Suicide

I had (and still have) a great post with old pictures ready for today but read a tweet about Bill Zeller’s suicide, who I did not know or know of until this morning. The link includes his suicide note, parts of which are familiar to me because I have felt the same way. The pictures can wait until tomorrow.

I feel lucky that I have been able to hold off my own darkness. Every time I have thought about suicide, I’ve scared myself into getting help or I’ve talked myself out of it one way or another. I think Zeller was a much more private person than I am, and, I hate to say it, but more broken by what happened to him than I am by my own shitastic experiences – at least I am able to talk about what happened, even if parts of it I can talk about only with a few people.

In his note, Zeller talks about being worried about gossip and lies being spread about him. My theory on dealing with gossip is to tell the truth and hope that people believe me. Everyone talks about everyone else behind their back: it’s not a bad thing, it’s human nature. I would not be surprised if the bombshell I dropped the other day was being talked about, but I told the truth and I feel protected, insulated by that somehow. I guess I my “fuck it” attitude applies in more areas of my life than I thought.

After my Dad died, my own darkness got bigger again. With a family history of depression, which I now recognize comes from both the Harlows and the Kinnes, and a personal history with it, I fought it off as best I could. First, when I stayed behind after our family vacation in FL, I started smoking like a fiend to get the little kick of nicotine that would make me feel better, even if it was just for a few seconds. By August I was smoking 2 or 3 cigarettes in a row (outside, of course) just so I could face the next few minutes when I wasn’t smoking. Smoking is a really, really slow way to commit suicide, which I had realized in high school is really what I was doing. I tried Chantix, which really messed me up in other ways and then was overwhelmed when we buried my Dad in early September and gave up on quitting.

I had joined Ravelry right as my Dad was getting sick and started using the site. I found a local knitting group, Loudoun Needleworkers, joined, and made myself start going to meet-ups even though part of me really didn’t want to be around people. I felt the way Zeller descibes in his suicide note: broken, contaminated. But The Knitters, as I refer to them, turned out to be funny, irreverant, ironic, as dirty-minded as I can be, and much to my delight, most of them swear like sailers if given half a chance. I clicked with them and though we usually don’t have intense talks, it’s not group therapy by any means, they have helped me hold on and fend off the darkness.

One of The Knitters, Azar, introduced me to To Write Love On Her Arms via the spontaneous To Write Love On Her Arms Day on Facebook, wherein people write the word love on their arm and use a picture of it as their profile picture in support of those struggling with depression, addiction, and dealing with suicide. I participated (and actually just realize I missed it/it may not have happened in 2010) and started to follow TWLOHA on Facebook and Twitter. Some of TWLOHA posts have helped me heal and many have given me hope that I can go on, broken or not, that there is more to look forward to.

Finally, last summer I was having more bad days than good. I was so miserable that it seemed pointless to go on, the hole I was in was so deep I wasn’t going to be able to climb of it. I made a commitment to Ky to get help. It took me a month, but I started therapy again, went on medication again, and finally feel like the person I could have and should have been all these years. Therapy always seems like the last option, it’s always the one I put off, because it means talking about everything to a complete stranger. Every time I’ve gone into therapy, I’ve had a new therapist. At least now I know what will help me:  talk/narrative therapies combined with cognitive behavioral therapy and medication.
I still have bad days, I still sometimes feel broken and lost, but I feel better than I have been for a long, long time.

There is hope and help. No hole is too deep. Everyone’s story is different: telling yours can help keep it from swallowing you. Hang on: you might feel like help is easier to ask for 5 minutes from now or tomorrow or the next day.

Live!

We thought the hiccups would kill him. I’m thinking of it now because I have the hiccups, bad ones, the kind that, if they get worse, will bring up the acid in my stomach from all the coffee I’ve had this morning. They started the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend and didn’t end for nearly 7 days, not until Hospice got everything under control in the care center. He wanted to be at home for the whole thing – home death, like home birth – with visiting hospice nurses keeping everything under control, the pain in particular. But he didn’t anticipate the hiccups or the additional pain they would cause, the vomiting, his eventual inability to keep his pills down and so, the nurse’s inability to control the pain.

