed my way out of a pretty big, black hole and then just zipped up all my emotions and all the bad memories. As it turns out – there’s a part of me that felt a little more balanced when I was spilling my guts and writing about more than just the parts of me that were attempting to be a determined, shiny, perfect super-something. I think I need to return to the confessional. At least for a little while.
The thing that’s been bothering me, of late, is that I can’t remember the exact day that my mother did this. I remember the exact dates of EVERYTHING, even minor things that need no remembering. Even a first year psych student will tell you that it’s because I “disassociated”. The information is in there, somewhere. I tried to ask my dad (with the sharp plea to not mention it to mom) but he isn’t sure, either.
I know the year (because I know that I was 17, that’s when lot of stuff came to light). I know that it was before New Year’s Eve – I know, because that was marked by being so drunk I almost blacked out & was blubbering all sorts of nonsense about calling my Dad. Mom was in the hospital, still. I’m pretty sure that it was AFTER Christmas – though if it were before, that somehow strikes me as even more tragic than I’d originally thought and no wonder I can’t remember. Dad thinks, and I think, that it was 2 days after. I could ask my mother, but that might be opening a Pandora’s Box that I’m not sure I want to open. Or, I could just get a lot of snippiness and questions, which I also don’t want. My mother… she’s not so great and facing things, and I know that the very act of asking her for the date would be making her face something, regardless of how small – even if it’s “just” a memory.
So I find myself, this year, feeling rattled, feeling disturbed about something, trying to piece things together and finding this thing on my mind, constantly.
My father’s 4 year affair had come to light, not long before this incident. I remember a snippet of a conversation where he told me the attempt wasn’t all about him – there was also her having just been laid off from work and worrying about me. He hadn’t meant to make me feel responsible, but oh, he managed to. I guess he needed someone to share the burden of guilt with him.
And the affair? Also another story for another day. He was still in contact with her while mom was in the hospital – I stepped in, multiple times, and I’m surprised I didn’t scare her off, quite frankly.
I’d been working at a restaurant that was supposedly run by the Greek mafia. There were offices, upstairs, that we weren’t allowed to go near. If you did, you’d be fired without question. Biker gangs were invited to the grand opening. We were all a bunch of misfits that worked there. It was a very strange time & place for me.
This night in question – I think I left work and got home around 11-11:30 at night. I saw two police cars (or was it one?) and when I’ve told the story in the past, I always said that I knew immediately why they were there. Or that they were there because of mom. Did I? I guess so. I must have. Either because mom had done something to herself or to Dad. Dad came busting out the door, through the garage. He sounded pretty busted up. He said that mom didn’t think I’d be home already.
(My uncle later got blamed because he’d heard a gunshot outside and called the police… apparently, or according to my mother and according to my father, in her defense, it wouldn’t have gone this far had the police not been called. I, personally, think a blow up like this was a long time coming.)
I immediately asked where she was. I don’t know if he told me or if he let me upstairs or if I just ran past or what. I just remember being upstairs in my parents room, with my mom – she was wearing a charcoal grey wool coat, she had all the windows open (it was f’n cold out) and she was keeping a handgun close to her chest – lest anyone try to take it from her. The weirdest part was that just being there having conversations with her. I’ll be damned if I remember what was said – other than me offering to get her something to drink, and she wanted diet Pepsi. I responded with, “Considering the situation, is there really a need for DIET soda?” I am the very definition of sardonic.
I went back downstairs at one point. Dad went upstairs. There was a cop standing guard out in the garage – he was incredibly nice and pretty cute. I developed an immediate crush. Like I said, it was freezing outside, so I asked if he wanted to come in – he couldn’t, he said. I asked if he wanted some hot tea or something – he accepted that, and I made him some tea.
At some point, I’d asked Dad if they’d handcuff her and that they couldn’t. He told me they wouldn’t. That’ was kind of important. There was a social worker there, too, I think. An older woman.
As I stood in the kitchen, doing god knows what, Dad suddenly came running downstairs, breathless. He had the gun in his hands. He’d faked having a heart attack (go figure) and stood in the garage clutching his heart so that I thought he really was about to. He kept saying, “I’ll never hurt her again.” It was heartbreaking to hear him like that. I’d never heard him like that before and never would again. (And yet… how quickly we forget… days later, still talking to the “other woman,” while mom is in the hospital, eh?)
The police rushed upstairs. Not the nice one. Two others who were state police – the nice one and I had made snarky comments about the Staties and their fuzzy hats. They weren’t very nice. The nice guy… I think his name was Jim? I do wish I remembered – years later I’d stopped by the police department to thank him, but he wasn’t there anymore.
So the police came downstairs, my mom was in handcuffs. I charged after them screaming about the handcuffs. Dad was trying to hold me back and he’d practically had me up in the air by my elbows. First, they had to take her to the police station – Jim (?) let me ride over with him in his police car and we just talked the entire way over. It was a nice sense of normalcy for a few minutes. Then again… what does that tell you about my sense of normal if I consider “normal” talking to a policeman in a police car while riding over the the police station to deal with your suicidal mother?
One of the policemen was a complete dick. I remember that, clearly. I know that I was being bratty & getting in his face but for chrissake… I was a teenage girl who’d just witnessed her mom trying to commit suicide and then get handcuffed. He’d snapped at me and told me he’d cuff me next, or some such. I’d said, “Fuck you, asshole.” and stomped off.
Maybe that’s the very origin of my current trash mouth and liberal use of the word “fuck”?
The ambulance ride to the psych ward was humiliating. HUMILIATING. I wanted to ride over with her, but I had to sit up front, next to the driver.
The driver was someone I went to school with. (There was some program for high schoolers training for EMT ambulance or some such?) It was someone who I’d previously thought was kind of an ass, but the guy never said a word to anyone. He also came off as very sympathetic and didn’t say much to me, either. (In fact, I just found him on Facebook but I figure it would be really weird to send him a message, a 17 year late “thanks.” Or would it? Thoughts?) Ah, but the next week, in school, I found out that another girl who was in this same program was shooting off about “some woman tried to kill herself last week.” My best friend at the time told her it was my mom – and I really wished she’d have kept her mouth shut. Considering my status in school at the time, I’m also pretty shocked that more people didn’t find out about it, or that I didn’t have to put up with any snarky comments.
Anyway. Two days after Christmas. I think. Definitely before New Year’s. Mom was in the psych ward of a city hospital – and I visited her several times a day. I must not have been home much, I don’t remember being in the house alone with Dad. He & I were rarely in the same space, just the two of us. The stuff with his girlfriend… that’s about 50 other posts. I did get along really well with the other people in the psych ward. I do great with the crazies and neurotics and people drowning in issues.
While my relationship with my extended family had already been “not so good”, this incident definitely marked the turn for the worse. I had almost nothing to do with them for well over a decade. I’d been trying to become more involved, do the family thing again, but after getting bit on the ass for it, twice, I’ve given up. I can’t say I’m all that fond of them, to be honest. Nor have much need for them. Unfortunately, my grandmother (Dad’s mom) died in the middle of that. So did my mom’s mom, although I hadn’t lost touch with her. I didn’t get angry with her until after she died – a lot of things came out about her after her funeral and let me tell you… getting angry at someone AFTER their death and having no recourse is more than a little strange.
It’s supposed to be helpful, to aid in the repair work, when you start to talk about things and deal with how you feel about them again. We’ll see. It’s daunting when you see just how much repair there is to be done. It’s daunting when you see just how much of your life & your relationships with others have been shaped & affected by things that are far out of your own control. .