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Wednesday, April 27, 2016


The dictionary defines revernant as someone who has returned, as if from the dead.

Spoiler alert:  don't read any further if you want to see this movie without knowing parts of the plot.

Leonardo DiCarprio gets more appealing every single year.  He really does. It's uncanny.  Bear skin poncho and all, and I still wanted to sleep with him.

This movie had so much buzz around it, what with him finally getting his Oscar and all.  What I knew about it was that he was out for revenge because he was left to die by his own men; what I didn't realize is that he was grief-stricken and wanting  revenge because his son was killed.

So, yeah...there were a couple of scenes that did me in:

the one in which he laid his head on his dead son whose corpse has begun to freeze and cannot or will not move from him.  Yes, he had been mauled by a bear so maybe that was part of it, but let me tell you if your child ever dies, whether you are injured or not, the only place you will want to be is with  their body- not another place in the world.   Not one.

When he tried to explain how much he wanted to be the one to take the man down who killed his child.  Yes.  When he said, "I ain't afraid to die anymore.  I'd done it already."  Yes.  Because I haven't ever lived through a bear attack, starved to death in the woods, or had my body rot from the inside out, but sometimes I feel like I have.  It's a pretty accurate metaphor for losing a child, actually.  Grief comes with teeth stronger than any animal and it never stops gnawing...the attack is never completely over.  The only sustenance you desire is to see your child again. And something does die inside you when you put your child in the ground- and the anger, the jealousy, the misery that come with it...they do ruin everything that used to be whole within you.  It's a cancer of sorts.  You're still alive, but you don't always wish to be.

So when he's finally face to face with his son's "driver", Leo pulls back at the last second, and calmly declares "Vengeance is in God's hands." and turns loose of the person who took the one thing that mattered most to him,

Seriously??  I'm not buying it, folks.  Leo barely talked during this entire movie- he used his body, his posture, his facial expressions, and his eyes to give an Oscar winning performance, but that ending was not believable.  You expect me to watch Leo strip naked and crawl into a carcass on his impossible journey to kill his son's murderer, and after all of that, he just does the RIGHT thing?  He turns his cheek?

Leo, you are a better man than me.  I would've bashed his head in and bathed in his blood.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Pine Rest.
Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services.

Someone said the name of this place in passing to me today, and it stopped me in my tracks.

Do you know what it's like to check your child into a psychiatric facility?
I learned pretty quickly that for chronic mental illness, hospitalization is usually only good for two things:  safety and stabilization.  You take someone who is very ill, someone who might be at risk for harming themselves or someone else, or someone who has lost touch with reality, and you put them in a safe place for a brief period of time.  There is a strict schedule which keeps them from sleeping too much or too little.  There is routine that creates predictability, and in turn reduces anxiety.  Meals and meds are at regular intervals.  Bathing is required. Some degree of socialization is expected.

 Regulating the meds are just a part of the stay, because we all know that meds don't fix anything.  Talk therapy is offered every day- an upgrade from the weekly or even bi-weekly appointments that out-patient care provides.    A typical stay is 5 days.  Cory always left feeling better than when she got there.

 There was only ever one other kid there who had what would eventually become her diagnosis, and at the time, Cory was still healthy enough to find his delusions of aliens in the courtyard as bizarre as the next person.  A lot of the other teenagers were there for suicide attempts, substance abuse, anger management, and depression.

If you ever have to go, there is a small table where you will sit and fill out paper after paper of your family history and child's medical history while she sits beside you with her doll or chosen stuffy in her lap.  You will hold her hand.  You may want to cry, but you can't because that might scare her, and she is scared enough already...not just scared to be left in a hospital far from home (which she is) but also scared to be left in any room by herself for any length of time because the voices won't leave her alone.  She hasn't slept much to speak of in days.   Neither have you.

The first time you bring your child to one of these places, you don't know the rules, so you watch as the few clothes and personal items you threw haphazardly into a bag are combed carefully over, more studiously than security for an international flight.  Strings are pulled out or cut out of pants.    Wires are pulled out of journals.  No jewelry.  Not even her retainer because it could be fashioned into a sharp.

The people here are kind and patient.  They bring her a sandwich to eat, pre-packaged, which they point out to her is quite safe, knowing she has become suspicious of her food being tampered with.  She eats the ham and cheese, all wide eyes over the triangle of her sandwich, her stuffed duck clutched in the crook of one arm, watching the staff cautiously as they explain what will happen next.  They do this well.

If your child is a girl, it will be a female staff person who takes her into a private room and has her undress.  If she wants you with her, as Cory wanted me, you can be in the room as the staff person has her "gown up" and then show her body to them section by section.  Any scars, marks, cuts, or bruises are carefully recorded on a body diagram.  It is humiliating, for sure, but has to be done because the hospital must document that they are returning your child to you in exactly the same condition in which they arrived.  Safety first.