My Dad died June 1, 2008, a little over a month before his 64th birthday, of a massive heart attack after being taken off all of his heart meds while he was in hospice, a total stay of less than 48 hours. He was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer in early April, which would have killed him if not for the family history of men dropping dead of a massive heart attack, a much faster way to go, with a different kind of pain. He lived longer than any of his predecessors – my grandfather died at 59, great-grandfather at 55, and so on, each generation living a few years longer. Dad might have died when he was 35; he had four heart attacks in one day, waking in the middle of the night with a big one that couldn’t be ignored like the ones before it. He said later, when I interviewed him for a school science report, that it felt like an elephant sitting on his chest. Since my brother was away at boy scout camp, they only had me to wake up and drop off at my Aunt and Uncle’s house. I had no idea what was going on – I was 7. True to form though, my father drove from our house to my Aunt & Uncle’s, and then to the doctor’s, and then, if I have this right, the half-hour or so to Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital in Hanover, NH (now Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center).

I joked with him that since he had lived longer than his predecessors, he was the one to discover that the family carries a gene for pancreatic cancer – wouldn’t that be a kicker. Of course, we didn’t know that for sure, but it sounds a lot better than blaming it on the Agent Orange he was exposed to in Vietnam (he got sores on his arms for years afterwards, my brother and mother and stepmother all tell me that I should remember seeing those sores, but I don’t) or his lifestyle. After his heart attacks, he had to quit smoking, which was very difficult – he had an addictive personality, as did my grandmother, who was an alcoholic and smoker, and as do I. After he got home from the hospital after his heart attacks, I remember him sneaking out to his truck, a yellow Chevy Luv, to smoke cigars. Finally, to compensate for quitting, or to substitute the nicotine delivery system, he started chewing tobacco. The risk that comes to mind, that was drilled into me in high school, is oral cancers. But in the 25 or so years that he chewed tobacco, he never once spit while chewing. All of those nasty juices made a bee-line to his stomach and the rest of his digestive tract, including the pancreas.

Looking from the outside in, it seems like a pretty cavalier attitude to have toward your life if you’ve beat death before. He escaped death at least 3 times before he kind of threw up his hands, said “fuck it,” and did what he wanted: he made it through Vietnam, he recovered from the bout with malaria during which last rites were said over him, he survived the heart attacks.

What’s even funnier in a dark way (which is sometimes the most laugh-worthy because it is much better than crying) is that after all of that, in 2000 (or 2001?), a little over 20 years after the heart attacks, he had quadruple bypass surgery. I should have gone to FL to be with him through that, but we hadn’t reconciled enough, I hadn’t forgiven him enough to be there. During the long recovery, we talked on the phone. He told me how one night he woke up and it felt like the bed was moving, like one of the cats was on the bed. But when he looked for the cat to boot it off the bed, there wasn’t one there; the movement was from his heart beating. We laughed and laughed about that and I was so happy for him – he felt great. And then a year or two later, maybe not even that, he started smoking again.

All that time he hadn’t been smoking, he missed it. He hadn’t wanted to quit to begin with and now, even after watching my grandmother die a very painful death (she was an alcholic smoker with emphysema and throat cancer), he still started again.

While I’m not advocating smoking (quit now while you’re still alive!) or any other self-destructive behavior, “Fuck it” is another way of saying “Live!” As Auntie Mame, played by Rosalind Russel in the 1958 film, would say: “Live! Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!” 

So I say, have that extra slice of cake (and actually, my pants have made me well aware that I’ve been a little too indulgent with the cake lately). Have a good soak in the tub that your children use more than you do. Take those five minutes to yourself when you just need silence and to breath. Rock out to a great song in the car – sing at the top of your lungs. Do something that makes you feel good because you can, because you’re alive.1


Footnotes! Footnotes are fun and I am a dork, it’s true.

  1. Yeah, I said it. I know it sounds hokey – I groaned in my heard as I was writing. But sometimes the hokey is true, sometimes the hokey stuff helps, and if it doesn’t help, we can all stand around making puns about it and laugh and *that* will help.


