Tiktok bans many of my Brandon videos because he never wore a shirt. This was after Halloween I think, I had found a million Hershey’s kiss wrappers hidden in Codi’s room and later that night for some reason Brandon decided to rat himself out for also hiding candy. I love this video because it shows many of his facial features and his smile. He would have been about 10 years old here.
How does one go on?
I used to be a mommy blogger. For a moment I was funny. Sometimes I was serious, or angry, or silly, or whatever, but one thing was certain, my boys were my life and I was a damn good mom.
Then one day I got into a small argument with my oldest son, the first one in three months, and ten hours later he committed suicide. While logically I know he took his life over his broken heart (only the girl got a letter), illogically I always think:
If only I hadn’t gone to his room the night before to get graph paper. Then I wouldn’t have seen the six pudding cups and king size Kit Kat in his trash. I wouldn’t have asked him in the morning a million times if he was okay, why where there six pudding cups he was allergic to and one spoon, where did he get the KitKat, why was he still lying to me to protect his grandpa from his grandpa. Why didn’t he just tell me what he bought the first time. Why was he eating allergy foods when we just spent so much money and pain (his) to clear up his acne? If I had been a better me I would have noticed he wasn’t arguing with me for the 20+ minutes I lectured him, instead just saying calmly, “okay”, “okay”, “okay.” My child who would argue over the color of the sky wasn’t arguing and I was too far into my own bullshit to notice that.
I go round and round and round every single day wondering if I had never gotten graph paper would Brandon be alive? Would he have sent me the emoji like always, asking for help? Did he feel like his only safe person in the world had abandoned him? Was being so caught up in the biology lab I attended that day and not writing to tell him “I’m sorry, pudding doesn’t matter, nothing is as important as you,” like I had been doing for months, the reason he finally felt totally abandoned and left?
Everyone tells me I can’t think that way. They say that we know he died over a broken heart, we know he suffered from depression, etc. But WE (me) knows that the person he trusted the most (ME) let him down that day. While I gleefully took a photo of my Yukon parked crooked and up on the curb at 3:17pm my son was fixing his hair and writing a goodbye letter to the girl he loved.
While I drove the 2 miles down Mount Rose Highway to the intersection at Geiger Grade hungry and thinking I should go home for a snack, he was walking down the stairs to my home office.
While I thought to myself that more than likely I would get in trouble for taking the rest of the day off, and hear for weeks on end about how I had the privilege of going home early, or going to school, and how someone LET ME go home, and I didn’t respect that, etc. Hearing about how hard someone worked to pay my salary yet I was at home snacking wasn’t what I wanted that day. I had already gotten a long enough lecture about the day ten days prior when I took Brandon to the orthodontist and we ended up talking in the driveway for 2 hours after, making me late back to work, that I didn’t want to endure another one. I told myself that I had forgotten my lunch box at work anyway and I should just go back and get it so I could wash my meal prep containers that night, and finish my work to avoid hearing about how much some was over worked to pay for me.
So much of my life has been lectures about how I ruin everything I touch. That’s a direct quote someone has said to me before, but it’s also the implication I got almost daily, that it was essentially my fault if the world was burning down. If someone stabbed themselves in the hand they would find a way to blame me for sharpening the knife the day before. So while I was agonizing about my grumbling stomach at that stop light, and the inevitable lecture I would get, my son was deciding to die.
When I proceeded through the light and turned left, instead of going straight which would have had me home less than three minutes later, my son was inside of my office with the safe already opened.
When I unlocked my office door to go back to work for 2.5 more hours my son was texting the girl he loved, “hey,” at 3:33. While he counted down 11 minutes waiting for her reply I got busy finishing my work. At 3:40 when his brother came out of his room with the TV blasting to get tissue due to a bloody nose, and then went back into his room slamming the door, there is no way Brandon didn’t hear it, because he only had one AirPod in and was directly below his brothers room. It didn’t matter though, that he realized his brother was home after all, and not at a friends house, he had already decided.
At 3:46 he opened his notes app, copied the letter he wrote the girl, switched to text, pasted the letter into her text, pushed send and was gone.
The only 3-5 seconds of that day my home cameras do not capture, indoor and out, are the seconds it would take to hear a gunshot. I can see every moment of the day after he gets home until he goes into my office, the ONLY blind spot in the house, and the home of the 5’ tall impenetrable safe. I can hear everything, even him saying goodbye to the dog, closing the door, and opening the safe immediately once inside. I can hear every moment but the moment he leaves. It’s because of this that my head often things he will be coming home soon, that it can’t be real, that he’s not gone. When I begin to think this way I pull up the photos from the Sherriffs of my son laying dead in my office, to remind my own head that he is GONE, REALLY REALLY GONE.
