It’s been two years and two and a half months since my son made the incredibly devastating decision to leave us behind forever. He was thirteen and in seventh grade when he took his own life.
My daughter, the one child I have left, is about to finish seventh grade, and will be thirteen in a few weeks. I am already counting down the days until her fourteenth birthday. Even though that age begins a whole new era of challenges (hello dating, driver’s ed. on the horizon, and making decisions about college…), none of those can remotely compare to the fear that my other child will do it too.
Sometimes I tell myself, Come on, Tami, you know she won’t. And then myself whispers back, That’s what you thought about him, too.
It’s an argument I’ll never win. But in my head, I’m convinced the argument will become less vocal, less at the forefront, once she moves from thirteen to fourteen. Subconsciously, I will believe the threat of suicide will have reduced significantly, even though, realistically, I don’t believe it is even there in the first place. Of course, tell that to Self…
Tragedy messes with your head, let me tell you. It’s like this living, breathing monster, hovering over you, whispering in your ear, exploiting every fear you’ve ever felt and blowing them up until it feels like they are crushing you.
And then when I think things like that, I think, Gee, is that where my son’s monsters came from? Did they come from me? Was it my fault?
There’s a topic for discussion next time I’m parked on my therapist’s couch.
Here’s a perfect example of my fears running rampant and my internal self telling my, well, self, to calm the fuck down:
I have recently come to the (not popular) determination that housework was not meant for only one person. In fact, I proclaimed to my family, there are three of us living here, three of us making a mess of the place, so therefore three of us should clean it up.
I know, novel concept, eh?
The announcement, handily made over Mother’s Day weekend, spurred (extremely) grudging completion of chores by other members of my household, thus giving me a little bit more time to do what I love: write stories. Too bad for them there was such immediate and joyful gratification from the work they did, because now I have the expectation on the regular.
Yep, I’m a crazy one, all right.
So this past Saturday evening, I said to my husband, “Tomorrow’s the day. We all just need to pitch in one hour and the house will be clean.” He was amicable because, well, he knows I’m right.
Since I know my daughter well, I know she would rather do her portion when we aren’t around, versus all of us happily cleaning away together, like a family. So on Sunday, just before it was time to go to church, I gave her a list of chores to complete while her father and I were gone.
And she coped an attitude. One of those giant ones teenagers are so amazingly capable of.
I told her again what was expected of her, and she started with the questions, all of which basically came down to, “Why?” I explained that dust is gross and needed to be wiped away on occasion, and frankly, she should be glad because we sure as hell don’t dust this place as often as it needs it. It usually happens when I accidentally brush a finger along a shelf and it comes back gray—or worse, when the sun shines in the window at exactly the right angle and highlights all the dust motes with glowing little halos. (Every time that happens, I think, there is nothing heavenly about dust. Nothing. In fact, if heaven really is heaven, there will be no dust there ever.)
Not surprisingly, the conversation deteriorated until I uttered that ever-hated phrase, “Because I said so.” And to make matters worse, my husband stormed into the room at that point and had my back. “Here, let me help you listen better to your mother,” he said and promptly turned off her computer in the middle of whatever game she was playing.
So naturally, when we left, she was angry and not speaking to us.
And also naturally, I spent the entirety of mass completely tuning out whatever the priest was saying and instead stressing over my daughter, home alone, angry, sitting and stewing in what was once her brother’s room. And to be honest, I’m a little bit surprised I didn’t get up and leave in the middle of it because seriously, that internal angst shit is real, and it’s seven thousand times more potent when you’ve already experienced the fear you are imagining at the time.
Needless to say, my daughter was alive and well when we arrived home. And the dusting had been done, as well as vacuuming and making her bed. Damn, I should have given her a bigger list.
And none of us are angry anymore, either. So life goes on, and I can breathe easily again.
For the moment. Only 385 more days before she turns fourteen…
Tami Lund writes books, drinks wine, wins awards, and writes quirky blogs about her life. She also recently released a brand new book called BABY, I’M HOME, if you want to check it out!