Does it really matter, like Penny said, Mom, that was 40 years ago. Forty years ago that we moved from Chicago to California. And yesterday an email from Lucia read:
I cried. First I cried for Lucia, the gentleness of saying goodbye to a house that kept her safe and helped raise her children. Then I sobbed for me. Sobbed for never saying goodbye to 50th street, that’s what we called our Chicago house. When I cried and talked go Lucia yesterday, complimenting her on her loving leave taking, out slipped from my mouth, with no forethought, “When I left 50th st, I fled. And I did. And the house we moved into twelve years before we moved out did not keep us safe, did not shelter us from the storms of our own conflicting souls and hearts and hopes. Did not keep us safe from the internalized resentment Tom and I had toward each other. Did not make a safe place to raise our children but surrounded them with our own sexual mishagash and alcohol.
I fled that house. When we moved to California, I fled that house in much the way I fled, in a hyper manic sate, after hallowe’en 1972. I was owned by the house or owned by everything in it. i remember a fragment of a poem: I was drowning in piles of Oriental rugs, piles of paper and clippings and books everywhere. A piece of the Garrick theater decor that, only the week before we left for CA, did Tom admit he never liked the thing. And how pretentiously he would point out to guests the rare Louise Sullivan carving framed over our mantel. How pretentious he was about his rugs, prints, pots. All were finer, rarer than in most museums. And for a long time, I believed him too.
How much in love with him when I married him. Handsome, brilliant, melancholy Tom. I was going to make him happy. We combined my inheritance and his low GI bill loan to buy the house. We were going to make a home for all his collection: his Japanese prints, his Chinese pots, his antique rugs, his valuable books.
And by the end, most of the fine Japanese prints were sold at auction at Christie because neither of us were working and we lived on those prints. Like a house of cards, it all fell down on us. On me, on Tom, on our children.
I tried to remember my leave taking of 50th Street. Did I help pack things? Or did I just take off for California on the first plane I could get after January 1st to go to a new job, a new life. What do I remember? I don’t remember a moving van loading up like Lucia saw. I remember a tag sale, all over the dining room table;; I remember a piece of junk that had belonged to Noel sold for some ridiculously high price; I still remember the autographed White Sox ball from the year they won the pennant that Sam Bell had gotten for Steve and Steve said to sell it. Every once in a while, middle-aged Steve will mumble that he wished he had it.
I don’t even remember packing a suitcase. Getting on the plane. Getting off the plane.I remember going into the manager of the Contra Costa Times office, where they thought — from my good references from my boss
— they had a star salesperson === only my boss and I really knew my skills were limited to the Hyde Park Community. I got sent to the Valley Times. Wearing a brown knit dress which I thought would be California clothes I got from Stevie Breslauer in Hyde Park. Walking in there being terrified.. remembering visiting managers of large chain stores and not knowing what to say. In afterthought, I think somewhere along the line, i crashed, but that was long before I understood the working of the bipolar person.
And then I got fired. I don’t remember what they told me but the message was I was too hippie. I wore beads. And beads were Berkeley and free speech movement and Peoples Park. Fired: two or three months after we moved into that dinky three bedroom house, the girls shared a room, tom had an office. I had 1/2 of a double bed, 1/2 of a closet, but I did have my own towel rack.
As some point, I must have had some kind of incident or something, because I remember Tom took me to Stanford psyhc clinic, and the doctor said if I had another attack, he would put me on this new medication, Lithium, but he’d rather wait. Too bad he didn’t Rx it then.
So does it matter, forty years later, if I stayed and packed boxes, or if I left the whole responsibility to Tom. who’s been dead 25 years and to movers who are probably out of business. Does whatever happened forty years ago really make a difference today?. Do I need to feel guilty and bad mommy?. I think not. I really think not.
When we had our family meeting on 8/25 and I said I wanted my therapist to speak at my memorial service about how difficult the life of a bipolar person was, All three kids agreed it was completely inappropriate for a therapist to speak about treatment of a patient.
“ Besides, we all know you’re crazy,? mom. And they said it with love. Not with cynicism. Not with anger, They said it with love.