I startle when I hear anything similar to a gunshot now. Which is weird because I didn’t hear it that day, but I guess I can imagine it after enough years of going out in the hills to shoot guns. Plus seeing the state of my office after he pulled the trigger, it’s like I hear the gunshot on repeat. I hear a gunshot over and over and over, except I’m hearing something that I never actually heard.
So how does one go on mommy blogging after that? Codi tells the story of the day that he was napping and didn’t know Brandon was gone. He doesn’t yet know I saw him come out of his room. I’ve told him that when he’s ready to talk about it, I’m here for him and nothing he says will surprise me or upset me, and that’s true. I’m wise enough to know that what I saw, Codi couldn’t have stopped or changed had he called me, or his dad, or anyone. Brandon was gone instantly. No pain felt, it was instant. But Codi was 12 at the time and he never saw what I saw because I sent him outside (and then let my precious baby Brandon alone to go be with Codi, never getting to see Brandon again or say goodbye). He doesn’t know that he couldn’t have saved his brother, so for now at his age it’s easier to believe he was asleep and not worry that he might have changed things by calling someone. I hate knowing that while he says he doesn’t know how Brandon died, and he doesn’t want to, that he does actually know but somewhere in his beautifully smart mind probably believes he is at fault & will be blamed. My sweet Codi Bug has no clue that I could never for a moment blame him, and that all I do is ache for what he must have felt in the moment he heard the sound.
The harder part is knowing that daily a stupid little modified car drove down the street behind our house with a shitty exhaust that backfired so loud it sounded like a gun. It sounded so much like a gun that one day it happened while Rob & I were home and we both went to get our own gun, assuming someone had shot at someone else behind our house. The boys cracked up, laughing so loud and then looking at us so seriously and saying, “don’t you guys know that happens every day? It’s the same car every day that drives by and backfires.” Followed by more loud laughter and HA HA’S at how silly Rob & I were for mistaking a stupid car for a gunshot. Later I realized the time Brandon died is the same time that car used to drive by daily and poor Codi bug probably thought the noise he heard was the stupid car.
It wasn’t until I told the boys I was headed home and to turn off games that Codi told me Brandon wasn’t home yet. Having a driveway camera I knew Brandon was home. After Codi checked Brandons room I lied to him and said Brandon was at friends house because I knew in that moment Brandon was gone, and I couldn’t risk Codi finding him. I imagine the 8 minutes it took me to drive home that Codi’s head just spun in circles wondering “what if.”
I imagine when I ran into the house opening doors and then Codi heard me scream a scream that made seasoned officers quit their job, that Codi put it all together in that instant. He told me later that he was okay and didn’t think about that day, except for my scream, sometimes he couldn’t stop hearing me scream.
The one thing I know to be true is that at 12 years old when someone commits suicide (I was 12 when my birth dad committed suicide), you don’t want to acknowledge it. You want life to be normal. You don’t want to be the strange kid, the sad kid, the kid with a dead family member. So you put on your brave face and smile for the world. I also know that at age 14 your hormones change and you process that loss all over again differently, and it’s fucking hard.
And as much as I want to stop waking up every single day I also know I have to wake up every single day to be there for Codi when he falls apart about Brandon. When he finally says his name after 20+ months and finally admits what he heard and finally says he thinks its his fault. I know I have to be here to tell him it was NEVER his fault & he NEVER could have stopped it. He has to know right away for his future that none of this falls on him. I will live in this life that has turned on me so hard since Brandon died for a million years to be there when Codi falls apart, just so I can be sure he knows I love him, it’s not his fault, Brandon loved him, and he didn’t do anything wrong that day.
It’s hard to write a mommy blog after you’ve lost your soul mate because people get on you about calling one child my soul mate and not the other, but Brandon was. He was like my twin, he was the first person on this planet to understand me, and I understood him. Codi and Rob are so normal, so studious, into group sports, and tidy that they could never understand the chaos that was Brandon and I. Even when Brandon and I argued people would say “why can you fight with him and not me?” And I would say, ‘because it’s different for us, we fight different. We end up not the kitchen floor crying, hugging each other, arguing over who loved who more.
The world doesn’t understand that I love both of my boys, but I feel like I lost my twin, and no matter which boy I lost I would still be sitting here feeling like half of my DNA and my life is gone and I would Fucking hate it just as much.
All I know is I want out every second of every day but Codi will never feel like I did as a child thinking I wasn’t enough to keep my dad alive. He’s only ever going to know he was absolutely enough for me to live. He is that important to this world.