You get to see your child to her room, maybe help her put away her things, but most of the minutes left before you have to walk away from your heart are spent reassuring her that you will call every two hours and that you will be there every evening the minute visiting hours start and that you will stay until they throw you out.  The two of you quickly whomp together a ritual saying, "You call me and I'll call you." which is repeated every time you speak until you bring her home again.

When it's time, it kills you to walk away and leave her looking so small and frightened, all alone with strangers in a place that is not home.  When she is ill enough to be hospitalized, her voice has reverted to six year old Cory and it hurts your heart. You have become Mommy once again.  Is she really sixteen?  Seventeen?  Surely not.

 The moment you are out of her sight, you begin sobbing your heart out, not understanding what is happening to her  or why she has to be burdened with such a horrible illness, but knowing she is safe, and it is the right thing and the only thing you could do.

"The fact that she is so frightened, Mrs. Mansfield, is the very reason she needs to be here."

Monday, April 18, 2016

Triggers All The Day

Last week, here in Michigan, there was snow on the ground; today it is a balmy 78 degrees.  People are practically dancing in the streets, but I am walking around, slack-jawed, with my eyes to the ground, watching my feet take one step in front of the other.  All day today at work, I nodded in the right places and smiled enough not to be noticed, but I watched my feet.  Instead of black shoes and dress pants floating around my ankles, I saw those shiny purple purple sandals slapping down on hot pavement and I could hear my heartbeat in my ears.

When this weather comes for the first time each year, it snatches me back instantly.  I am perpetually wearing khaki shorts and a plain red t-shirt from Target and I am chasing Cory.  I know that she is wearing a white Where the Wilds Things Are t-shirt, black cargo shorts, and her new Hello Kitty sneaks.  I expect to find her crying, hurt, and looking around for me.

I never run fast enough.  I didn't run fast enough.  She wasn't crying or looking around for me. I got her shoes and her belt back; everything else was a loss.

All the stuff I've done this past year... getting my budget together, caring about Jake again, attempting to run a household, even minimally,...they melt away under the sunshine of the first hot day.  That was the dream- that reknitting, relearning, refining myself.  Like it's going to fix something here?What could ever be more real than the loop of her arm twisted the wrong way or that horrifying shade of blue on her lips under a four o'clock in the afternoon sun?  "Is she BREATHING?"

What could ever burn hotter than the sun the day she died?  I think it reached 101 degrees that day.  Falling on my knees when told the news, "I'm sorry, ma'am...she is gone.", I knew where I was.  I knew exactly where I was.  It hasn't changed.  I'm still there, right there.

 It'll be four years in less than three months and all the pathetic little rituals in the world...avoiding her place in the road, kissing her monument when I visit the cemetery, having Jake taste the mashed potatoes with Cory's Special Fork...don't make it any less real.  Today I looked down at my feet and I'm in hell all the same.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


If you lose your child, you will never be the same.
If you lose a friend, you will never get over it.

What if your child was also your friend?  What if you took all the things you loved best- books, music, food, and art- and shared them with this one person?  What if they didn't say, "Oh, cool.", but actually fell in love with them, as well? Just as passionately?  What if you could finish each other sentences and read each other's minds?  What if the banter never stopped and the list of things to tell each other grew with each passing day?

Here's what happens after that child dies:  every story and book that you cherish, every song that moves you, every meal you savor, and every piece of art you admire will bring forth her face, her words, her voice.

  I will never forget my girl.  I will also never enjoy any of my favorite things as much as I did when she was by my side.  How could I?  Half the fun was showing them to her.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

"A Careless Man's Careful Daughter"

I know better than to go grocery shopping at Family Fare on my own, but sometimes I do it anyway.

Thirty minutes in hell, that's what it is.  I expect to see her come around a corner with a box of au gratin potatoes in her hand.  I squint my eyes a lone figure at the end of an aisle, and convince myself that it's her- her form... her height, her build, her posture.  My eyes pass over the the pistachios and I want to die.

Then just to be sure I am fully aware of my loss, Taylor Swift comes on over the speakers, telling me all about growing up in a broken home, but then finding a good guy, getting a place together, paying bills,and being happy.  Cory used to love this song.  Cory was holding out, through all the bad, hoping for that kind happy ending.  She never stopped hoping, and that's why she came so far.  That's what made her so incredibly strong.  It's exactly what makes her death such shit.

All that hope for nothing- to end on the side of the road not two minutes from her house.  I spent the rest of my shopping trip feeling my heart drop into my shoes, and some crazy surge of adrenaline come up in my throat.  I listened to every word of that stupid song, damning Taylor Swift to hell for making my Cory think she'd get the chance to grow up and have a family of her own with a man who wouldn't leave...what a fricking novel idea.

 I wheeled my cart around, very nearly jabbing into people, yearning to launch the rotisserie chicken at the deli counter window, wanting to grab up bags and bags of pistachios and chuck them at the happy people who walked around listening to Taylor sing like it was no big deal.

You'd think I would get tired of being angry all the time.  You'd think eventually I'd get to the bottom of all this rage.