Family Peculiarities

Brandon and Ethan asked me recently if they could make family trees on Ancenstry.com. They either saw a commercial on TV or, since they’ve been playing a lot of games on line, saw an ad for a Free Family Tree with 3-month trial membership!!!1! They were disappointed when I told them they couldn’t after explaining that a credit card was required for this free trial, how automatic billing would kick in after the trial membership was over, how I would forget to cancel the account, and so on, ending with “And that’s why we have nice things.”

I was going to make a family tree – a project that’s a little more extensive that what I have time for today. Also: I’d need to talk to my Mom to get accurate dates for births, marriages, and divorces – again, a bigger project than what I have time for today because we can talk for hours and hours.

I have explained some of this to friends before, which has usually ended in confusion. Although a picture would probably be helpful, I’m hoping that seeing it in writing will give you enough time to re-read and comprehend instead of me having to stop and explain again.

My mother, née Holly Harlow (1947), has 3 brothers, 2 are older (Bud, Terry), 1 is younger (Bert). They each married women named Sue – that’s right: 3 Sue Harlows all living in pretty much the same town. To distinguish all of these aunts from each other when I was little, we appended the first letter of their maiden name to Aunt Sue. So, there is Uncle Bud and Aunt Sue B. (née Susan Blake), there was Uncle Bert and Aunt Sue S (née Susan Sailer), and there was Uncle Terry and Aunt Sue K. (née Suzan Kinne).

What? What’s that? Suzan Kinne? That’s my last name. That’s right folks: my mother’s brother married my father’s sister. Holly Harlow (1947) married John Kinne (1944) and became Holly Kinne. Suzan Kinne (1947) married Terry Harlow (1943?) and became Suzan Harlow. To make this even neater, Uncle Terry and Aunt Sue K. had two children – Shane and Kelly. Double cousins! Sounds genetically sketchy, but it’s not! I swear!

To make things even more fascinating in a coincidental way, Shane and Kelly are four years apart, just like my brother and I: Shane (1965), Kelly (1969); Devon, aka Smokey, (1968), Me, (1972). Very neat indeed, although it’s technically not quite that neat; my mother miscarried twins at some point between my brother and I. When I was little, I used to think that I might not exist if the twins had survived and of course I was (and still am) sad for my Mom.  But I used to think of those twins fondly, kind of like imaginary friends but not (I had one of those too); I think I was too old for imaginary friends by the time I found out about the twins.

Back for a moment to the Aunt Sues: luckily my Dad’s brother Scott (1959) did not marry a Susan, but in 2008 his youngest brother Joel (1965) did marry a Susan. So ha ha – yes, we1
technically have another Aunt Sue.

Because Scott and particularly Joel were closer in age to my cousins, I never called them “Uncle Scott” or “Uncle Joel”. In fact, I just realized my oldest Harlow cousin, Uncle Bud & Aunt Sue B.’s son Rocky (really Roswell Harlow III) was born in 1960 and is only a year older than Scott.

Moving on to 1964-1965 – a productive and scandalous year in Woodstock. My cousin Shane was born in 1965 and so was my youngest uncle, Joel. That’s right: Aunt Sue K and Grandma K2 were pregnant at the same time. Aunt Sue K both had a baby and welcomed her youngest brother into the world in the same year. She and her mother were pregnant at the same time. Again, sounds genetically sketchy, but it’s not. In telling this story, I have had people pipe up to say that there is a similar situation in their family.

Even more crazy (and fodder for gossip): Aunt Sue K and Uncle Terry did what today is basically not such a big deal, but then – in the mid-60’s – was a serious scandal, serious business. Aunt Sue K, who is awesome and talked to me about this in FL when we gathered around my Dad, was going into her senior year of high school when she got pregnant. She was not allowed to return to Woodstock Union High School in her delicate state – that simply was not allowed. She wouldn’t have finished school were in not for an exceptional teacher who was able to overcome/ignore the social stigma to help her finish high school: Arnold Howe. The reverence and gratefulness that she has for Arnie Howe’s persistence in pushing her to finish school and graduate was still in her voice as she told me about this.

And now I’m wondering what year my cousins Linna & Amy & Heather were born; was Aunt Sue B. pregnant that year too? (Added 1/6/2011): Aunt Sue B. was pregnant with Linna ’64-’65 also. What a bumper crop of babies!