Everything is different now
I’m writing this post from my living room on my laptop, which is actually how this blog got started many years ago. However one room over, through two double doors is a beautiful office with a stunning hand sanded and stained gray wood wall to wall desk and my 27″ iMac, with a view of the whole back yard. That is also the room where Brandon died. We stripped it down to the studs after and did a full remodel making it a calm and peaceful place as he had written about in a school journal, and for a while I too found it a calming place. Lately though I just can’t seem to work in there, which has made school and a job search difficult as I try to find a place for my laptop, mouse, bigger keyboard, supplies etc.
I don’t go to the gym really anymore. I keep trying to but something gets in the way, and I can’t really find a reason to care. I don’t eat as healthy as I used to because it doesn’t seem important to make allergy safe foods for myself anymore. It was always easier to do that for myself because I was also doing it for Brandon. We shared a ton of allergies and I always wanted to set a good example for him.
Yelp events aren’t the same without him. Last night I attended an event with free pizza, wings, and soft serve ice cream & I spent the whole night missing the visual of him with his whole face and all of his hands covered in wing sauce. Less than 10 days before Brandon died he went to a Yelp event with me and we discussed him becoming the youngest Yelp Elite in Reno. That will never happen now.
I really miss his hugs. I feel like I’m on an island alone most of the time and I know I’ll never feel whole again without him wrapping me up in a hug, kissing the top of my head and telling me it will be okay mom.
First Day of School Minus One
First day of school 2021 drop off is in the books. Luckily I still woke up early every day to make Roberts breakfast while Codi was on break, so I was up & at it early this morning making him a chorizo breakfast burrito. He came downstairs with his hair done so nice, in white shorts and a rad tie dye shirt. I immediately made him take off his shirt and put on a spare then covered his shorts with a towel when I realized his burrito was full of red chorizo (I may be the laundry stain removing queen but I was not about to mess up the outfit he so carefully chose three days ago and laid out on his chair for today). He laughed but said, “good call.” As he changed shirts I saw the cross necklace filled with Brandons ashes around his neck like always, and smiled knowing his brother would be with him all day. On the way out the door I got sad, Brandon should be taking Codi to school today not me, and Brandon should be in our annual first day of school photo. Then I looked up and saw the most red sun ever and knew Brandon was taking Codi to school after all. My heart hurt more and less all at once.
I asked Codi to take photos with me and he cheerfully said, “okay!” I was stunned, here I was ready to beg for photos and he didn’t even roll his eyes at all. Even when I asked for just two more, and then re-took one more he still smiled. In the car I asked if he had on deodorant and he did. I blinked, who is this child with his hair done, deodorant on, who showers every night without even being asked, fresh brush teeth that I didn’t remind him about, and a smile. Oh right 13.5 the age when boys begin to turn into kick ass humans. When Brandon passed midway through age 14 I have to say he was the coolest Brandon I had ever known. Somewhere between 13.5 & 14 it starts to make sense for boys and they truly become the coolest people to know. I smiled knowing Codi and I had reached that milestone.
One thing Codi and I have in common is that we both really hate being late anywhere. However Codi often forgets I’ve been driving this town for more years that I care to admit and I often know a faster route than him. This is a common argument (playful) on the way to baseball. Rock Blvd & Mill area is shit around 5pm on weekdays. Somehow I get him there on time every practice. He makes sure to tell me his way would have been two minutes faster though.
I digress, for the first few months last year I took Veterans to South Meadows and then Wilbur May. One day Codi declared that taking Veterans & turning left of Carat was “so much faster moooom.” So we’ve done it his way since. This morning when we turned onto Wilbur May from Carat, the street in front of his school, there was approximately 900 cars in line. See the thing is, Codi’s school has a drop off line in front of the school, and while I don’t want to share my secret I will say that every day I laugh as all the moms wait in the worlds longest line to drop off their kid while I drive down the circle to the left of them, over the speed bump and down to the gym where there is always a white Tundra parked right in front, and I am always the second car. If it’s cold Codi waits, if it’s nice out he jumps out and is on his way. This morning I laughed because I knew that not only was this line due to the original moms trying to get in the silly drop off line, but it was also a whole class of the 6th grade moms doing the same thing. I looked at Codi and said, “Bruh, we so should have taken my way.” He was silent for a minute then said, “Just send it mom.” I was confused and said, “Send what?” He told me to go my way. I thought he was pranking me. I told him we were already in this line (.6 miles from school, but going 0-3 mph could have taken over 15 minutes) knowing he wouldn’t want me to do anything too “Shannon” to get him to school. He looks to the right where the first turn of three before the school was and said, “make a U-turn mom, just send it.” SO WE DID! As we sailed past the line that was now backed up all the way to Carat, and down Carat to Veterans Codi said, “these people have no idea what they are getting into,” and laughed. We hit every green light and Codi laughed more. As Wilbur May came into view it was clear there wasn’t a single car in our way. He looked over at me and said, “well for once mom you were right about the faster way,” and we high fived. We pulled into the farthest part of the parking lot because I knew I wouldn’t end up stuck in the school zone, and we could sail straight down to the front of the school. Wouldn’t know you know we pulled up early, he got a front of the school drop off, thanked me, hopped out ran across the parking lot, and turned around flashing me a smile & a Peace sign. As I turned around and headed home I laughed to see that the line now backed up all the way down Veterans to even turn onto Carat and the bell had rung five minutes ago.
