Yesterday, when I got home from my first job around 5:42am the house was dark. This isn’t normal. Brandons alarm goes off at 5:20am, and he’s supposed to be downstairs starting to help unload the dishwasher and working on his breakfast. I walked in to nothing. Darkness, quietness, the whole house was still. I didn’t like it. I trudged upstairs to open his door, but it was locked. I cannot, for any reason explain the terror I felt in that moment. In 13 years Brandon has never locked his door. We don’t lock doors in our house. If his door is closed, I’ll always knock before coming in (unless he’s asleep and I’m coming in to wake him). I said his name and he didn’t reply. My whole heart sunk and I slammed on the door shouting BRANDON. Nothing. I wanted to vomit, and I pounded on the door louder, shaking the handle and screaming his name. Finally he stirred, and I think was more shocked and afraid by the pounding on his door than anything. It took him a minute to fully wake up and open the door, when he did, one of his pillows was in front of the door, and I was rapidly, mentally going down hill fast. I was so angry (not at him) and scared, and confused that I just rushed in to see his face. I know, in that moment he thought I was absofuckinglutly crazy. He is not wrong.
What I couldn’t figure out the rest of the day was, what was I most upset about. Am I the most upset that it’s so common for teens to commit suicide now that I seriously had to worry about my fucking 13 year old harming himself? That makes me angry. It makes me angry knowing that our youth can get in bed, in an amazing mood, ready for dream land, and then possibly receive a text, or see some stupid online challenge, that in an instant can make them want to take their life. When I was growing up, we didn’t have the cyber bullying. If someone wanted to call me and talk shit, they had to call my phone. I might have had a teen line, but you bet your ass my mom heard the phone ring, and would come in to see just what the hell was going on. Now, now there are silent texts parents can’t hear, or silent videos challenging kids to do some stupid dumb bullshit challenge that ends up with a dead kid. I’m angry about this.
However, I think I’m almost more angry that I assume behind every goddamn locked door I’m going to find a dead body. Let me be clear, I did not find my dads body, but someone did. I’ve lived that morning in my head a million times. All the locked doors, the cops having to break into his bedroom window to find him dead. I hate it. But in 2016, I had to find a dead body, and it never goes away. I knew, I KNEW before going in. You know, some times people go missing, but you know they are okay. This person had done that several times. It was normal. He would disappear for a bit, clear his head, drive us all insane, and then show up and repent. This time though, in my soul I knew what I would find. The person at his apartment wouldn’t do a well check for me. They said they had found too many bodies. The police wouldn’t help, he hadn’t been gone long, and we didn’t usually like to involve cops with him. So I went. The apartment lady and her maintenance guy unlocked the door for me, and I had to go in alone. The first thing I saw was a towel rolled up below his door. I KNEW. This, I think is why I totally fell apart when Brandons pillow was in front of his door (this is normal he lays on the ground playing with the cat before bed and never remembers to put all of his pillows back). After that I had to move into the house and knock on his door. I called out his name several times, but I knew he wouldn’t answer. Then I opened the door, and there he was. At first glance he just looked like he was asleep. I knew though he wasn’t. I went in closer, saw his blue lips saw the death, and called his name again.
Something weird you should know about me, is in situations like this I have an inhuman ability to shut down and just do what needs to be done. When my grandpa went into the hospital years ago and was dying, I was able to go there, and not cry (for a few days), and just get the facts, and do what needed to be done. When my dad, or someone goes to the hospital I can walk in totally level headed, talk to the doctor, and proceed as if someone is having an ingrown toenail cut. I don’t panic, until I need to. Even then it still takes me a few days. The one and only exception to this is the time they told me my grandma died. I full blown lost my shit immediately In a way I’m not sure I have ever done before, or since.
Back to the story. Here I am calmly dialing 911, talking to the dispatch. Telling them NO I won’t perform CPR because he’s very very dead. They ask me to get closer to the body, and I do, an image I’ll never forget, they have me call his name so they can hear. He’s still dead. They ask me again to touch him. NO. I won’t. They don’t tell me to be calm, because I am so very calm already. I finally hear sirens, and dispatch tells me they will let me go because help has arrived. Another thing I will never forget is the paramedic walking into the room, looking at him, smiling, and walking out saying “yup he’s dead.” That felt, insensitive. After that I filled out some paper work. An officer showed up. I was very calm with him. We discussed everything, I made the calls I needed without crying, or showing any emotion at all. I stayed there until the very last second when they wheeled his body out. When they moved him and the final smell came out, I will never forget that, for my whole life, that smell sometimes burns my nostrils. My dad and I locked up and left. I drove to the gym, I worked out, I picked my son up from school.
It took me close to 5 weeks to cry. When I picked up the death certificate I didn’t cry. When I closed his accounts I didn’t cry. When I planned food for the funeral I didn’t cry. When the tox report came back, and the medical examiners office called me personally to confirm the cause of death as suicide, I was driving on the freeway, passing Moana Lane. Right then and there I cried. Whole body sobs, shaking so violently I couldn’t drive straight, I pulled off on Plumb Lane, and sat there on the side of the road sobbing. I cried for about ten minutes straight, pulled myself together, pulled back onto the road and finished my errand.
I haven’t talked a lot about that because that story isn’t mine. My dad’s story, that’s mine to tell, that is my father and I can talk about it. The other story, it’s not mine to tell. I was there, the person was my family, but it’s not my choice to publicly discuss how he died, so I don’t. Maybe I need to though, to get it out a little bit.
So, I think, perhaps that day is the reason I fully lost the ability to think when I found my sons door locked. Because I know what lies behind closed doors. I did tell my husband that I panicked. I told him the truth, I lost my total shit and kind of flipped out. He later told Brandon nicely to not lock his door anymore. We don’t have to tell him why though. Brandon is the kind of kid who senses, when I tell him certain things, there is a reason and he should listen. He’s always known about my fear of hugs. For years we didn’t talk about why. I just told him I didn’t like surprise hugs. He sensed there was a deeper reason, and still to this day (he knows all the reasons why now) he will slowly approach me for a hug, he always makes a joke about how small I am, to make me laugh during the hug, and he never makes the hug a trapped feeling. One time he wanted to see if he could lift me up off the ground. He asked, he gave me a moment to process, he explained each step he was taking, and then he successfully picked me up off the ground and was so proud of himself for how tall he is now. So, he has no idea why I’m afraid of locked doors, but he knows, I was upset that morning (not mad upset, scared upset), and he will probably never lock his door again until he moves out.
I’m angry for both of these reasons, and in that moment, the two reasons combined and my whole body felt like it was breaking down. I can understand losing a grandparent when they are old. I can understand that some people die. Losing my son, to suicide though, would be the end of me. When my hand turned that knob and it wouldn’t open, the world went black.