Well, not yet, my friend.  The injustice eats me alive.  It may do no good, but it comes in waves, regardless, and it's fueled by the fiercest love I've ever felt for another human being.  Damn you, Taylor, for painting that picture in my head for my girl.  I could see it so well.  And so could she.

"Braced myself for the goodbye,
'Cause that's all I've ever known
Then, you took me by surprise
You said, "I'll never leave you alone"
You said, "I remember how we felt, sitting by the water.
And every time I look at you, it's like the first time.
I fell in love with a careless man's careful daughter.
She is the best thing that's ever been mine."
Do you believe it?
We're gonna make it now
And I can see it"

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Being Counseled

I sat with Jake at dinner the other night and we talked about whether or not there were any movies out to see on the weekend.  (This was before Batman vs. Superman came out, mind you).  Pretty much, there weren't.  We like to go with my Mom to the Saturday matinees and catch up in the car...Mom and I doing most of the talking, with Jake nodding in the appropriate places because he never really talks anymore.

We'd decided we'd have to wait until another weekend because the only movie that wasn't raunchy or animated was a little number called Miracle From Heaven that I vetoed in a hot second.  "Does it look boring?"  Jake asked.

"No, I guess it's supposed to be pretty good, but I know it would make me really mad so I think I'd better not see it."  At the very least, I have learned to identify my triggers.

Jake raised an eyebrow, so I went on, "You know, the whole 'my kid was dying but God chose to save them instead of letting them die and they'll go on to have a normal life full of husbands and babies and jobs and crap.  The kid lives in the end, of course, so you gotta love that."

I stopped and fumed a moment while his fourteen year old eyes measured mine.  I expected him to chime in on this little tirade of mine- after all, she was his Cory Girl, too.  When he sat there silently, appearing not ruffled in the least by the thought of other people's siblings getting to live while his died on the street, I was a little disappointed.  Misery does love company.

He scanned the menu and waited for me to calm down, which i didn't.  Instead, I said, "Aren't you angry?  Don't you ever get angry about it?  It's okay to be angry, you know."  Listen to me, such the knowledgeable grownup, helping this poor wayward teenager to identify his feelings and say them out loud to at least one person in his life.

He shrugged his shoulders, his most steadfast response in any situation that makes him feel vulnerable.  "I don't know.  Yeah, I guess, sometimes."

I countered with, "Who do you get angry with?  Do you ever get angry at God?"

He nearly chuckled at the thought, "No."

"The driver?"I asked.

"No." he said calmly.

At that, my scalp shrunk on my skull and I broke out in gooseflesh.  "Well, who then?  Me?  Are you mad at me?"  I knew it,I knew he must blame me deep down.  I'm his mom. I'm the one who's supposed to make sure everything is okay and I let her get killed.  

"No, Mom, I don't get mad at you.  It's not your fault.  You can be mad without being mad at somebody.  I'm just mad she had to die because I loved her so much."

I stopped, speechless.  And while I suppose plenty of grieving parents look to point the finger and feel the relentless compulsion to lay the blame, I have to say he made me feel small.  He made me feel small and mean.  Somehow despite missing her desperately, he's made peace with her death.  If he does get mad, it's fleeting because I never see it.  He's not out to make anyone bleed over it.  He doesn't begrudge anyone else their big sister.  He just goes on, not talking unless pressed, and enjoying whatever he can find that is still good in the world.  Maybe next week, at dinner out, he'll tell me a little bit more about how he does it.  I know I don't have the faintest clue.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Get Over It Already

Easter will be no big deal,

This is what I think until I'm in the middle of Target picking out fillings for Jacob's Easter basket, leaving Cory's favorite treats sitting on the shelf.  I actually get excited to stumble across a couple of The Walking Dead t-shirts, until I remember I can't get any for her because she's dead, and she's never even seen the show, also because she's dead.

I imagine there are people out there thinking, "Just get over it, already.  Move on."  I'd like to see you try.

Moving through Target this morning, putting one chocolate bunny in my cart instead of two hurt no less than if someone had asked me to open up my chest and hollow out my still beating heart with an ice cream scoop.

Cory will never be in my past.  Friends will intellectually (and wholeheartedly) agree with me.  "Oh yes, of course, she will always be with you."

But I think they make that statement from one safe and sane point of view, as a positive reminder that I had such a girl and she is loved still.  They say it to be kind, to be supportive, with no real understanding of what that really means.  She will always be with me- the good memories...AND the road, putting her in the ground, living without her.   The trauma remains, too- it's a package deal.  No one sorts it out neatly and hands you back the good times that you can remember without feeling your heart break in half.

I am here this morning after a tour of hell through Target for goodies and than Kohl's for a dress shirt, remembering how Cory was buried in the last Easter dress she had the chance to wear.  A holiday, that I thought would be...not terrible...suddenly has my chest tight and my heart beating at an uncomfortable pace.  My hands are shaking and I'm so angry and heartbroken, I want nothing but to run away.