Saturday, November 7, 2009

COMMITTED- stop me from hurting me


This is the day that I was finally convinced I could not take a moment more of my life. It was Thanksgiving Day. My grandpa, and the woman who I’ve come to know as my grandma since the death of my real grandma, had decided that there was no need for a traditional celebration, or any celebration for that matter. Besides, our oven didn’t even work so how could we cook a turkey? I had gotten used to not expecting big Thanksgiving dinners when I was a child, but now that I had kids of my own it seemed like a memory I wanted them to have. Feeling I was doing an injustice to my children, I decided they would be more appropriately served their dose of a traditional family Thanksgiving with their father and his girlfriend’s family.

I got them dressed in the nicest clothes I had for them. Destin wore a pair of navy blue corduroys with cargo pockets. His shirt was a navy blue sweater with a v-neck and a white stripe across the front. I used the expensive pomade that I bought for him and made his hair look rather stylish for a three-year-old. His hair was just in a short boy cut with a little fade. His medium brown hair was darker than mine, but lighter than his Dad’s. His big brown eyes always were so curious and innocent. Sometimes I could cry just looking at him and knowing how much I loved everything that was him. I loved how he looked so much like both me and Thomas yet so much like his own person. I loved the way he giggled and the way he cried. How could I love him so much and then still not be able to be the mom he so much deserved?

Aliviya wore a cute little plaid skirt that was different shades of pink and black. It was lined with silver. The shirt that matched was black velvet. It appeared to be a separate shirt with a sweater over but it was just an illusion. It was really one shirt. It had pretty pink flowers lining the neck of the cardigan part. I put her in black go-go boots that really made her look like she was dressed like a big girl. I’m sure someone would criticize me for trying to make my one-year-old look like a teenager (hooker- I could hear her Dad saying), but I liked her outfit. She was too cute to not have fun with the way I could dress her. I couldn’t dress that way now that I had ballooned to 316 lbs. So, I put her in go-go boots and loved every minute of it. She looked cute too, not too grown up, but sassy. Her eyes were mysterious like mine. They were almost as dark brown as mine are, not light hazel like her Dad’s. She got the long beautiful eyelashes just like her brother. Those she did get from Thomas. Definitely not mine. It takes me three layers of mascara before you even notice that I HAVE eyelashes.

Aliviya already had such long pretty hair too. It was past her shoulders at 1 year old already.I did Aliviya’s hair with care and precision, making sure the parting for her pigtails was perfect and that all of her hair was combed smoothly into the ponytail holders. I even selected ones that I thought matched her outfit perfectly. After all, I wouldn’t want to disappoint Thomas and make him show off his kids with less than suitable appearances.

I waited anxiously for their Dad to come and get them; only a half-hour more ‘til he got there. I was dying to go take a nap. It had become my usual escape from anything. Thanksgiving Day was no different. I wanted to go to sleep, where I could justify anything, forget about all that was real, and pretend like everything was ok. At last he arrived and I gathered the kids and helped them get their coats on. I hoped today he would have the decency to leave me alone and not make some sexual comment or try to sneak off and kiss me while Nancy wasn’t looking. I had made a request of my grandparents to try and hover around Thomas when he came for the kids so that he would not approach me. I listened to the excited screams of “Daddy… Daddy’s here!” and I gave him the keys to my car so he could go get my car seat out of my car and use it in his. Well actually it was her car. How cute… she had a Dodge Neon just like me. Of course hers was newer and forest green. Mine was just plain and white and I was just thankful that it had air conditioning and that it didn’t reek of cigarette smoke. I always wondered why he just couldn’t get his own car seat for Liv, but not enough to risk the argument that would undoubtedly ensue if I asked him. So I always let him use mine.

I said my good-bye’s, hugged and kissed the kids, and wished them a happy Thanksgiving. I made Destin promise he’d eat lots of Turkey and be good. I confirmed I’d be at Nancy’s house by 6: oo to pick them up. As I watched them drive off I was thankful it was finally time to go lay down.

