Behind The White Gate is my NaNoWriMo 2015 novel. I wrote it in one month. I changed and edited it million times during the next eleven over more coffee than I care to admit to. And more may be to come. This version I am sharing, it gives a piece of me to you. I am open and love any feedback you might have. If you wish to share it personally you can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org .
I am that kind of writer who can tell you what I write..or what I am writing is about. But I will say that this one came to me by passing a white gate on a daily walk to a job I hated and letting my imagination go wild, combined with the coming of womanhood and the women in and out of my life through out the years who had shaped, molded, and influenced me, for the good or for the bad. There are also intertwined lessons in life we often learn the hard way and their shaping of oneself and there is the old “Nothing goes according to plan.” It is being lost and becoming grown up and recognizing yourself in others around you…especially those you tried to be the least like. It is often the lack of denying any longer all that has made you…all of it.
Behind The White Gate is secret’s that aren’t secret, controversy we face today and are just now beginning to speak of but in many homes still in hushed tones. It is shame that you carry and hide from only everybody else who also has their own. It is memories of childhood perceived as an adult. It is letting go. It is changing. It is forgiving, but also not forgetting.
It is raw emotion and no giving excuses.
It comes from a place deep of them that I hope resonate on the page for the reader.
It is fiction drawn on very real emotion.
Past that, maybe you can hep me explain it better.
I will release over time, the Prologue, and then chapter by chapter. I had previously released some bits and pieces. This new full chapter by chapter release will be named WIP (work in progress) Behind The White Gate. A Novel. Chapter 1 (and so on). You can easily search in the search bar for all pieces and keep in order as released.
Currently I hope this will go to publish sooner than later. I am in the search of, and have been researching for, a Literary Agent. Feel free to contact me at my email above.
Thank you for reading.
Peggy J. Davenport
“You are the woman who shot her husband in California. I saw your picture on the tv.” The nurse said. “I’m sorry…I shouldn’t have said that. We are used to giving people their privacy here. Don’t worry. I spoke without thinking. Your vital signs are all good. We are going to take an ultrasound to see how far along you are and if under the amount of weeks allowed and healthy enough yourself to go forward with no problem’s, then we can proceed.”
As my blood filled the syringe the vision of my dream…no…my memory, my earliest and clearest childhood memory that set the path for the rest of my life…filled my mind again and again I pushed out any doubt that edged in. I was doing what I needed to. What was right. I was doing what was best for a child that would otherwise be brought into this world and taunted in school, learn that her father was an abusive man, who maybe had suffered a mental ill that might pass down, who’s mother had shot and killed him who also came from a family of mental ill and might have it herself to pass down, single mother hood was the last reason to do what I was doing. My family wasn’t one I could bring a child into and I myself, murderer of my husband and the childs father, wasn’t fit to be a mother. Under some circumstances maybe wrongs could be righted in a family tree, but in some the limbs had to be cut before they grew. Not only a dead father was enough of that reason, but their mother who had killed him. The mental illnesses and suicide on some of the branches weren’t even a concern after that.
“Everything looks good so you can come back Tuesday we have an opening at three.” The nurse said walking back into the room, where I had been sitting nervous and waiting, for about forty-five minutes. The thoughts in my head nearly ready to destroy me but the convincing mantra kept rounding about.
“Tuesday at three? But I thought I could do it now?”
“Oh no, procedure, we have to check everything then schedule for the final procedure and you also really should have a ride back home afterwards. You will have been slightly sedated so you will be woozy.”
“But that’s not…I need…is there any way?”
I pleaded…leaving now, not getting it done now…left too much room and opportunity for doubt as well as days to cringe and worry and think….I needed to stop thinking!
The next thing I knew the nurse had rushed to my side and was holding my head down and telling me to breath.
I ended up leaving…a little freaked out and started driving…but not Island-ward. I drove around Houston…drove and drove and drove. I had even had a lot to drink the other night, not caring about the baby…too lost in my own thoughts and feelings and problems to care, that’s the kind of mother I made right there. I wanted to drown those thoughts. I wanted to drown. I wanted this baby to drown. And suddenly the image of my mother in the bloody bath tub turned into a naked perfect baby floating in a bloody bathtub.
I slammed on the brakes and ended up being slammed into the back by another car.
