A little Back-story before I unravel this Ramble –
My mother passed away on Mother’s Day (May 12th, 1996). She was only 52 years old.
Over the last 13 years, I usually write something about her passing/death, or the circumstances that were going on within our family at the time (some of them can be found in the archives of this site – others have long since disappeared into the Black Hole of multiple URLs disappearing or being forsaken). This year, I’m going to flip the script a little, so I’m not going to write about her death.
This year, I’m going to tell you about the time she saved my life…
I was seventeen years old. My father had just left home, leaving the three of us (my mother, myself, and my littler sister) kind of in the lurch. I mean – it was pretty evident that their marriage wasn’t necessarily The Greatest Of All Time, but coming home to find that he’d left was a bit of a shock. My mother was a fucking wreck. And me, being the douchey little bastard that I had the tendency to be, was overflowing with advice and witticisms that I thought could ease her emotional distress.
That didn’t go as planned.
I remember the worst of them all, as it haunts me to this day – one early morning as I was getting ready to go to work (I was going to an “Alternative” High School at night, since I didn’t seem to get along all too well with all the cute and fuzzy bunnies at the High School I was supposed to go to – so I worked in the mornings and went to school at night.), and we were having our customary “Mom and Sean” morning coffee routine. She was sitting at the counter, bags underneath her eyes so big and brutal she looked like she’d been hit in the face by Marvelous Marvin Hagler. I was standing on the other side of our kitchen counter, pouring her a cup of mud. It might have been Spring, but my memory about the minutiae is a bit foggy twenty or so years later.
She started crying, and as her son, her eldest, I couldn’t bear the thought of her being in pain. It killed me to see her cry. Every time she started, I wanted to jack her car from her, drive to wherever my father was hiding out with his new womanfriend, and beat him unconscious with whatever I could find – as any Good Son should.
Instead, I opened my big fat yap and said quite possibly the most terrible thing that has ever come out of my mouth. I can still to this day feel the way the kitchen felt when all the air got sucked out. I can still see the way her eyes just exploded into a million tiny shards of sadness. I can still feel the immediate impulse to grab the biggest knife in the kitchen and commit Seppuku right there on the fucking spot.
“Jesus Fucking Christ, Mom? He dumped us. It sucks, but fucking get over it already and stop being so fucking weak.”
Even typing that sentence out rightfuckingnow I feel like such a fucking shitbird. It’s honestly my one regret in my entire life, my one Terrible Iniquity that I just cannot seem to shake loose from. My albatross of horrific proportion.
Fast forward about six weeks, and I’m losing my fucking mind.
I don’t know for sure what really sparked the fire in my belly, but the level of depression I was suffering from was beginning to become un-fucking-bearable. Not normal Teen Depression in the least – this wasn’t even the regular old “I’m going to walk out into the middle of I-10 and get hit by a fucking Semi” depression. This was “Sean bought a little .25 deuce-quince off a Mexican coke dealer, and plans on shooting himself under his chin in the middle of the night” depression.
I don’t even really remember if I had even talked to any of my friends about how bad it was. I just knew I was cracking, and cracking fast. I had found an old typewriter in the garage, and I would stay up all night, typing out these long as fuck letters to Jimi Hendrix, stoned out of my mind and spun out from eating handfuls of White Crosses. Those fucking letters, man – they were something else. Stream-of-consciousness shit that would probably make old Ted Kaczynski seem like a sweet and loving old man who only wanted to teach children math.
I was so angry that I would come home all kinds of fucked up and just terrorize my mother and sister, locking myself in my room with that infernal typewriter, click-click-clacking away all night long. Some nights, I would crawl out my window with my headphones on, laying in the gravel with the gun in my lap, looking up at the moon to see if there would be some kind of sign letting me know when to pull the plug.
I was slowly turning into something like those fucking Columbine Cunts, at least in my mind. Cracked in half. One half of my mind totally terrified of myself, and the other half willing to embrace all of that beautiful chaos and incendiary anger.
One morning, my mother just flat-out asked me why I was writing letters to Jimi Hendrix.
I just fucking crumbled right there, on the spot. Like, rolling on the floor, speaking in tongues, bouncing my head off the linoleum bawling like a little minge. None of that Nancy Kerrigan wailing, though. Just the physical aspects. I told her everything. I told her that I planned my death in my head almost every hour, and that I was terrified that I might actually do it. I told her that I didn’t want to hurt her or my sister. I told her that I needed help, because I didn’t really want to die, but that it was all I could think about. I told her that her life, and my sister’s life, would be better off without me, because all I did was fuck everything up.
She told me that she knew. She told me that she knew I needed help, and told me that I was going to get some.
She was really patient and loving with me. She waited for me to come to her. She never pushed the issue, even though she knew I was about to go the fuck off. She had been reading the letters, even though I thought I had stashed them in a decent spot. She had already contacted my psychologist, and let him know that I was taking things way over the line of normal Teen Depression. She asked me if I was really intent on doing myself harm, and asked me in that way that only a mother can ask her child – the way that not only makes you feel retarded for having the thoughts, but flips that switch inside of your frazzled brain and lets you know it’s time to take the help.
Later on that night, I was in an intake room for an Adolescent Psychiatric Facility. The Bughouse. My own Ginsbergian nightmare come to life. My poor mother. This intake nurse is sitting there running the magical gauntlet of questions, asking me about which drugs I’ve taken, what my thoughts of harming myself were like, my level of sexual activity, and how often I felt like hurting myself, and she’s having to take it all in. I watch her hands shaking as I answer these questions. I see the fear in her eyes, this sadness that washes over her face and ages her in an instant.
I remember reaching over and grabbing her hand. I remember the both of us, crying. The intake nurse had no idea what to do or say. So I said it instead.
“Mom, you saved my life today. No matter what happens in here, you saved my life. Please don’t be scared.”
I’m not going to go into what the next 90 days of my life were like in that place right now. Maybe some other time. Sometimes, when the shit in my life starts to pile up on me and feels overwhelming, I think about what it felt like in that intake room. I think about how brave it was of my mother to take that risk, that gamble that I would actually go through with it.
I’m thankful that she did.