This morning, missing one kid, having already sprayed deodorant directly onto my shirt instead of my body and then dropping my toothpaste on my shirt and having to change my own shirt while my 13 year old remained clean, I some how still won the first day of school.
That red sun was now in my rear view but it was still there, a ray of sun was shining directly down on me, and I knew Brandon had helped me get that win this morning and was guiding me home to decompress.
He found a way to still take his brother to school, and I just know had Brandon been driving this morning he would have made that same U-turn and hit the same curb I did in his smaller version of my big truck, and those two would have laughed their head off. These moments are the hardest, the ones where I’m acutely aware I’m missing one child, where I’m missing a whole set of photos, where I know a milestone such as taking his brother to school will never happen. I am grateful this day happened when Codi was at the age he is now to just smile and high five me. He runs downstairs every night to hug his dad and I, and say goodnight, we don’t have to ask anymore. When I get home now, just like his brother did Codi runs down the stairs to say hi and give me a hug. When I clean his room he always runs downstairs after seeing it to say, “Thank you for doing that.” When I tidy up his drawers or closet he thanks me for that too. He cleans his bathroom weekly now without being asked, and does things like say, “mom can you put toilet cleaner on the list for my bathroom.” He smiles more, and tells me how BUSSIN BUSSIN my food is, while doing funny dances in the kitchen after taking that first bite (I’m not allowed to post those videos, and I respect that wish of his).
A few of my favorite things
I wanted to do a post of my favorite little items that I carry around, in case you are in need of stocking stuffers for your friends and family.
I picked up this adorable microfiber eyeglass cleaner in a little bookshop at the San Francisco Ferry Building. It made me smile, and it still does a year later. They don't currently sell that color, but if you click this link you will see the new color they do sell, that is BLOWING MY MIND!
Next up are these Love Bags "Stash It" bags. I love love love these bags. Aside from how cute they are, they fold up super small and fit right in my purse. However what pushed these into SUPER LOVE, is the drop length of the handle. If I'm at the farmers market, or just shopping around the mall acquiring a lot of items, I love that I can switch this bag to a cross body style so it doesn't tug on my shoulder. You can see here the various ways it fits.
This cell phone case. Let me tell you a story about this. About five years ago I was at the post office paying for my stuff. For some reason I glanced over at the exact moment the lady next to me slid open her phone and pulled out her debit card. I loudly shouted, "WHAT IS THAT??" She excitedly told me the brand name, and where to find it. I bought it off Amazon before ever leaving the parking lot, and I've since had three of them (I get a new one with each phone). I realize a lot of companies make phone case wallet type things that flip open, but that wasn't what I wanted. I didn't want to have to open a wallet thing each time I wanted a photo, and I didn't want an open wallet in my selfies. The reason I really love this, is when I go running, I can take just my phone and always have my ID and debit card. That means if I ever run too far and need help, food, snacks, etc, I always have my debit card handy. If your wondering, who runs too far and needs a snack, it's me. Once I left for a run, got mid way up Mt. Rose highway when the worst cramp ever hit. I ran to a gas station thinking I could Apple Pay a Gatoraid or something, but they didn't use Apple Pay. I knew I needed a sodium replacement ASAP but I had no funds. The store didn't have any individual salt & peppers, so I couldn't just add salt to my water. I was about four seconds from downing a packet of mustard, when the gas station attendant felt bad for me, and gave me a cup of Poweraid from the soda dispenser. I felt relief almost instantly and went on to run 7 more miles. After that I never went on a run without my debit card. Apple Pay has helped a ton with that too, but this phone case makes life so easy. I can leave the house with just my keys and phone. If I go to a concert, my ID, debit card, and phone are all in one spot. I don't need a small handbag, and it's very slim in my pocket.
I'm obsessed with this chapstick. I have to order it online, but I'm not allergic to it, it tastes good, and the ingredients aren't toxic.