Oh god…oh damn damn damn. I slammed my hand on the steering wheel and cried…just fucking cried as the driver behind me walked up to the window and a Police Officer who had been nearby and seen the accident approached.
The other driver seemed concerned as soon as he saw the mess that I was and stepped back as the Officer came up to the window, rather having the Officer deal with the crazy woman crying hysterically.
“Ma’am? Ma’m are you ok? Can you get out of the car, Ma’am? Ma’am?” All I could do was see the image of the floating baby and hear a babies cry and a four year old little girl crying out for her mother and my fathers voice yelling my mothers name and the blood on the sidewalk and the crumpled body of my husband lying at my feet….
Then there was Sas…picking me up from the hospital rather than the police station. My hysterics had been so much that I had been taken in for mental evaluation…found ok and released into the care of family. The driver of the other car and I ended up exchanging insurance and was on his way. With the impression I was too crazy to deal with any further than that. I was sedated but found able to leave the hospital and we drove home…all forty miles, in silence. She didn’t have her judgy look…just her serious one. Her jaw tense, neck rigid. I didn’t care…slightly drugged up and completely exhausted. I slumped in my seat against the door and watched the lights go by, listened to the sound of the cars on the swooshing pavement and felt relief that the image and sounds of earlier had left me alone for now. But in sedation I became a little talkative and finally asked Sas “So how the hell have you done it? How have you stayed after Papa died? How the hell do you manage Mother? And WHY?!” But I don’t remember Sas even answering, perhaps she did not. I likely would not have remembered anyway and the next thing I knew I was waking in my own bed.
I woke early before even the earliest riser of the house the next day and went for a run on the beach…loud music on my headphones and just…sweated it out. A little of Los Angeles still in me. I ran until my legs couldn’t carry me further and headed back to the house. As soon as I walked into the kitchen I poured some fresh brewed coffee.
“You know the thing I love about this house most? There is always coffee…always hot and fresh and smells good ready to drink coffee. Always. It’s like our family chose coffee over booze when forced to choose sometime in our history. That would be the only good decision our family had ever made…or at least the only moral one. Morning!” I said to Sas who was by herself sitting at the island sipping her morning coffee in a slow and measured manner which I had noticed immediately and was ignoring.
“The beach was amazing today…man I haven’t run in weeks. I am sooo out of shape!”
I jibbered and chattered my voice too high and excited and filling the air…I just….I just needed to fill the air with noise…the music in my headphones…the sound of the ocean and the gulls that I stopped for a moment to listen to. My own talk but not any silence that would allow the sounds of my image to step back in, or the doubt’s and question’s or the million’s of other thoughts that tumbled, like the echoing of gunshots I always heard now…I had heard those sounds all night long through my sleep. Now I banged pots and pans too loud, closed cabinet doors too hard and chattered overly excited while making breakfast…talking all the while to Sas about absolute nonsense.
She remained quiet. Hadn’t said a word and watched me careen around the kitchen on what looked like a far different drug than what I’d had the night before had she known any better. It wasn’t until I put a plate in front of her and sat down with my own and began shoveling food into my mouth like there was no tomorrow that I stopped making such a raquet for a split second…and Sas says ” Are you finished?”
“Ready to talk?”
“Bird….you went to a doctor for an abortion. You got in a car accident. You ended up at the hospital in hysterics and you are pregnant yet been out drinking once and you drink coffee like there is no tomorrow. So…you decided not to have the baby?”
“It’s a fetus. I decided not to have the fetus.”
“Whatever. So you decided not to? I’m not judging. I’m asking. This isn’t something you have to do alone.” Sas was obviously in her taking no prisoners stage “Bird….you had hysterics for a reason…I know this is hard to think about and deal with when you aren’t over dealing with…haven’t even begun to get a handle on what happened. I think you need to see somebody.”
