We have all heard the story of the boy who cried wolf. How every day he would run to his village of a report of seeing a wolf close by. I can imagine the threat a wolf would have on a small community. The livestock that kept them all fed, the pack horses and mules that would do the work of twenty men; how their lives would be in danger of such a fierce predator in their midst. A wolf is a highly intelligent, stealthy predator, one that would need to be taken down. As that boy would run into the midst of the people and cry, “Wolf! I’ve seen a wolf,” the elders and the hunters of the community would scurry to gather their weapons and run behind the boy to the outskirts of town seeking to capture their enemy. I can almost see the faces of the men as they discovered the ruse of the young boy. The boy would laugh and laugh in hysterics at his game of getting attention. Until the day came when they didn’t believe the child’s antics any longer.
Mom was the boy who cried wolf in her many suicide attempts. Thing is, Kerry and I always came running in some manner. I don’t rightly know when this started for Mom, but I can remember as a little girl, the ambulance taking Mom away on what seems like a Sunday early morning. There’s no doubt in my mind that she had attempted suicide many other times in my childhood, but I have either blocked those times out or they, the family, kept us shielded from those times.
She would later, in our adult years, attempt suicide many times with Kerry or I being witnesses in some way. We were the ones she would call when late at night with her alarm bells whistling…I just took a bunch of pills; I just want to die.
One night she did just that. She called me. I called Kerry with the news that Mom has done it again, what do we do? Neither of us slept that night. We didn’t go over there right when she called. I want to say the reason we didn’t go to her is that we felt intimidated to just show up at some guy’s trailer demanding we see our mother. Rather instead we would turn into frightened children with our fear and righteous anger.
After a long night of fearful sleep, we woke and jumped into my car to go check things out. We drove up to what was like a small parking lot across the street from a gas station. On this plot of land stood four trailers. There was no office or trailer park name. Just a place that someone probably rented out. We found the white trailer that we thought the guy lived in. We banged on the side of the trailer where we thought the bedroom was. No one came to the door. We went to the door and the door was unlocked. Not sure what we would find and terrified to see her dead, we now crept down the narrow trailer hallway. The bedroom was in the back of the house. When we got there, we found her laying in the bed. The room was dark.
“Mom, Mom are you awake?” sure enough as the blankets moved, and she was in fact alive. I remember the feeling of astonishment.
“I’m fine. Why are you here?” was her response to seeing us standing over her. Next came that familiar tone of hers where she’s angry with us for being there and for waking her. We insisted that she took a lot of pills and that she may die.
“I’m not going to die. I didn’t take that many, I just need to sleep,” she says in her usual tone.
I can remember this being one of the early times of dealing with the feeling a rage. Anger gone bad, is what I tend to think of when I hear the word rage. I remember how I felt, but I don’t remember what exactly I said. I just remember standing over her and seeing red and blaring angry words at her. I then stormed out of the place.
There was never any talk of it following the incident. Just like when I was a little girl, she would blow me off and treat me almost as if what she had done was my fault.
Maybe she didn’t feel like it was my fault; maybe her anger was just self-loathing. Maybe I just always felt like things were my fault because I wasn’t ever given any explanations.
I’m sure the boy who cried wolf lost his life to that unforgiving animal that day as no one came running to help him. But let’s say he did survive a wolf attack that day. Let’s say he came away with significant injuries, but his life was spared. Do you think he learned his lesson? I believe so.
Sadly, in Mom’s case of twenty or more suicide attempts, she never learned her lesson because every time she cried wolf, we would come running. She would have these suicide episodes well into her sixties. In our defense and those who have a loved one with this problem, I think it’s incredibly hard to turn your head from someone who is threatening their life. It’s not the time to say, well they have to learn their lesson; I’m just going to ignore it. How does one ignore something like that, because ultimately the thoughts are going through your mind are like, What if they’re serious this time?
I refer to these times as death watch. We spent much time fretting through the night, worried that Mom wouldn’t be alive in the morning. When a person does this to a loved one, that loved one can get angry and resentful for being put through the wringer of emotions just to find out they’ve been played.