Something I have always traveled with, that they no longer make, is this little box of mini nail files. However I found something similar by Sally Hansen sold on Amazon. I know, it's a weird item, but I can't tell you how many times I've broken a nail traveling, and then proceeded to snag it on my shirt all day long driving me slowly insane. Having a tiny file ready to go is amazing.
I always always have tweezers with me, and these are my favorite by far. I don't actually know what to do with my eyebrows. I had them waxed about 4 years ago, and try to maintain that, but I'm not great at it. HOWEVER, my son has managed to fall into a cactus, and kick a cactus before, and I sure was glad I had tweezers ready. To be honest I also have a set of these in my car. In total I have one in my purse, my office, my car, and my bathroom at home. Besides cacti, I've had several run-ins with splinters too.
I got this little razor on Amazon years ago, and it has been great. It fits in my purse, but I also have one in my gym bag and office. Why do I have several little razors? Nothing drives me crazier in summer, than getting to work and realizing I missed a huge spot while shaving. Inevitably I spend the rest of the day staring angrily at the spot, while simultaneously rubbing it to see if it's still there. Now, I have this tiny razor in my desk, I grab it, make a quick swipe, rinse and I'm done.
Along with that I have this tiny deodorant ball in my purse. I work at a gym, and I work out a lot. I never know when I'll need to freshen up. This little ball has made it so easy to always have deodorant on hand without carrying a big stick around. I think they are cheaper in the store than on Amazon though.
I keep this ear warmer with matching gloves in my bag. (Actually the ear warmer is in my bag, but the gloves are always inside my coat). It's pricey, but I love it, and a lot of young girls would too.
While we are going down the Lulu rabbit hole, let me show you the other thing I have that I LOVE.
I have this vest. It seems like a normal vest, except it packs down into a tiny bag and fits in my purse, carry on, or center console. This vest is crazy soft, super warm, and fits perfect.
That's all that comes to mind for now. These are a few of the little things that make me happy daily.
I had an interesting experience recently. As you all know here, because I'm a broken record, I suffer from seasonal depression. For some annoying reason from about October – March I do my damndest to totally dismantle my whole life. I cannot explain this, but I'm fucking exceptional at it. The people who are constant in my life know this about me. Most of them disregard anything that comes out of my mouth during this time. Those are good friends, the ones that let me have my little fit, and then ask me if I'm done, and can we get donuts now.
However, once in a while it gets too heavy in my head and I fade to black. I am very good about reaching out. Well, I either turbo fuck up my life, or reach out. Anyway last month I went black, and I mixed it up by going mild dismantle, but also reaching out. This is what shocked me. I reached out to two people and both of them were "too busy." Then they thought, "you're only saying this because we had a fight the other day." Finally they thought, "well we aren't fighting now so you must be fine."
I have to say I'm fucking flabbergasted. I've never, ever, ever, used the shit in my head to get out of a sticky situation. I've had it done to me several times and I hate it. I hate it because no matter what I will always follow up on it, get down into it with you, and wade through all the shit to save you, until I realize it was all just a joke for you. Because I've had that done to me so many times, I NEVER DO THAT. I don't let a lot of people in my life, and I don't open up much, which is what made it all so surprising when I finally opened up, asked for help, and was so fully shut down.
I keep a list in my head, of people I will never ever trust ever again, and boy are these two jack asses so high up on the list right now. Moments like that are why people don't reach out for help. Because their peers are so self absorbed they can't take 25 seconds to stop and look at the bigger picture. At the end of the day, the entire situation, the hours of talk, everything was still about them, and I walked away from it all laughing at how naive they are.
I'm a giver. I will give to you, until I'm empty and barely surviving, and then give to you some more, if it is going to help you. That makes it so hard for me to understand takers. I find takers often. It's like I'm drawn to them. People who want to suck the empathy out of you. Drain you of your joy and love, and leave you broken, and wondering why you didn't see sooner that they are damaged souls who drag others down for fun. I will always accept them too, because I never want to wonder "what if," but I gotta tell you it's wearing thin being a giver, who can never find a giver in return.
If you need help, reach out to me, or someone you know and trust. In the event you reach out to a fucktard who can't see beyond themselves, please, for fuck sake reach out one more time. Because I promise the whole world isn't that way, there is good out there, you maybe just have to look harder, and then make your own list.
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.
