Even Keel

by Carolyn M Gage 23 days ago in family

Summer of A Thousand Deaths

Even Keel
~Trista Mateer, 'Aphrodite Made Me Do It' / surviving narcissistic abuse

I stood graveside with yellow daffodils, the national emblem of Wales, in honor of my mother-in-law Gertrude, deceased now for one-and-a-half years. I had tried to get my husband Alejandro to make a plan to visit her on Mother’s Day, but he said that he couldn’t bring himself to do it. And there I stood, not sure what to think of that, but I knew why I had come.

I had not planned anything that year for Mother’s Day with our own clan of 7, as I was exhausted from keeping my family on even keel . I didn’t expect anything either, as I knew Alex was struggling. He had shared with me that he didn’t know who he was anymore, what he wanted or believed, and that he was disoriented. He had gotten so paranoid that he practically started to treat me as if I were a child-- odd accusations like being sneaky and undermining, “stealing” money from our joint account, lying about having called to make appointments for our own children, etc. Sometimes he convinced himself that I thought he was stupid and yelled at me for his assumption that I was thinking it. I felt like I was drowning, but up to this point, I had kept my head up.

Alex's current opinion of me was the least of my concerns, as I had faith the truth would prevail and trust would be reinstated once we got on the other side of his debilitating grief and incapacitation. I was more concerned he was having a psychotic break-- if he could be so paranoid about the absurd, how deeply into the abyss might he go? I felt a deep sense of panic and urgency, and had been privately researching the manifestation of PTSD in former military interrogation officers, pitfall behaviors of Jack Mormons, and upon his request, had found 3 compatible counselors for him-- all of which he rejected, saying, “If you think I’m going to trust someone that you have talked to before me, you are crazy.” As if his paranoia told him that I wanted him brainwashed, and had stockpiled the help of these mental health professionals to do so.

I had begun working on Father’s Day festivities well in advance; hoping to get him out of town to celebrate. A few years prior I had gotten all the children to meet us and we went sailing on a three-mast, 1913 schooner for the entire day. We had all been so happy to be in one place. His eldest son, 20-year-old Matthew, volunteered to ride down with me, and although it has still not been articulated clearly why Matt had been so estranged from us for the year prior, nor indignant toward me in particular, some healing happened that day in that simple gesture and the ensuing light conversation. We all had a grand time, whilst keeping our sea legs underneath us and our wits about. I was hoping that some similar magic could be garnered again as a balm on Alex’s bereaved heart, navigating a clear path for him out of the fog of grief with which he had shrouded himself, away from the whiskey that had numbed his fear when his mother was first diagnosed, and which now evidently clouded his mind.

I believed Gertrude had found all that she was hoping for in the afterlife. I felt obliged to this belief in my compassion for her; I wanted Gertie to have the peace and serenity that all who learn and work hard to be good in this world deserve. If she had gone to the other side of the veil and discovered it was nothing like how she had been raised and thus indoctrinated her own children in to, I thought the confusion could cause her soul eternal conflict, and I didn’t want that for her. I didn’t have enough years of familiarity with her daily life and practice, but I knew she prayed a few times a day. So now, I suspended my disbelief, gathered my strength, and selected some of my favorite words I had heard in these sacred communications, in hopes she would recognize my utterances from beyond. I placed the yellow daffodils on her grave, bowed down to my knees, and had a moment of breath and silence.

When I closed my eyes, I could see the details from the night before playing in my mind like cinema. As I was creeping into bed around midnight, I had reached over Alex’s comatose body, stealthily removed the still-sweating glass from its perch on his belly and picked up his phone to turn off the movie that was still playing. A texted red heart from a dear friend of mine popped up on his screen. Snippets of trauma flooded my eyes, blurred in my shaking hands as I vaguely read them in a state of blind terror for being discovered, and sheer exhaustion for my eviscerated, quaking heart.

But now, here, with only the dead as witness, the details I had gleaned now flashed before me-- slide after slide, behind my closed eyes. He's jumping out of his car for one last kiss, grabbing sandwiches for her kids while I'm home with his, making Mother's Day breakfast for her in bed, he called her the pet name I had made for the children...

My throat was sore from screaming and crying in my minivan before dawn that morning. I omitted the details for Alex’s mother, but willed her to hear my voice as I prayed:

“Gertrude, please hear me in my desperation and locate your son in his… it is painful to watch him suffering... ”

I can still feel you in my arms and your lips on mine... You have such nice legs…

“Alejandro says he is losing his mind… that he is lost… and doesn't know how to get back... ”

Well then picture me in gray short shorts in my backyard working on my vacation tan…

“He says he is afraid of what he might find in himself if he looks too closely…”

I convinced my wife to shop for new clothes with me by saying the guys at work tease me because I’m outdated...

“I love him so much but I don’t know how to help him... maybe you could show me… maybe with both of our love he could learn to trust himself... ”

But I got vacation clothes… check out Lake Maggoire it's close to where we are staying…

“Please help him relax into the unknown, and his fear, so he may find serenity…”

I haven’t done this before… I told my sister I was meeting you in Italy and she is thrilled...

“I offered to join the church with him, but he said no… ”

Done what before?... shopping? cooking?... or had an affair with an amazing woman? ;)

“I want to be with the man I fell in love with, and be able to show him how much…”

I'm not home alone... My wife was supposed to leave by now…

“I have been doing my best to help him from hitting bottom, but he may be there…”

Let me know when a walk works for you tomorrow and I will be there… always…

“Remind him who he is so he can see the true intentions of mine and his beloved family…"

My son says we seem to like each other a lot... I am so happy right now that I'm crying...


My car still smells like us…


I swallowed salty tears as I stood and turned, continuing to pray that Gertie was right all along: that she could hear me, that prayer was powerful, that she and I could love him enough, and that these three would part the sea for Alex to find his moral compass, right himself, and set sail back to us.

Then I got in my car and drove home.

Carolyn M Gage
Carolyn M Gage
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