Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My Mother's Gun

After I mentioned a couple posts back that my mother shot herself (in 2002), I got wondering what kind of gun she'd used. I asked my sister, who kept the police records.

Smith & Wesson .38

Turns out there are lots of models of this gun, so I'm not sure this is a picture of the right kind, but my sister told me it was a silver revolver with a light wood handle, so I suppose it was something like it.

The police said we could have the gun back--it was our property. My mother bought it legally, along with a box of hollow-point bullets. She'd even kept the receipt.

I said I wanted it.
I don't know why, really. I pictured some kind of cool tool, something she loved. My inheritance.

My sister, who was handling the police side of things, went to get it. She called me from the police station and said I didn't want it. It was covered in brains and stuff.
I hadn't thought of that.
I didn't even know that word.

Here's a piece of the police report I find comforting:
there was a bullet hole in the wall above her bed, where they found her dead five or six days.
The bullet that killed her never exited her skull--one of the benefits of hollow-points-- so my mother must have fired a practice shot first.

I like knowing that she fully understood what she was doing. Not that I doubted she wanted to die, not at all, but that she felt in her hand the physical violence she was perpetrating... well, I like having proof her action was premeditated.

I read an article in the New Yorker years ago about people who jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. [Here's the link.]
Almost every jumper dies, of course--the impact scrambles a body's insides like eggs--but a few survive. One survivor said that the instant he stepped off the bridge, he realized that all his problems were solvable, except one: stepping off the Golden Gate Bridge.

There's no practice jump, but there can be a practice shot.

Sometimes I think about the clerk who sold my mother the gun. I can see him handing the gun across a counter. While I consider the people who designed, made, and sold the gun to be along the lines of aiders and abetters, I also imagine a my mother doing her best Blanche DuBois on the clerk, acting the fluttering lady who needs protection. Or she might have been in her Dirty Harry mode, wearing cold sunglasses, confident of her legal rights to this machine. She could be a chameleon that way.

I knew she'd bought a gun that fall. She told me on the phone. It wasn't her first one, and when she mentioned it, I said something like, "Oh."
I imagine it's hard for people who aren't close to a suicidal person over a long time to realize how normal the idea that they're thinking of killing themselves can become. It's like, chicken for dinner again?

My mother'd first sat me down and told me she might kill herself when I was fifteen. After twenty-five years of hearing about it, I was bored and resentful.
Once I even told her to go ahead and get it over with. That sounds bad, doesn't it? I should explain that before it came to that, I'd opened my veins to save her over and over again.

Gun or no gun, I expect my mother was going to kill herself some way.
She had enough lethal medication, godknows, all prescribed by those kind strangers, medical professionals.
When we kids cleaned out her two-room apartment, I gathered all her meds together. She'd stashed them or they'd rolled all over. I pushed bottle caps down and turned. I stabbed at foil blister packs. I filled a soup bowl with pills and dumped the pretty colors down the toilet.

I had figured that one day I'd get a call saying my mother had died of an overdose, and I'd never know if it had been an accident or not. I prefer knowing she meant it.

Sometimes I think I'm just fine after all this time, free and clear, lucky to have such a resilient personality. Sometimes I think I'm not fine at all, I just closed off a room in the house of life, love, and hope and walked away.


For more info on suicide prevention or help if you are struggling:
"The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals."
Outside of the United States, please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.


Rudyinparis said...

Thinking of you.

Clowncar said...

hitting a little too close to home for comfort.

but I applaud your honesty and bravery for sharing this.

bink said...

It's interesting that in writing honesty and openly about such a terrible emotional event, your writing hasn't colored or slanted the events, but is such a true piece of reporting.

What I mean, as someone who was "there", is that the facts... even the emotional ones... are all so accurate. "Not afraid to call a spade a spade", to put it in a Noir sort of way: not sentimental.

Your mom was one tough cookie, one bloody genius, one loony-tune, one sorrowful and disappointed human being. When she decided to "check out"-- years before her actual death-- the world lost out on a big soul.

poodletail said...

Observe and report. It's the way your brain works, Fresca, and it brings close subjects that would otherwise be out of reach.

I wish your mom could have hung around longer.

Lill said...

It is so hard to look truth in the face. You do it so well.

I think maybe that room holds not life, love, and hope, but instead their opposites. You keep the door closed because it simply can't be opened without sucking you in. You are so strong and brave for doing that, yet it takes so much energy to do it.

You also bravely peek in every so often, to see if anything has changed. No, it hasn't. Then you slam that door shut again and turn to life, love, and hope which you have such an abundance of yourself.


Jennifer said...

I had figured I'd get a call saying she'd died of an overdose and I'd never know if it was an accident or not. I prefer knowing she meant it.

I can see this, and the comfort of the hole in the wall. It's a bleak comfort, but not negligible.

You always rip me up when you write about this, because like bink says, you're so clear and lucid about it all, which only seems to make it all more painful in some ways. Awe-inspiring and painful.

Fresca said...

Thanks, all, for your kind comments.

BINK: I love your description of my mother.

Emma J said...

I keep erasing comments. I admire though the honest dignity of this writing and love under difficulty. And wanted to tell you so.

Fresca said...

March 28
Again, apologies for not replying to comments these past couple months much.
Not only have I been in a nonblogging mood, but, in this case, sometimes I have a hard time replying to hard posts. I think it's that once they're written I can hardly bear to revisit them again.
But I really love that people comment--thank you all.