I was just getting comfortable when my grandpa came down and asked me when I could be ready to go eat. Sigh. I didn’t think I wanted to go, but how do you tell someone you’d rather sleep on Thanksgiving then go eat? I got dressed and fixed my hair and did my make-up to the bare minimum I would allow. I had to do something with myself just in case I seen someone I knew. Yeah. Right. I could just imagine all the people I know who would be going to a Country Buffet on Thanksgiving. I went upstairs to announce I was ready, only to be greeted by yet another complaint. Complaining seems to be the hobby my grandparents have taken up lately. My grandma wanted to know how we could go eat without the kids. Hmmm. How could we? I had to defend my theory that the kids would enjoy dinner surrounded by people they knew and kids their age more than the nursing-home like atmosphere of a Country Buffet. Thomas was just as much their family as me so they would not be traumatized by eating with him instead of with us. I’m not sure I convinced her, but she did agree that we could leave. Only a dinner’s worth of time until I could come home and go to sleep.

The atmosphere at Country Buffet surprised me, but only a little. There were some families that had people of all ages. I guess I am a little old-fashioned and I forget that the times have changed. Traditional turkey dinners at home are not necessarily what people do any more. So I was giving my kids the luxury of something that these people were taking for granted. That makes me a good mom right?

The food was the same as always and so was the conversation with my grandparents. We discussed nothing important and if I had not been thinking so much about it, I’d never of known it was Thanksgiving. As I ate my fried fish and green beans, I looked around and started to wonder what exactly brought all these people to this place. Did they not know how to cook? Did Mom or Dad have to work and this was just easier? Maybe their oven was broken too. Of course the vast majority were senior citizens and I just figured that maybe they truly liked the food there. Or maybe they go t here so often that they know people there. None of those seemed like good enough reasons. It really began to bother me. My stomach was getting upset thinking about not only these people, but also myself. Why in the world would I come here on Thanksgiving to eat?

When I was a child, just eight years old, my grandpa and I ate at a place equivalent to the restaurant we were eating in now. It was called Furr’s. It was the Thanksgiving after my mom and my grandma died. We were eating there because we had no family. My grandpa didn’t know how to cook a turkey or anything even close. I don’t remember that it bothered me too much. Not nearly as much as eating at Country Buffet was bothering me now. I couldn’t stop trying to figure out why everyone else was eating there. I looked over to the table next to us, in search of someone else to observe. Someone to try and read, to convince myself they had a good reason to be there. It was an elderly man. He put his coat on his chair and he smiled at me. I smiled and then I looked around expecting his wife to come shortly after and do the same. He left to go get his food and I figured she must have decided to keep her coat on while she got her food. I returned to the dull conversation me and my grandparents were having about why I wasn’t eating turkey. When my attention returned to the man, I realized he was still alone. I started to think, and I finally decided he was going to be enjoying this Thanksgiving meal unaccompanied. I was watching him. I was desperate to know why he was there alone. I wanted to know so bad that I had a nearly uncontrollable urge to go sit with him and speak to him in hopes of getting my answer. As I was watching him I noticed how happy he seemed. He smiled at everyone who walked by. His composure during his meal was as if he was fulfilled. He dabbed at his face with his napkin showing perfect manners as if he had to impress someone. I couldn’t help but to be amazed. He was actually happy with just himself. It made me feel pretty stupid. What did I have to complain about? At least I was alive and eating, and even more so, I was blessed to have this man come into this very restaurant to show me that life is what you make of it. I rather enjoyed the rest of my meal, just being thankful to have my grandparents and to be eating food somewhere warm. I hoped my kids were enjoying themselves with their Dad.

As great as the last moments of my dinner seemed, it wasn’t too long before the bitterness of winter and the annoying fact that I had gone to that restaurant, instead of sleeping, began to disturb me. Walking to the car and getting in seemed like the slowest possible event I had ever experienced. Could my grandma possibly move any slower?