But there is one more pregnancy I am sure of. My Dad and his high school sweetheart, Nancy, continued to date even after he went into the Marines. From what I understand, his unit was deployed on a ship into the Mediterranean and then, when things heated up in Vietnam, they returned to the states and had some leave time before (and maybe after, too?) additional training Camp Lejune and Camp Pendleton. He had enough leave time to both get Nancy pregnant and have a huge fight and break up with her. He saved a letter from my grandmother that I scanned (page 1, page 2, page 3) & transcribed. It is hilarious and scary, all rolled into one:

    Sun. P.M.

    Dear Johnnie –
    Good news Johnnie – Nance isn’t pregnant. You had her so upset by going into the marines, I guess, she just skipped 2 months.
    I’m glad in one way, she doesn’t have to tell her father and I don’t have to tell Grandma K. but I’m sorry in another way. I was kind of looking forward to a grandchild but now you kids can get engaged and married like you should. Once again my prayers were answered. Aren’t we lucky?
    That’s all for now. Our love is still with you – finish up this week on the rifle range in grand style!
    All our love
    Mom Dad Due & Scottie
    Thurs. 11-8
    Dear Johnnie –
    I didn’t send a letter yesterday so I’m going to try to finish this one & get it in the mail this morning. I’ve got 15 min. to do it so it will be a short one.
    Nancys father got a new rifle for hunting – It’s a Ruger .44 cal. put out by a new company. It has a real short barrel on it. He has a scope on it too. Real nice. Nance, her father & Bob came over last nite to show Dad & wouldn’t you know, last nite was the Rotarys Farmers nite so he was out with Chick Wells.
    Racicots have moved into the school house. Red fixed it all over & it looks good, he has much more room there.
    Steve T. stopped for a minute last nite. Guess it was just a social call, he didn’t want anything in particular.
    [Ben’s writing] Hi John in for breakfast 8:20. The Tester was here this morn. got 9 more cows to calf this fall – am shipping 6 jugs will ship 10 jugs before Dec 15 – been cutting wood & think about 5 cords more wood than ever before – not to cold. The Tester Patsy – 50 lbs Winky just fresh Polly 48 lbs almira 42 lbs Pat 48 lbs. so you see I have some good ones. the rest in the 25-35lbs average. John Pesky new manager of Boston Red Sox & ice hockey to get started pretty soon will probably beat rec. center. Good luck to you
    Dad.
    [Betty’s writing up sides of letter] Scottie messed up the envelope!
    with Love
    Mom Dad Sue & Scottie xxoo

     

I love this letter – I would love to pick it apart and point out all of the things it says about my grandparents, but alas – I’m almost out of time. From what I understand, my Dad had also taken up with my mother (as they say) during his leave and my mother still feels guilty about it; had she known about all of the unresolved things between Dad & Nancy, in particular that there was a fight but extenuating circumstances (i.e., a baby on the way), she never would have gone out with him, taken up with him, looked at him cross-eyed. I think – maybe – my Dad did offer to “do the right thing” and marry Nancy, though this part of the story is extremely hazy for me – I have no idea who did what and how they felt about it. Nancy ultimately found someone else, (I would even go so far as to say someone better), who is at her side to this day.

So to the ladies who gave birth in 1965: you all have my respect for the courage it took live through that under the microscope of small town life. And also, to all the Aunt Sues out there: every time I see Sue Bee Honey, I think of all of you and your initials.


Footnotes! Footnotes are fun and I am a dork, it’s true.

  1. My brother, Shane, Kelly, and I.
  2. Yup, we did the initial thing for our grandparents too – Grandma and Grandpa K, Grandma & Grandpa H, though many of my cousins just called them “Gram and Grandpa” or “Grammy and Grandpa”; I guess my brother and I were a little more persnickety about titles.


Roots and a Bombshell

When I tell people I’m from Vermont, I see the ski slopes and chalets dancing in their eyes. Sometimes they know someone from Vermont or they’ve heard it’s beautiful in the fall. I think many people assume I come from money based on my appearance and the town I’m from – Woodstock. Such assumptions would be wrong. My parents separated when I was 13. During most of my college years, my mother was single and her annual income fell well below the poverty line. After the divorce, most of my father’s resources went to his new instant family (my stepmother had twins when they started having an affair). So I stopped skiing in elementary school because it became too expensive for our family and because I lost interest. The only reason I was able to ski to begin with is because my father took a weekend job as a lift operator at Suicide Six, which came with reduced-price season passes.