My oldest turned 13 recently. There have been clues leading up to this, clues that a teenager was about to arrive. He's been taller than me for a while, but he recently sprouted up even more. His foot is the size of his dads. His voice is suddenly deepening, which is so weird, I miss his baby voice. His attitude has been 13 for at least 3 years now. He wears one ear bud on the bus now, reminiscent of my 13-year-old self with a disc man in my pocket (actually it might have still been tapes then). This weekend though, things changed. He was upstairs playing with the kitten, lying on the ground. He reached up over his head to grab the cat, and he had…he had armpit hair. I cannot explain why this bothered me so much, but it did. It's as if it flipped a little hair covered switch, and suddenly my little boy is a grown man. I realize boys have armpit hair, I guess I always assumed that came closer to high school. Which, I guess that means I have to admit he's only a year away from high school. I think that means I'm about a year away from the dreaded mustache, and you guys, I don't think I'll be able to handle the teenaged, patchy, half mustache. However. My cousin is spending her time shopping for prom dresses, which I've decided is eleven billion times worse. Because when she gets to the dance it will be full of hot high school boys, which makes her situation suckier than mine. So that gives me some relief.
You know those people that will pretend they aren't jealous, that’s not me. I'm going to be up front today and tell you I'm jealous of this new generation of girls growing up right now.
Girls now are being raised during this whole fit life era. They are being told to work out, to lift weights, and to be active. They are being taught how to eat, how to track macros, how to live entire healthy life styles. I think it's amazing. I'm so happy for our children’s futures, to know that we may create a generation healthier than mine. I'm also jealous. I grew up during time when women were confined to walking and Jazzersize. I grew up during the fat free era. I grew up at the end of the diet pill phase, where women took handfuls of diet pills, didn't eat, and then threw up if they did eat too much. I see all of these young, fit girls at the gym now and I'm envious. I went to the gym when I was 16, I even had a trainer. Here’s what she had me do. Run for a few minutes on the treadmill, do crunches, and then do the thigh machine. That was it. I feel cheated.
Of course now I have control of it, and I've seen the wise ways of the weight rack, but that doesn't mean I don't look down at my stretch marks, disfigured body, and wish that America hadn't figured this out just a bit sooner. I hope the girls of today are taking notes. I hope they pass this down for generations to come. I hope that 50 years from now we don't have another generation of girls hooked on diet pills thinking they have to be on Atkins or live on fat free sour cream. I hope girls continue to learn to cook, and meal prep, and eat right. I hope vegetables keep being trendy, and healthy lifestyles become the norm.
I hope schools keep teaching kids to cook. Last year my sons school let him cook every Wednesday. They learned a few kinds of eggs, tacos, french toast, pancakes from scratch, BLT wraps, etc. I remember getting to cook maybe two times total in home ec (one gross omelette and one taco salad). My son looked forward to that class every week, and then came home and made everything he learned in school. He still makes pancakes for his friends and brother on the weekends. Rob and I have taught him to make other things too. I let him help with dinner a lot. His specialty is breakfast though. Brandon makes a variety of different eggs. What’s important is, I know when he moves out he won't feel like he has to live on ramen noodles.
While I'm jealous of this new generation of fit kids, I'm also so stoked to know my kids will grow up knowing about veggies, whole wheat grains, and balanced meals, while also knowing where to find the best dessert in all of San Francisco.
The one where Shannon writes again, about death and tattoos
This post is going to take a minute to get to the point, but it’s been a while since I’ve written, so I imagine it will take a while for me to find my groove again.
I’ve been struggling with death lately. Death, loss, and trust. If I’m honest my depression has been kicking my ass for some time now. This is normal though, I know how to handle it, but it’s kicking my ass hard core. Because of things going on around me I’ve been struggling with trust, with losing people, the desire to simultaneously cling on to everything and try and save people, while distancing myself from anyone I could possibly lose.
My cat got taken by a coyote roughly 50 days ago and I’m bummed. I’m sad on a level I didn’t know I could be about a cat. My husband brought that cat into my life about 30 days before my whole world turned upside down, and I’ll be honest, loving that little cat during that time is all that got me through. Less than two weeks ago my life turned upside down again, this time I have no cat. I’ve never felt more alone without that little guy purring at my feet.
When my birth dad committed suicide I was young. Twelve years old isn’t old enough to comprehend suicide. In fact I’ve told you all before that at first I didn’t believe it. I knew my dad had drug problems, so I created a whole story in my head that he probably owed someone money and had decided to hide out for one year. After one year he would come back, he would be wearing an all white suit with his hair extra long, blonde and wavey, see me and say, “I’m back princess, everything is okay now, I’m so glad you knew I would never leave.” Some of this fantasy was created by the stories I had heard from family who didn’t know I was listening. About the stories my dad would tell while he was using meth. Stories about the Hells Angels coming after him. Smashed car windows. People following him. Stories I all believed to be true. I laugh now, now that I’ve spent a decade dealing with a chronically addicted meth head, and I’m old enough to know that the meth spun stories of a junkie are all fiction. At twelve years old they sounded very real, and very serious.
