Tuesday, April 14, 2009

the end of Christmas

It was 9:00 a.m., four days before Christmas in 1969, when I woke to find my life irrevocably changed.

Lying in bed an hour earlier, I had drifted in and out of sleep listening to my parents' low voices. I heard the familiar and comforting sounds of breakfast preparations, of my father banking the fire in the family room.

At nine o'clock, I came instantly awake, but there was no comfort and nothing familiar. This time the thing that woke me was the sound of my father's voice on the phone and it filled me with apprehension.

"My wife left, she just drove away. I think she took a gun."

My father was speaking to the police, his voice loud and shaky. What he said was unimaginable. I can hear it as clearly today as if it were 1969, yet I can never remember the rest of what he said. It was as if something in my mind shattered when I heard those words -- "she took a gun" -- leaving me incapable of further comprehension.

In my pink painted room, the one my mother and I decorated together, I pulled the covers tight around my chin and peeked at my sleeping sister. Could I be dreaming? Please let this be a nightmare. Let me go to sleep and wake to hear my mother's voice calling me to breakfast, urging me to hurry so we're not late for church. Let me wake up to find her by my bed, saying "Get up, sleepyhead." I want her to tousle my hair and kiss my cheek like always, tell me "scoot, baby, you'll have to be quick," like always.

Like always, like always, I want things to be as they've always been. These thoughts have run through my mind as my father's been on the phone. When he hangs up, it's infinitely worse: my father ~ my daddy ~ the quiet, capable, strong man I've counted on my entire life is weeping.

What has happened is inconceivable. It is Sunday morning. The house smells of cedar and the rich chocolate of fudge we made last night. It is four days til Christmas. My mother is gone, my father is crying, and I know nothing will ever be the same.

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Blogger Doralong said...

That was heartbreaking Lynette, truly. But I am genuinely sorry that you never found out what happened to her, for you and your sister naturally, but for your Daddy most of all.

April 14, 2009 1:51 PM  
Anonymous lynette said...

DL ~ It is the worst for my father. Even with his dementia, it's with him every single damn day. So sad for him. I can't even imagine what it would be like to be married to someone for 28 years, then just have her vanish forever. Crazy stuff.

April 14, 2009 2:34 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

It's taken me all day to comment on this post, as it was too close to home. You did such a great job of describing a child's terror at losing a parent in this way....I hope my grandgirls never have to feel this.

April 14, 2009 7:45 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

...and I'm so sorry you had to experience it.....

April 14, 2009 7:47 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Of course I've heard the core of this story before, but it never fails to haunt me, and reading the details like this makes me ache deeply. I can't imagine living with that, and I appreciate you sharing. It touches me deeply.

April 15, 2009 2:26 AM  
Blogger Dusty said...

My dearest Lynette,

It is said we are shaped by our life experiences. That probably is true, but the hardest part would be not to become bitter and I have no idea how people could cope with such an experience and not become bitter.

That your father still holds on to that piece of his life inspite of his dementia makes me so sad as it would be the one thing I would actually want him to forget.

April 15, 2009 5:41 AM  
Anonymous lynette said...

Chris, thank you, it's fine now. You wouldn't think so the way I keep writing about it ;-) but it certainly was a defining moment in my life. In all of our lives, we all experienced a divide there. Before she left, after she left. What a tried to show here was that moment in time where everything changes. It's always unexpected (or we'd all be screaming mad with the expectation of it), but once that thing happens, whether something like this or a devastating health crisis or some previously unknown information that's simply unbearable. . . well, life just becomes "before" and "after." It's like living in two worlds. Very strange.

Joseph, thank you for being touched. Before and after, I think you may know what that's like. We've all got our pivotal life experiences. I just keep harping on mine ;-)

Dusty, I think I was very bitter for a long time about a lot of things, but not this. Bitter ~ ugh ~ such an ugly word befitting a miserable state of mind.

"Bitter, party of one"

Bitterness about this didn't occur to me. I was too busy feeling responsible. I think my favorite bad feeling is guilt. When all else fails, take responsibility ;-) And yes, it is heartbreaking that daddy's lost so much of his life but keeps this. I guess it speaks to the depth of the pain and loss.

April 15, 2009 10:31 AM  
Blogger David said...

No words. Sorry, not a one.

April 15, 2009 11:19 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Kudos. Speechless.

