Another thing happened on this trip, it was surprising and it was a first. Someone asked about my daughter.
Now you all know I don’t write about my daughter. I used to write about her daily… multiple times a day actually but have written very little in the last five years because the story is just so impossible. But I found myself standing in the kitchen (catch the Moon reference) with the soldier’s old pal from back in the day and my daughter came up.
I knew this man too, 30 years ago and I liked him very much. It took me all of 4 seconds like him very much again. He’s got energy that is quite astonishing… very Henry-esque. As a matter of fact he does motorcycle stunts too, and has an ocotillo fence at his house but anyway, I sure like the guy and his wife and his daughter and we were standing in the kitchen that last night when he asked, “So what about your kids, Elsa?” We were standing there, he was standing very close to me and I looked at him. “Um…”
“Yeah. We didn’t hear about your kids. How are they doing? We heard about your son some but nothing about your daughter. How old is she?”
“Um…” I had this cross-eyed look on my face and the man is super intuitive. There was some communication unspoken. ‘She’s uh… she is 13 now,” I said.
He knew something was off like when you step in a pile and at that moment I could have done anything I wanted because he is not an ass. I thought about a second and then started taking. “Well see, my daughter, she doesn’t live at home,” I said thinking I might as well start at the end. Otherwise the story is too overwhelming, see.
And I went on to tell him and his wife the whole story with the soldier aiding by filling in details and his perspective on the situation. We only had to talk for 3 minutes or so…
“I think I get it. You’re painting a pretty good picture,” he said. “It sounds like..”
I sighed. “Yes. Yes, it is that bad – It’s even worse.”
On our way out to dinner we piled in the car and I continued to talk. If you are going to tell a story, may as well tell the whole thing. One graphic shocking thing after another rolled off my tongue, the soldier still filling in details.
“I suppose it is unlikely but if you ever know someone in a circumstance like this, here is the genius thing to do….” I said, explaining and outlining the action I took. “It took me forever to figure that out and thank God I did. Thing is no one knows what to do in a circumstance like this because the circumstance is completely unique. It is rare so you’re on your own and I have no idea where I’d be right now if I’d have not thought of this.”
“So there you go,” said wrapping up as we pulled into the restaurant parking lot. “There is a story you will never hear from another soul. Sorry I had to tell you but… I just didn’t think I should dodge the question.”
I found out I could outline what my family has been through over these last years in succinct fashion to someone with no background at all. Thing is it had more to do with them than it did with me. These people are brilliant and they are sensitive but it was still eye-opening to me. With a little more practice I may be able to talk to the masses.
I know what that’s like. Most of the time when my dad was sick I said very little about it, I didn’t tell anyone what his disease was (it’s rare and hard to spell, so only one person in 10 years had ever heard of it- she was both a neurologist who had a friend with the disease). It was one of those “don’t ask about him, we’re never going to have any improvement here” situations and I usually tried to avoid mentioning. After awhile I even referred to him in the past tense half the time, i.e. “Dad used to like this,” because while he was still technically alive, it wasn’t like he was able to enjoy those things any more.
I was in a weird situation being 20something and in the caregivers’ support group where everyone else is in their 50’s and has a parent with Alzheimer’s. Talk about how NOBODY is going to understand…especially since the way my relatives get ill, I had two decades’ worth of experience with ill relatives over everyone else in the room.
I’m still working on trying to communicate the whole thing. I think to some degree if I’d written my version of Joan Didion’s book while my dad was dying, I could have done a better job of it while in the moment. (Alas, I heard the book a month before he died, so the inspiration came late.)
The time may come where you can talk about it, or not. In the end, I guess you’ll see.
W O W. That must have felt very good and empowering to be able to do that. I can’t wait until you get ready to do it for us.
I was adopted by my grandparents as a child and had to deal with their dementia and alzheimer’s, abusive nursing homes and family implosions from mental illness in my 20’s and 30’s when most of my friends were more or less carefree. It was brutal. It got so bad, family members were pitted against each other in court fighting over whether or not my grandmother’s feeding tube should be removed or not and that’s not the half of it. I still don’t talk about that stuff with anyone.
Elsa, I like that you got to practice. I feel that the world is enriched by 8th House type people who are able to communicate about death and dying and disease. Good for you for talking to the Soldier’s friend. It makes me feel very proud that you did and told us about it!
glad to hear you managed to express the story in a space where you could be heard (or so it seemed.)
Its odd that you mention this today Elsa, your daughter was all over my dreams last night.
There’s got to be something healthy in letting it out now and then, in a safe environment. At least, I hope it helps more than it hurts.
Well the masses are listening, if you ever want to share it. And if not that’s totally your prerogative.
I wish I had something more useful to say here, but I don’t. <3
Oh, can I ever identify, I have 2 dtrs who ran away from home at the ages of 13, and 15. It was years before I could talk about it, and I still don’t do so readily. I had to work thru so many emotions. One of them has since passed away and the other one I have not seen in many years. It can be difficult, but I needed to forgive myself for whatever I thought I did or didn’t do and realize that a higher power is at work here also. Blessings to you as you work thru the situation.
Thanks, Barb, and welcome. 🙂