In addition to weekend lift operator during the winter, Dad worked in the body shop of the Volkswagen dealership in Woodstock, which was located in what is now a hardware store. He started working there after he got out of the Marines, after he got out of Vietnam; an automatic out because he got severe malaria and nearly died (my grandparents were flown from VT to the hospital he was at in CA during an airline strike and last rites were said over him). Dad went into the Marines right after high school, I think in part because his options were limited – Marines or work on the family dairy farm – and because he was a man’s man: popular high school football player ready to prove himself and see the world. He went to basic training in August of 1963 (IIRC) and was discharged in 1965. (I think I have my dates right, but should really double check.)

My mother, like her mother and grandmother (and probably so on), was a seamstress. She did alterations, made curtains and slipcovers, made garments from patterns, repaired clothes and quilts. After high school, my grandmother forced her to go to nursing school, but she did not want to be a nurse and lasted less than a semester before returning to Woodstock.

In such a small town, she of course knew my father. His family had moved to Woodstock in the late 50’s – I’m guessing ’56 or ’57 from Providence, RI, where my grandparents had been living and working since my great-grandfather died, leaving the family dairy farm to my great-aunt Gertrude and her husband, who promptly sold the property (now a golf course) and moved, with my great-grandmother, to (I think) Oregon. Why the farm wasn’t left to my grandfather is a bit of a mystery to me. He went to college – an agricultural college (my brother has the certificate somewhere) and presumably knew what he was doing but was obviously not the favorite. I keep thinking it may have had something to do with my grandmother, who was from Brunswick, ME, and ended up becoming an alcoholic. I have a picture of her (that I should scan) playing hooky from high school with friends and a bottle. So perhaps they were a wild an unreliable couple from the start. Definitely personable and social, but unreliable in some ways. They worked in Providence and rented a house until they saved enough to buy the (I think) Westerdale Farm in West Woodstock (currently LDT, Ltd). They certainly held their lives together well enough to run a dairy farm for 20 years in Vermont.

My mother’s family had been in the Woodstock area for a long, long time. My grandmother grew up in a house on High Street and, as my mother pointed out not long ago, they were surrounded by relatives. I didn’t know and still don’t remember who lived in which house, except 19 High Street. My great grandfather was a blacksmith. He and my great grandmother had 3 children, the youngest of which is my grandmother, born in 1922. I’m not sure if her personality is just her or a product of being the youngest during a time of great prosperity, but my mother describes her as demanding, unforgiving, stubborn, and unsympathetic.

My grandfather’s family was also in the Woodstock area a long time. When I was in grade school, an antique dealer friend of my parents, Pia Nichols, bought some diaries that were from the mid 1860’s-1870’s at an auction that turned out to be those of a great great (not sure how many greats here) aunt. Further research by my Uncle Bud (who I should really talk to, since he’s done a lot of genealogical research), who found her gravestone in Prosper Cemetary along with several other family members. My grandfather is buried there as well and I try to stop there to pay my respects when I am home.

So. About my grandfather. He was of age to be drafted in WWII, but was not for reasons my brother and I are unsure of. He also got (IIRC) a scholarship to UVM but didn’t take that (this sounds right, but I haven’t talked with anyone about this in a while and it has taken on a dream-like, did-I-make-this-up quality). Somewhere along the line he was diagnosed as manic depressive and took lithium; he was volatile, as was my grandmother. My mother tells the story of being tasked with cleaning the house at a very young age and being admonished for not doing a good job. One of my uncles talked about him using switches on the kids. I also know my grandparents moved around a lot; my mother was born in MA in 1947, where my grandparents had moved so my grandfather could get WWII factory work. I’m not sure when they moved back to VT, but I know they lived in a number of places: a house in South Pomfret (which caught fire and burned and was the reason I could not leave a fan on all night in the summer), a house Slayton Terrace, another on South Street, and on and on.