Slamming the pan and my plate into the sink I stormed out…having just come from a run and still in my running clothes I ended up running anyway. I ran down the street’s overhung with the huge oak tree’s. Past the nation’s largest amount of lasting Victorian homes in one place. Past’s ghost’s that haunt and memories they carried. For me. For everyone else here. It is said that this island is haunted, most have some ghost story to tell of their home here. But I felt that the ghosts wheren’t ghosts of the dead who had not left but rather the ghosts of the memories of the people living and breathing here today. Their ghosts of mistakes and past choices that should have gone differently. Those decision’s they made but that would nag them in the back of their minds for the next twenty or more years of which then some spoke out of in their last days when their mind wasn’t any longer right and their loved ones standing around didn’t understand. I ran from my own ghost’s. I ran until my heart and lungs gave out. Ending up at the end of a jetty and looking out into the water…this place where the strength of God, if you believed in him, was most powerful. The water could swallow you up and you may never be found. The sound of the waves can consume you. I pictured again the image of my dream…my mother in the red bath….then the baby…the calling of my father’s voice of my mothers name…turning into the cries of a baby. And the gun shot’s echoing over and over, two combining into one. My Father’s, my Husband’s. And I realized that I had been running a long time. Not this physical run that had me bent over, hands on knee’s, staring out into the water as angry at it as it seemed to be at me, gasping and catching my breath. Sweat pouring down my forehead. But rather from life itself…but was it life or was it ME that I was running from?
I carried a fear that the problem’s in my family ran through the blood of my veins. My mother’s fit’s of rage and anger…her screaming through the house when we were children…her blood in the bath. Moody and quiet and then chipper and too-nice, trying to make up for it in lucid moment’s that would turn into frustration and soon something would be flying or another pill bottle would be rolling empty across the floor.
My father always smiling. Nobody knew. Nobody knew. Nobody knew. And that, I woke up to facing now, was what scared me the most. Nobody knew until the day that he walked into his library in our home and we all heard the shot ring out. The single shot that immediately froze us in our movements…my mother had been bending over my sister while she practiced piano just then. I had been lounging reading, in sight of them all at the kitchen window seat. It was a hot summer day and we were all trying to stay cool. Sas home from college but studying at the kitchen table through the door way looked at mother and mother looked at her…and said “stay” yet she didn’t move herself. Her own mother and his own mother, who had both lived in the mother-in-law cottages in the back since their own husband’s had left them widow’s…came running in the kitchen door from the garden, looks of fear on their faces and dirt on their knee’s…they relaxed a little when they saw my mother standing there, still frozen. Still bent over my sister, gripping the side of the piano she held on tightly. Mag had stopped the mixing she was in the midst of in the kitchen mid-mix and just stood there. Everybody thought it would be my mother. Not him. Not papa. Nobody would have been surprised if it was her. Everybody was surprised that it had, instead, been him. It seemed as if everybody stood frozen for so long. Mag had silent tears just start down her face but still stood frozen, wearing her apron, big mixing bowl in the crook of one arm, whisk in the other stuck in the batter. She didn’t move. It was as if we would realize the bang which had not been mistaken, would soon be discovered as a shutter loose or anything else…anything else than what it was. We all knew. There was no denying, yet perhaps if we just didn’t move maybe the reality would never set in, become true. I closed my book and sat up…walked a few steps and stopped, unsure of what to do. I looked at mom and thought “we all thought it would be you” I remember thinking this so clearly that I may have even said it out loud, she looked straight at me while I thought it. Yet I had walked a few steps toward the study, and then a few steps back to her. My father’s mother broke out in a cry realizing the only person who was missing from our view and fell to her knee’s saying “no no no”, knowing before anyone else did, acknowledging before anyone else did. And my other grandmother held her tightly saying “no it can’t be, shhh.” But nobody moved toward the closed door to find out. Everybody too afraid to move. Sas is who stood up from her college studies at the table and walked…slowly…and then more quickly, briskly and mechanically…toward the library were we had all know my father was working that day. Where he had closed himself in early and we had not seen him since breakfast, but when then we had seen him with his usually smile and bad joke’s. We waited…all of us. Cowards. We couldn’t move. We waited for Sas to laugh and say “nothing to worry about” Even though we knew she wouldn’t. She screamed finally and yelled to call 911. Suddenly we all went into action. I sprinted to the phone and dialed …my mother…my mother simply and calmly walked into the library were we all ended up following soon and finding her, knelt beside our father in his blood holding him on her lap and rocking. “Not you. It was never supposed to be you. What am I going to do now?” She kept crying until the siren’s and flashing light’s and men in uniform took over and gave us the direction our numb bodies and minds needed then. Too many people in the house, all loud stompers in their boot’s. All shouting direction’s and asking question’s and suddenly it was too much.
