In October of 2000, I remember going to Eastland Cemetery in Eastland, TX…I found my way to the woman whose suicide I blamed myself for many years…She wasn’t famous. No one heard of her except the locals who knew of her tirades. Her name was Judy. She was my stepmother. For about 3.5 years, I endured much at her hands but it was on this day that I came to one stark realization. She could not help her mental illness. In the last two weeks of her life, she thought she was four years old, and that I was her mother.
For years after her death, I kept asking, what if I had done this? What if I had done that. The fact of the matter is that it does not matter, especially now. There are two things nobody has control over besides life and death and those things are the past and future. Neither can be changed. However I spent much of my 20’s trying to run from the memories of what went on in my home during the time she was with us. It was rather violent. I got shoved into walls, cabinets, picked up and thrown into one once–and those times were on the days when she wasn’t too pissed off and went off on EVERYONE.
Do I hate her? No. Do the memories of a pistol getting pointed at my head still haunt me? Yes. That is probably why I never owned a gun. However times change and I do often think about obtaining one now. Please, if you’re into gun control, don’t preach at me. My family hunted for decades and before that my ancestors did also. Not everyone who owns a gun is a nut-case.
Anyway back to my point. There is only one thing that enabled me to get beyond the shadows of the past when it came to her and that was to make this particular trip, on this not so special day to her grave. It was in the 60’s and the sun was out. And I stood here for a long time pondering what I would say if she were to stand next to me. It was then I said something very close to this:
This is my stepmother’s grave. My father was buried elsewhere
“It has been many years now. I have done some digging and now I can understand why you were so tormented over several things. Losing your own children and losing two sisters prior took a toll on you. I understand now, Judy. I understand the hell you went through at home as a child too. I forgive you. I actually forgave you a long time ago but I had to come here to say it. I hope that you are at peace and that you are no longer suffering. I would wish what you endured on nobody now that I have put it together.”
Her suicide took a devastating toll on my emotions all the way through high school and beyond. I buried myself in my writing and my school work. I almost ended up getting into cutting but one of the counselors saw my journal and encouraged me to channel my energy elsewhere. That was when I picked up a pen.
The chilling remarks when I came back to school after her death were the most cutting. Some new kid asked why anyone would shoot themselves. My teacher in that class was a coach everyone got pissed at every day it seemed. As I sat there he said, “I don’t know but women usually don’t go around shooting themselves because they are afraid to mess up their looks.”
I was livid. There is no way he didn’t know about her suicide being that he worked part-time for DPS. I got up and bolted out of the room. I stayed home for a couple of days and was in a different class after that. My dad made sure of it. Even in her death the bullying and idiotic behavior of some of the other students continued as well. I never forgot that either. To them it was all a joke. Well I hope they enjoyed their years at school afterward, because much of their entertainment came at the expense of others who were broken. This is why I don’t attend class reunions either–along with many others who opt not to show.
It is actually them I feel sad for. Even in adulthood they do not have a clue as to the scars they inflicted with their actions and words, yet most have suffered their own tragedies and seem to forget their past actions. Ironically, I forgive them too. Some will have much to answer for one day. Until then, I will live my life and continue to work to get questions answered. For Judy, it’s the least I can do. She deserved better than what life dealt her.