Both sets of grandparents – Harlow and Kinne – were well-respected members of the community. Grandma & Grandpa Harlow attended the Congregational Church and were active in that part of community. Grandma & Grandpa Kinne were outgoing, friendly social people. And up until the mid-1980’s, everyone knew everyone in Woodstock. My parents could walk downtown and knew just about everyone they saw walking or driving, in the stores … it used to be a very close-knit community (and in many ways probably still is, but with a lot more flatlanders and people with vacation houses thrown in the mix).

In such a small community (of about 3,000), everyone knows everyone else, everyone knows your business, everyone gossips, and everyone passes judgment. Now that I’ve generalized, I’m sure there are exceptions to the rule – there always are. In such an environment, you have to be adept at having a public persona and a private persona if you want any privacy, if you have something to hide, if you are ashamed. Both of my parents were (and my mother still is) adept at keeping private things private.

My mother has kind of withdrawn socially over the years. I know when I was young, 6 or 7, she made an effort (much like my own) to fit in with the women in the community, or the women she thought she should fit in with in the community, probably trying to emulate my grandmother, who was a poor example of a mother. I sympathize so much with my mother, much more than my brother does, because after the divorce our relationship became much more of a friendship than a mother-daughter relationship. In a lot of ways she grew up with me; I think to survive her own childhood she shut down emotionally and gradually opened back up. 

With an alcoholic for a mother at the very least and likely some other abusive stuff going on, my father never did acknowledge that his childhood might not have been the greatest. He did say that when his grandfather died, everything changed, and from what he told me, his parents didn’t really parent him very well. He never told me about specific incidents with my grandmother (aside from being left to fend for himself for several weeks at 12 or 13 while the rest of the family went to ME) and never said much about my grandfather, which leads me to think (along with my own experience of incestuous pedophilia) that there was more and that it was Bad and that it was probably horrific enough that even my Aunt Sue and uncles wouldn’t want to (or possibly even can’t) talk about it.

So I guess I should explain the incestuous pedophilia thing and using those particular words makes it sound so much worse than I ever thought of it. I didn’t even realize the magnitude of what had happened to me until I was 10 or 11, in the early 80s when molestation and abuse were finally being talked about. Before that, things were hushed up. When I was 4 or 5, one of my Dad’s brothers came to babysit my brother and I. I’m guessing Scott was in high school at the time. It was summer and it was the summer I had a crazy 70’s print bikini. I wanted to go for a walk, my brother wanted to watch TV, and so Scott took me for a walk up behind the house. He took liberties that I don’t really want to go into, except to say that he suggested I count (which I could do up to 10) until it was over. I remember telling my parents, and my mother bathing me to make sure I was clean, and a visit to Dr. Herman (who’s office is still in town) to make sure everything was ok. And the result: they didn’t do anything except make sure that I was never alone with Scott again. After my parents separated and got divorced, in my early teens when I started dating and kissing boys, all of it came back up again. I asked for therapy. The therapist asked both my parents to come in for a joint session and I asked them why they didn’t do anything. “We didn’t want to rock the boat,” was the answer.

I had one therapist (the one I saw for postpartum depression after I had my 2nd son) tell me that victims of sexual abuse, children in particular, deal with it better or worse depending on how their parents handle it. Early on I realized that my own parents weren’t exactly reliable, that they wouldn’t stand up for me or protect me from everything. I understand in some ways why they didn’t say or do anything, but as a parent myself, I don’t understand where the rage went or if there even was any rage. They didn’t want to rock the boat but I know for a fact that one of my other cousins was also molested by this uncle. And then, when he got married in the early 80s to a woman who had a young son, I worried. When they had a daughter, I worried. By that time the extended family and my own family had splintered so much that I really don’t know my cousins that well at all. But I worry and am angry and horrified about what may have happened all because I did the right thing and my parents did not.

My current therapist has told me that none of this is my fault, that I can’t worry about what someone else may have done, that I am not responsible for other people’s behavior. And I believe her, but a small part of me doesn’t. I also know that I cannot change the past no matter how much I wish things had gone differently, so here is one big reason I’m blogging – one big reason I’m making this huge admission. If a child tells you that they are being abused in any way, say something, do something, tell someone with authority. Get that child some help. I cannot tell you how important this is. If my parents had said something, the cousin who talked to me about it might have been saved from it.

