Through a Mirror Darkly

My First Independently Published Book & Why I Wrote It

Through a Mirror Darkly is a short story I wrote under my pen name a couple months ago. I self-published it last month through Amazon. I wrote it originally for an anthology that was published this month. It has been categorized as a horror story, but it’s more than that.

When I think of horror stories, I think of crazy, knife-carrying clowns with fangs chasing a group of horny teenagers at a deserted camp. Through a Mirror Darkly has a paranormal element to it, but it’s also very loosely based on my own experiences with familial and personal depression.

When I wrote it, I didn’t think it would end up being therapeutic for me, but it was. I never had a chance to say goodbye to my mom when she died. I hadn’t seen her in over 35 years. After my parents separated, she tried to kill herself. I was barely seven when I heard her crying out from the other room. To this day, the memory of finding my mom on the floor, begging for help wrenches my heart.

After that, my dad got custody of my brother, sisters, and me. She was eventually released from the hospital and given visitation rights every other weekend. Despite her therapies and medications, she was not emotionally healthy and tried a few more times to take her own life.

Eventually, she stopped coming to pick us up for our weekends. The last time I saw her, I was nine years old. I never really missed her… maybe because her withdrawal from our lives was so gradual. Maybe it was because I was such a daddy’s girl. The only thing I was ever angry about was having to find her the first time she attempted suicide. More than anything, I hated the pity people would express when they found out I didn’t have a mom.

Looking back, I realize I spent my life in the shadow of my mom’s suicide attempts and depression. I was adamant that I would not be like her. I would never be weak like I thought she must have been. When I had my first child, I was even more resolved that I would be nothing like her. And I was a great mom: attentive, patient, happy, ambitious. For the first time, I resented her for leaving her children because I could not understand how anyone could do that.

Then, I had my second child. I knew something was wrong in my last trimester. I grew depressed, anxious, and obsessed about irrational things. I told nobody and figured it would go away after I got to hold my baby in my arms, but it only got worse. He seemed to cry all the time, he was a horrible nurser, and nobody but me could hold him. At the same time, my three year old demanded my attention.

I sank into a dark place. I found myself resenting my baby. I started having anxiety attacks when he would cry. I remember wondering if I could place him for adoption. I was sure someone would be a better parent to him. I didn’t want to admit I was “weak” like my mom. I spent my life being everything she wasn’t. I spent my life not being what she was.

Around this time, Brooke Shields wrote a book about her experience with postpartum depression called Down Came the Rain. I do not know where I would be if that book hadn’t ended up in my hands. As I read about her depression, I realized something: this beautiful, intelligent, talented woman was admitting she needed help overcoming her depression.

I decided that was where I would be different from my mom. I would get help before it was too late. I had to be strong enough to admit that I was weak. I was ashamed and embarrassed, but I did seek help because of my love for my boys. With the help of antidepressants, I became more like the “old” me again. I still struggle with depression and anxiety, and I still take medication for it.

When I found out my mom passed away a couple years ago, I felt I needed to do something to “release” her… to let her know I finally understood her. I needed to let her know that she had my forgiveness.

My goodbyes to her were put on the back burner, however. The same day I learned of her passing, my dad was undergoing surgery. Complications arose and he almost died. From that time on, his health deteriorated. He almost died several times in the months that followed. Emotionally, I couldn’t focus on my mom’s death. My dad had priority. He died five months ago and I miss him terribly. I always thought my first book would be dedicated to him, but as the story, Through a Mirror Darkly, wrote itself, I realized it was a book for my mom. It was my way to say goodbye, to let her go with my forgiveness.

I’ve always found comfort in writing, and this story was no different. It also brought healing. I believe in the afterlife. I believe she needed to know that she is forgiven. I feel I needed to tell her this for her sake and mine. I hope she has finally found peace and wholeness.

