Archive for June, 2009

Anniversary of a Suicide

Then and Now

It’s hard to believe that as of tomorrow it will have been exactly one year since my step-father shot himself in the right temple with a .22 Ruger pistol. Ironically, this year the anniversary occurs just one day after Father’s Day. Happy Father’s Day.

I visited his grave for the first time since we buried him today.  I don’t remember anything about that last trip except for the suffocating heat, the dead weight of his coffin was as I hefted my corner of it, and staring through watering eyes at the fingerprints my brother, mother and I placed on the shiny chrome end of his vault.

Just thinking about driving down that dirt road nearly overwhelmed me with emotion and I felt a panic attack beginning as I backed out of my mother’s driveway.  The Benner Road was heavily washed out and I had to make my way down it ever so slowly.  After parking at the bottom of the original part of the cemetery, I walked up to his head stone, my heels punching down through the soft, wet soil and squatted down.

One thing that I’ve felt I needed to avoid this past year was crying.  Stupid, I know, but a need nonetheless.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I’m terrified that if I start I’ll never stop.  There seems to be an endless well of suffering that is lurking just under the surface of my psyche and tapping it seems akin to the discovery of the atomic bomb.  The sensation of being out of control is terrifying and that is the one thing that I’ve desperately felt the need to be in this past year.  My personal discovery today was that the crying will indeed end and letting it out won’t result in the destruction of life as I know it.

I still entertain that silly hypothesis now and then; the one where it’s entirely impossible that this could have happened.  That in order for me to be living this personal nightmare, the only explanation would be that somehow through the unfathomable mechanics at the quantum level, I had slipped from one reality into another.  Somewhere else he’s still alive and I’m not visiting his grave, but instead having a shot of his famous Ranger Ridge Ripple.  Why doesn’t that make me feel better?

I think November was the turning point for me. It was the first time since June 22 that I’d been able to fall asleep without having to cope with dark visions preventing desperately needed rest. My sense of emotion began to come back as well. The numbness of summer and early fall was welcome at the time, but after nearly six months of emotional anesthesia, I was beginning to feel like I was on the cusp of something that I either needed to put behind me or be forever trapped within. I decided that I wasn’t sharing his grave with him anymore.

Along with an end to the insomnia, my panic attacks subsided in both frequency and magnitude. Previously, I had been very vulnerable to them during three main times. When I thought about what had happened, when I was at my mother’s house and when I drove by the road that leads to the cemetery. It’s funny how I spent countless hours playing and exploring in the Week’s Cemetery as a child, but can hardly bring myself to even approach it now.

The hardest part of this entire ordeal has been the complete lack of compassion that people have displayed toward me. I realize that when you know someone whose father commits suicide it must be difficult to come up with anything of value to say to them but sometimes you just have to try. During the past year, I have developed a distinct loathing for anyone bringing up the subject because one of two things always happens. Either they walk up to me, their eyes brimming with tears or concern or both and say, “Your poor mother”. Or, they walk up to me, their eyes brimming with tears or concern or both and say, “Poor Justin”. This is always followed by “How is your mother/brother doing?” My initial reaction is to put on my most incredulous expression and say, “Oh! They’re fabulous! Forgotten all about it in fact.” It’s never been, “How are YOU doing?” and this is why I hate.

Suicide teaches you to hate.  Hate the person, hate the act, hate the people who refuse to acknowledge it.

During the weeks that my brother and I were staying at mom’s house and my step-dad was still alive, we’d arrive home from the hospital to dozens of phone messages. Family friends that I’d grown up with and spent countless weekends with somehow forgot that I was in all senses of the word his daughter too. After all, I had lived with him from the time I was 3 or 4 until my mid to early 20’s. I had actually just moved out of his and my mother’s house the previous spring as I’d lived there during my divorce. Yet message after message would say, “This message is for Mindy and John Jr….”, “Mindy and John Jr., I’m so sorry. If there’s anything I can do…” Mary, a friend of the family’s since the mid 80’s called one night and left a message. I had grown up with her, spending almost every weekend at her house for most of my pre-teen and early teenage years. Her message was no different, Mindy and John Jr. Evidently they were the only two affected by my step dad’s suicide. Recognizing the fact that according to the rest of the world I have no right to grieve or feel affected by his death has been an enormous part, and perhaps detriment to my healing process.

