Memory Snapshot: Mom, Don’t Die


I’ve decided to take a season to go back and write about my past. Really go back and try to remember what it is I’ve intentionally or unconsciously forgotten…Dig and explore even more, because this familiar feeling of sadness shows up more days than it doesn’t. It is my hope that as I remember my life story, I can begin healing at a new level. To help me put the missing puzzle pieces in the big picture. To help me FEEL deeper, both the pain and the pleasure.

To process, integrate, and wake up even more.

Bradford, Pennsylvania used to be a wealthy rural town back in the 50’s.  With oil as its main resource, businessmen came from all over to make their “let’s rape the earth of its resources” fortunes.  Today, the oil factory still stretches almost the entire length of the town, but the oil wealth has dried up. Oppression marked this territory long ago, obvious by the faces wearing sullen like it was in style.  

Bradford, PA

This family of seven has its share of poverty. My parents work at local factories, making menial wages, in which my dad takes a portion and drinks it up each week. I know this makes Mom angry and sad. She doesn’t talk about it a lot, but I feel it.

We move a lot. I’m 8 years old and we’ve moved 4 times already.  I guess Mom thinks things will get better when we get a new house.

We live in Custer City, a stretch of road about two miles long just outside of rural Bradford.  I like this house. It’s a two story with a detached garage right beside a Mr. Bawlman’s pasture.  Sometimes his son Jake and I run in the fields and play. Jake is quiet and I like him. He’s nice to me and we always have fun running around in the big fields exploring.

Singer’s Country Store is a five minute walk down route 219.  Mom asks me to walk there a lot to buy her The Bradford Era. I love this store because it is full of toys, candy, and my favorite treat in the whole world: a humongous dill pickle!  There is a huge brown barrel full of them there and sometimes I have enough change to purchase one.


Life is ok here in Custer City, but it would be better if my twin brother would disappear.  He’s mean to me and I’m pretty sure I hate him.  I just think there is no good reason to be mean to anyone. It just doesn’t make sense, but he insists on torturing me day in and day out.  Sometimes he hits me and I cry. Sometimes I fight back. A few weeks ago he jabbed me hard while we were playing outside and I turned around and punched him in the face. I actually shocked myself. I’m not much on violence but he really made me mad.

When he ran in crying to Mom telling her I hit him, with me following right behind him, she asked me if I was proud of myself.  I lowered my head and said no, but inside I was happy as could be saying yes.  Yes, dammit! It felt so good to hit that brute! I’m proud of myself because he has no reason to be mean to me all the time and he needs to learn a good lesson or two!

My family life is hectic.  Mom doesn’t seem very happy and plays sad Patsy Cline songs and Dad drinks a lot. He doesn’t get all crazy when he drinks, but he’s gone a lot and Mom doesn’t like it one bit. In our old house Mom used to put all five of us kids in the car at night and we’d be off looking for Dad all over town.  Mom hates Dad staying out drinking all the time.

Dad doesn’t talk much to me and I’m afraid of him because when I’m bad, sometimes Mom tells him and he pulls down my pants and spanks me hard.  I am terrified and start crying before he even touches me.  Dad wears glasses and looks soft when he wears them. When he takes them off, he looks mean.

Today is really no different than any other day. It’s the weekend and I am sitting on the floor in my living room watching television with my family. I don’t watch much television because I like to play outside most of the time. My mom tells me I’m a tomboy, which I understand to be someone who likes to play outside with boys.  I don’t know so much about that because I hate my brother, but I do like to play outside and do all the things that the boys do.

Our television is a 15 inch model that sits on a small table. It’s the only television we have.

My mom motions for me to come over to her. She whispers in my ear, “Go get me the pills on the floor beside my bed.”  I am such a people pleaser. I just want everyone to be happy. I happily head down the hallway to the bedroom. My brother, who was about 14 at the time, meets me half way down the hall, obviously wondering what my mother whispered to me.  I nonchalantly tell him. After all, why would I think for a moment that what I’m about to do will change everything? He tells me not to take all the pills.

I walk into my mother’s room and over to her side of the bed.  After taking a look around, I spot a little pile of pills on the floor beside her bed.  There are probably around 25-30 pills laying there so I take about half of them. Scoop them up in my hand and head out to give them to Mom.  I’m not sure why Mom wants the pills. I am pretty naïve.  I hand her the pills and she immediately lifts them to her mouth, picks up her coffee cup, says quite loudly, “Here’s to life!” and drinks them down.

I don’t know a lot, but by the reaction of my family, I know that this is not good. Not good at all.

A suicide attempt right before my eyes.

Everything goes black. Like the movie just stopped in mid-scene.