I was so far gone into my thoughts and my disgust with everything that was my life at that very moment, that I don’t really remember the drive home. As we pulled into the driveway I checked the time to see how many hours of blissful sleep I could have until I had to go pick up the kids. It was 2:30 so I was content. I lay in my bed and I couldn’t quite get to sleep. I was so frustrated. The one thing that brought me comfort and it wasn’t coming. So many things ran through my mind. What was my most recent ex-boyfriend doing on this particular Thanksgiving Day? Was he just enjoying it with his family like most other people? Was he even thinking of me? Was he feeling any guilt for how he fucked my grandparents and me over and how he stole from my son’s piggy bank? So I started to cry then. I hated him. And I hated that as much as I hated him; I’d rather be spending this day with him than alone. What about my kids? Did they have any concern for what Mommy might be doing? Probably not. At least they have a mommy. So could my Mom see me? Is there a kind of consciousness after death? After all these years could she possibly be aware of my feelings at this moment? Is this how she felt when she was on the verge of suicide? Do normal people think about this stuff? Do other people hurt this much? Am I driving myself insane by thinking of all of this? If I pray or wish hard enough, will God or my Mom or ANYONE please make all this go away and let me sleep? My thoughts raced on and I cried so hard that I couldn’t breathe. I obsessed over the fact that I was being tortured by my thoughts in secret. My grandparents were upstairs with no clue. Even worse if I ever tried to tell them, they still would not understand. There was no answer. Nothing would ever make me feel like this was all okay. There was no magic cure to make my life better and to stop these demons that plagued my mind with sadness. At that very moment I hated my Mom. How could she kill herself? How could she leave me behind to know what it feels like to be left behind? And now as I walk in what I believe are her shoes, I know what I would put my kids through if I ended my sadness. Why would she do that to me? I can’t even kill myself naively like most people do. I can’t just pretend that I think no one would care or be hurt because I know my children would. That is so unfair. Thanks Mom!

Finally as I exhausted every last negative thought my head could create at one time… sleep. The darkness of sleep washed over my mind and wiped all of my thoughts away with it. Sleep is like a drug, a painkiller, slipped into your IV, and as it runs through your veins, it takes all the pain away.

As if it wasn’t bad enough that a good part of my sleep was taken away first by the dinner at the nursing home like restaurant, then I had my grandpa knocking on my bedroom door at 5:00. He felt the need to remind me I need to pick up my kids, as he usually does, cause you know, I just might forget. I processed the information as quickly as possible, making sure not to open my eyes so that I could immediately go back into my painless sleep. I didn’t even take the 2 minutes or so that I usually take, to be annoyed at him for waking me. Every fifteen minutes he was back at my door. He was making it nearly impossible for me to get back to sleep. I needed it. I wasn’t ready to feel my life again. Finally he yelled at me, accusing me of being a terrible mother. I was late after all. It was cold outside and I hadn’t left to go get the kids. Terrible. If I didn’t hurry and get up he was going to have to go get them. The fact that he can’t see to drive at night, or that he had no idea where Nancy’s house was, didn’t seem to keep him from repeating that threat over and over. I guess it’s like when you’re desperately trying to get your kid to get in the car ‘cause your in a hurry, so you say your going to leave them there-just to try and scare them into getting in the car. Okay grandpa like that’s going to work?

I still couldn’t make myself get up. As tired as I was of hearing the noise of his ring sliding down the metal banister on the stairs, warning me of another round of complaining and ridiculous threats, I just could not get up. I watched the time go by on my clock. I knew it was near twenty minutes fast. I had kept it that way because it was my only chance for making it to any given destination on time. My initial reasoning with myself was that I could just go by the time on my clock, as if I really didn’t know it was fast. Then I could be allowed to be a little late, so I could wait maybe an additional 20 minutes or so. I lay there. It was getting later and later and I was running out of justification for lying there. I don’t know what finally gave me the incentive I needed. Maybe it was the fact that not only did I have my grandpa acting like this was our latest family crisis, but now my grandma was calling me on my phone from her line upstairs. Did I change my mind? Were the kids going to stay the night over there? Why hadn’t I left yet? …all bothersome questions. Who cares? Why did she? For crying out loud Thomas wasn’t just gonna say, “Well would ya look at the time? Shawna’s not here. Guess it’s time to go take the kids to Social Services or maybe go drop them off on a corner somewhere ‘cause we can’t watch them anymore.”

I got up and put my shoes on. I went into the bathroom to pee. I looked in the mirror to smooth out the mess of my hair. I could see the lines on my face that my tears had left. Not that it made much difference in how badly I looked. I hadn’t taken much care in my make-up before we went to that awful restaurant. My already lacking appearance was smudged not only from my sleeping but now from my tears. I don’t think it was how I looked that bothered me. It was the fact that, by having tear marks on my face, I felt like I was wearing my worst emotion… my deepest sadness. Right at that moment, looking in the mirror, I couldn’t pretend that I hadn’t been overcome by it a short while ago.

