Look at the stars in the sky, the sun shining, clouds blowing by. There you are.
When I look out on the ocean, smell the salt on the breeze and grey vessels passing by, I see you.
Gestures and words we used together, a wink, that smile never failing to curl the corners of your mouth… you.
Driving with all the windows down, no one ahead and no one behind, I look over at the empty seat beside me. For a moment, I can almost see your eyes, brown-green and great big lashes.. are you still there?
No, you are not. You are gone. You left.
I am here, still holding real-estate for you in the empty space that was my heart.
I was asked why I wasn’t happy because I am “home”. Home. That is a loose term. If you know me, this is the part where I am rolling my eyes back to last Tuesday.
When Mali was alive, I knew right were home was. I built a life there with my family. Work, schools, ball games, concert recitals, debates, grandchildren being born, chores, dishes, grocery stores, errands, bills and all the other shit on top of making sure everyone in the family was fed and happy. That daily grind of being a wife and mother as well as being a woman in the workforce was mind-numbing and rewarding.
Life just stopped when Mals killed herself. Not in the sense that the world stopped turning. That keeps right on going.
Mali’s suicide paralyzed each member of my family and stopped us from supporting each other. All of us. Life and this idea of home became more like a desert with so little water everything was bound to dry up.
Back to the home thing. The definition of growing roots and raising a family is foreign to me. I have lived in many places as a child and as an adult. It wasn’t until our second child was born did we decided to make roots. That was scary and cool all at the same time. I drank the kool-aid and put myself aside to raise a family with my partner.
I find myself rootless again. No home. Move along, nothing to see here.
I grew up in Northern California. It has always been home to me no matter where I was residing. Now that I am here, I don’t feel home. Southern California was also a home to me at one point. I have friends and family there. Nope, home isn’t here either. What about Sioux Falls? I left everything there; my tattered family, my children, my child’s ashes in the mausoleum, the best job ever, my friends, all of my belongings, except for the clothes on my back. This was supposed to be home. This was the compromise. The place to raise our kids so they would be safe from the dangers of living in an overpopulated, smog-ridden city. Sacrifice, so we would be closer to his Father……..I am going to spare everyone from my cynical musing tonight.
To answer the question “Why am I not happy being home?” Seriously? That can’t really be what you are asking me. You know well enough I am not happy because, what was home was not a place. It was the people I love and will continue to love. Home is the commitment I made as a wife and mother.
Here is an analogy about removing one component of this mythical place called home:
“Taking the meat out of stew, much like removing a piece of your family, doesn’t make much of a stew or a home. The person being served meatless stew is probably not happy about it. The stew meat that was discarded is probably not happy about that either. Unless you go vegetarian then, by all means, shovel that shit in”.
In case you are wondering, that little analogy is all mine.
I have been in Southern California about 6 weeks now. It seems like a lifetime. I took a walk on the beach today and collected shells for a project I am going to work on.
Picking up those shells scattered along the sand reminded me of my life. It was low tide but high tide was making its way in.
Every shell along the way reminded me of fragments of my life. Some were broken, some were whole. All of them, ranging from white to red and black in color. All were flawed in one way or another. The tide was rolling in drowning every shell in its way.
There is a whole plethora of words to describe the day. Broken, drowning, sad, defeated, angry, weak, unloved, lost and alone. The good thing about this day were the other words in my head dying to come out. Hopeful, grateful, present, strong, loved, supported by my best friend on the planet.
I am uncomfortable in my own skin. I am definitely feeling sorry for myself.
I have said before I haven’t felt angry about Mali dying the way she did. I should be but, I don’t have any anger with that beautiful girl. What a grand mess she made with her departure. Or did she? Maybe that mess was always there? Honestly, I believe it was.
I have paid an extremely high price, in retrospect, for a life that I constantly bricked and mortared just to keep together. All the brick and mortar on the planet cannot keep back a tide that eventually washes everything away. I thought the meaning of unconditional love was taking the hard road. Trying to do the right thing. Always being available to my family. I was wrong. After everything was said and done the brick and mortar broke. Maybe I am wrong…. Does it really matter anymore anyway?
A child is equal parts Mom and Dad. Perhaps, when children are small, they gravitate towards their mama partly because we carry them but, there is a social norm that defines women as the primary caregiver.
What about a father? When we think of a typical family, fathers are “breadwinners”, “read the papers after a hard day at work”, “leave child rearing to mothers”. Is this really true? Probably not.
Mali’s Dad was unique in the fact that the first year of her life, he was her primary caregiver. She was his world. He held her first when she came into the world. She gravitated towards him and shied away from me when I came home from work. All the firsts; walking, eating new things, playing, haircut; all experienced with her Dad. Those two had an inseparable bond. As she grew older her music choices, views of the world, astronomy, traveling; all reflected Mali’s and her Dads musings. He was the last one to hold her the day she died. I think about that and I am speechless. What that must have been like to have been there when that precious girl came into this world and when she decided to leave.
I cannot speak to what it feels like to be a father who has lost his babygirl. Throw suicide into that mix and I really have no clue. I am not a father.
Men are programmed to be stoic, hard, unwavering in the face of indescribable pain and suffering. On the outside, everything looks in place. Men break, fathers break, husbands break.
The point I am trying to make here (most likely badly) is that father’s are not forgotten in the quagmire of losing a child to suicide. Just in case any fathers that read this, I want you to know that your child loved you. It’s not your fault. You have real feelings about your child’s death and you need to express them. They are important as you are important. Even if it takes you a long time.
If the thought that people are judging you silently because “You must have been a shitty parent and that’s why your girl killed herself” know that their opinions means shit and they can go fuck themselves. Your daughter adored you and you know this.
Something I have thought about often lately is that families are all built differently. Some have both parents. Some only one. Children can be both alive or waiting for us on the other side. It still makes a family.
When you feel you are all alone in your pain, know you aren’t. Open your eyes and look around. There are people who love you and walk right next to you through the most unbelievable pain imaginable.