death

Lullaby

Naptime2    I am very weary these days, struggling to stay afloat in a sea of grief and stress. It is difficult to find a safe shore to rest upon and when by chance I do find a moment to lie my head down, anxiety churns the waters. So tonight I thought perhaps I could try a story of a lullabies – lullabies that eased weary souls a long time ago.

When my daughter Nene was an infant, she was at first calmed by the old standard by Brahms, but as she grew into toddlerhood, she began to prefer more rousing  tunes. She had a strange proclivity toward military anthems and Linda Ronstadt’s, “You’re No Good.”

I remember one particularly grouchy afternoon at my grandmother’s home. Nene could not be cajoled or convinced into thinking anything other than the world was coming to an end and she had to meet it with her lungs giving full voice to her song of woe. My grandmother, mom, and I were stretching to our respective wit’s end. Four generations of women were about to implode and bring Nene’s prediction to fruition.

When the tension and noise finally reached ‘this will drive out the armed fanatics holed up in the house’ level, my mom asked if there was anything else to try. I said well, it sounds odd, but we can try the “Marine’s Hymn.” Mama and Mom looked at me like I was nuts, but at this point it was that or actually call in the Marines. So, I started in with, “From the halls of Montezuma…” And it worked!

Mama and Mom started chiming in and Nene fell into a stupor that would have won a prize on “America’s Funniest Videos.” By the time we finished “Anchors Away”, she was out, lolled over in her little yellow walker. Always her own, that kid.

Sixteen or so years later, Yoda was a completely different story. He definitely preferred the more melodic, slow tempo themes. Often I would hum as smoothly and dolce as I could muster the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikvah,” or a quiet version of some folk song culled from my memory of “Sing Along with Mitch.” But the one song that would always close the deal, was “Little Red Caboose.”

Now if you Google this song, you will more than likely be bombarded with versions containing inane adults wearing engineer outfits and singing the lyrics in an over the top Barney fashion. The version I sang was one I found in my collection of old 45rpm single records – a slow spiritual, one sung or hummed right gives the slow, rhythmic rocking of a train moving down the tracks. It was a perfect tune for an active and sensory issued baby.

One afternoon while Yoda and I were out visiting my parents, he had reached his infant tolerance for sociability and began to fuss. So, at that point I swaddled him up tight and removed myself to the dining area to try and calm him down before it went over the top. I could recognized the signs a wee better with the second child…

My Mom stepped off to I don’t know where, to give us space to work I guess. My Dad went to sit in his chair in the living room, not too far from where I was sitting with Yoda. I began to run through my repertoire of songs and then moved in with the closer of “Caboose.”

I rocked, sang, and the hummed for about 5 minutes and the little guy finally settled into a nice little nap. I could even hear a small snore. I smiled and listened again. This wasn’t Yoda’s snargle (what we had termed his breathing issue common to baby boys when born small – another story). I turned my ear to the sound again and realized that my Dad had fallen asleep!

When it came time for me to leave my parents’ house that afternoon and I went over to say goodbye to Dad, he pulled me in and thanked me. When I asked what for, he said it had been a very long time since anyone had sung him to sleep.

Eleven years have gone by and it still brings a smile to my face to remember the time I sang a lullaby to my Dad.

Sleep well, Deddy-O, sleep well.

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Let’s Go For A Ride

Dad_motorcycleIn the late 1960s, our neighbor Mr. Lynn introduced my Dad and brother Stavro to the exciting world of motorcycles and they fell in love. Soon our two car garage was filled with all manner and makes of bikes: dirt bikes, street bikes, minibikes and even a couple of mopeds (the kind that have pedals to start the motor).

Our weekends soon consisted of family day trips out to the Phoenix desert to ride until it became dark. Round and round we’d go, racing through dry river beds and over cracking dusty roads. I remember stopping only to eat lunch and gaze at the beautiful brown Arizona mountains. Even at that young age I was filled with an awe for their dangerous majesty. I love the memory of those times.

Sometimes the urge to ride couldn’t wait until the weekend and Dad would pull out a street bike and take me for a quick ride after he came home from work. At that time, there were still pockets of places we could take a mini-desert ride inside the city. Phoenix was still sitting on the edge of the mega city it was to become.

On one particular evening, Dad said, “Let’s go!” Never willing to pass up a ride, I climbed on the back of the motorcycle, safely wrapped my arms around his waist, hooked my fingers tightly into his belt loops and off we rode heading for the empty lots between two neighborhoods. We slipped past the bar recently planted to keep cars out and into the wilds of Phoenix suburbia we rode. We did our usual circuit and then Dad hit the little mounds of dirt to make me bounce and laugh. I laughed so hard, I was breathless, but with a child’s enthusiasm kept urging, “Again, Dad, again!” It was on one of those last go rounds that I happened to look behind us. Someone else was out for a ride and closing on us fast. He had lights mounted on his bike.

Hello, Officer.

I tapped Dad on the stomach to gain his attention and motioned for him to look behind. “I think he wants us to stop.” Seems the last bastion of space we could ride free in the city was now under police state and some non-motorcycle loving resident ratted us out.

We left our little haven with a blue slip of disappointment. Dad was a bit embarrassed to have to admit to Mom about the ticket we received, but of course nine-year-old little me thought it hilarious and kind of scary exciting. It didn’t occur to me that our evening rides in the last little oasis were over. In a child’s mind things last forever. But of course, they don’t.