By the will of some unknown force I got into my car. I even managed to put on some perfume. Someone out there cares how I smell right? I pushed the backward skip button on my CD player so I could once again listen to the song that so reminded me of Junior. How could he be so nice and still steal from an innocent little kid? How could I be so stupid to somehow still like him? The feelings the song gave me made me cry almost the second that I heard the first few notes. Sickness. That’s what I felt my love for him was. Pure sickness. Obsession. Dependency. Everything that is terribly wrong but felt incredibly right. God how I hate him. So the song continued and I dwelled on every moment of any feeling that had anything to do with him. I could either decide that I could forgive him and return to our imaginary bliss, or I could realize what an idiot I was and somehow move on. The song was over and I was getting close to Nancy’s place. As much as I wanted to keep debating the issue of how much I hated Junior, I needed to pull myself together. I remembered my experience from earlier and so I knew looking in the mirror would be a mistake. I wiped my tears away. I searched the radio for some upbeat song that would surely convince me that I was ok. I found “Jack and Dianne” and decided since it wasn’t anything like the story of “Shawna and Junior” that it was ok. I let the song take me away, envisioning the innocence of puppy love. I sang as loud as I could, trying not to think about how bad my singing was. Since no one could hear me, I pretended like it was good. Okay I was convinced. I was all better. Time to get the kids. I planned out the evening for when we returned home. I tried to imagine that my grandparents would just leave me alone and let me do my thing; that the kids could tell me all about their day and then we would have a nice bath-time and I would get them all ready for bed. It would make up for the terrible day I had.

I was finally feeling like I had regained my composure. There was a lot of traffic and as I glanced at all the cars going by, I couldn’t help but wonder where they were going or coming from. How many people had a terrible Thanksgiving Day like me? How many people in this entire world died on this day and would leave a permanent impression of sadness on the people who cared for them on every Thanksgiving Day to come? How many more freaking cars could just happen to be coming down the street when I needed to turn? Finally enough time to speed across the street and onto the street where my children were probably so happily playing with their Dad’s girlfriend’s family. Yay. As I neared the house I could see the driveway was full of cars. They have two driveways. One seems to be an extra all the way on the other side of the house. Maybe an RV pad. The other is a double driveway in front of the garage. The concrete is a little old and worn. I assume it is the driveway that was completed when the house was built.

I used to like this part of town where Nancy lives. My grandparents used to live about a half-mile away with my mom when she was just a child. I’ve heard endless stories that never fail to intrigue me. The turtle my mom found that would leave every fall and come back every spring. Their old sheep dog, Mugsy, who used to go behind the grocery store and bring home loaves of bread from the dumpsters behind the store. My grandpa used to talk of the wild spinach fields that were right behind where Nancy’s house is. My real Grandma used to tell him it was time to go pick spinach and they would go and gather as much as they could. Even when I was child, many years after their spinach picking days, my Grandma still made spinach with many of our meals. I love spinach. How nice of Thomas to move over here with her and ruin that impression for me.

I pulled into the only space available and was kind of taken aback by all the people outside and the great Christmas decorations. This was as much a picture of a good family holiday as ever I could imagine that I was going to find. It was dark by this time, and the kids were outside playing in the yard; Destin and Aliviya, and kids that I didn’t even know, kids that my own kids probably knew as cousins. I could feel my heart racing and it became very hard to breathe. It was as if the vision of the kids in the yard was spinning around my head. Taunting me. Telling me I had no family and could never give this to them. My grandparents would flip if they knew the kids were out at night. I managed to open my door without even noticing I had done it. It was if someone else lifted my legs and turned me to make me get out of the car. All that I could see through the blur of my tears, tears that I had neglected to notice until that moment, was a vision of my kids happier then I believed I could ever make them. I could not get any air into my lungs. I was standing up even though I don’t remember doing that either. I turned towards the house, and the usual fake smirk on Nancy’s face changed into equally as fake concern. Please don’t ask me what’s wrong.

“Are you okay?” instead she asked. No, no I’m not okay.

“Yes, I just need to go,” is what I managed to say. She asked me if I would like to take home some pie. Yeah Nancy okay sure, I’ll just sit here and cry in front of every last family member of yours while you go get me some fucking pie. Why in the hell couldn’t I breathe?

“No, no pie but thanks.”

“Are you sure? I could just…”

“YES… yes I’m sure.” Time must have been going in slow motion. Destin ran over to me. He yelled and jumped up and down and hugged me. Aliviya was running in circles while Maureen chased her. Even though she is Nancy’s sister, they look nothing alike. To who’s benefit I’m not sure. Maureen was only twelve or thirteen, but the boobie god had been a little TOO kind to her. She had blonde hair and wore make-up that was always running down her face… like a glamour girl turned crack head or something. Nancy (as much as I HATE to say it) actually kind of resembles me. She just has poor taste… in make-up, fashion, manners, tact, honesty, and men. We had the last poor taste in common, but the rest… well I could hold my own.

