Because I don’t think you understand (and I know I don’t) *Updated*

I got in trouble yesterday for a comment I left on my sister’s blog about her soon-to-be ex-husband. My sister is extremely circumspect, and, while she is open with our family and her friends, she isn’t one to badmouth or vilify or be vindictive. In other words, she acts in a saint-like manner where I would be slashing and burning, verbally, if not with sharp knives and blowtorches.

I just finished reading Joan Wickersham’s The Suicide Index: Putting My Father’s Death in Order. It is fantastically well-written, and, like the best writing, both original and yet completely inevitable. I felt that the “index” organizing scheme wasn’t entirely successful, but I appreciated the metaphor of not being able to organize thoughts on something as traumatic as suicide in any totally coherent manner.

Wickersham, with Mozart-perfect prose, discovers her father has shot himself and then circles back and back, like the ripples from a pebble, trying to understand the why. But I had a why of my own.

Why should I care? Somewhere between 30,000 and 60,000 people commit suicide in the United States every year. It seems self-indulgent and morbid for a brilliant writer to spend seventeen years obsessing over her father’s. And why should I, a reader who likes a good dollop of romantic escapism in her free time, spend 316 pages reading the (no matter how exquisitely-rendered) stark, painful accounts of a brutal childhood, a financially-failing adulthood, and, finally, the suicide of someone so removed from my own life?

Though I resisted caring, it was compelling, and so I recommend The Suicide Index without reservation. It’s a stunning piece of writing, and, to anyone who has ever known a suicide (noun, verb, adjective) or who has ever felt like a failure, it offers, if not soothing comfort, a wealth of understanding and not-aloneness.

Still: Why? My second reaction is Why not? Should not every life be examined in such great detail? On the one hand we can shrug and dismiss this particular suicide in light of all the others and all the other tragedies, petty and catastrophic, that occur everyday in every country. Or, we can hope and demand that each life, each choice means something, matters. Wickersham succeeds in making me care about her pathetic father and selfish mother, her supportive husband and her inconsolable self. I don’t ask more from a novel.

I did get one more thing, though. I finally figured out why it is so hard for my sister (and me) to come to terms with her coming divorce. Wickersham says of suicide: “When you kill yourself, you kill every memory everyone has of you. You’re saying ‘I’m gone and you can’t even be sure who it is that’s gone, because you never knew me.'” When you leave your spouse out of the blue, you kill every memory everyone has of you. You say ‘I want a divorce’ and we will never be sure who you were, because, obviously, we never really knew you. Even if we are not as surprised as we should be.

On the very last page, Wickersham remembers what she first thought on hearing that her father had shot himself, and it is exactly what I thought myself on the 16th of March, a Sunday morning four and a half months ago:

“Oh no,” and “Of course.”

Divorce, it seems, is not so different from suicide. It is the killing of one’s marriage instead of one’s self. And if that marriage was an intrinsic component of one’s self, one’s perception of one’s self, it is almost worse than death.

And so, even though I thought the “index” organizational scheme wasn’t perfect, it’s a helpful way to catalogue my sister’s husband’s leaving:

The Divorce Index

Divorce
announcement of
necessary “strong language”

We are rushing to get ready for church. My mother calls. She knows when our church is, and I imagine she suspects how frantic we are at fifteen minutes to nine. She tells me she and my father are at my sister’s house, and that my sister’s husband has left her. I say, “That f—— b——.”

announcement of
to my sister

I would prefer a big fight at the end. My sister does not get that. One day he loves her and the next he is gone.

death and

I cannot imagine Dick leaving me, but if he did, I know it would hurt less if he died, “loving me.”

dreams and

The only thing my sister ever wanted is to be a wife and mother.

factors contributing to

?. If I understood, I would probably be able to make small talk with him again.

