The Uphill Slide

There is always something.

Forcing It


Have you ever awoken to feelings of emptiness? Have you awoken not remembering why you felt like that? Have you awoken and felt like never getting up? As you lay there, it comes back to you…the reasons. You remember what it is you forgot during sleep. You lay there a bit longer and eventually think of some reason to get up. It has happened to me in the past during difficult times; it happens regularly as Jacob’s incarceration drags on. I try to retrieve those feelings of hope I built up after the arrest and before the trial, but it is sometimes difficult. These feelings will end; they are not daily feelings. Eventually they will be supplanted again by joy. Perhaps this is depression, but what is the difference between just feeling a little down, a little bit blue, or experiencing clinical depression. I know this is not clinical; I am not suicidal. I always find that reason to get up.

My grandfather committed suicide in his 70’s. When I inadvertently learned that fact when I was in high school, I was fascinated (perhaps not the right word for this fatal act) thinking about his last act. I wanted to know why he had done it; why does someone willingly choose to leave their family? What keeps me going is being there for my son and daughter and my grandsons. My grandfather had children, grandchildren and a wife; and they were not enough to keep him alive. In the end, it must be something within us that keeps us going. I can feel and empathize with his pain, even though I do not think I have ever felt that overwhelming feeling of pain. Was he ill with a terminal disease? I watched a recent episode of HBO VICE investigating assisted suicide. I understand the reasons of the terminally ill choosing death on their own terms. His terminal disease was depression, and we do not understand it. We are years and maybe centuries away from understanding mental illnesses.

Years later I read an account my cousin had written of stories her father told of his life growing up on the farm. It was in this account that I learned of a head injury my grandfather suffered. According to this account, it was an injury that kept my grandfather away from his wife and children for a year. He went to live and be cared for by his two sisters, one married with no children and the other unmarried. Did that head injury have an impact on his depression? I also learned that he spent time in a state mental hospital in the years before his suicide. What was the reason for that hospitalization in the 1940’s? I wonder what barbaric treatments they used on him. These are questions with no answers now…a death 65 years ago. I do not have many memories of stories my father told of his own father; I know though that he talked to my brother more as they shared the common interests of farming. My father and I had a more uneasy relationship. I think I inherited his self-sufficient, introverted personality; he accused me of being too independent. Is that a fault? Maybe it does place a barrier in relationships; but I also believe that it is the thing that keeps me strong in adversity.

I ponder a belief that my father never forgave his own father for that suicide. I remember a day when I visited my parents after learning that someone I knew had committed suicide. I felt such a loss and at a loss of learning of the death; and conversely, I felt even more alive as I drove down the road and saw the beauty all around me. I felt an incomprehensibility in understanding how this person had lost all hope for the future. I told my parents about the suicide. I cannot remember my mother’s reaction, but my father made a comment that angered me because I did not understand his viewpoint. I do not remember his exact words, but the gist of the comment was that the suicide was inevitable for a person with mental illness. Now I think his comments came from the pain he felt at his own father’s suicide. He must have felt angry at that man’s act, yet accepted a certain inevitability to it because of mental illness. Maybe survivors must accept that or they live with a torment of questioning what more they might have done or keep mulling over the signs they missed. I only surmise this now years later, and perhaps I am wrong.

I have thought over and over about all the things I never talked about with my parents. It as if we did a dance around real communication. The events of the last few years with my daughter and my son have opened our discussions of life. We have discussed so many things that I could never have discussed with my own parents. We have talked openly about drugs, about love, about marriage, about sex, about the reasons we made our choices. I remembered my discussion of the ‘birds and bees’ with my mother. I think I was in junior high when she handed me a book (she was a schoolteacher, so a book seemed right) to read. It described menstruation and the sex act. I do not even remember much more about it now. Of course, I had already learned about copulation from a cousin when I was in 3rd or 4th grade. When that cousin told me about how humans have sex, I thought ‘that can’t be right’. It was. After I read my mother’s book, I brought it back downstairs to the kitchen. As I sat on the red metal step stool beside the stove watching my mother fix dinner, she asked if I had any questions. Are you kidding? Was I going to discuss sex with my mother? So now when I can easily discuss the sex act or any other once embarrassing subject between parent/child, it is too late to ask questions. We did eventually reach a greater ease of discussion as I matured, but never as open as I have with my own children. It seems that is life…often at odds and out of alignment. So here is one good thing that has come from bad things. I can discuss just about anything with my children. I think they are not afraid to talk to me; communication becomes easier as you talk and you listen. The most important though is to listen and to accept that we have differences in viewpoints. I must remind myself repeatedly to just listen. I must remind them also to just listen.

So on Thursday, I lay in bed wide awake and pondering the reason to get up; eventually reasons came to me. I now wait impatiently for those feelings of hope and joy that I had before twelve strangers made a mistake. I know those feelings will come again.

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