Moms Columns & Blogs

Archive-January-Part 8-Emotional Chaos & Brian's Car

“Emotional Chaos”

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  Every single time I walk up those stairs to our room, I catch my breath; I see his closed door and it hurts, a stabbing, gut-wrenching sorrow accompanied by a wellspring of freshly drawn tears.  To have it open would be worse somehow; keeping others out keeps the essence of him in, and allows me to pretend for a split second prior to my exhale that everything is okay…until I remember...  

The loss of our son, brother, has shattered us; this integral piece of our whole, of what defines us, suddenly, violently ripped away.  We struggle to take every breath, unconsciously searching for some safe place.  Old self-images are lost beneath multiple layers of dark ebony teardrops, alternatively known as denial, rage, disbelief and pain, in no particular order.  Even my skin seems foreign and strange, ill-fitting; I peer into my mirror, wondering about this stranger staring back at me…  Do the so-called ‘labels’ still apply?  I am still a mom, but what do I call myself since one of my children has been taken?  Mother of two?  NO, wrong answer, invalid choice… I am diminished, considerably less than I was before; invisibly marked to any passerby, but marked nonetheless… Without question, I AM STILL the mother of three…

Where does one begin to gather the fragments of what was?  How do you put us back together given that a huge part of us is missing?  I rush around in turmoil, choking down panic that I will miss something, trying endlessly to keep tabs on my family.  Dazed and confused, thick-headed at best, riding waves of chaos from person to person, gauging their state of being right then, afterwards no wiser than before.  Calamity has claimed this place as her own; we are reduced to raw and ragged bundles of nerves, fluctuating between comatose and overwrought, swinging wildly from high to low, different every single minute.  We are utterly exposed, victims of warring states of mind: self preservation (ignore it and it will go away), battling self awareness (this is real you cannot hide forever).  

So hard to know…when to push and when to let them be?  I tiptoe about, processing cues from what I see, what is said, without any relevant frame of reference for comparison…   Aside from our two brief walks together along the golf course, John refuses to leave the house.  He camps out on the couch, mindlessly flipping channels, watching, not really seeing, listening, but hearing nothing at all.  He disappears into the garage at random intervals, closing himself off from my prying eyes…hiding in the dark, preferring the company of his tools and workbench; they ask no thorny questions and make no incessant demands.    He tends to be a loner by nature, but I can no longer discern…how much time alone should pass before I interfere?  Despite his tremendous effort to maintain this false bravado, I know he secretly imagines himself with Brian, wishes for it, would give anything to trade places with him.  This taboo desire is only quieted by numbing the pain through whatever means available…  

Beth flees the house and returns at random intervals; I wonder where she’s been, and with whom.  No answers are forthcoming; her steel shutters slam shut once the threshold is crossed.  I know her well; Beth’s frozen countenance belies the roiling inferno inside.  She seeks her own way, blazing her own trail, answering to no one; I can only pray it is not a path that ends in self-destruction…  Her pain originates not only from words left unspoken but from survivor’s guilt too; she wanted to borrow Brian’s car that fateful day and therefore feels his destiny should have been hers.  In defiance of convention, Beth tattoos her tribute to her brother, self described as “Underneath my heart, always watching my back”.  I have to keep reminding myself that each person handles things in their own way…  

Grace is a runaway who still resides at home; because she has rejected any possibility of this being real, she will not tolerate being amongst us for any length of time.  She refuses to sleep in her own room because it is next to Brian’s, and must have at least one friend with her at all times.  We have opened our home to Brian’s and Grace’s friends, so at least she is usually nearby; my newly discovered need to mother them all is a consequence of this closeness.  I pray without ceasing and constantly scan for any signs of distress…  While Grace has always despised sleep, now she rebels against it, denying the need until she finally keels over from sheer exhaustion.  Perhaps she is afraid of her dreams…  Her lack of sleep is matched by my own; how long can this standoff continue?    

When I think I simply cannot take another step, I cling to hope…  Several years ago I purchased a silver necklace with a ‘hope’ charm, thinking it would remind me to always carry hope in my heart.  Shortly thereafter, I gave it away, trying to offer some comfort and encouragement to my employer following the loss of his mother.  The necklace was waiting on my desk when I came in...  It is not merely a token anymore but a symbol of what I must do…I embrace it and hold tight... 