feelings of disgust and

The day before he leaves, Saturday, my sister and I dress our younger sister up and take pictures of her with our six children. He is working, and then he comes home for dinner. My parents are there. We eat lemon chicken lasagna my sister has made. I sit next to him, on his right. I drink one of the special Barrel Brothers vanilla rootbeers he stocks especially for his guests, for me. We talk running strategy. He runs marathons; I’ve just finished my first 15k. He is charming, friendly. I worry sometimes that my sister is unhappy, but I think he will never leave her. He loves his cars and his iPhone, but he is not a bad person.

impact on my children and

My 3-year old daughter asks if she will be getting a new daddy soon. My girls wonder why their aunt is crying all the time. My 7-year old asks, when Dick and I argue, if we are going to get a divorce now, too.

state of my sister’s heart and

Broken.

state of their family and

Destroyed.

timing of recovery and

Like any mourner, my sister has good days, accepting days, and she has days when she thinks she will never laugh, never relax, never be happy, never understand. She will probably write 316 pages in her journal before she is done.

And I think, “Oh no,” and “Of course.”

—-

*Updated*

I have changed this post as much as I can to respect my sister’s privacy. One thing about this whole situation is that I have hurt worse over this than I did over my miscarriage. The miscarriage made sense. The baby was a mistake, God didn’t intend for me to have that baby. Divorce, in this case, still doesn’t make sense to me, and it hurts, because I liked and trusted him, too.

A Man for Marcy — Updated

We took the kids to Lagoon yesterday (more on that next week). I expressed some purely platonic (“He is sooo cute!” “What a great smile” “Look at that those shoulders!”) admiration for one of the young men in the Broadway Rhythm show, and when Dick pointed this out to me, I told him I was just scoping out men for Marcy, who will soon be free to admire in a not-so-platonic manner.

He might be a little young, but he is agile and nubile and such white teeth on that boy. Here he is again. I am so, so sad that I didn’t just march up to the stage and get a real picture, but I don’t know if Dick would’ve believed it was only for Marcy.

So Gray is forever blurry, but oh-so-beautiful. (Those shoulders!)

I’m thinking this could be a regular feature around here: A Man for Marcy. Only for my favorite sister (Happy Birthday, Marcy!), would I do something like ogle strangers.

—-

p.s. We’re moving servers this weekend, so apparently our sites will be down forever. Or hopefully 24-72 hours. Which is basically the same thing. I had some great plans for Things That Must Go, but this server has been a giant fuse short of a motherboard for awhile now, so, what can you do? Hope to see you again soon! Things That Must Go: Computers, Computers, Computers. I know I’d be lost without them, but really, they’re bad for my blood pressure. Apparently our servers got upgraded, so we’re not moving. And after I had packed all my china so carefully.

I don’t know how that feels

I’ve been telling my sister to get over the Prince of Darkness (PoD) since March. Except for the days when I agreed with her that “Sure, he might get an accidental lobotomy and a heart, and everything will be fine.”

Then last week he threatened to sue for custody of the kids if she asks for the financial records the judge needs to determine allocation of assets, alimony, child support.

And she realized, after all the things that he has done, What He Is. I think this is common in battered women. They’ll take anything a PoD dishes out, but when he threatens to treat the children as his chattel, they’ll finally, PRAISE EVERYTHING HOLY, see him for What He Is.

My sister started house-hunting, even talked about opening her own checking account. She and I ran a 5K race (her first) on Saturday.

Today I got a voicemail from her asking if I knew anything about a boy I went to school with. He’s a dentist now, divorced or widowed, with three kids. A friend wants to set them up.

I told her last week, when she called, sobbing, overwrought over the PoD’s blackmail, that I promise her: In two years we’re going to sit down, and you’re going to tell me that you are transcendantly, radiantly happy now. Now that you know what marriage is supposed to be like, you’re going to tell me that the only thing bothering you is that you stayed for so long, and would have stayed forever if he’d let you.