I saw him everywhere that year. A substitute bus driver, walking down the road, or a guy in the grocery store. When the year was up and he didn’t return I was sad. I processed it as I could at 13. A few years later around 14-16 I got a better undertsanding of it. Of loss, of suicide, and it felt as if I was processing it all again. He left me. If you want to trace back my abandonment issues you can trace them back to the entire four years of high school. I was at the same time worried every boyfriend would leave me, while making every possible effort I could to MAKE them leave, so when they did there was a tangible reason.
When I turned 18 and my grandma died, my axis shifted. I felt her death in a way I can never explain. I was old enough now to understand loss. My heart shattered. I couldn’t sleep, I would stay up all night at my new house sitting outside in the dark on the curb of my house lost. My insomnia had been bad before, but now it was completely unmanageable. I was awake until 3 or 4 am when I would finally pass out until it was time for school or work. Processing her death made me reprocess my dads. Now I was mad. He killed her. She died of a broken heart. He didn’t only leave me, he left her too. My last years with her were changed, different, less fun because being with her was never the same after he died. She was always sad. It hurt her to look at me, Rickies little girl, because I looked like him. She was carrying the burden of the secret of knowing where my brother and sister were, but not letting me know at their mothers request. I blamed my dad for ruining my last years with my grandma.
Then I got married, and had kids. At that stage, as a new mom where you can never imagine leaving your baby, I processed Ricks death again. HOW DARE HE! How could he have left us, I could never leave my babies. My anger turned to rage. Bitter rage.
Close to 10 years later, when I was in what I considered the best part of my life, I had a wake up call. I had lost all the weight, I was running, I was fit and healthy, and in the best mental spot of my life. Then I had a surgery that put me down for 6 weeks, and during that time I went into a full clinical depression. Later we would learn it was a result of stopping my 6 day a week exercise routine cold turkey. I distinctly remember sitting on my chair downstairs in the new house, looking up toward my boys room and thinking, “they don’t need me.” I rationalized it all. They needed a mom who was always nice. Who had her shit together. My husband needed a better wife. They would get a ton of life insurance money, Rob would eventually remarry, and the boys would get a normal mom, with a brain that didn’t function like my damaged brain. Immedietly I recognized these thoughts were wrong, I got up off the chair and went back to the gym that day. However, in those 7 minutes of thinking, I processed Ricks death again. I was now at an age where I could understand him. I could see that he never expected me to not come out on top. He knew he was leaving me with an amazing step father. He knew I had family to take care of me, he knew I would get his social security for a few years, he knew I would be fine. So at age 33 I processed forgiveness.
One year after this I had another major loss. Someone I cared for greatly took their life, making it worse is that I found the body. For the rest of my life I won’t be able to get that visual or smell out of my head. Here I went processing death again. Another suicide, anger, forgiveness, and unbearable sadness all at once. It’s been hard. That creeps up on me daily, and takes my breath away. I miss him. I look around the things he did at my house and miss him. I tell stories about him and miss him. In fact there is a guy at my gym who resembles him so much in stature, hair color, facial expressions and voice, that I sometimes forget for just a second that he is in fact gone. I had to process not only his death, but Ricks again. This is two people who have left me, what is wrong with me, why do they leave? I imagine at various other ages and life stages, I will again have to process the deaths in my life again. Each new year of life, brings with it a different level of understanidng and comprehension.
Seven months later and one day before the anniversary of Ricks death, just after getting the cat, everything in my life turns upside down. I spent nearly a year lost, confused, angry, and back to the belief that everyone hurts you, everything ends, and no one can be trusted. I couldn’t shake that feeling no matter what. I still can’t. I’ll never talk about it here beceause the fact is, it’s not my story to tell.
With time things smoothed out. I opened up some. For about 10 months things had been good. I had my cat, I had been making friends, and I was building trust again. I was living again. However, such is my life a series of unfortunate events occured to ruin that.
1. The junkie I had worked so hard to help get clean, stopped being clean.
2. A person I considered a friend, turned out to never be a friend at all.
3. My cat goes missing.
4. My second job really really lets me down, breaks promises, and leaves me standing alone wondering how in the heck this happened.
