Updated: Apr 25
Death came to visit my home when I was a junior in high school, yet I didn’t wish to let it in. My mother got up one Saturday morning shortly after Valentine’s Day in 1984. For me that morning was like most others. I got up and was eating breakfast and watching television with my younger step-brother. The peace of the morning didn’t last long as my mother and step-father started screaming at each other. She was mad because he had sent his ex-wife a dozen long stem roses for the holiday. My mother got nothing.
My step-brother and I didn’t move as this confrontation played out in front of us. We sat there both of us wanting to flee, yet fearful if we did we would get yelled at. My mother screamed, asking my step-father if he ever loved her. His response, wow I still can’t believe he said it. “No, I never loved you. I’m still in love with Bunny.” She was his ex-wife. They were in the foyer when this was said, but retreated to the kitchen area to continue. She then moved into the family room and grabbed a huge Brandy snifter that held a sand garden in it. She picked it up and hurled it at my step-father, sending sand, ceramic figurines and glass all over the floor.
This colossal mess was all over the floor, and I grabbed a broom and started sweeping it up. I swept it into a neat little pile by the pass-through, getting yelled at in the process. Then my mother grabbed a bag of those little candy hearts with the messages on them. Somehow, the bag ripped, and candy hearts were all over the floor as she kicked the dog’s water bowl. The water added to the mix. Thinking back, the mess on the tile was a metaphor for the chaos that was coming.
The two of them argued until early evening before my mother headed into her bedroom to take any medication she could find. My step-father followed and locked their door leaving my step-brother and me to fend for ourselves. The two of us sat there and tried to make sense of it all. When we couldn’t we just mindlessly stared at the TV. I was sixteen and wasn’t meant to handle this. Finally, after my step-father came out one last time, it seemed like everything might be okay.
The next morning, my mother was up bright and early. I heard her in my bathroom going through my medicine cabinet and grabbing the Tylenol 3 I'd forgotten I had. I tried to stop her, but she grabbed what she could and went back into her bedroom. She was on a mission. I got dressed, and she came out and got in the car. The garage door was closed as she sat in the driver’s seat. I knew what she was going to do and I wasn’t going to let her. I pleaded with her to stop. I tried to get the keys, but she locked herself in. Finally, I said, “I'm going to call the paramedics.”
Her response to me was, “If you do I’ll never forgive you.”
I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to let my mother kill herself. I loved her too much for that to happen. I dialed 911 and informed them of the situation. By the time I hung up the phone, my mother was out of the car and headed to the formal living room. 'The paramedics and police were arriving at the same time my step-father came out of the bedroom. She was sitting on a daybed and was fading fast. They were trying to get her to stay awake, but she couldn’t keep her eyes open. As they prepped her for the ride to the hospital, I noticed our neighbors standing outside in their robes watching.
The Paramedics put her in the ambulance. My callous step-father went with her, leaving me to grab my step-brother and head to the hospital after I locked up. When we walked to the car, I welled up with dread as my neighbor moved across the street to see if everything was okay. I lied. I couldn’t tell him what she’d done. “Everything’s fine. They think it’s a touch of the stomach flu.” We got in the car, but neither of us could speak. We were terrified that my mother might die. I drove as fast as I could and only thought about what she had said. She was never going to forgive me.
We sat in the waiting area in the ER, for a few hours before we were allowed in to see her. She was hooked up to a respirator. The black shadow of what she had done was around her mouth and down her chin. They told us they weren’t sure if she would live. I prayed and hoped beyond hope that she would. She was my mother, and she couldn’t leave me.
Three days passed before she woke up from her coma. She stayed in the hospital and was evaluated. She convinced them, she was just burned out. We didn’t have Bipolar back then. She got out and told everyone how my step-father saved her life. How could she say that he was in their bedroom not caring about her at all when I made the call?
I wish I could say this was a one-time event. There were times when I was little she tried, that I really don’t recall. There were times after I moved to Texas she’d threaten. However, on November 09, 1991 I got a phone call. It was another Saturday; I was now 24 with my own family. She told me how she loved me and to have a good life. She told me to have a beautiful wedding as well. I begged and pleaded for her to not do it. I tried calling her back and got no answer. This time I knew she’d follow through on her month-long threat back in June. I couldn’t shake it. I had told my step-father in June to get her help because she needed it. He didn’t.
The morning of November 10, 1991, I got up thinking maybe I overreacted. I turned on the TV and hit rewind on the VCR just before the phone rang. I turned everything off. I knew who was calling it was death. My step-father was on the line. “We lost her,” those were the words he said as I slid on to my kitchen floor sobbing. He told me she shot herself in the garage. Everything else was a blur except for the lies I had to tell to protect the ones I loved. My young step-daughters, I lied and said, “Maw-Maw was cleaning a cabinet, and a gun fell and accidentally went off.” For my grandmother, I had an hour-long conversation with her telling her I was sure my mother was okay, even though I knew she was already dead. I had to lie, she had a heart condition, and we needed to be with her when she found out.
After her death, I had many dreams where she told me she was alive but I think that was because I never saw anything to support her death. There was only a bullet hole in the garage door and her ashes, I set free. She finally had completed her mission to kill herself. While her physical death occurred in 1991, I think she was lost to me way before death came to visit.
© 2010 copyright D.M. Needom