When my Dad was sick, the whole family went down to Florida. My Aunt Sue, Scott (the uncle) and Bev (his amazing wife), and Joel (my other uncle). As it turns out, Scott has been in AA for a while and he and his first wife got divorced (I think in the late 90s). His current wife, Bev, also comes from an abusive family. Scott is not the same person I knew as a kid and I would like to hope that he has changed, that he does not molest, that maybe he didn’t do anything to his own children. I know he is a product of a really messed up family – God only knows what was done to him as a child – but we all make choices. I was molested and I would never, ever break another person like that. I forgave Scott, in a roundabout way, as he sat with Bev at his side. But I still get angry and I still find it unforgivable, at the same time.

I worry about publishing this post; it kind of went a little farther than I was really ready to go, and this still isn’t even the worst of it; I don’t know if I will ever be able to acknowledge the worst of it publicly, but there is more to tell. And maybe even something happy and interesting, like a family tree, talking about my double-cousins (my father’s sister married my mother’s brother), my three Aunt Sue’s, all of the 1965 (or 1966?) babies in the family, cookouts at Silver Lake, playing dirty word Scrabble at my Grandma Harlow’s with my older cousins ….

Raison d’être

I have spent years and years going over the same events in my head. Wasted years when I could have been focused on something else, like my future or my family (and I mean my family: my husband and children) or my career and education. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up and I still can’t quite identify myself the way other people do – good mother, pretty good former technical writer, pretty good fiber artist/spinner/knitter – because most days I still feel broken and I worry that I’m not responding to things the right way, that my whole life is an act and that someone will eventually figure this out and call me out on it.

The last few years I gave up trying to fit in with the other parents in my suburban DC neighborhood. When we moved into our house, I recommitted myself to my family and my marriage after a few difficult years. I wanted to make things work and part of that, I felt, was fitting in to what I thought my husband wanted (I was on the mark with some of it, off on most of it) and what I was supposed to be. Playgroups, cookie exchanges, PTA events, volunteering at school – I even briefly reconsidered church and God. None of it has worked – I simply don’t jive with many of these families and instead of pretending, I’ve finally admitted (once again) that I’m weird and that’s okay.

When my father got sick and died in the spring of 2008, my brother and I ditched our families for a week to support him through diagnosis (pancreatic cancer) and getting his affairs in order. A month later, my family took our planned, week-long FL vacation. I didn’t go home with them and stayed with my Dad and stepmother until he died (probably of a heart attack) 3 weeks later. My brother also came down for most of those final 3 weeks. Dad was lucid and funny and (mostly) his old self, a man that I hadn’t spent a lot of time with in the previous 20 years. My stepmother was acting like a sane person, handling the situation surprisingly reasonably for her, even including some early morning shouting matches. There was time to explain, time to forgive, time to resolve everything, and let it go. And I swear, I let it all go. But things have a way of rearing back up – life goes on and reminds you – and I am back to square one on a lot of this stuff.

So I’m blogging all of this instead of writing in my journals in the hopes that it will help me set these things aside again, hopefully for the last time, but also so that they might help someone else. The issues I have, the stories I’m going to tell, don’t just involve me. They are stories about my parents, their parents, aunt and uncles – my extended family. And I understand why all of these things happened, I understand how people can do the things they did – I really do – but I still cannot forgive that like everyone else, they had a choice and they made one that hurt someone else. Maybe whatever spills out of me will help someone make a better choice or at least think all the options & their effects through.

One last thing – this is not going to be a journal and it is not going to be serious fucking bizness all the time, at least I hope not. I wanted to call this blog My Golden Notebook after Doris Lessing’s novel The Golden Notebook (“…the story of writer Anna Wulf, the four notebooks in which she keeps the record of her life, and her attempt to tie them all together in a fifth, gold-colored notebook,” according to Wikipedia) but it was already taken. Little Golden Notebook also reminds me of the Little Golden Books that I read as a child and now read to my children (The Tawny Scrawny Lion is my favorite).