Destin immediately asked me what was wrong. In the sweetest voice I could manage through my crying and lack of oxygen I said, “Hi baby. Are ya ready? Let’s get in mommy’s car and go see grandma and grandpa. Did you eat good? Where’s Livy? Tell Daddy and Nancy bye and give everyone hugs.” I hoped that was enough to distract him from asking me what was wrong again. At least the talking had reduced my uncontrollable sobs and had forced me to breathe a little. Aliviya waddled over and yelled “Mama!” I scooped her up and repeated nearly the same speech I had given Destin. I was so glad it was dark, but people were still looking at me. I didn’t care who had hugged who, it was time to go. Nancy was saying something I refused to hear; probably about pie again. I slipped out a “bye” and I grabbed Destin’s hand. I turned and walked towards the car with my baby girl in my arms, pulling Destin behind me. I was sobbing again and realized I must be able to function with very little air. Interesting. I knew the kids were conversing, but I wasn’t hearing… not until Aliviya wiped at the tears running down my face and I heard her say “Mama, cyyying.” Was it possible to wish death upon yourself? If I closed my eyes and tried my best could I make my heart just stop at this moment? I could still hear people standing behind me, probably discussing how unfortunate for my children to have a mother like me and how lucky they were to have Nancy and Thomas.

I don’t even remember driving home… AT ALL. I guess I was in some sort of adrenaline shock state where depression consumes your body and some internal reaction prevents you from ending your life at any given moment. I did somehow manage to make it home. I remember pulling up and seeing my “grandma’s” daughter’s blue Jeep Cherokee parked outside. I CANNOT deal with company. My thoughts flew through my head. Flashes of memories hit me with no warning and I could see all of the memories of all of my Thanksgivings circling around me. Every year Jodie’s kids would manage to get to the house for at least one major holiday. This would be the only time all year that they would see each other and they would pretend like they were some sort of family. Even worse, after my real grandma died and Jodie became a part of our “family” they tried to make me feel like I was a part of this ridiculous show put on once a year just so they could all go home and sleep at night pretending that they were okay. OH NO… This is not going to be my theater for the night. I had always been okay with just me and my grandpa and all of his ways when we were alone. At Christmas, he would say, “Shawna here is $200.00 go and make your Christmas whatever you want and we will go out to eat together.” I would go to the mall or K-mart and buy whatever I wanted and then we would go to Furr’s and then everything was okay. It may not have been anything like a traditional holiday like we used to have when my grandma was here, …but it was better than this mockery of a family that Jodie had. One I had been watching for the last 11 years.

I was trying my best to figure out how I could slip away downstairs to my part of the house and entertain the kids long enough for them to get tired and for everyone else to go away. I actually believed I might be able to do it. As soon as I walked in the door, Jodie called for the kids. Of course she had to make sure Thomas hadn’t destroyed them and then it was on to pretending like she should earn the great-grandma of the year award while showing off my kids. I heard everyone upstairs talking, but my head was clouding it all away again. My head was full of those same taunting memories and I knew then that there was no escaping my depression this time. My mind was working its way through my whole identity, struggling with every part of who I was and for some reason THIS particular day defined something that I could not deal with. I went downstairs and made sure my kids’ beds were ready for them and then the blurriness was taking over again. I called to Jodie and I tried to sound as okay as possible. When she descended the stairs to my room, my mind was thankful to not hear the sound of my grandpa’s ring. It always came with either love or judgment and I didn’t want either right now. I told my grandma that I needed to go to the hospital. I said that I was not okay and that I needed some help. I told her to take care of the kids and to not tell anyone why I was going. As unemotional as she is, I knew it would be easy for her to keep all of my suffering silent.


  1. Our stories are so different, but I can relate to some of the pain, the wanting to sleep, the questioning God "why is my life like this and why aren't you doing anything to help me?" etc. As you know, I think your writing is captivating and I look forward to reading more. I am glad that there is a happy ending to your pain and sadness....

  2. Your life's experiences are so touching. I believe there is a reason for whatever experience Teacher Life brings us to live. You'll find it. And you are also making a great journey of all this pain. You are a great mother only because you truly love your kids and they feel it. All the rest, is a small detail. Great mother who is becoming a writer