The car went by the road, slowly, not only because my mom was afraid of driving fast; she thought she was a bad driver, but also because the old road to Campos do Jordão – a country side city – was full of curves and driving at a high speed was kind of impossible. The new road had been recently finished, but mom took the old one by distraction.
In fact I didn’t care for the fact that we had taken the longest way, and slow, the fact is that I was going were I wanted on the second week of July. Besides that it was a blue winter morning, and the old road landscape, full of tall trees that seemed to be there for a long time, filled my heart with joy and peace.
This joy was complete because I felt relieved that I was leaving my house, in São Paulo, behind. It was filled with sadness in which my dad used to be immersed sometimes.
Mom also seemed lighter, even though she knew she should return to São Paulo that day in order to keep company to my father.
We arrived at the hotel around 11 am, I took a tan, had lunch in a relaxed atmosphere with aunt Marlene, who was Mom’s close friend and her 3 children, Vivi, Dudu and Pepê who were our age and lived with us since I can remember. The complete plan for the vacations was absolutely amazing and consisted of my brother and I spending two weeks without my mother or my father, with our aunt Marlene at Grande Hotel. I got very enthusiastic just to think about it.
The atmosphere was so festive that my mother was completely involved by this lightness, and decided, after talking to Dad on the phone, to spend the night with us and just go back home the other day. Indeed, this was a decision that must have become a source of regret to my mother, even though she has never mentioned it, because she has never been a kind of person who lives in the past, something I have always done since I can remember.
I think I kept these moments of joy so clearly for more than two decades because they were the last time I was completely happy.
So with a light spirit, happy and satisfied, I went to the room I would share with Pepê, I said goodbye to my family, because each of us would sleep in a separate room, I fell asleep quickly, I had beautiful dreams, but unfortunately I woke up. (It’s amazing how people’s lives change without asking for permission, there isn’t any kind of preparation or previous notice, premonition or anything. You’re there, quiet, trying to play your role, paying your bills, wearing a seat belt and flossing everyday, locking the doors of your house every night, closing taps, remembering to carry your documents and bam! Something goes out of control and something totally unexpected happens. The life’s DJ changes the song, and instead of a smooth waltz, from one day to another you have to dance samba. And no one asks whether you know how to dance it or not. But whatever it is, it’s always something to tell the grandchildren).
Well, back to the subject, I was sleeping when I saw Vivi in my room, in her pajamas, very early in the morning because it was dark and I had the feeling I could sleep more. It was 6:00 am when she said with her staring eyes:
– Wake up, Rosane, you have to go back to Sao Paulo.
This unusual call obviously scared me. No one needs to be a psychic to know that being called in a hotel in the middle of the night is bad news. Therefore, in seconds, I thought about the most important thing I had left São Paulo and shouted:
– What happened to my father? Deep inside, I hoped the answer was something like “nothing, your father’s great, it was your grandmother who fell down and died,” it’s not that I disliked the old lady, quite the opposite, but in the face of the tragic scenario that was unfolding, I preferred it was something with my grandma. However, I heard the last thing I wanted to hear:
– He died.
– What? How come?
Vivi took a deep breath and let out:
– He committed suicide with a shot in his heart.
This last speech was followed by a gesture of open arms, a hug I immediately refused, not for lack of affection or intimacy with my childhood friend, but because I felt such a deep pain, piercing through my chest, I had an urge to run down the dark corridor of the hotel. The pain was like a sharp object piercing my skin, piercing through my flesh deep inside .It was so intense that it demanded movement, these things should cause an adrenaline rush because you cannot stay where you are, I wanted to run.
After a few minutes, I felt a physical discomfort. Something like having eaten something rotten, or having choked on a piece of meat, or carrying too heavy of an object for me.
Silently, as very few times in my life, I packed, helped by the housekeeper of the hotel because suddenly we were in a hurry. And then I met my mother who was unusually quiet. Wisely, I wondered what she would be like when she realized the facts. It would not be easy for her to realize that her husband had killed himself with a bullet in his chest, and that she had been left alone with the difficult task of educating and supporting two teenage children.
So we enter a car from a friend and went to Sao Paulo. In the middle of the trip, my mother was in despair. I wanted her to be quiet.
In the house there was everything I left, except for my father. He had been taken to the morgue because someone called the police. He was somewhere and we did not know when we would be able to see him. I had urgency to embrace what was left of him.
Someone said I should take a shower. I asked if it was in a bathtub or a shower because the decisions were very complex. They said that in a bathtub it was better. I obeyed. After the bath I was paralyzed. No one had said anything about what to wear and I couldn’t go out and ask. I opened the closet and I dressed an old pair of jeans. (What clothes should one wear for the cremation of a father who killed himself?).
The house was filled with people. Many of my friends from school. Wearing a suit. I felt loved. My brother’s friends didn’t show. I resent them nowadays.
There was no viewing. My mother did not want it. I think she was ashamed, she felt pain, anger and guilt that is what suicide causes. I regretted it. I wanted to mourn, surrounded by my friends. I needed all the world’s help in order to digest all that.
Sometimes reality faded, I lost perspective and I thought that none of this was real. The image of the ever-living father overlapped reality and I had the feeling that he would show up at any time to undo all that misunderstanding.
It all seems so unrealistic to me and I want to be turned into a bird and escape from there. But even if the impossible happened, even if I had wings, I would be too heavy to fly.
Parents die before their children. This is a kind of natural and desirable law.
In my case, it was not exactly like that, or I didn’t quite understand what happened because my father committed suicide at age 44, when I had just turned 17. And suicide sounds unnatural to anyone.
Death by suicide provokes emotions in the family just like sticking your hands on something you cannot see. We feel pain, bewilderment, anger, guilt and fear (you can do it, who’s to say it?). Mother and brother also shocked, no one to turn to, I found myself with no other alternative but to cover the dark hole opened by his death. And look, I confess that it is super possible to isolate these unpleasant emotions. I stopped feeling pain and sorrow as if by magic.
My friends found it strange that I didn’t get touched by movies about fathers and/or festive days went by me like soap bubbles. I managed to get into university (PUC Psychology) and studied hard. Besides doing dance classes. My life would have been a true wonder if it weren’t for a subtle detail: I did not feel anything and was always sad. Joy and happiness had also been blocked by the brick wall that I built.
I discovered that emotions are not stored within us in separate compartments just like shoes in boxes, they flow and emanate from the same place. So I wanted to skip sadness and became a kind of robot. Like a robot, receiving system commands to feel good, I always thought of consumption, brands, and these things eased the pain temporarily, but nothing fed me. All this cost my dancer’s body (I grieved and put on weight), the order of my life was completely shaken. I started therapy and was devastated in order to reinvent myself, as if I were a mosaic.
I do not know which way or the best way, we do what we can, you cannot judge. It seemed very scary to get sad at that time. I did not feel supported anywhere and created a false skeleton that was the only alternative. What I learned is that in this hedonistic culture, you need to make room for grieving our beloved ones. First, because there’s no way. And second because it is overcoming the pain that we really become what we are – essentially human.
Rosane Buk Light is a psychologist, translator, 53 years old, 3 children. Currently writes guides on neighborhoods and works on a research project on Bipolarity