I hated my mother from then on. Before I had only tolerated her and as my mother I had loved her as a daughter wishes to have a Mother she can love. But in seeing her knee’s knelt in his blood and her crying, worried and sorry for herself, I had broke the last string on my guitar so to speak…and I hated her. I turned and ran…ran to the waters edge and cried and cried. Exactly to where I stood now. I suppose I do that a lot, I thought. I ran to the waters edge the day my father died and the day any last love for my mother died. I ran from one coast of water to another to run from myself, the fear that what made my parents seek to spill their own blood ran through me cold. I ran to the waters edge the day that my husband died and now I run to the waters edge on the doorstep of the death of my own unborn child by my own hand and a decision that I had to make.
I was tired. Tired of running. Tired of life and that moment of thought had my fear spike even more so.
I turned and walked back…crawled into the shower when I got home…I had walked past every person of the house not saying a word…they didn’t say one back, just turned and stared, watched me walk by. Knowing I was in a place…not knowing what they should do. It was not the first time that our house-hold had stood back unsure of what to do. Unsure of a step to take toward the person’s cry that may need them….or might not any longer.
The water washed away the sand and sweat and I let it…just wash over me and I thought of the image of the blood red water….and the ocean mingled in the image this time. The powerful sound of the ocean was what range in my ears, not the babies cry nor my fathers nor the sound of gunshot range out.
Entering the kitchen and gathering myself for the faces who turned toward me. Me being much more presentable and pulled together now than the tear and sweat streaked face I had walked through with an hour prior.
All of the women were there that I needed. And I did need them.
“Can we talk?”
Many of course dears sit down here have some tea.
“I have a big important decision to make that is my own to make and I need any one who doesn’t agree with my decision to be supportive and anyone who doesn’t support my decision to just still…be there and love me regardless of my decision. ”
Nod’s and Yes Dears all around.
I looked around the women sitting at the big butcher block island that was the center point of our kitchen, our house hold and even our family over generations now and took a deep breath.
“In the next few days I have an appointment for an abortion. I will admit that I am not sure if I want to do this. I don’t know. But I feel that I should. And I think I am going through with it but I will know…then…when I go to do it.”
“That’s all…ok. Please, no…don’t say anything just now. Not right now, please. Just…know.”
Going on “I know me being back is a shock and everything that was in the new’s and what happened is…I know that there are a lot of question’s and eventually maybe we can come to them and deal with them but I have a lot to deal with and am not in a really good place right now.” My voice broke and the chin I’d been holding too high in trying to get through saying what I felt like I had needed to say right then to the women in my life, in my home, came down a few notches. Swallowing the lump in my throat, the women of three generations staring, waiting and listening, not inturrupting “I am not sure what I am even going through really. Or what I need to do to get through it. This is not easy and for whatever reason this house is where I ended up coming to, it was unplanned and I am not even sure why or if I should have come here. But I’m here.” Looking at each one’s face. “That is all…for right now. Ok” Before anybody could react I took deep breath in and stepped away from the group of women who surrounded my life. And I went to the door that had once led to my fathers library. I didn’t know, after sixteen years and leaving four days after he had shot himself, only waiting until after we had laid him in the ground, what changes may have been done to the room, even so, the ghosts would remain, as would the image burned in my memory.
I rested my hand on the doorknob of the room that I had not seen open in the entire time I had been back. I pictured the once we known room that was dark woods and red’s, a room once filled of comfort and now filled of dread. In it held a fire place and lined in heavy wood built in bookshelves. The place where a dog usually laid across the middle of the room and a fire in the cold months flamed in the fireplace and a wild turkey stuffed and stretched by another generation hung above it. I pictured my fathers big heavy desk to the corner, facing the room placed where he could see the fireplace. Two big leather chairs and an ottoman in front of the hearth. And the shelves full of books collected by generations of family members in this house of reader’s, seeker’s always of more. His father, his father’s father and himself had held office in this room, though all family had always enjoyed. Not yet had anybody in this generation placed a new book before I had left sixteen years before, not to say the entire rest of the house wasn’t littered with them. The high ceilings, tiled in bronze, reflecting the warm look and feel of the room that burned in my memory before what bleed in was the image of my father in the middle of the room where he had fallen after shooting himself, the image of his blood spreading over the red oriental rug. Before then, it was a good room. The safest place of my life. And I turned the nob and pushed the door open, not knowing what lay behind. But ready to face it. Ready to face the images. Ready to face the past and ready to make the decisions I needed to make. No more running. I was too tired to run. But I wasn’t ready to give up.
