TRIGGER WARNINGS: Suicide, Drug Addiction, HIV positive
Humans are messy. I can’t write this post into a neat, tidy package for you. I am messy. My past is messy. This story is messy.
US Father’s Day just came and went. I find I’m talking to myself more. I don’t notice it increase and decrease around hard days like I used to. Now it just ebbs and flows as my soul needs. Mostly I find myself confessing to my sewing. Quietly ripping out a seam, mumbling. No one the wiser that my mumbling isn’t about the sewing.
My father was a long-time drug addict, HIV positive, and committed suicide a few weeks after I turned 21. My father was more than that, good and bad. He was a hair dresser, he was funny, he was very good looking, he had incredible charisma and magnetism, he was a liar, he was a flake, he was a womanizer. Those opinions are mine to say as I wish and as I please. People say really weird things to families, especially children, left behind. Things that aren’t their place to say. Things they should really keep to themselves. Some of those things were more traumatic than the actual suicide of my own father. When I read about suicides in the press, I immediately flinch for those children left behind. I flinch for what they will hear people confess. Confessions to make themselves feel better, not the children.
We could go on and on discussing and arguing nature versus nurture. How much of my father’s personality was inborn? How much is environment? I don’t know the answers to those, nor do I care. Children in the US are statistically more likely to get struck by lightning than to survive a suicide legacy. That percentage goes down every year as I get older, and I’m getting closer to tipping the scales in the favor of lightning, but you can’t deny that it’s a powerful visual. After 20+ years, there are a few things I need to keep tipping that scale such as: I live a sober lifestyle, I run, I garden, I ferment all the foods, I cook, I tell everyone close to me about my family suicide (you must create “watchers” in your circles), and I sew. I sew a lot.
Sewing is really the best coping mechanism I’ve found, with running a close second (there’s a reason so many addicts turn to running, but that’s another story). I need to keep my hands going. I need to make, create, break, engineer, and waltz around in my creations. I talk to my hands. I talk to my father as I take things apart. I ask questions. I ask all the things I can’t ask. I can’t pick up the phone and tell him I saw something funny/stupid/ridiculous. I can’t tell him I saw a kite at the beach he would have loved. I can’t tell him he’s a dumbass for missing out on his grandkids. I can’t tell him, “Damn, now I get why you liked cocaine & shitty beer so much!” I can’t tell him I made him something. I can’t tell him I understand, and I’ll see him next time around. It’s ok to give up this round. I can’t tell him I’m not mad, except when I am.
So, I tell my sewing.
Post Script. This post is for others like me. Those of you that sometimes feel broken by loss. Those of you that feel, at times, damaged, and that fitting in is fake. Walking the world is fake. Acting normal is a lie. The lack of imagery in this post is partly because I don’t have much else. My father died alone in a van. It is also partly because I just don’t want to share more. This opens me up raw and bleeding before you. That is enough. I’m going to go sew now.
Author Bio: Becky Jo Johnson is a blur in various places, but Instagram is usually a safe bet.