“Brian’s Car”

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  Seven days, an entire week has passed, and I alternate endlessly between numbness and mania.  Staying within the confines of our home does not make things better; if anything, the complete absence of some routine, of any semblance of order encourages this state of flux.  We must resume our participation in the business of living, even though it is not the life we desire.  “Fake it ‘til you make it” is what my friend Sue calls it.  That is exactly what I’m doing, for every endeavor is a poor imitation of what it used to be…  

For days we have been struggling with the issue of Brian’s car.  Neither John nor I have seen it since this happened; we never made it to the accident scene. We avoided seeing any video or photos taken by the media; this will be our one and only encounter with this tainted, toxic thing.  Avoiding the broadcasts…not an easy task…at times it seems the interest in breaking news eclipses the additional heartbreak it may cause to those involved.  After my call that day, Grace heard more about the accident on the mid-day news…she was alone then…  As a practical matter, charges continue to accumulate for ‘storing’ his car, and we don’t need any additional costs.  I am certain that we haven’t seen the beginning, much less the end of expenses from this…  Will we ever be ready to face down the instrument of Brian’s death?   Not likely…  

John and I make our first real effort toward work by performing the property inspection that was originally scheduled to occur last Friday, the day after the accident.  The point of contact was very gracious to us, understanding why we never thought to call her until days later. From here we gather our courage and head to Pineville, fully aware that there will never be a good time to do this…  

We arrive at Dellinger Wrecker Service; my instincts are screaming for us to bolt from this place.  I am afraid of this confrontation, of what we will see.  We wait for a few minutes in the car, as I feel like I may be sick.  John sits beside me, stony-faced in his seat, slipping on his insulating shroud of concealed anger and feigned indifference.  We are both trying to prepare ourselves, an exercise in futility…  

It is finally our turn at the window; the clerk, realizing who we are, extends her sympathy as we hand over payment for a weeks’ worth of charges.  Like any other business, they provide a service, and have to be paid for it; nevertheless, I can see that she feels bad…  We are different from most, not your random person who parked in the wrong place, or for too long, or drove while intoxicated, or any one of the other things that people do with their car.  We are the face of what is left behind, the walking wounded, searching for a reason to keep going after a loss so great that words fail…  She calls for someone to drive us out to the place where our past and future literally collided, and we ceased to exist…  

We bump along on something like a golf cart, passing row upon seemingly endless row of cars and trucks, a graveyard of a different sort, damaged and destroyed vehicles as far as the eye can see… I’m closing my eyes (don’t look don’t see it its not real) in an attempt to still my spinning head, slow my heaving chest and calm my soured stomach, all of which are rebelling against the unknown image lurking ahead.  We have arrived at the place where nightmares are born…    

John leaps from our ride with a roar of outrage and agony, bounding over to what is left of Brian’s car in two steps, attempting to yank the driver’s door from whatever still holds it in place.  I step down and back away, immediately bending over, my head between my knees, choking on my own earsplitting scream and the bile that has risen to the back of my throat…not sure if I am going to throw up or just die right here on this spot…I want to die…the devastation to his car…Brian never had a chance…  

Brian’s car was a four door Honda Civic.  The driver’s door is folded forward, opening against the front tire; the driver’s seat now occupies the middle of the car; the rear door is crushed onto the back seat.  The framing between these two doors is mangled and aligned in such a way that I know exactly how my son died… The destruction is similar on the passenger side, except both doors have collapsed into the car and cannot be opened.  Shattered and crushed glass fragments are sprinkled everywhere…very little blood…there is his other shoe under the brake; the missing sock remains at large…  It looks as if a giant hand clamped down onto the middle of his car and squeezed inward, shaping it into an hourglass, the v-shape caved in on both sides between the front and back seats.  His keychain still dangles, mocking us, from the ignition; it is quite possible that the car will start as there is no damage to the engine area.  John snatches the keys out and opens the trunk, looking for whatever...  The coins from his plastic bank are flung throughout the car; I crawl onto the driver’s seat.  I am NOT leaving without his shoes, his wallet, his phone, or anything else that I can reach… I keep pushing, pulling, struggling with the console…his wallet should be in there…I cannot get it (I’m not leaving until I have it I will not go quit asking me to leave and stop telling me to just forget about it) I’M NOT GOING…  Finally…the console has been warped both up and down and wedged shut by the repositioned seat.  I lean over to pull things from the glove box, his random cd’s, looking down and noting that I have been cut by the glass, noticing only because I am bleeding, not from feeling any physical pain, as I am well beyond caring anymore…  I get out so I can reach in through the broken window of the rear door to retrieve his other shoes…there is his phone…   

I circle Brian’s car, around and around, sizing it up, as if somehow this walk will change anything; did I just see an orange truck?  Someone said it was a large orange work truck…  I am so furious beyond angry I hate everyone everything I want to know how could something so horrible happen to my son he was alone the pain the damn truck like a BULLSEYE on his HEAD and AGAIN from the other side as if the first time wasn’t more than enough I want to HURT someone something I cannot stand to be here to be me just let me die right here right now…  I run over and start kicking the orange truck.  I want to hurt it like it hurt him I want to bust it into a million pieces like the splintered fragments of my mind and heart and life.  I am screaming ranting a raving lunatic I truly have lost any shred of dignity and grace I want someone to pay for what has happened to him to us I cannot bear the pain the burden wondering if he saw it if he hurt dear God please PLEASE…     

John silently leads me away, back to the cart; we climb aboard and turn our backs upon this vessel of broken dreams, our Pandora’s box…  

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