I wrote my first blog about all the divorces I racked up over the years, counting them as if each was a battle I survived and therefore won. You see, I wear the overcoming of multiple broken homes as a pseudo badge of honor. Each divorce brought a challenge, shaped a part of me, and damaged a part of me… but I survived.
This post is a little different.
When it comes to Suicides (including attempts) I feel no badge of honor. There isn’t a lesson learned or a silver lining. I survived them or rather was one of the unfortunate people left behind to pick up the pieces but the battle only begins at that point. The harm suicides have done FAR out weigh any “positive” that could be construed and this is yet another way I am more fucked up than you.
My first experience with suicide was when I was about 8 or 9 years old. It wasn’t a secret that my aunt was a little off. If I remember correctly she had tried to commit suicide before the night I’m about to write about but as a 9 year old I didn’t know what that meant nor did I understand the magnitude of it. This changed for me that night. Granted I didn’t understand the magnitude of suicide until I was 23 but the definition of it was crystal clear.
I remember the night very clearly up until the moment I walked into the garage with my dad. Why did a father let his 9 year old follow him into what he knew was a suicide attempt? Well, it probably boils down to his alcohol laden brain activity. -This last sentence was re-written a few times. Previous versions included gems like “coward” and “asshole”. Its hard for me to let alcoholism take the fall for his bad parenting. Through work with a great therapist Im starting to empathize with his disease rather than falt him for it.-
The evening started with my Grandma, Papa, Dad, Aunt A, Cousin, and my Aunt B getting ready to go out to my Gramdma’s favorite restaurant. As sometimes happened Aunt A would get triggered by something and stay home. Tonight, much to my dismay, my cousin stayed home with her mom (Aunt A). This meant I would have to make extraordinary wishes and throw change into the Koi ponds all on my own. It was, after all, their house too. Well, not their house per se. It was my Grandma and Grandpa’s house but my aunt and cousin lived there.
My dad and I loaded into his black chevy van. About the van real quick; I hated that van. It consistently smelled like cigarettes and him which most of the time stank like skunky beer. I remember him cleaning it only once and pulling the most disgusting yellow film from all the windows.
I dont remember why we left before everyone else. Maybe so my grandparents could deal with my aunt but most likely it was because he wanted to drink at the restaurant bar before everyone else got there. He knew if he was drinking when everyone else arrived that the tab would be transferred to the table and my grandpa/grandma would add it to their ever growing mountain of credit card debt. So away we went, him buzzed… drunk, and me embarrassed to be seen with him and in that van.
Dinner was always great at the little hibachi restaurant with the little koi ponds. My Grandma always smiled like a movie star when the chef, affectionately called “Cooker the Bob” by my cousin, recognized her. Like a movie star my grandma always had her make up and hair done. Her lips glowed pinkish-red except for where the color transfered to the straw she used to drink her white wine spritzer.
My grandpa always had his hair parted on the side, perfectly combed, in a slicked back way reminiscent of his days growing up in the 50’s as a wanna be greaser driving his old brown Ford Shoebox. He’d unplug one of the wires from the distributor cap to make it shake like it had a more powerful motor. The car lost its battle with time but my papa never lost the driving stance of a young man cruising the streets. Left hand at 12 and right hand on his screw driver that sometimes rested on the center console but always appeared to have very little vitamin C in it.
I knew that literally drinking while driving was wrong. However, it felt infinitely more safe than driving with a drunk… even if he wasn’t actually holding a drink. I always hated driving with my dad, even when he was probably (maybe) sober which tonight he definitely (probably) wasn’t.
After dinner my dad and I went back to the house. He never was shit and never had shit so when my grandpa said something about stopping at the party store on the way home my dad would casually say to him “hey dad, if you guys are stopping, can you grab some Molsons? Drinking Canadian beer rather than my grandpa’s MGD or vodka, I imgine, made him feel like his own man. I mean, why wouldn’t it be a sense of pride? He had a cozy apartment in my grandparents basement he had formed from sheets he had stapled to their rafters, drove a van they gave him, and lived of off them almost completely so why not draw the line at insisting on drinking a different alcohol… even though they had purchased it. A man has to draw the line somewhere.