The room…the room…I let my breath out in the gasp I hadn’t realized I’d been holding.
It was the same. The rug…no blood. Maybe even a different rug. Almost as if the image I’d held of that day wasn’t a memory but a trick. My grandmother, my papa’s mother, walked up behind me and laid hands on my shoulders “We couldn’t change it. This room held too much happiness for too long before the one day of sadness. We replaced the rug, the floor is stained underneath like the memory of that day in our minds. But we couldn’t change it. We just closed it.”
I nodded. I understood. I was not sure if I had wanted the room to be any different, or preferred it to be exactly the deep warmth that I remembered it to be growing up my entire childhood. And then I said “Why did he do it? I whispered the words and no answer came….so I said it louder”Why did he do it?”
My mother’s mother walked up and, putting her arm around her best friend since childhood and a hand on my shoulder as well “Darling. Nobody knows why. He never left a letter. He never said a word. He never didn’t smile and laugh. We never would have thought.”
“Sometimes…not every question get’s answered.” Sas said from behind me, walking up to join us. “We try our whole lives to understand an answer to question’s that just don’t have them.”
“I thought…I just…”
“You thought it would be me. Everybody did. Nobody understood that, and you had been a child, darling. You couldn’t be expected to understand.” My mother’s voice to my right shoulder now. I didn’t feel the expected anger to rise, but anger I was too loaded down with to act on….I just…let her words fall and settled like the dust particles that floated in the sun beams streaming in through a space of the closed blinds.
“Mom? Why did you do it? That time in the bath?” I heard the question leave my lips that I had thought for my entire life but had never spoken. Never thought to actually ask the living breathing person who was standing by my right shoulder for some understanding for what I had no understanding of…and many questions for.
She breathed in deep and held it long before letting it out. “I was sad. I had always had this sadness that just wouldn’t leave me. I loved you all so much but I was always trying to find an answer, too, to why other people didn’t feel the way that I did. I just….I could never walk out of the fog into the sunshine I could see other’s walked in. That day of the bath I ….I woke that morning and waited for your father to leave for work and I didn’t even think of you girls. I always had before before that. That day was what broke me from ever putting you girls first again. You girls and my thought for your well being had always been what kept me awake each day. But that day it didn’t exist…like…a part of my brain was missing. I don’t remember filling the bathtub or taking the razor to my wrists. I do remember when laying there at one point thinking ‘There…the pain is gone. I am in the sun. And then I remember nothing more. I can’t explain it anymore than that. I can talk about it all you want but sometimes question’s even inside ourselves just don’t have answers.”
I felt her hand slip inside of mine and squeeze. “I can’t begin to ask forgiveness of you and all of this family. But I am glad that you found me that day. That you tried so hard to wake me up. I don’t regret it at all. And that is an answer to one question I know lays in your mind. I’ve had days it crossed my mind. Days where I walked in the fog and watched those in the sun and still wished it would all end. That I could go to sleep and not wake up. Days when I took enough pills to let me sleep it away, sometimes too many pills. I didn’t mean to, but one wasn’t enough…and then two, and the two wasn’t enough. I needed to make my brain stop, sleep seemed my only refuge from the heavy fog I carried around like leaded weights all day every day. I do everyday. But I have somewhat learned to enjoy the quiet and beauty in and through my fog as well. Much help has come from finally seeking therapy after the death of your father. When I saw him there that day, I wanted it as much as I didn’t. I was jealous of him as much as I hated him for doing it. The pain of his loss was more than I could bear. The knowledge that he suffered so silently and so much was overwhelming. But there were you girls, and many of you still very young. And no more of your father to rely on. So I sought help.”
“Why do you feel the way you do mom?”
“I just don’t know. What our brain does is one of those un-answered questions, Bird.”
“The question I began to answer was to live. To just step forward. I didn’t want to die if I asked myself that. I just wanted it it stop…I wanted the sun. But death feels like an answer, even when we learn it is not. Your fathers death taught me it wasn’t the answer I wanted. I never tried again after that and I sought the help that I’d refused to even though he had begged me to for years. Therapy helps, treatments help. Medications done properly help. It’s not fixed but it is manageable most days and recognizable others. I am still in the same fog but I am able to steer the boat through it so to speak. I can see the light and sometimes feel it’s warmth for moments. But I don’t dip as deep into the gray waters of sadness and drowning as deeply or as often because of the help. It isn’t overnight and takes a lot of work and focus to find the right treatments and even those have to often be adjusted.”
