Hi, all. I have a dear friend, someone who had a far worse childhood than mine, go through a crisis a few weeks ago. I sent her a ghastly letter of miserable comfort which, thankfully, she understood. It's one of those "everything has a silver lining" letters, one of the corny things I absolutely believe in. Beauty in a dung heap is often corny because it's full of cow shit. But flowers love it. I thought I'd reprint my letter here.
I lost everything to save my son. Everything material that I had except for a movie collection and some pieces of junk. But because of that, he's alive. I lost my home, my savings, my car, my job...two jobs and my business, actually, and had to move back to the hellhole I was raised in.
It was worth it but it fucking hurt.
Back home, I lost my stepfather, my cats, my job, any hope of a relationship with my sister, and seven other family members in one year. I realized my mom's selfishness wasn't because of her drinking, as I'd romantically believed for over a decade. I lost the housekeeper/cook job with my sister, saw her twist and then fire my daughter, who almost lost her own home because of it. I became a slave to my needy and then invalid mom, where every day was comprised of cleaning up shit, piss, vomit and blood.
It fucking hurt but it was worth it.
I left the state and went to a close friend's cabin, where I tried to piece together my old business and get enough money to get back to the East Coast. I ended up losing a friendship which I'd thought was one of the true ones. He viciously turned on me and I still don't understand why. It made no sense. I tried to get back to New York but couldn't and had to slide back into the Briggsville hell. I got the horrible college graduation invitations from Leland, addressed to my sister and my mother but purposefully omitting me, and I became suicidal for only the second time in a pretty tough life.
I tried to help the parents of my best friend as they battled his mother's cancer, but when she lost that fight I lost my friend as well, in a baffling and horrific nightmare of circumstances. I limped back to Mom's house. I was so trapped by responsibility and poverty, all twisting together into a windstorm that was literally destroying me. Everything was awful to the point of no hope. Everything. I wanted to die, I wanted to stop trying. I was so exhausted, it was beyond depression. It was simply exhaustion from existing. I held on but didn't want to.
It was agony but it was worth it.
I got my mother out, got her into the nursing home with her Advanced Alzheimer's, a good one that my sister had found. I packed up her house, found my dead brother's decades-old massive blood pool in the closet and scrubbed it up for hours on my hands and knees, covered with rotten hamburger stench and my brother's gore all over me. I screamed as I did it. I raged. The next day, an enormous tornado ate a quarter of the town and pretty much all of the field behind the house. I cleaned up the mess, helped saw up the branches, hauled shit for days to the front yard for collection, and began to close up the house. I packed up the car, spent all the money from the sale of the furniture mailing shit out to NY so I wouldn't have to pay for a moving truck, which I couldn't afford anyway, got into Mom's dilapidated old van and drove away. The insurance woman told me it would be a better idea to transfer ownership and insurance of the van once I arrived in New York; cheaper that way. So when the van hit those rocks from the Pennsylvanian mountains and popped the back tire, and the van and half its contents, including my computer, were destroyed, I got no money because the car was still in Mom's name and Kat was executress of the estate. She made sure I got nothing from the insurance check. I got to New York and had to find not an apartment, like I'd hoped, but a tiny room that had to be walking distance from the restaurant I'd transferred to from the Midwest. When I arrived, I discovered that my old redneck boss, the one who made racist comments about the president, had not transferred, but fired me, thus destroying all my insurance. So when I crashed, if I'd gone to the hospital, I would have been uninsured and not even known it.
Awful, awful, awful, but worth it.
So why? Why was all that shit in a shit blender storm worth it? Hindsight is the only thing that can de-tangle that fucked up mess.
Leland is alive and prospering. I gave him time to become a decent person. It's up to him to do it. Personally, when he was in rehab, I discovered an inner strength I had no idea I possessed. The delivery of the graduation invitations was so over-the-top cruel, it literally snapped me out of my depression.
Going back to the house of my childhood made me see things clearly. Painfully, sure, but clearly, and it freed me from the guilt I'd have felt otherwise with the publication of FREAK. My daughter got out and is very happy where she is in Wisconsin. She loves it and would never have known such a life if she'd been even content in Briggsville. But the misery forced her to get out and find a better life. So she did. I did too.
The friend who owned the cabin wasn't a friend at all. Neither was the best friend. I was just so used to terrible people that obnoxious selfish people seemed like a walk in the park and I was content to have them all around me. But Fate wasn't. I was having poisonous people cut out of my life. There aren't any more. You and I both know how we are prone to collect them. This is a first for me and it's incredible how much a person can bloom when they're not being told what a sack of shit they are by a loved one, even in jest.
If I hadn't cleaned out Mom's house, I never would have found Ian's blood. I never would have cleaned it up and prayed over it as I poured the slop out of a bucket behind the barbecue pit in the backyard. Anybody else would have probably not even realized what they were scrubbing up or worse, they'd have simply ripped up the tile and tossed the whole mess into a landfill somewhere. I helped him find rest.
If I hadn't had the car wreck, if I'd had the money I'd laboriously saved (which all went to the wreck and its costs), I never would have found my beloved roommate, who's like the sister I always wished I'd had. I might have gotten a job somewhere else and never met the people I was obviously supposed to meet at this restaurant, the ones who are helping me even now with the book, the ones who are so kind and supportive and truly care about me and not what they can get from me. And as for not having a car, all the walking to and from work has helped me shed sixty-five pounds and I'm in better shape than I've been in years.
I think you're right about the welfare of your family being all important. I think Fate has a hold of you all and is not going to allow anything really awful to happen. What you've lost is just stuff. I think you were stubbornly holding onto a life that was just a repeat of what you've always known and Fate is now stepping in to save you from yourself. You're not losing the final remnants of your old life: you're shedding them, like a too tight and dirty old snake skin. Now you'll be able to grow. Your one-year-old won't give a shit where he lives or what you can buy him for at least ten years as long as his parents love him. And that, my beloved, beloved friend, is a guarantee. Yo will always love him. You will never allow your past to be your son's future. This is a rebirth for you all. I had nothing. Nothing. Now I have everything. As to my poverty, so what? I know how to be poor and I'm working my ass off to change my own future, to escape the past, to wrestle it and make it work for me instead of against me. You hang in there, my love, my dearest friend. You hang in there and you keep going forward. There's light on the horizon so keep moving. I love you very, very, very much. I always will, no matter what. Be well. Be strong. Endure, shed and grow.