Today I listened to her almost-normal voice on the phone, asking about someone new, and all I could think was, If Dick ever left I would be in my cave of devastation for years and not thinking about dating.

Maybe because I would also be mourning his death, as not many would survive what I can do with my Pampered Chef paring knife.

Or maybe because Dick is someone I cannot imagine ever being shallow, selfish, dishonest, narcissistic, or without honor. Or because he keeps his promises.

Or because: I do not know how that feels.

Frump of Mind

woman sticking head in fireplace ovenThe first time I heard someone express a desire to “stick my head in the oven,” I thought, what a sad, defeatist attitude. What good could possibly come of that, unless you had a gas oven?

But now I get it: I’ve been depressed the past couple weeks. It’s a situational depression that will go away soon, rather than clinical depression requiring medication or therapy, but, if I felt like this all the time, I would be checking myself into the nearest psych ward.

And when I’ve thought about sticking my head in the oven this past week, it wasn’t in a “the kids are driving me crazy” sort of way, but rather, for the first time, a “maybe the kids would be okay without me” sort of way. I don’t mean to be melodramatic; as I said, I know this will pass, it just hasn’t, quite, yet.

A lot of exciting or friendly things have happened recently, and each one cheered me up for about ten minutes. Each time I thought about them was good for another ten minutes of cheering up, so I thought I’d share them here. If you have any good advice on fighting post-surgical or otherwise-situational depression, somewhere between eating chocolate (not drastic enough) and hospitalization (too drastic), please let me know.

Here’s how I’m fighting the frump of mind:

A Mom to take advantage of:

My mom came yesterday to take Spot (18 mo) and Susan (3 1/2) for a few five days. I felt guilty when she offered. Of course I would love to have a break from them; although I can take care of them, it is really hard right now. But how hard does it have to be before it becomes right that someone else should have to take care of my children? I still don’t know, but when I found myself sitting on the floor, Spot in my lap still unsure why nursing is no longer on the program and Susan decorating her face with marker “freckles” AND when those two normally normal things suddenly seemed unbearable, I guess that was hard enough.

Mom told me to “take advantage of this time.” Did she mean by blogging? Well, at my doctor’s appointment yesterday I was told to take off the sling only for “desk work.” Sounds like blogging to me!

Presents

Speaking of blogging, a good friend of mine from high school had this sign made for me after she read my Love you when you’re clean and sweet-smelling post. I recently visited Andrea and saw her new baby Easton. I’m happy to report that he was both clean and sweet-smelling. She should keep him.

I’d hang it in the girls’ room, but I’m afraid they’d jump on the bed and knock it off the wall. Because they’re ladies like that. Maybe the dining room.

Speaking of blogging again, I just got some cute hairbows in the mail from Gourmet Mom-on-the-Go. You can think bloggy giveaways are silly and shameless self-promotion, until you actually win something yourself, and then, just as Toni says, even if you haven’t actually won the lottery, it’s a great pick-me-up!

My girls found the bows and have been wearing them ever since, which is why I could only find one of each pair for this picture.

I also got this book in the mail from my good friend Tara as part of a get-well-soon package. Funny, practical, and so nice to know that someone is wanting to save us from all-McDonalds-all-the-time.

It included floam for the kids and even a check to pay me back money I had forgotten she owed me. That’s true friendship right there (both my forgetting and her remembering).

Finding a Dream Place to Live

We’ve been drooling over Utah’s version of Pleasantville for months now, even though we really can’t afford a cardboard box on an outlying street under a bridge. A couple nights ago we found a tiny townhome in the BEST location ever. Made an offer today.

Our dream cardboard box looks nothing like this, but we could walk by here every day, if we wanted.

Forgive us our trespasses

I got really upset last week. My sister Mary had posted some of my recipes under her name on a new family recipe site she’s created to make sharing our favorite, modified recipes with each other easier. I got on my high “copyright,” “plagiarism,” “hard-work-taking-those-pictures and revising-and-writing-up-those-recipes” horse and made her feel bad. And THEN, yesterday? I wrote a post in which I showed some blog buttons that I have made. And my friend Tara said, Wait, I made that button. I heard (unspoken) words like “hypocrite” and “scraper” and “not-good-blogger-etiquette-r.”