5. The mess from late 2016 returns.
So here I am pulled in all directions. I’ve shut down deeply. I know loss is coming, and I want no part of it, so the solution is to put distance between myself and everyone else so I’m not hurt when they leave/die/lie. I spent a solid 2 months struggling with one final attempt at saving the drug addict in my life, and walking away. Walking away means that I spend every day worried that if he dies, it’s because I gave up too soon. I have a habit of letting people use me until I’m nothing but bones, because I’m terrified of ever being the “reaosn” someone dies. In the back of my had no matter how irrational, I will always believe I could have done more to save Rick, and the other suicide from 2016. Once you’ve experienced that, you develop a bad habit of trying to save people, no matter how much it hurts you in the end. I have no cat to cuddle up with when I’m sad, and my usual safe place isn’t safe anymore. Between occurances 2 and 5 above I’ve lost trust, and faith in almost everything. I’m sad. I’m lost. I’m having a hard time every day. I harbor resentment at that friend and my second job. I spend time calculating how long until the next person dies, how long until the next person lies to me, and I feel isolated, shut down, and numb.
There is one thing that always makes me feel better, which is in fact the point of this whole post. My tattoos. I’m covered in them, and if I had to guess I would say I have over twenty, but I’ve lost count. I get a tattoo every time I lose someone. I get a tattoo when I’m sad. I get tattoos when I need reminders that I’m alive and can feel. I’m getting two tattoos this weekend in fact. I have had the same tattoo artist since I was 15, Jared. The tattoo shop is my church and Jared is my preacher. I tell him a thought, a lyric, a feeling, and I walk in days later to see my feeling right there on paper. I’ve never altered one of his drawings, I’ve loved every one of them. Those hours with him in the shop are the most peaceful I ever experience. I relax to a level unknown for me. Recently when he was doing my inner arms I actually found myself nodding off. This is huge, because, A. I don’t nap ever, and B. I never ever sleep in public. I don’t nap, or close my eyes in public because I can never let myself be that unprotected. I know someone can hurt me if i close my eyes. (I take high powered sleep medicine at night to get over this anxiety). The fact that I close my eyes, and just relax while I’m there with Jared speaks volumes about the amount of trust I have in him.
When I was sixteen, in that new stage of processing Ricks death, I did a stupid thing. I had the freedom to drive, and I drove myself to the department of records and asked for a copy of my dads autopsy and suicide note. I can never ever stress how stupid this was. If you’re reading this for the love of God NEVER DO THIS. I read things I never needed to read. Combined with the hyper visual graphic I already had in my head of my dads suicide, adding the report tormented my brain for years. It still does. My therapist now says childhood traumas developed the right side of the brain more, which is why I’m hyper visual. I can visualize my dads death so clearly, as if I was there. I can see him preparing to do it, I can see him struggling during, I can see him after, I can see them breaking in his bedroom window to find his body, I can with clarity see this entire scene, even though I saw none of it. I can see this visual as clear as I can see the memory of holding my first born the first time. Which is why I never forgot the part of the autopsy where the coroner details all of my dads tattoos. I’ve alw￼ays taken a small relief from seeing my name printed on the autopsy, “Located above the subjects heart is a tattoo of the words Shannon Marie.”
So the point of all this? The one thing I have in my life that can never be taken away is my ink. It will go to the grave with me. It’s mine for eternity. When I get a new piece, some people see it as frivolous, but I don’t. I see it as one more thing I can keep forever. One more thing that is all mine, that no one can tarnish. Which leaves me wondering, when my time is up some day, will a coroner detail each of my tattoos? Will he note both of my boys names? Will he note the tattoo that says “Hard Times” for the person I lost in 2016? Will he note my grandmas name? Will he note the lyrics to songs that got me through the dark? Will he wonder about the Waylon tattoos? Will he assume I’ve been to Burning Man because I have a Burning Man tattooed on my leg? Will there some day be a record of all the things I held near to my heart? It almost makes me happy to know that person will get to spend a few minutes following the story of my life, and wondering about the girl on their table.
I get stopped about my ink often. Lots of people like it. My tattoos are all very well done, colorful, and clear. I get many compliments. I also get asked “why” a lot. I tell them now, I can take it with me when I die. Your boat, your art collection, the trinkets you collect on a shelf, your fancy car, none of it goes with you when you die. My tattoos, though, they will come with me. They will follow me wherever I go, until the very end of time, when I no longer exist, they will be there. Your art, trinkets, cars and boats will be left behind. Someone will have to deal with them. Sell them, feud over them, maintain them, look at them, etc. My investment though, my ink, my art, won’t be left behind. That, that right there makes me happy. I know, that at the end of the day one thing is true, the stories on my body will still be there tomorrow. I can trust in that, and having one thing to trust in gives me hope.
*Please excuse the errors, the spell check button on my blog platform doesn’t work. Nothing actually works, so hopefully this posts at all.