Confessional
April 2, 2008, 9:46 am
Filed under: daily | Tags: ,

I’m not really sure how to start this. Nor am I really sure how to say what I need to say. This is difficult.

My great-aunt attempted suicide a few weeks ago. Attempted, meaning her son found her before she succeeded.

There, I said it. I could go on a social tirade about how we need better mental health care in this country to prevent things like this. I could talk about how crazy that particular wing of the family is, because they are. I could not write about it at all, but I feel like I need to. For my own mental health.

I am just overwhelmingly saddened by the whole thing. Not at the prospect of losing my aunt, because she’s 87 and not exactly going in the springtime of her youth. An 87 year old suicide is not the great tragedy that a 15 year old suicide is. What I am saddened by is that this is what her life has come to. She chose it because she is terrified of out-living her son. She has already out-lived her husband and older son, and her younger son is all she has left. He is probably dying of something, but we don’t know details. Her only granddaughter lives in Florida and is on polite terms with her Northern family, at best. Out-living her son is a reasonable fear: without him, she is alone in the world. I understand this. I even respect her fear and her subsequent decision.

She has had a full life. She inherited much of the wealth that my grandfather did not. Her husband provided very well for her. They spent much of their married life traveling the world together, collecting friends, memories, and mementos. She surrounds herself with her memories in her house. She is very proud of hanging the same Christmas wreath above her mantel for over 50 years. We made fun of her for that, behind our hands, mocking her for being tacky. And yet, it’s evident that by doing that, she is reminding herself of everything she once had. All of that is gone now, and she spends her days worrying about her son dying before her. That is exceptionally sad. I am sad for her, that her own death is less terrifying to her.

I also feel guilty. There was family drama before and around Christmas about her demanding that my side of the family attend her Christmas Eve party, which is usually awkward and boring at best, with terrible food. She was exceptionally rude about it this year, causing cackles to rise among us about her expecting us to pay homage, while refusing to ever come to the other side of town to visit us. My grandparents didn’t go, but my mom, myself and my two uncles went over for a little earlier in the day to visit her. In hindsight, I’m glad we did, and guilty about the fuss we kicked up about it. She had planned this in advance. She knew it was going to be her last Christmas, and wanted to see all of us. And we dug in our heels and threw a temper tantrum. I am deeply embarrassed.

In hindsight, I realize that the seemingly selfish, self-gratifying behavior she’s displayed recently is mostly her pride. She has continuously been telling my grandmother and my aunt how her boys were the favorite grandchildren, and they could do no wrong in the eyes of her father, wasn’t that just wonderful? She said this to the people who were disfavored. Uncouth at best, cruel at worst.  She attempted to subvert the fate of her husband’s family, early-onset heart disease, by choosing to adopt children. Her husband died in his 80’s of Parkinson’s. Nothing was wrong with his heart. Her older son died mysteriously in his 30’s, not long after I was born. Her younger son is pickling himself. In contrast, the black sheep of that generation, my grandfather, produced 4 tall, strong, healthy children. Their collective higher education degrees number 11 or so. In April, I will make that 12, and the following April, 13. They may not have the financial acumen they could have had, but they are rich in terms of their family.

She is not, and she realizes that. Her cruel words were her pride speaking. Knowing her upcoming suicide attempt, she wanted to remind us that at one time, she and hers were the best, the favorites. I am ashamed that we gossiped so cruelly in return about those statements. I am ashamed that we mocked her for her Christmas decorations. I am ashamed that we joked about putting Post-it notes on the expensive antiques in her house. I am ashamed that we made it a game as to what terrible Christmas presents my cousin and I would receive.

I am ashamed that we are not kinder people. I am ashamed that we didn’t see through her ploys. She does not make it easy, but that doesn’t excuse us. I am saddened that this is what she has come to. I am so sad for everything she has lost. She has lost so much.

And most of all, I am sad that her son found her, and saved her. She is in a coma in the hospital. She has lost the will to live, and we are keeping her here against her will.  For that, I am most saddened, and most ashamed.

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