If you are interested in the fictional account of my story, you can get it on Amazon. It’s less than a buck and if you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for free. If you do read it, please leave a review on Amazon. Reviews help independent authors like me. Thank you!51AiuzkwVtL._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_ (1)

Me & Bobby McGee

Remembering my dad who passed away May 9, 2014

In my last post, I shared how some of my favorite memories were of fishing with my dad. Other memories I hold close to my heart involve music. My stepmother was a registered nurse when I was young. Every other weekend, she would work the “swing shift” at the hospital. That meant she would be working from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., but to my brother and me, it meant we would have our dad all to ourselves from the time he got off work until we went to bed.

We looked so forward to those Fridays! He was more lenient than my stepmother, so we got to stay up later, eat dessert, and simply relax more. I don’t remember everything about those evenings with my dad, but what I do remember left its imprint on my soul. In the evening, my brother and I would sit with my dad and listen to his old records. He had a good-sized collection of albums. He had an eclectic taste in music. Classical music, folk, rock. Some of the artists in his collection included Bob Dylan, The Chad Mitchell Trio, Woody Guthrie, Arlo Guthrie, Simon & Garfunkel, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Janis Joplin.

He would tell us about each artist… their backgrounds, where he got to see them perform live, and about the songs they wrote. I especially loved the folk music, Bob Dylan, and Janis Joplin. My very favorite song was Joplin’s version of “Me & Bobby McGee.” My dad had seen Janis Joplin in concert, so I got to hear about that. He explained Kris Kristofferson wrote the song, which was funny to me because I only knew of him as an actor.  To this day, I can’t hear the song “Me & Bobby McGee” without thinking of those precious moments with my dad.

I have no doubt my love for music– all kinds of music– is due to my dad’s influence. I will forever be grateful for this wonderful gift.

Remembering Dad- Fish Tales

This afternoon I sat at my dad’s bedside, crying as I watched him take last breath. I’m broken-hearted right now and feel like writing about the man who meant the world to me. I’ll start here…

I was the epitome of a “daddy’s girl” growing up. In my eyes, Dad could do nothing wrong. I laughed at his silly jokes when nobody else would, I worried about him, I loved to spend time with him… he was my hero. He was the only one in my young life who didn’t walk out on me.

One of my most favorite things to do with my dad was fishing. He showed me how to cast and how to bait the hook.  Well, he did the worms… I couldn’t bring myself to pierce the cute, little worms with a hook. He assured me the worms couldn’t feel it and that they could breathe under water. I believed him, of course. My dad knew everything.

He showed me how to reel a fish in, but always took the hook out of the fish’s mouth for me since I was too squeamish to do it. Some of my fondest memories in life involve sitting with my dad, fishing pole in hand, eating Red Hots (he always got a box for me when we’d go fishing), and waiting for the fish to bite.

One day in second or third grade, I was about to get on the bus after school to go home, when I saw my dad waving at me from across the street of the school. He had gotten off work early and decided to surprise me by taking me fishing. We had a great time. We rented a boat and went out on the lake. I, of course, had my Red Hots and we fished until the sun started to set. To this day, I don’t know why he chose just me to go with him. I have a brother who is only a year and a half older than me. The only thing I can figure is that he was worried about me. In spite of my dad’s love, my early years were filled with a lot of sadness. Maybe he saw something in me that alerted him to the fact that I needed some one-on-one time with him.

There was only one not-so-great part of that day– for some reason, my dad failed to mention to my sisters that he was going to pick me up from school and take me out on the lake. My three older sisters were semi-responsible for my brother and me when we got home from school. When I failed to get off the bus with the rest of the neighborhood kids, they were in a panic. This was before cell phones so they had no way to contact my dad. I think my stepmother was working that day. I don’t know if they tried to call her. My nearly hysterical sisters were a couple minutes shy of calling the police to report me missing, when my dad and I showed up at the house. I was all smiles, but I remember my dad apologizing profusely for not letting my sisters know.

I still get a chuckle when I think of that day. It obviously meant a lot to me because it is such a vivid memory and I hold it dear. My dad– my childhood hero– created that memory. I love him for this gift.

