Saturday, October 1, 2011

Killing Horses

My father shot himself with the gun that my grandfather, my mother's dad, had shot himself with almost 25 years before, which was the same gun his father had shot himself with 30 some years before that.

I don't know what time of year my great-grandfather killed himself, but both my dad and grandpa waited until just after Christmas to do themselves in, my father sitting up in bed, shooting a hole through his wall, and leaving a mess of blood and bone and brain for my brother and I to clean-up later that very same night.

My grandfather, by nature a much more polite kind of guy, had sat down in his garden and wrapped a towel around his head before pulling the trigger, leaving a much smaller mess to be cleaned-up.

He was always thoughtful that way.

I don't know where my great-grandfather shot himself, like the time of year, the details were lost to history.

I don't really remember my mother calling me, and I don't remember the long drive into the mountains to their home.

What I do remember is getting to their house and having the coroner offer to let me see his body, but refusing to look.

They eventually covered him up and I came into the room and there was one foot sticking out from under the covering, with a sock half off just hanging there.. I sat there for a minute just looking at his foot and thinking about just how small it had become, remembering how big a man he seemed to be to me when I was a little kid.

Reaching over, I placed my hand on his foot, noticing that he was still warm, and then I straighten his sock, pulling it up onto his foot, then pulling the blanket down, covering it.

And then he was gone, and I've never seen him again.

Our wives took care of my mother, while Matt and I got some garbage bags, and buckets and mops from the garage and began to strip the sheets off the bed, and bagging them, then carefully pulling the wet mattress and box spring outside.

We cleaned and scrubbed, but every time the carpet began to look just a little bit better, more blood would seep up from under the floor making everything red again.

Eventually we decided that we would pull the carpet out the next day, but we had done enough for the night.

It was about that point that I saw this small piece of bone buried about a half inch into the wall that I dug out, almost in awe of how the velocity of the blast had smoothed and rounded it, to where it resembled a small pebble.

My mother took it from me and kept it in a box from then on.

In the weeks that followed, things just never seemed to get back to normal.

My dad's sister and brother, good Catholics who could not accept a suicide and spent a few weeks pestering the local authorities to investigate his death for what they were certain was evidence that my mother had murdered my dad did not help things, neither did the fact that shortly before he died my father had changed his pension and insurance plan to where after he was dead, my mother would be left with nothing for income but social security.

Instead of calmly looking at her resources and making some hard choices, my mother spent the next two years taking out mortgage's on the house and attempting to shop her way through her grief, let alone her anger at not just being abandoned my my fathers family, but having been accused of murder.

Soon enough she was out of money, had lost the house and was living in a small subsidized apartment in a senior living complex.

Having to adjust to a fixed income has never really worked out that well for my mother, but that's not to say that she hasn't tried, but really she just has never been able to adjust to being more or less poor and she also misses my dad, and steadfastly refuses to find any joy left in life.

My grandmother was that way after my grandfather died, spending the 20 years she would outlast him, depressed that he was gone and waiting for her turn to die.

Both of my parents had been members of the Hemlock Society back in the 1980's and had always been big supporters of the rights for the terminally ill to end their lives. But dad wasn't physically ill when he died, he was just sad.

They both were always like that though, sad.

We were never rich enough, never had the right car, the right house the right dog, the right, well anything.

My parents couldn't even get marriage right for that matter, getting divoriced when I was 10, only to turn around and remarry when I was 17.

My father and grandfather were friendly drunks, my grandmother was a mean one, my mother was not an alcoholic, but was clearly damaged by growing up as the child of alcoholics.

Well okay, my grandfather wasn't always a friendly drunk as I discovered in the early part of my junior year in high school when my mother decided I was old enough to be the one to drive over to my grandparents house and convince them to put the guns down and to please not shoot each other during what I thought at the time was an amazingly violent moment to find ones self in with ones grandparents but that I later discovered was far from the worst fight the two had ever had.

And of course maybe my father wasn't that friendly a drunk ether since I remember that night, sometime in the early 1970's when I woke up suddenly to the sound of my father screaming at my mother calling her names and and stopping every once in awhile to hit her. More then 40 years gone and I remember the smell of the blanket as I pulled it up against my face, laying in the dark, hearing.

Now oddly, despite multiple bad relationships, a one time serious drug habit and a dead end job that doesn't pay very much, I've always been lucky enough to be a more or less happy guy.

I don't drink, so I'm sure that helps, but unlike my parents, I've always been so very lucky to be able to find joy in very simple things.

Reading a book in the sunshine, listening to a beautiful song, just shooting the shit with one of my daughters, I am a surprisingly satisfied man.

Take this week.

My job had a serious reorganization that totally changed what my position is, I had several "emergency" issues at work that kept me there until past 2:00 in the morning, two different nights, I found myself in a yelling match with my brand new boss who turns out to be the Frank Burns to my last bosses Henry Blake, and just generally had a nasty time, getting shit on and more or less, having a bunch of new people who have appeared from no where, acting like I'm the new guy and most importantly my mother ending up in the hospital once again with pneumonia, complicated by her progressively worse congestive heart failure, and you have what is simply put a bad week.

But still, I watched a couple of episodes of Star Trek that were really fun, I took the wife out for a cheap fast food dinner and made eyes at her, I played with the new kitten to the point where I'm covered in scratches, and I stood outside soaking in the chilly air that brought in the first cool day of Fall.

Despite my issues I found time to enjoy my life.

When my mom answered the phone, her voice sounded thick, syrupy and she was obviously having  trouble breathing, so very much like my grandfather in the last years of his life. She asked me to bring a few things with me when I go down to see her on Sunday, and then she asked me if my ex-sister-in-law who is a vet, could help me to purchase a bottle of the type of barbiturates that are used to put down horses.

"You put just a little in a drink and take a few sips, and you're dead before your done with the glass", she said, explaining to me what she had learned on the internet. "It's the best way for killing horses so they don't suffer, and I figure it will work the best for me".

I lost it a little telling her in no uncertain terms that I was not going to help. As much as I support the rights of the terminally ill, she wasn't terminally ill, she just needs full time oxygen, and secondly, I'm sorry, but I am not killing my mother.

I'm not always the most socially acceptable person, but somehow despite all the things in my life that I have done that I have regretted, I've never killed anyone, and I am sure as hell not going to start with matricide.

And so we went back and forth for awhile before the two of us found ourselves pretending that everything was okay and we would talk more about it this Sunday.

Getting off the phone with my mom I called the hospital back and told her nurse what we had just talked about, and asked that they keep a close eye on her, the nurse said they would follow their procedure for extremely depressed patients, but she also let me know that so far, my mother had torn out her IV line two different times and that they were struggling to get her to leave them alone.

I asked them to leave the lines out if possible until I could come down, and plan to head down tomorrow instead of waiting until Sunday to see what needs to be done here.

Leaving work tonight, a little bit before 1:00am, I stood outside for just a minute looking across the campus watching dozens of rabbits, on top of the grass, grazing and playing on the well lit lawn.

I smiled a little as I got in my car, but as I drove home I kept thinking of horses.

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