A year out and now most of my time is consumed with thoughts of what I would have done differently. I would have gone left instead of right for starters. I would have gone to the hospital that day that I chose to mope around at the house. But most importantly I wouldn’t have allowed anyone else to affect my opinion of whether his breathing tube should have been removed.

I was afraid that everyone who was in the room that morning, would be pissed at me for being the only one protesting his ‘termination’. I desperately wish now that I’d pushed the issue of allowing him another 24-48 hours. There was no cruelty involved. He was in no pain.  He should have been given the chance to let his own spirit go. At least that way he would have died with dignity and not have left yet another scar in the minds of those that loved him.

Time flows in one direction and we humans are forever trapped in its current.  There is no escape and though we can look back from whence we came, can never get back to that spot except for in our minds.  Imagination isn’t bound to the laws of physics and in it we can soothe the wounds of our spirits.

Today, and in his memory, I’m going back and doing things differently.

When we asked the doctor what his reasons were for suggesting the breathing tube be removed, he stated that “he was blind”.

Me:  “So, what you’re saying is that if your father lost his sight that you’d recommend euthanization?”

That felt better.

When our mother looked at us and said that we needed to make a decision in the next hour.

“I don’t give a shit how much everyone wants him dead.  I want him to have the chance to either pull through or die naturally.  I refuse to murder him and I refuse to take this one last thing away from him.  What is one more day going to matter?”

When asked if we would authorize an autopsy.

“Yes, we need to know what happened.  I don’t think I can live the rest of my life without having some sort of explanation of what happened tonight.  And possibly, what happened on June 22.”

When answering the phone for my mother and brother’s well-wishers.

“I’m hanging up now. Call back when you have a fucking clue and realize how insanely insensitive you’ve just been.”

When sitting at the foot of Spruce Meadow Road deciding whether to turn left or right.

“Let’s head over to Mum’s.  We can order pizza or something later but I haven’t seen them since I got home and really need to give them both a big hug.”

And finally, the night I left for California.

“Bye dad, I love you.”

My step dad’s suicide has made me realize how tenacious life is.  Sometimes I believe that it’s to my benefit, and others, like when I obsess about the inescapable, it’s not helpful in the least.  His act has made me question every human interaction that I ever have.  To me, everything seems like a big lie and possibly always will.

It’s also taught me that we are always alone and anything that seems to contradict that is merely an illusion.  We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone.  Love and friendship are chemical reactions within our brain, more often than not they’re delusions.  Our existence is meaningless and the dents we leave on others are temporary at best.

This is just dark talk caused by the darkest and dreariest of days.  Trust me, tomorrow I’ll be bright and sunny and bitching about some insignificant aspect of my daily life in Maine.  Until then, I’m going to watch the Science Channel and suffer through this sobbing induced headache.


I Heart Chickens

My porch is completely covered in gooey, green chicken poo, but I haven’t had a tick on me in a month. To some, this may seem like bad news, but to me it’s like six pounds of miracle all wrapped up in black and white striped feathers.

About a month ago I smuggled some chickens off my dad’s farm (he didn’t miss them) and brought them to Jefferson to live with me. I had my doubts about how effective they would be at tick control but literally within a day or two I noticed a difference.

Throughout the month of May I had pretty much given up on doing anything outside for each time I’d venture farther than my porch, I’d come back in the house crawling with the eight-legged menaces. One weekend in particular I think I pulled almost a dozen off myself. After a two-week stretch of lyme hypochondria I decided that I had to get tough.

We went to our local hardware store and purchased mass quantities of the foulest poisons available without a permit. I dumped gallons of this stuff all over my yard. The ticks were supposed to die, ironically, however, they seemed to multiply.

I was telling my dad about how horrible it had gotten up here and he suggested that I grab some of his chickens. At first I was reluctant because I worry about being able to take care of farm animals. I’ve had chickens on two other occasions and let’s just say that between coyotes and stray dogs, I wasn’t too successful.