April 15, 2009 11:35 AM  
Anonymous Michele said...

Damn Ms. Lynette - you have such a gift. I can smell the cedar. Thank you for sharing this.

April 15, 2009 11:57 AM  
Blogger Lily's Mommy said...

I read this yesterday and it really shook me. It reminded me of moments in my childhood I thought I had left behind. I remember the heightened surreal moments of abuse with the realization that nothing was ever going to be the same again.

Thank you for sharing your story.

April 15, 2009 8:52 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Well, in terms of your writing ability and touching your readers, you did that and riveted us with "the moment in time when everything changes"...I'm still getting goose bumps!

April 16, 2009 1:30 AM  
Anonymous yvonne said...

Oh, Lynette, I'm sorry that happened to you and your family.

You did a beautiful job here of making that "dividing moment" so vivid for your readers. The details are heartbreakingly specific - but it seems that the current of vulnerability and fear and dread resonates with us all.

I once read an interview with the poet Donald Hall in which he described his dividing moment. To paraphrase: when he learned of his beloved wife's cancer diagnosis - registering instantly that life would never be the same - he wondered: Why were we NOT *blissfully happy* before? Last month, last week, yesterday - before this happened?

Wow. It's so easy to forget to enjoy, forget to appreciate, because we're distracted by all the messy blah day-to-day stuff. But ever since reading Hall's poignant question, I've thought of it so often...some moment will become the beginning of my After, so I'm trying to remember to appreciate this Before I'm living in.

(If you've never read the lovely poem called "Let Evening Come" by Hall's wife, Jane Kenyon, I hope you will google it.)

April 16, 2009 2:41 PM  
Anonymous lynette said...

David, no words needed. You've had that defining moment too. I think it's the same for all of us.

Jeff...thank you for visiting, for reading.

And Ms. Michele . . . do you know I still love the scent of cedar? Not to yippie skippy on Christmas ;-)

Lily's Mommy ~ I'm so sorry you experienced abuse. Booo :(

Chris, goose bumps ~ yay! :-)

Yvonne . . . wow, thank you for this. Absolutely beautiful:

Let Evening Come

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don't
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.

Jane Kenyon

April 16, 2009 3:12 PM  
Blogger spocko said...

Wow, this is great. Well written. Sharp. I also love the dialog.

April 18, 2009 1:06 PM  
Blogger jenX67 said...

Dear God. I felt like I was right there in that pink room, and one certainly gets the notion from this that she loved you very much. I've read through the comments, and understand that things are better now. But, from this perch, just hearing it for the first time, I'm sure we all feel the same - vascillating from wanting to run to you - and curl in a ball ourselves. Dear. God. You're an amazing writer, and I hope your voice and stories will increase in footprint as time goes on.

I just wish I could go back to that pink bedroom -- change the defining moment to something else.

April 20, 2009 10:19 PM  
Blogger jenX67 said...

p.s. i've wanted to link to your posts b/f and every time I try, you don't have the titles enabled for linking. you might take a look at that under your settings on blogger.

April 20, 2009 10:20 PM  
Blogger Jackie said...

Lynette, such big hug from me.

April 21, 2009 2:35 PM  
Blogger Idabel Oklahoma said...

Oh how this made me cry. I remember a similar scene in my life --only my mamma came back after a few days. So sorry Ms. Belle.

April 28, 2009 3:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will say it again. I dig the hell out of your writing. Your voice is strong yet economical, no fluff just stuff. Keep up this writing from the bones, it's wonderful!

therese dawe

April 28, 2009 10:53 PM  
Anonymous Aaron said...

Still hoping that there is a next installment.

April 29, 2009 1:47 PM  
Blogger primo said...

Wow - you commented on my blog yesterday so I had to check you out. Wow - what a remarkable woman you are. I am currently taking an online fiction writing class and think I could learn more from you. Thanks for touching base with me. I'll be back.

May 01, 2009 6:29 PM  
Blogger Teri and the cats of Furrydance said...

I came to your blog via Three Beautiful Things...you are a very powerful writer, even in your simple things. I will return...

May 03, 2009 7:04 PM  
Blogger Tater said...

Sorry I have been away so long, and this just made me so heartsick. Four days before Christmas. Your mother was truly a troubled soul, and I wish you all could have had some since of closure to all the damage done. So very very sad.

June 25, 2009 1:06 PM  

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