I nodded and swallowed deep past the lump in my throat.
“Ok. Ok.” I just nodded my head and repeated again and again, as if I said it enough times, then it would be.
Sas’s voice behind me “Bird…are you afraid of this happening to you?” It was the first time I had heard the question out loud and from a voice not inside my own head. I just nodded “Have you thought about …leaving like this?” She asked.
“No. I never have. I am just…so tired and I want it to end sometimes. I want to wake up and none of this ever happened. To live a time when I never heard that gunshot….and I never shot my husband. And he never changed. But I wait for it all the goddamned time. Wait for that thought, I guess you could say.” I just continued on and we all looked upon the room as if seeing lives upon lives and mistakes upon mistakes floating before us like we might be watching a slide show movie. But I continued.
“I don’t understand what changed all the time. I asked him what was wrong all the time. I asked him what made him angry….I asked him and he said ‘I don’t know.’ Everybody’s answer seems’ to be ‘I just don’t know’. But I want to know! I just….I can’t….I can’t do THIS and I am carrying this baby and I don’t know what to do! I am afraid…every day it tires me to be so afraid. I am afraid I am like mom and I am afraid I am like dad and I am afraid of the person who stayed after he hit me and I am afraid of the person I am because I killed him. I’m only not afraid of him anymore because he’s dead which I am reminded about every time I go to sleep and every day that I wake up!”
At this point I was down on my knee’s…my throat straining with the crying and yelling through the lump in my throat and I heard myself screaming the words through my chokes and coughs but I didn’t care…
All of the women where there. All of them. The women of my family tree. Of three generations. Of pieces from each of them that made of all of me. Many of those pieces I didn’t want making me. Many I saw in myself more and more. Right now they held my hand. Laid a hand on my shoulder and ran a hand over my hair until I was beyond exhausted…again…three times in a row now of crying myself to exhaustion and I just couldn’t seem to make the pain stop. But those women stood around me protective and calming but letting me let it out, like tree’s circled in a forest they stood around me with all of their strength as one, together. At the moment I was a weeping willow but they were sturdy oaks.
Later, I was sitting on the front porch after dark, wearing a big sweater, jeans and socks and covered with a soft blanket against the cold…though it still surrounded me, if warmly dressed, it was very nice to sit out here. My grandmother’s and mother and sister’s stayed nearby but giving me space, occasional comfort of a hot cup of tea and a pat on the hand in silence. The door to the kitchen left wide open and I knew they were keeping an eye on me but for now I felt comfort in that too. I’d been just sitting and ….not thinking actually. Just letting my mind float. Just facing the images that came in and letting them vanish when they had finished their visit. I was tired. Emotionally drained and not wanting another cry-fest nap at all. So I sat. For hours before my mother came and sat next to me and stayed in silence for a good long time.
After a time she rested her hand on my knee and said “I felt the way you do now. It’s run in our family for a long time, Bird. I feared it too…and then when it started showing it’s face to me…I feared it more but…I couldn’t run from it either. And neither could your father. We all just handle it differently. I’ve been in therapy for years. Tried pills and med’s the doctors gave me but moved on from them. From time to time I have to re-balance though and tell my therapist when I am feeling the need. Your father wasn’t on pills. He didn’t go to therapy. None of us, not even me, knew at all that he felt that shadow. I’ve still yet to find anyone who ever knew a whisper of his demons. If it hadn’t been for your father finding me everytime and getting me to the hospital on time I never would have gotten help eventually, either. If I had used a bullet I would have succeeded.”
I just nodded. We sat in silence. Then she continued.
“I remember a time when I was real low. Just…you had just been born and I was going through post partem on top of my already existing depression. But people didn’t talk about depression or post partem then. I had you in your crib and just kept staring down at you wondering “What am I trying to do? I can’t be a normal mother.”
I snorted. “You sure weren’t that.”