Daddy alleviated my worries by assuring me that he really didn’t care whether they lived or died, so putting my premonitory guilt aside, I took six of them. Two roosters and four hens. I removed everything that wasn’t in use from my garden shed and burned it in my fire pit (one thing in two things out rule – I’ll explain in another blog post!). We spread around some hay that my mother gave me and locked them in for a day until they were good and hungry.

The next morning we unleashed them on the yard. At first they seemed unsure of what to do; instead of eating bugs they followed us around like two-legged, feathered dogs. I grabbed a handful of pellets and led them over to the back yard (which I believe was our main area of infestation), sowing food where I wanted them to peck. Within a half hour they were completely absorbed in their task, furiously scratching up the oak leaves and scoffing up anything their little beaks could grab.

Believe it or not, that was the last day we had what I’d call a major tick problem. Since that time we’ve only been able to find three ticks and two of them actually came from my roof. Since the chickens don’t get up there, I’m assuming they fell from the trees above.

I love my chickens. I can’t say it enough! I will say, however, that there are two distinct downfalls to owning them. First, they are hell on flower gardens. Once my ticks were under control I thought that I could get out in the yard and do some gardening. I did get some beds weeded and plants moved, but the chickens soon decimated all new plantings. Oh, and they love Hosta. I don’t mean they cuddle with it and chirp sweet nothing to its leaves, I mean they are absolutely ravenous for it. I had about five giant clumps of this plant growing in the garden in front of my porch and within a matter of days they had reduced these decade old plants to a shredded mass of oozing chlorophyll. Needless to say, I can deal with having no Hosta so long as the ticks are a thing of the past. Some plants that I haven’t noticed them touching are my Astilbe, Day Lily’s and Sedum.

The second thing about the chickens that I could do without is their incessant need to follow us around. We took the dogs for a walk yesterday and as funny as this sounds, all five chickens followed us nearly out to the main road. We live about 900 feet from it… I’m just glad they turned around before we got into traffic because it would have been a tad bit embarassing to say the least.

Speaking of my amazing little pest control devices, they need to be ticked (typo! hahaha) in for the night.

Y Chromosome = Retardation

I don’t even have PMS and I’m reacting poorly to a conversation that Dan and I had earlier tonight. As you might have read, I’ll be graduating in May of 2010 and because I have only a few classes left to take, I spent this evening looking up some low-residency MA/MFA programs. Several that I found seemed promising, with one in particular requiring 16 weeks of on-campus attendance during the first year.

Probably wanting to feed my ego or reassure myself, I asked Dan what would be the worst part of me being gone for that long. Here’s what I expected…or hoped he would say. “Stacy, I would be lost without you. Missing you would make those four months absolutely unbearable.” This unfortunately, is not the response that I received.

I might be quoting this slightly off because I’m so filled with anger and irritation right now that I can’t think straight, but this is what he said in a nutshell. “I think the hardest part would be having to pay all the bills. You know, the ones that you usually pay.”

When I gave him the glare of death and questioned him about his response, he informed me that he hadn’t meant it ‘that way’. I love it when men are so quick to come out with a retarded answer to an obvious question and then try to hide their accidental honesty with hemming and hawing. Well, Daniel, what ‘way’ is it? He even attempted to justify this by saying that earlier he had told me he’d miss me a lot if I was gone for any length of time. Regardless, it certainly doesn’t excuse his completely inconsiderate and disrespectful response to my direct question about what would bother him THE MOST. Maybe I should be glad in a way, but that’s another whole blog entry!

I’m having a hard time accepting his explanation. He claims that he meant it as a matter of coordination. Evidently he prides me for my excellent and timely internet bill paying skills. Click…click…click… pretty easy if you ask me. I’m not so sure this is an actual compliment. It feels like back-pedaling.

Why is it that when faced with a decision, men more often than not choose the path of greatest resistance? He literally could have said a dozen other things and none of them would have pissed me off nearly so much. But, like every other human being on the planet that is genetically tainted with the Y chromosome, he selected the ONE thing that has been my bone of contention for months now. I wish I knew a swear word that was exponentially more shocking and full of anger than fuck. If I did, I’d type it here, bold and in caps.

There we have it folks! Dan is officially a) on my shit list and b) about to get up-close and personal with either of the two couches in the living room for an extended period of time!