In case you missed it, the house was inhabited by my dad, my aunt A, my cousin, and my Grandma and Grandpa. 4 grown ups and a child. I visited only when my dad had enough of my grandparents guilt and called my mom. Aunt B was succeessful in that she avoided living with my grandparents until 2017 when alcoholism eventually convinced her to move into the cementary plot next to my grandma.
So my dad and I get to the house first. As we pull up we notice my Aunt sitting in her car parked in the garage. About 3 years later I would read the Pelican Brief and finally understand the logistics of why the car was running and why she had run the garden hose from the tail pipe to the cracked driver side window.
When we made the turn into the circle driveway, I dont know if my dad saw my aunts setup or only suspected something was up, but he immediately pulled out and drove to the otherside of the block where we would park and stroll a quarter mile back to the house through the park while my aunt gasped on toxic fumes and passed out. At the time, he said he did it so that we didn’t scare her. I always thought he did it because he was a coward. As I write this now, 30 years later, the truth is more likely that in his drukenness he didn’t want the cops asking questions about if he had been driving or not… fucking coward. (Im not changing this, regardless of therapy).
We go into the house through the front door. My cousin, more like a sister at the time, is sitting on the couch holding an ice cream scoop crying and pleading for help. She wasn’t talking to us neccessarily but really just yelling into the universe. Hoping that her mom would come back or that she would be rescued from this hell.
It kills me to this day to think that by driving around the block we had subjected her to another 15 minutes of that hell. I think, if I was 8 or 9 then she had only been 5 or 6. Can you fathom that a 6 year old watched as her mom barricaded herself in the garage leaving a fucking 6 year old alone in the house. Leaving a 6 year old with the responsibility of saving her mothers life.
My cousin with all her might grabbed the most familiar tool in the kitchen and proceeded to hammer at the door with an ice cream scoop. Let that sink in, a fucking ice cream scoop. Shakespeare himself couldn’t have written poetry this ironic and tragic. My little cousin, as innocent as she could be, went straight for the only kitchen utensil she knew and tried to help her mom.
Lets stop here and collectively exclaim as loud as socially acceptable wherever you are right now a gigantic “FUCK YOU!!!!!!” to my dad and my aunt.
Also, from here on out Ill be calling my dad “jack-off” cause he didn’t deserve to be called dad then or now… therepy has me waffling on this but for now it stays. Its how I felt.
Now lets continue.
So jack-off, who never was shit and never had shit, goes to the barricaded garage door and gets it open. I followed him and remember seeing the car and smelling the thick smell of the exhaust fumes. Jack-off hits the garage door opener and just like that, I dont remember anything else.
My aunt survived this attempt just as she has survived every other attempt since. She was fucked up then and is still fucked up. Nothing changed about her.
My cousin on the other hand carries every single attempt with her. She carries with her every moment of growing up with a mother who has succomb to mental disease. In some ways she is still the 6 year old I saw on the couch. In other ways I can’t even recognize her. She’s tougher now and carries herself like someone who has survived immense tradgedy. She has an edge sharper than any blade and is harder than the highest grade diamond. She is not to be fucked with… unless you need help because if you need help she will break herself to make you whole.
I still love her dearly but our relationship changed in the years that followed. I carried the guilt of not only that night but MANY other nights when the fights turned into screaming matches and violence. The number I witnessed pales in comparison to the number she lived through. She went on to do her very best to lead her own life.
My cousin is working to be better than the sum of her past as am I. We’re finding the help and support that my aunt and dad so desperately needed
Regardless, as I write this its tempting to wish my aunt would have died that night. That thought comes from a place of deep resentment and hurt. A place that I don’t think many people have in them. My cousin probably houses this place deep inside her as well and for that we are both more fucked up than you.
“You ain’t been through shit, I seen a lotta things, I am a tenant in this mother fucking house a pain” @FlowFrazier