She looked at me sharply…and patted my knee. “I don’t have a good reason for the affairs. I don’t at all and I regret every bit of it but I really couldn’t help it. If it wasn’t that I would have been one of those that goes and does lot of drug’s, become’s one of those junkie homeless we know around town that we also know of some who come from a well to do pocket book. People don’t understand why some do that. Choose that life, they call it. But I have over time come to make a choice of which life I wanted and they don’t choose it, some were never given the choice to take. But I know why they do it. It’s a voice so deep inside their heads they can’t get away from it and they do everything they can to try…it destroys them. So…it…I don’t even know how it started. I just was so unhappy…it wasn’t your father. I loved him more than anything, and I was blessed with a patient and loving husband and a wonderful father to my children. But I was trying to fill this emptiness inside of myself and next thing I knew I was in another man’s bed.” She paused and took a deep breath.
“I should have gone for the drugs.” She let the breath out and said.
“It would have broke your father’s heart less at least in that aspect. We never had a bad love life ourselves, even after. It almost made us closer after the turmoil of it had settled. He never asked me why. He never asked me anything like that. He let me have me, always. Never tried controlling, your father was a good good man. But he also just hid his demons better than the rest of us. He was human, and he had seen mine, understood them better than I thought maybe, too.”
Silence again, except after a moment I reached out and placed my hand on top of hers which was on my knee still. And we sat a bit longer like that. I said “Thank you. I do need understanding. There doesn’t seem to be much I can get in all of this but it’s something.” She smiled. Got up and headed off to bed.
“You need to be more forgiving of your mother.” The voice from just outside the cast of the porch light and soon the body that belonged to it followed. My grandmother sat where my mother just had left from. And the stance she took was the same her daughter-in-laws had been. Hand on knee. It seemed that the small power of touch could say a lot that the voice couldn’t. Silence for a moment before speaking.
“Your mom, she has her problems. Don’t we all though? The brain does weird things. I saw it eat my own father alive but in him it made him mean and have to take everyone around him into the hell he was in. In my husband it did, too. And then my son. Each acted in their own and different way. Each person has their own view, their own way, and their own hell. They can only run from them for so long. Some people are better at it than others, maybe. But for some, they don’t have control and there isn’t much help for such things available. And even just ten years ago it wasn’t even whispered about. Other than the town gossip, but not in any helpful way. No one gives you a hand book for life. Or for being a wife or a mother or a mother of a man who shot himself only a handful of yards from where you stood, or a daughter. The guilt I always will have is feeling that as his mother I should have known. One minutes I’m tending the tomatoes, my biggest problem in life trying to save them from the bugs…and the next minute my own son needed saving….and I couldn’t save him. No one could. He made sure of that. Always smiling. Always holding it in. Ohhh his laugh was enough to warm the coldest heart! We all expected that shot to be your mothers. We had thought the gun’s were long gone since the time in the bathtub happened. Before that it had been normal to have gun’s in the house. None of us knew he had kept one. I can’t even say I wasn’t disappointed and angry that it was my son and not your mother. I know that might make me a terrible person. I am glad now for her, though, but I always loved her even when I saw what she put my son and you girls through.”
She paused, her gravely voice that I’d always found comfort in and I remembered her singing lullaby’s to me as a child, had more to say than I’d ever given room to be said. With the sigh heavy of a long life she continued “We would have been more prepared. Our brains would have settled to it more because we would have accepted the thought ‘yep, saw that coming’. Not that we would have been any less sad, just…perhaps more prepared. It’s why it’s been harder to heal with my Frank being the one who shot…turned a gun on himself and didn’t falter….still gets me. I’m glad his papa wasn’t alive to be there through that. Would have killed him dead of heart break. Nearly killed me. The surprise of it all made it more of a shock. Less of a possibility. Not to say I would have preferred it to be your mama, today. Not at all. Had it not been for that woman this family and every member of it would have fallen apart and done the same as Frank and you need to know that. You really do. She not only held us together and snapped out of a lot of her own hell to do so but she did it with that shadow she carries over her head, somehow, through it all. Medicine and a world that talks about it more now has helped, too. Had she had that decades ago maybe you girls would have a lot less anger for her ad a lot less reason for it. But she is a different person, it took her awhile, but she is and it’s a good person. Realize that. We all make mistakes that we are in control of, and her brain was making mistakes for her that she didn’t have any control over to some degree’s. So go easier on her. Maybe not forgive her just yet but at least listen to her. Give her room to breath in your life. You’ll learn something you don’t already. I can guarantee you that about you and that woman.”
