Death is a Schoolyard Bully

Me and Death in the School Parking Lot, 3pm.

Oh, how we would fight. A gruesome battle, I’d tell him to drop his weapon and fight me like a human! But you know I would fight dirty. There would be hair pulled, should he have hair.  I would punch him so hard in the nose that I wouldn’t even notice my broken hand bones, only his shattered skull-face staring back at me with hollow eyes.  Then I’d kick him in his metaphorical balls.

I haven’t had therapy in a month, guys.

To say that I am not constantly thinking about death would be an obvious lie, given that my mother has been practically catatonic for several months now. But over the weekend, something happened that made me even more angry with the entire concept of death.  First, some backstory.

Early in our years together, Mark brought me home to meet his mother for the first time. While we were in town, we visited his sister Dawn and her family. I met her son Connor, who was maybe 8 or so at the time, and her daughter Bella, who was still a baby. Connor and I bonded when he taught me how to play zombies on Call of Duty. He was an incredibly sweet little boy with the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen. That was the first time I met him, and also the last. Shortly after our visit, his parents split, and Connor chose to stay with his father. Mark was always a little sad about this, because Connor was extra special to him. He just so happened to have been born the same day as M. Mark told me that the moms-to-be were in a race; he’s pretty sure Dawn won. But because of this, he always thought of Connor on M’s birthday.

So, Sunday morning I went to work, and as I was opening the shop, Mark called me. He was crying, and I immediately thought my mother was dead. Rational brain took over, telling me that it was unlikely I would get this call from my husband and not my father. I begged him to tell me what happened, and he told me that Connor had been killed in an accident. I called my boss, and he came in to relieve me. When I got home, I found a devastated husband. I cried with him, mostly because this boy was just a boy. Mostly, because he’s the same age as one of my boys. Mostly, because of his mother Dawn, who does not deserve this pain.

Later, Mark was sleeping, and I cried again. But this time, I was crying because it’s not fair. It is not fair that a teenage boy departed this world, while my mother is lying in a hospital bed clinging to life. I love my mother, I miss my mother, and I want my mother to get better. But I also know, and have to face every day, that she is currently living my worst nightmare. I wouldn’t wish what she is going through on anyone, absolute least of all her. There are many times that I wish she just never woke up that morning I found her. It seems that would be more fair. And I don’t think I could confront that fact until this weekend.

A lot of my friends and family read my blog, and they all know my mother very well, and I’m sure they’re all sobbing right now. And I’m sorry, truly, for bringing a spot of sadness into your day. But, it needn’t be sad. This morning I told my father were going to have Christmas, if for no other reason then Maureen would simply kill us if we did not. He can’t imagine a Christmas without Mom, none of us can, but we’re going to do what I told him we’re going to do: we’re going to be sad. But, we’re also going to find little bits to make us happy. And it’s going to work! Do you know how I know? Because when my aunt Ka died, that is exactly what my mother told me to do…find the silver linings, and all the little joys.

So, I’m going to get a team together to decorate my dad’s house for Christmas. I’m going to take my girls over there to make cut-out cookies the same way I would every other year. We’re going to go to my grandma’s on Christmas Eve and spend it with the family, and even though somebody is going to cry, we’re still going to eat and drink and be merry. We are going to open presents on Christmas Day, and there’s a real good chance I’m going to cook a ham.

I do not care if I am sad 99% of the time- I will remind myself of what my mother reminds me constantly, the best compliment she has ever given: I am the strongest woman she knows. That’s how come I can beat up that schoolyard bully called Death.


Tragic Connections

I made a decision to try updating twice a week now, as I have three blogs ready to roll and six other ideas.  I’ve been forcing myself to write daily so it seems like the dam is cracking a bit and the ideas are gushing forth.  I will be posting on Thursday as well as Monday, or at least trying to.  Anyway…my depression kicked my butt this past week, and I want to talk about it, because it came at me alongside a real tragedy.

Firstly, I am a news junkie, and I particularly love local news.  I watch it morning and night.  I have a favorite channel (WIVB) and favorite anchors.  I even like the sports segments.  The point is, I watch local news a lot, as well as national, but they don’t really come into this story much.  Anyway, one of the super cute things about my husband is that he gets emotional at the fluff pieces at the end.  He loves a Vet on an Honor Flight, a Make-a-Wish kid going to Disneyland, or a cat being rescued from a tree by a local firefighter.  His rational is that there is so many terrible things on the news, that these little endcaps give him hope.  This makes him emotional, as he himself does not come from a very hopeful background. 

