Thursday, November 29, 2012

Expunging the pain of my father's suicide

This is a blog post I've pondered for a long time. Today is the anniversary of my father's suicide. It was a Monday. The Monday after Thanksgiving. A time when everyone is "getting into the spirit". My dad suffered from depression and an unstable marriage, and this wasn't his first attempted suicide. There was an Oprah special movie on the night before. I remember having a conversation with my Dad outside on the patio and the moon was specifically very bright. In years past I've been able to recall the topic of conversation, and the feeling of the importance of our talk somehow, but now 19 years later and 3 kids my brain seems more foggy on the details and what exactly he called that moon. On Monday afternoon my two best friends and I walked towards the gym for P.E. class I believe. Annam said something along the lines of "I have this feeling that something is going to happen to one of us that is going to change things forever." We were curious what it could be, but she couldn't describe it, she just had thing knowing. I'm become keenly aware of intuition and the sort ever since.

My mom and sister and I went to a Chinese buffet for dinner. I've never eaten there again. Upon arriving home our neighbor came over and said the medical examiner had been to our house looking for us. I'd never heard this title before but at 15 I didn't have to ask what that was. The exact words she used to tell us the news did not stay with me. Probably because I didn't want it to be true and immediately my mind raced so much that the conversation became blurry. All the while interpreting in ASL for my mom. While I didn't need an explanation of what a medical examiner was, my mom did. A slip of paper, maybe it was even a legit business card, had a number for us to call. Somehow the question of could this be a cruel joke came up, whether by our neighbor, Sherry, or my mom questioning her, I can't quite remember. I should talk with my sister and see how much of it she remembers.... but we never speak of that night. Ever.

It was with trembling fingers I dialed. I want to go back to that little girl and hold her because she was about to grow up pretty damn fast in that minute. If I could give her just a few more minutes, hours, days, weeks, years.... she needed them. That was when I began to question my faith in God. We were not a religious family by any means, but I believed. My faith still waivers, mostly because of that night.

Again, acting as an interpreter for my mom I learn the news from the source to be true, my father is dead. Cause suicide. Method, jumping in front of a train. Horrendous. Why that medical examiner told a 15 year old the news, I do not know. I can't remember exactly how it went down, but the sobbing was immediate and I either dropped the phone or simply held it out far away, not wanting to hear anymore. I sob now as I did then. That is an emotion that you don't forget, one of despair. How it stays with you a little bit, even though all these years have passed because it is now part of your DNA in a figurative sense. And as I always fear, literal because they say depression is hereditary. That thought never eludes me. I fight to be happy. I find ways to see validation in my existence. When things seem too hard, I remind myself nothing is harder than your loved one not seeing the value they have in your life enough to push through the straw. And the wondering. It never ceases.

I thought I would never celebrate Thanksgiving again. Remembering there was a huge argument around our "supposed celebration" that rifted my parents. Hence why we didn't wait for Dad to get home from work to go out to dinner. Animosity here? I won't lie. I have never let go of the thought that somewhere in the mess my parent's marriage was the root of the problem. Currently I'm not on speaking terms with my mom, despite a recent attempt to reach out to her. Not too long after, at least within the year, I became an emancipated minor. The whole story of my enduring despite circumstances begins here, or as some would see, the demise of my intellectual aspirations. I began to really not care about school. I'd always loved school, not every subject, but the escape, the learning, the feeling of success with high marks. Suddenly none of that mattered. Forever grateful I am to the families who offered their support while I was officially "on my own." Rachel, my best friend, who listened when I cried, was the only one who would bring up the subject and Thank God she did. Keeping it inside hurt so much. People did not know how to talk to me, it was painfully obvious. Usually those who met me after the event could talk to me more normally than those who knew me well before. Why are we so afraid to talk? If there is an answer in that, it could have saved my father. Maybe.

The stigma was a whole other thing. Would people always feel weird with me? I didn't even do anything to cause this, so why do I have to be treated differently? Too often people wanted to help or say something and stopped, why? Because they didn't know "how". What about asking? I'm 100% guilty of seeing someone go through tragedy and not knowing what to offer, condolences, a meal, an afternoon to forget about it for a minute, a call to check in? Who knows what is right for that person in that moment.. problem is we don't ask and then times passes and it seems out of place and weird. It's not. While the people who are suffering from depression need help and we can all do a little bit of reaching out, the people who are grieving the loss go through their own depression. Losing someone to suicide is different from other loss.

My husband has it in his phone to call me today. He just did. We met shortly after I became emancipated. He's asked me recently if my dad would have liked him. Yes. He would have thought he's done a good job taking care of me and not standing in my way, making me laugh and letting me feel, taking my hand and promising forever. He would have liked that. Knowing that someone meant it when they said forever. I had to deal with a silent fear shortly after we were married. I was afraid that I would suffer this grieving again.  The kind that comes from being abandoned. It was a weird snake that came up and bit me that I'd never known was there. All of these tears and deep thoughts has given me a headache. But, I sigh a breath of relief and relinquish the pain so healing continues. I don't know that the healing is ever complete, but rather the looking back and processing just continues to make the scar a little fainter, though if you look hard enough you can still see it. A little anyway.