Who hates that feeling (however deserved) of knowing that they have done something wrong? Do you get that awful, headachy, sick feeling? In Mary’s case, she did what she did because she thought she was helping me (remember, ole’ one arm over here) and that I wouldn’t care. I did. In my case, I thought there was a clear distinction between graphic and button — and had meant that I’d taken a graphic and created the html code to turn it into a hyperlink. I wasn’t clear enough.

My sister made amends, I made amends. One of the great things about blogging is that posts can be edited, or even taken down, if necessary. But even after Mary groveled sufficiently for the hardest of hearts, I still felt just a bit of nice self-righteous superiority. Hello! I would never do something like that. And then I did, and even though I fixed the problem and said I was sorry, I couldn’t blame Tara if she’s still just a bit miffed. Although I would never hold a grudge.

Luckily, Tara is superior to me in every way, so I’m sure it won’t take a mistake (which we’d be a long time waiting for) on her part for her to realize how easy they are to make.

Amen.

Because I could not strangle you in person

I must warn you: This is not a funny post. I don’t even try to be funny here. But I do gain Greek-tragedy-like catharsis, and so can you!

Someone made me mad at church today. Not an uncommon occurrence, though usually I just feel sympathy for the mis-opinionated. Unlike Giselle in Enchanted, I easily recognize and feel anger, and in the past couple of weeks I’ve felt enough anger for . . . well, for myself and for someone who hasn’t felt much anger for herself.

I bore my testimony (“testified”) today, and I talked about agency (“free will”) and about how my sister is experiencing a trial worse than any trial I ever imagined she or I would go through. I wasn’t trying to be melodramatic; I wanted to express my own hurt and my admiration for her reaction to this trial. Instead of wallowing in anger and destroying things (my natural inclination), my sister has responded by reading the scriptures more, praying more, and spending time with her kids and our family.

Maybe it sounded like I would be mad at God if something like this happened to me. That’s not what I meant; I’d be angry at someone whose clothing I could shred and valued possessions I could take a baseball bat to.

A few speakers after me, a prosperous-looking, attractive young man got up and did his spiel. He said we shouldn’t get mad at our trials, and shouldn’t even be surprised by them. They are, after all, what we signed up for in coming to this earth. We knew we’d be tried and tested, tempted and tribulated. Embrace the trial! Turn to God and all will be well!

Dude! Did he think I was talking about a hangnail that’s giving her some trouble?

If one believes in a literal resurrection, and in the atonement’s power to cleanse sin, then the worst possible thing to ever happen to someone is the refusal to repent (or to be affected by someone who refuses to repent). This is not to diminish the immense pain that accompanies death or miscarriage or disease, but just to say that they all CAN be fixed, eventually. If I refuse to repent, however, that can’t be fixed.

And, for those whose religious convictions are different, surely you would agree that to break one’s solemn promises, to refuse to even try to honor one’s vows and covenants, is pretty low. And that the people affected by such broken promises are facing real devastation.

The funniest thing about that young man’s testimony was that he was so sure of these things that he has learned through “my many years of experience.” Right. Because he’s 24 and single and childless and looks like he has suffered. Oh, how he has suffered.

My mom said that maybe we shouldn’t be letting our daughters watch these Disney princess fairy tales all the time. Because what are they learning? Happily ever after and prince charming and animals coming to help you with the housework.

I’d agree with her, and I did introduce my sisters and mom to Sara Bareilles’ Fairytale, which gets more clever every time I hear it. BUT, happily ever after, that people should get married and stay married, and that families are meant to be together forever is what we believe in. It’s not just a Disney movie, it’s what we believe.