On the flip side, it’s the hard stories that get me. My life held plenty of hope (despite depression’s attempts to prove otherwise) and it is the painful stories that make me feel something.  Let’s use Philando Castile as an example.  At 9:06pm on July 16th, 2016, I was puking blood in the back of an ambulance and wondering what the hell was happening to me while he choking out his last words.  I didn’t know this until the news a few days later, which I watched from my hospital bed.  I clearly remember my EMT saying it was 9:06 when they picked me up.  I clearly remember CNN telling me it was 9:06 when Castile said “I wasn’t reaching for it.”  I burst into tears over this man that I did not know, dying so unjustly, connected to me only by one minute in the span of human existence.

Monday morning I wasn’t feeling so good.  I had not taken my Celexa for two days, as I was waiting on a prescription to be filled and totally miscounted how much time I had in which to fill it.  So, all weekend I was fine, because I have my other two psych meds going for me and I was keeping busy.  Then Monday evening, shortly after I picked up my pills, I started having brain zaps.

When one has been on a certain antidepressant for a long time, one experiences some fun side effects when off it.  Brain zaps may not be the technical term, but that’s as close as I can describe the feeling of my brain literally short-circuiting in my head.  It feels like your brain is vibrating, and there’s an actual “zzzz” noise.  This is followed by extreme and debilitating depression and anxiety.  See, Celexa is my wonder drug, and I’ve been on that or its sister Lexapro for over ten years.  So, a couple days without it can wreak havoc.  Tuesday morning, I was feeling better.  No zaps, no anxiety, no depression, until I turned on the news.

See, Monday morning there was a story that kind of touched me but I assumed would be resolved.  A toddler was found sleeping in a box on a porch on Potomac Ave. in Buffalo.  Sad to say, this isn’t the most unusual thing.  Over the past year I can think of at least three incidents in the city where a child was found wandering.  The police were hopeful that he had meandered off in the night and his parents would certainly come forward for him.  They were unable to figure out his name, and when asked his mother’s name he replied “mommy.”  By that evening’s broadcast, they had not received any leads, and no one had reported a missing child.

But then on Tuesday morning, there was a story about a burned-out car being found on Tonawanda St. with human remains inside, less than a mile from where the boy was found.  It was discovered the previous evening.  The woman who found the boy on her porch said he was talking about a car and fire: “The car was burning up,” he kept saying.  The police were looking for a connection.  Three women in Florida had contacted the police to say that they believed the boy was their relative and that his parents and him were on a road trip.  They had not been able to reach them.

On Tuesday nights broadcast, they showed the boy’s grandmother, who flew up from Florida.  She said that she hasn’t heard from his parents in over 48 hours and that they were on a road trip with a friend, likely to Niagara Falls.  She pleaded with CPS to return the boy, named Noelvin, to his family.  Still no leads on the car.

Wednesday morning, they showed the boy’s grandfather in Florida, praying that it wasn’t his son in the car.  They reported that the grandmother would finally see Noelvin.  This morning they reported that he has seen his family but remains in CPS custody.  Police say that it will be some time before they figure out who was in the burned-out car.

It’s a horrific story and I am so hopeful that the two are not connected, but I have a feeling they are, in the way that I usually have feelings that turn out to be true.  I cried over this poor little boy and his parents.  I felt that same connection.  This time it wasn’t blood and guts at 9:06, but I used to live on Tonawanda St.  I was a happy and carefree little kid on that street, playing at the playground, walking to the library, and visiting the shops that had dogs who came to work with their owners (there were several back then.)  It has changed greatly over the years.  Riverside/Black Rock, the area of the city in question, used to be a nice little immigrant neighborhood.  Then it became a little rougher.  Then it was a lot rougher, and we moved to the suburbs.  There’s some revitalization going on now, but finding a burned-out car ‘round those parts isn’t exactly out of the question.  I hate thinking that this horrible thing happened to this family on a street I used to love. 

I don’t know what the results of this story will be.  While they wait for forensics, the grandmother is trying to get custody of the boy, and waiting for answers.  I wait with her, not knowing her, not having any connection to this case besides a street I used to live on when I was Noelvin’s age.  Maybe it’s the little connections that affect me the most.

Update: After I posted this, on Thursday evening broadcast, police confirmed that the burned-out car did indeed belong to Noelvin’s family. There is video of two men with gas cans leading him away from the scene. Police have said the remains of two people are in the car, further deepening the mystery as there are three missing adults that were traveling with Noelvin. Police are looking for help in identifying the two men with gas cans.