April 26, 2012
Stella sits on the end of the dining room table. She is guarding the papers pulled from the three file boxes in the garage.
And intermittently watching birds that pass through my backyard. Every once in awhile a small gray bunny visits. Sadie is laying next to me. Her presence constant, quiet. Every so often she stands, puts her head on my thigh and looks up at me with her round brown eyes.
Steve said to me last night “I’ve been meaning to remark on something.”
“I hope you won’t take offence.”
“Tell me.” I am insistant.
“You know how they say people start looking like their dogs….”
“You think I look like Sadie?” I ask.
“Well you have to admit, there is something in the eyes.”
I take no offense. I love Sadie.
I am trying to make some order of your old school papers, my marriage licenses, my decrees of dissolution, my juvenile court reports, photographs, journals.
One day this would have all been left to you and your sister to sort out.
Instead it is me.
Trying to piece together a past. Create for you some sort of narrative of our history.
Most of my writing is undated.
In a Harvard Law School spiral bound notebook there are 80 pages of 16 pound paper. The notebook cost me $1.55.
There are lists, random thoughts.
My backpack is always a mess. Notes on napkins, elementary school—day care notices, an empty fun fruits package. Crayons mixed with fountain pens.
drowning in this sea of tears
I reach out for you
and touch the night.
Nothing is dated. I think this journal is from my third year of law school, and right after I graduated from Harvard.
My childhood hits me the hardest when as a parent I realize what I’m willing to do for my children. Absence of mother and father willing and able to provide for me echoes inside the hollow places their absence has left.
My childhood hits me hardest…
We both know what hits me hardest now.
Closing my eyes, I breathe deep.
My childhood hits me hardest.
I dodge an iron thrown at me by my stepmother, a teakettle full of water from the stove.
I hear the silent scream inside myself.
This note in purple pen, set off by itself in the middle of the page--Discipline has been used as a shield for maltreatment of children.
From age 12 on, suicide seemed a plausible escape from broken blood vessels that pooled into bruises where skin met palm, met fist, met leather, from “your are trouble—you never will amount to anything—flat chested—fat assed—whore like your mother,there is a spot on this plate, take all the dishes, pots, pans from the cupboards, wash, dry, put them back—you have 45 minutes to finish—if you aren’t done, if there is a spot on anything—the belt. I was hungry. There is nothing to eat. There was no place that is safe. There was no love. There was plenty of hate.
I had to get away from this.
I have to get away
What held me back?
I do not know.
Twelve years old, standing in the coal bin in the basement, light filtering around the outline of the closed chute with a knife, trying to cut my wrists.
They would realize how bad they treated me when I was gone. Then they’d be sorry.
The knife was dull.
Fourteen, swallowing 10 baby aspirin, crawling into bed, terrified of dying from the overdose, too emotionally broken down to live.
Later it was you, you and Erin that held me back.
When I was 27 years old, I sat on the edge of the bed with a fistful of sleeping pills in one hand, a glass of water in the other.
January 1983. A few weeks earlier, we celebrated your first Christmas, and then your first birthday. You slept on my bed, curled up, legs tucked up under your tummy, clutching your white teddy bear under one arm. I watched you as you lay there, holding back my tears. I had given life everything I had to offer. There was nothing else to give.
I walked into the bathroom, opened the medicine chest, surveyed its contents. Should I take the bottle of sleeping pills? Should I take the bottle of pain pills? Or should I take both? I wanted to end my life.
I reached for the bottle of sleeping pills, opened the white childproof lid. I dumped them into the palm of my left hand, curling my fingers around them. Taking the glass sitting by the toothbrushes on the side of the sink, I filled it full of water.
I walked to my bed where you were sleeping and sat down on the edge. I opened my left hand and began counting the number of pills. There were twenty-three. Twenty-three small white tablets. All I had to do was put them in my mouth wash, them down. Then, I would curl up on the bed next to you and go to sleep. For the last time.
But what would be left for you? Who would take care of you? You would be an orphan. If you were lucky, somebody would adopt you. But, could they have that same fierce love for you that pierced my very existence? For nine months I carried you under my heart. Then, at first sight, you moved into it.
This is what I thought of as I sat there, looking at the pattern the sleeping pills made in the palm of my hand. I did not really want to die.
I wanted my life to change.
I hated standing in food bank lines at the end of the month for enough groceries to get through until the next month’s food stamps and welfare check came in. I could not stay in another relationship where one minute I was adored, in the next foul names and inanimate objects were flying at me. Where I was bullied and pushed around the house because I forgot to buy toilet paper--or because dinner wasn't ready on time. There was no more that I could take and I had nothing left to give.
Sitting there on the edge of the bed, sleeping pills in hand, I began to see your life and play out before me. What a thing for you to bear in life, a mother you would never know. You were not even walking yet. I would not witness your first faltering steps from coffee-table to couch to chair and across the room where I knelt with open arms to catch you. Who would read you Mercer Mayer books and Dr. Seuss? Who would be there when you got up on the seat of a bicycle and wobbled on the sidewalk after the training wheels were taken off? Who would be there for your first day of kindergarten, your first day of junior high, your first date, when you graduated from high school, when you got your first driver's license, your first prom, your wedding, your babies, all of the important events of your life? Who would guide you and protect you?
There could never be anybody that would love you as much as I. Never.
I got up from the edge of the bed. I walked to the bathroom, opened the toilet lid, and dropped the sleeping pills into the bowl. I put the glass of water on the side of the sink. Walking back into the bedroom, I went to the bed and crawled in. I molded myself around you. When the tears came, I cried until I fell asleep. I dreamt about the past.
And then, I dreamt about the future.
I chose this future.
Well, maybe not all of it.
I constantly remind myself of that. I have a choice.
I choose to only think of living now.
And how much I miss I’ll miss it when I am gone.
It has been a long day. Sadie is still sleeping her beside me. Stella has left the dining room table.
It is almost bed time.
Love you Andie—