Yes, as Rachel said, I never thought about the issues of foster care or teens in foster before Michael either. I empathize deeply for as I stated, I lost my parents very early. They were both ruled as suicides but I feel the need to elaborate. I no longer feel any of the crushing anguish about the facts of their deaths and that is directly because of Mike as well.
Let’s begin with my dad, Bud. One of the least Jewish looking men in the history of our tribe. Very tall with mostly blonde hair until there was no hair and blue eyes. He was brilliant and kind and had a very special way with all animals, especially dogs. Writing about him is hard. I have to search for words. Nothing seems quite adequate.
The man gave his life for me. He became mentally ill shortly after I was born in 1972. He was in and out of institutions, self-committed. My mother described it as a nightmarish process. Mental healthcare is still catching up to where it should be in so many ways. I understand where it was at that point in medical history. It wasn’t pretty. He was at home for a stint and had a bad psychotic episode. Bud became dis-associative. I was 21 months old. He picked me up, took me to get a gun and said it was time for me and him and our mom to die.
The gun wasn’t loaded. Bud dropped me and walked away. My mom, Zena, grabbed me and the car keys and ran. When my father got back, he wrote a note saying that he loved me and couldn’t ever risk hurting me again. He left the handgun and took a modified sniper’s rifle and shot himself in the heart.
I now view this as the most honorable death my dad could fashion for himself. He threw himself on the sword for the most precious person in his world. It was impossible for me to see it this way until Mike opened my eyes to the blessing of my birth. I was loved and wanted. My father may have taken his life, but he didn’t abandon me. In truth, I have no idea what real abandonment is.
Now we come to my mother, Zena. She was beautiful and had the most abundant heart. She was part steam engine part sarcasm part intimidation. Zena’s family of origin put her on an unhealthy path and the events of my father’s death and the dissolution of her subsequent marriage only made matters worse. She dealt by smoking and taking copious amounts of medication.
The day after my bridal shower, she was found dead by one of my best friends. It happened in our home town in New Jersey, around the corner from the Hoover Drive home I grew up in. That’s ironic. Thank goodness it was our town, they were so good to me. I was in shock but I wasn’t allowed to go into shock; I had to be the one to figure everything out. I had to call everyone. I had to deal with the police. I needed to make sure that there was a thorough accounting of her medication and I wanted an autopsy. It was already being called a suicide.
Nine weeks later I got the results that did nothing to comfort me. She died as a result of an overdose of Benadryl and Prozac and a lack of oxygen due to empyema. The coroner ruled the death as suicidal in manner, while there were no narcotics or sedatives involved. There it was, both of my parents. Unbelievable. I thought that what was left of my true heart shredded itself that day.
I always had the voice in the back of my head that I was too hurt to want to listen to, “that sounds nothing like the woman who raised me. If she had intended to kill herself, there was enough dope in that house to take out the whole block.” It wasn’t until Mike was a part of my life that I became brave enough to remember what that love from her felt like. My mother would never have walked away from me and my sister. Her behavior may have been self-destructive, we all do the best we can, but what happened that day was a tragic accident. I am blessed to have been loved by a woman who loved me so fiercely, she taught and protected me with everything she had.
I was so angry and disconnected from all of that wonderful strength until Michael woke me up. I owe him the world for that. I had been so focused on what I had lost, I couldn’t see what I could find. I couldn’t see what I have to give. I believe it is like that for many of us. We all have so much more than we think. Our collective will alone is a powerful force. When enough people focus intense energy on a single purpose, it makes a difference. We have our voices and we can choose to use them to raise awareness about these kids in foster care who need our help. We have our time and we can donate that to the greater good(which makes it to your greater good TOO) in a million different ways.
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