I waited to listen for more…she sat awhile…swallowing a lump that seemed to appear in her own throat now…dabbing her eye’s with a handkerchief. She patted my knee again and sat forward “But eventually you need to be more forgiving of your mother. Our brains do crazy thing’s to us, but it doesn’t mean we are crazy. As a mother I stared down at Frank in his crib one day and imagined just putting the pillow over his face….just a split second and the fact that I had such a thought had me scared for dear life. But I was so tired and he had been crying and ….”her voice trailed off. She shook her head at the memory that seemed to have crept through the cobwebs “I wasn’t a bad mother. I loved him more than anything and never thought it again. I’ve read a lot about what that was now. Hell lack of sleep can make a human go insane…but post partem depression…hormones and chemical’s in the brain…all of it and we barely still know a damned thing about what makes a man take a gun and pull the trigger around on himself…spilling his blood for his loved family to clean up. But he can’t answer me and I almost feel that if he could, he wouldn’t even be so sure himself. The last thing he was sure of was pulling that trigger. That’s a sureness that has to run real deep in someone to do. We can’t control or even understand people. But we can control and find understanding in ourselves.” She sighed again and walked inside on that note.
Two pep talk and history bite’s in a row from two of the women of my family. I half expected another to stroll along any moment. But after awhile no one did. I walked up and knocked on Mag’s bedroom door. She was in bed reading for the evening but hollard for me to come in. I plopped across her big bed and looked around her room, which had changed a lot since the last time I had seen it. “I was fifteen, Bird. If I am a woman living with my mother at my age still living in a fifteen year olds bedroom, shoot me now please.” She said not even looking up from her book but must have guessed my thoughts. The room was done in soft greys and lavenders, a very calm and grown up woman’s room.
The women owned this house, a house that had more rooms than were ever in use, great hiding places as children. A house that took up more bocks on an island than most and it’s yard and extra housing on the property even more so, surrounded and tucked in by a high stone wall and allowable entrance by a double white gate. Each woman who lived here had her share of ownership, even me, even after I left it was willed to me for my part. She didn’t live in someone else’s house, we lived in our’s. We did’t answer to, I saw that now, we lived among. Typically when married and wanting to stretch some wings one moved out, but the rights were that we could move anyone in and the sound of children could be permanent rather than visiting. There was enough room not to share bedrooms but entire wings of houses and suites. Yet still somehow small enough not to feel ‘above’ the rest of the island nor set apart from it and those who lived there. Now I saw how the women here had grown and become a entire different family. They had changed and I had not ever allowed for that change. There was a strength here, in this house, among these women, underneath these oak tree’s and nearly within earshot of the Gulf of Mexico’s musical waves on sand. I had left thinking I wanted nothing to do with the house or the people here. But I had come back to it for some reason by the call of something unknown inside me deeper than I myself could understand.
“It looks good Mag’s….maybe you could help me update mine.”
“So you plan on staying?”
“Even if I don’t full time or in the long run I would still like a room I can come back and visit to, I think.”
“Sounds like a good idea. Is your favorite color still orange?”
“Yes it is…clean lines…more modern, mid-century but not that mid-cen type of orange…more bo-ho meets class and elegance.”
“Got it….I’ll start looking on pinterest for some ideas.”
“If you want, too, this bedroom is closest to yours to change around sometime.”
“I’ll be moving out soon. You haven’t met him yet and we haven’t gotten to talk about it yet but I’ve been engaged to be married in the Spring.”
“Oh Mag, I’m so sorry. Everything has been so about me…for like the last sixteen years…..Congratulations!” I said hugging her. Hard.
“I’m an idiot. I never even noticed the ring. That’s how out of it I’ve been”
“Well, that is true. You can be a bit. But it’s more than understandable for the moment. Anyway I am moving out then but we are living on the island so there is no need for me to keep even a visiting room here and it will be available to redecorate. The timing would be about perfect too.” She hesitated. “If you choose. Maybe an office for you if not.”
I sat there looking down, picking at imaginary lint from the white comforter.
“You haven’t decided yet, have you?”
“No. I think I know one minute and then…I just don’t.”
“The answer will come to you…and regret’s either way…always a little in the back of your mind wonder if you go through with it, maybe even always a little if you don’t….you will be ok either way, Bird.”