Autumn

Things had been going downhill for a few years but we might have pulled it out. Something happened that Fall that changed my life forever.

My daughter left home to live with her sister and that changed my marriage and me irrevocably. She had reason to leave, I suppose. At least I can’t really blame her. It was never her fault. Menopause hit me hard, a convenient scapegoat for the fact that I’d been slowly turning bitter and angry for years. The raging hormones of menopause won the war within me and the demoness I am inside ran free. My bitterness, my despair and hate and resentment were no longer controlled and my poor daughter, going through teenaged angst and issues of her own, got the full brunt of my inability to control myself.

I still remember although vaguely, like I had watched it through a window half hearing what was said and misunderstanding most of what occurred. Caught in the teenaged crime of sneaking out and sneaking a boyfriend in, my daughter was screaming at me and I was screaming back, our faces contorted in a parody of tragedy. My husband standing bewildered on the sidelines, his accustomed place whenever anything was at stake. She left to go to her older sister, me agreeing, never for moment thinking it was permanent, believing she would be back. A month later, the devastation of HPV and my daughter’s diagnosis. Her refusal to come home, her distancing herself from me, from her Mom. My failure that she didn’t want my arms, my comfort. My rage and impotence. I believed she would come home, all through the Autumn I believed it. Then Christmas, when she stayed with her father, dropped out of school. There was utter deadness in me.

My husband offered no support, buried in his own loss and work I suppose. I have no way of knowing, for he never talked, never shared, never showed reaction, sadness, awareness that anything had changed. I had always thought that when at last we were just us, we would grow even closer, rekindle. That didn’t happen. If anything, we grew further apart and I didn’t understand why.

Even my friends were absent, caught up in their own lives and ways that no longer included me. My usefulness to them no longer served and other people were eager to step forward and carry their bags. I was pushed aside and finally out, not maliciously, but with the kind of indifference with which one pushes a chipped cup to the back of a cupboard.

Throughout the Fall, the issues with my sister and my mother’s illnesses haunted me. My sister, tired and frustrated and angry, drove me away with her constant criticism, vitriol. I used my husband as the excuse to stay away. It is my shame. But I couldn’t stand being around my sister. My ability to control my feelings, my actions and my words around her utterly failed.

I didn’t go to see my mother. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. I meant to, but I didn’t.

After my daughter left, I had nothing to fill the time … the hours once filled with activity and the friends who had also for some reason never comprehended left me. Everything I did was meaningless surface activity. After the holidays, with my daughter gone and my husband distant, with no friends, I became increasingly afraid to leave my house.

Then Mom died.

I held her hand and dying it felt no different that it did living.

Her pulse so faint under my hand I mistook my own blood pulsing in my fingers for her heartbeat and refused to believe it.

I looked at the faces of my family over her body and there was nothing in them.

Only a barely suppressed relief that it was over, not for her, but for themselves.

I could not make any decisions regarding her funeral, could not participate in planning. Not because I didn’t care but because I did. I was so afraid that if I once let it out it would never stop and something even more horrible would happen. As I stood at her funeral looking at those people who did not know her, reading biblical hypocrisy chosen by my sister, I tried to reach past the words to those dead faces sitting in that room. I wanted to tell them who she really was. But no one would have heard and my sister would have stopped me. My Dad would have stopped me. I myself would have stopped me.

The wizened painted mummy lying in the coffin was not my mother. She would never have allowed herself to be seen like that. What my sister did to her was the ultimate act of hate and scorn. I remember that funeral as though it were a surreal black and white film, faces looming large and receding like circus clowns. Voices with no words, dry parchment skin stretched over withered hands patting me, plucking nervously at my sleeve.

I needed my daughters and husband after that but they weren’t there.

I tried reaching out to them.

I asked. I asked but they didn’t … couldn’t … wouldn’t hear what I was really asking.

And they didn’t come

Less than a month later my husband moved his niece into our home, without asking me. In that one act, he took my home from me. All was lost, it seemed to me; my family, my home, my husband, and my touch on reality, lost in a grief so thick and hard it encased me as though I was in amber.

Loss.

Loss of family, marriage, husband, mother, father, friends, whatever reason I had to wake in the morning to dream.

All gone.

I reached for straws floating on the ocean, not realizing how weak they would be.

I fell and didn’t know when the falling had stopped and the madness had begun.

I thought I was sane.

All around me was insanity and I thought I was sane.

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