X is for Xtreme

X

X is for Xtreme

No, I’m not cheating by changing extreme to “Xtreme”.

I saw the word on an ambulance today. See?  Here’s proof:

xtreme care

 

This post isn’t about Xtreme Care Ambulance service– although they do seem to be a decent, caring company. This post is about where I was when I saw this ambulance.

I was at a skilled nursing facility visiting my dad.

My dad is dying. He has been at death’s doorstep many times over the past few years, but he always managed to recover just enough to stay alive. Notice I didn’t use the word “live”. There’s a difference between living and being alive, I see that now.

What makes this time different from all the other times? First of all, they recently changed the type of care he is receiving to palliative and/or hospice. My understanding is they will make him as comfortable as they can while nature takes its course. No extra measures to keep him alive other than the basic needs.

Most of all, I think this time is different because he thinks he’s dying. He seems to have lost his will to fight. He doesn’t have cancer or some other quickly moving, obvious disease. His body just seems to be shutting down on him. He’s only 74 years old, which really isn’t that old these days.

Over the past few years he has had a minor heart attack, a minor stroke, back problems, an unsuccessful back surgery, an aortic aneurysm, an unsuccessful double hip replacement, an incurable infection (VRE) acquired during the hip replacement, and most recently, a rip in his colon which resulted in another infection (the surgeons did not expect him to survive at that time). He was transferred to the VA Hospital from our community hospital, where he was delusional most of the time.

On top of all that, he has been unable to walk or care for himself for nearly five years. That is why he had back surgery and hip replacement surgery– they were trying to get him mobile again.

Now he’s back in the nursing home because the VA Hospital can do nothing for him that a skilled nursing facility can’t do. It hurts to see him the way I saw him today. I have become used to him not being aware of my presence from time to time, but in addition to this lack of awareness he has started calling out, “Help me, help me!” over and over, to nobody in particular.

I can’t help him. I don’t know how to ease his suffering. I can’t make things better for him. I can only watch him and wonder if this is the last time I will see him alive. I can only hope that somehow he knows I came to see him because I love him.

I try not to cry… I don’t like people to see me cry.

My body is still recovering from the surgery I had three days ago, so I couldn’t stay long as the painkillers are still making me somewhat loopy. When I did leave, I put my hand on my dad’s shoulder and said, “Good-bye, Dad.”  In response, he barely opened his eyes in my direction, but I wasn’t sure if he really saw me.

Then I added as I was starting to walk away, “I love you.”

To my surprise, he said, “I love you, too.”

I’m not sure where that came from, but it made me smile.

 

V is for Vile

V

V is for Vile

I’m still sort of loopy because of my painkillers (I had surgery 2 days ago).  Because of that, I really don’t have much thinking power right now. I decided to list the things I think are vile.

  • Litter–  find a trash bin, people!
  • Port-o-Potties– I refuse to use one
  • Squashed bugs– Insects don’t bother me unless they are squashed
  • Most public restrooms– I will use one if I’m desperate, but I don’t enjoy it
  • Spit– I hate when people spit
  • Monkey brains– as in the Indiana Jones movie
  • Brussel Sprouts– Blech!
  • Bad breath– Ick!
  • Pedophiles– the most vile of anything in the world
  • Animal abusers– second only to pedophiles

That’s all I can think of for now… it’s almost nap time. I’m sure there are a million other vile things in the world.  What are some of the things you think are vile?

U is for Uterus

U is for Uterus
That’s right– uterus.
Sorry, men. You don’t need to read beyond this point.
That point… up there.
I guess you want to keep reading. Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Anyway, I’m getting mine taken out tomorrow. It has finished its life’s work and now it needs to go. I can’t say I’m going to miss it.

An Uterus Eulogy
So long, uterus you served me well
and then you started to give me hell.
Maybe it’s because you got too old
or were two babies too much to hold?
So, to organ heaven you must go
and make sure you take that monthly flow!
No hard feelings, I wish you the best–
thanks to you, I get three weeks of rest.