Stavro traveled to Phoenix a couple years ago and visited our old haunts. The empty lots are filled with houses. The desert we rode upon is swallowed up by urban sprawl. The dusty roads and river beds paved over. The beautiful brown mountains in the distance are now crowded up to their bases and shaded with pollution.

And my Dad is gone.

I know that Dad would want me to keep pushing onward, to stay on the bike and keep riding, even taking the chance of seeing the lights flashing behind me again. He was proud of me for taking on some pretty bouncy and terrifying mountains throughout my life and conquering them. He never failed to tell me that.

What I failed to tell him was that in my heart I always had my arms around his waist, with my fingers hooked into his belt loops knowing that if I held on tight enough, just over the next hill was the promise of breathless joy and laughter. There would be an open space to ride free and say, “Let’s go!”

But there will never be another evening ride. No more, “agains.” Grown-ups know these things and that’s the hard part.

I’m trying Dad, but without you the motor is terribly hard to start.

Depression/Suicide: Robin was not alone

COne of the things I hold dear from the week my Dad died is his comment to me that he was proud of me and that he was glad to have “his Sam back.” You see, for a long moment in time no one was sure if they would ever have me back.

Normally, I don’t speak of those times very much and especially not to strangers. It is not that I am ashamed, but rather a life long sense of shyness and privacy holds me back. When taking a psychology class in high school, we students were asked to use one word to describe ourselves; my word: private. It is a hard thing to overcome, but with this sudden and disturbing death of Robin Williams, I somehow feel compelled to reach out. Bashert says no one can tell a story as well as one who has experienced it. As the Talmud says, “Save one life, save the world entire.” or as a friend said last night, “Untreated depression is a terminal illness.”

So big breath….

I hail from a nice, middle-class family – the iconic midcentury family: two parents (each of the opposite sex), three other siblings (two older, one younger) and a rotating menagerie of pets. By the time I came along my parents owed their own home and we had a plethora of extended family. My Dad supported the family financially and my Mom supported us all at home. As I said, iconic. Get it? All American Family. Nice people.

But it doesn’t mean anything to the black hole that is Depression.

Using that crystal clear vision know as hindsight, my dance with Depression began early in life, but it didn’t become a slow dangerous tango until the early 90s when I entered my thirties. It was then I no longer had the lead over my own life. Depression slowly took control and by 1996, I was a knife blade’s edge and one signature away from either taking a heavily escorted ride to Milledgeville, Georgia or finding out for sure what happens after we cease to exist in this form.

Another big breath…

Written descriptions can never really reveal the desperation, the depth of despair that clinical Depression brings. So I am going to give something that I have never given before – a glimpse inside my mind of those dark days – an entry from my journals. I have changed names and left out a few references because they concern specific people whom I do not wish to reveal.

As you read these words, remember – I have loving parents, siblings, friends and doctors surrounding me, supporting me. Depression does not care.

11 July 96:

My well of resources is about dry. I’ve managed to hold on until now. Bits and pieces of saving grace have fed my hopes, but I can’t seem to comprehend anything of grace now.

Monday, I checked into a motel because I couldn’t bring myself to return to the house – the questions – the outrage, the suggestions, the sympathy. Too much, too much. I couldn’t be with anyone. I didn’t want to be with myself.

I’ve been on a downward slide for a long time. I’ve told you and others, but everyone seems to think they know me. That I have this powerful inner strength to help carry me through. I’ve said it in words and shown it in deeds. I’m dying.

My inner strength is used up. I’m tired and I want the pain to stop. I’m trapped and very much alone. People say wait to see what tomorrow brings; don’t let the bastards win; it’s a no-win situation, blah, blah, blah…I’ve used the words myself [remember ‘R’?]. It’s all crap when you’re on this side. She should have called the cops. I have many layers and I’ve reached one that doesn’t give a shit about promises, loyalty, or trust. It will be soon. My anger and despair are calling for rest.

I’ve begun making the lists of things to take care of – things that needs to be tied up. Sometimes it makes me queasy, but mostly it gives me calm. So much tension to be (sic) releaved.

My new little knife has become a comfort token. I’ve taken it with me everywhere. It even stays in my hand all night long. It gives a pleasant warmth.

I wonder if any sleep will come tonight? I’ve started my program of aspirin. It would be nice to rest…pack up your troubles in your ol’ kit bag and smile, smile, smile…

Depression is not just sadness. It is a deep, soul sucking despair that cares for nothing but ending the pain. It doesn’t care that you have a spouse or children that depend on you or parents that worry about you. It doesn’t care that you have fame and fortune or not. IT JUST DOESN’T CARE. It is a never ending darkness that steals joy and wonder from inside. Outside the world may seem fine, but inside? Inside there is nothing but the hunger for escape. One does not simply pull up your bootstraps and move on.

It takes a massive amount of effort and energy to combat Depression. The person with Depression is not the only one who wears out. It is frustrating and painful for all concerned. Depression is a sneaky jerk and can trick even the most experienced eye. I was lucky and had some very stubborn people in my corner, who just wouldn’t give up on me no matter how I far I fell, faked it, or pushed away. There is no ‘cure’ for Depression, only recovery. It is a lifetime battle often fought minute by minute.

Depression is a mental illness that needs more exposure and not by more loss. If you or someone you love is suffering, please, please get help. We don’t need anymore poster children.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  1.800.273.8255

http://www.buzzfeed.com/laraparker/things-you-shouldnt-say-to-someone-struggling-with-depress