He always wanted to say things but no one understood.
He always wanted to explain things but no one cared.
So he drew.
Sometimes he would just draw and it wasn’t anything.
He wanted to carve it in stone or write it in the sky.
He would lie out on the grass and look up at the sky and it
would be only him and the sky, and the things that needed saying.
And it was after that, that he drew the picture.
It was a beautiful picture.
He kept it under the pillow and would let no one see it.
He would look at it every night and think about it.
And when it was dark, and his eyes were closed, he could still see it.
It was all of him and he loved it.
When he started school he brought it with him.
Not to show anyone, but just to have like a friend.
It was funny about school.
He sat in a square brown desk, like all the other square
brown desks, and he thought it should be red.
And his room was a square brown room like all the other rooms.
It was tight and close, and stiff.
He hated to hold the pencil, and the chalk, with his arm stiff
and his feet flat on the floor, stiff with a teacher watching
And then he had to write a numbers.
And they weren’t anything.
They were worse than the letters which could be something
if you put them together.
The numbers were tight and square and he hated the whole thing.
The teacher came and spoke to him.
She told him to wear a tie like all the other boys.
He said he didn’t like them and she said it didn’t matter.
After that they drew.
He drew all yellow and it was the way he felt about morning.
And it was beautiful.
The teacher came and smiled at him.
“What’s this?” she said.
“Why don’t you draw something like Ken’s drawing?
Isn’t that beautiful?”
It was all questions.
After that his mother bought him a tie and he always drew
aeroplanes and rocket ships like everyone else.
And he threw the old picture away.
And when he lay out alone looking at the sky it was big and blue.
And all of everything, but he wasn’t any more.
He was square inside and brown, and his hands were stiff,
and he was like anyone else.
And the thing inside him that needed saying didn’t need saying anymore.
It has stopped pushing.
It was crushed, stiff.
Like everything else.
* This poem was turned in to a teacher in Regina, Saskatchewan, by a senior in high school. Although it is not known if he actually wrote it himself, it is known that he committed suicide a few weeks later.
This is PART 2 of “My Life Story* which I started writing a few days ago. Part 1 is about my mother’s death when I was nine and what happened afterwards. I hadn’t planned on writing anything but a few days before, I had felt the seasons change-from Summer to Fall- and I remembered the Fall of 1954 when I was 7 years old, when my life changed suddenly and dramatically. And I thought about the many challenges – ‘windstorms’ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross would call them– and how they have brought me to where I am today. I write for myself but maybe some of this may be helpful to someone else.
When I was starting to write, I brought in several boxes from my storage shed… boxes of old photos, newspaper articles, cards etc. …because I like to include photos in the stories I write. In one box I found several drawings my brother had made when he was little and an envelope full of letters he had written the year he was in military school.
My brother Flip killed himself when he was 16. As I read some of his letters-they were written to my dad and stepmother- and looked at his drawings, I felt tremendous sadness.. and ANGER. So Sad for Flip and SO Angry at the adults who didn’t bother to help him though they had all the resources and the money and so much warning. Too busy they were with their social life and their image.
And I thought about Flip,
the little boy so full of joy and I thought about his death …. and how it didn’t have to happen..
As I’ve been writing ‘My Life Story’, I’ve had a lot of insights: I’ve realized where the ever present feeling of fear and dread that lives within me, comes from and why my first thought when I wake up every morning is “I wonder who died last night.”
I’ve realized too that for many of the early years of my life, I lived in a kind of isolation, a kind of emotional vacuum so I couldn’t feel the pain and the trauma. When I look back at those years, it’s as if I was alone and except for the summers in Michigan, I don’t remember much about the people around me.
And so I don’t know what Flip felt or exactly how all the losses affected him but I wanted to write something for him…..I just have a few memories that I can put into words and his drawings and letters which tell his story,.. and also a very powerful video clip about suicide from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross which I call ‘I Love You If’
Maybe this little story will bring some awareness that these things do not have to happen..
He was 3 years younger than me–.We were a small family..just my mom and dad and Flip and me.
We lived in the village of Hinsdale, Illinois, a commuter town for Chicago. My dad and my grandpa took the train into Chicago every morning and almost every evening, we went to the station to meet them.
My mother was very close to her parents so our grandparents were a big part of our lives. We lived within walking distance of their house which for young children, was a wonderful magical house with gardens of lilacs and peonies, strawberries, fruit trees and all kinds of flowers…..and inside mantles and staircases of intricately carved wood and cozy fireplaces in many of the rooms.
My grandparents celebrated every season…I remember white candles in every window at Christmas, the smell of burning leaves in the Fall, flowers of every color in my grandpa’s garden in the Spring and Summers in Michigan where Lake Michigan was our front yard…..
It was a good life that we had but when I was 7 and Flip was 4, my dad took a job in Dallas, Texas and everything changed.. forever.
I’ve already written about this from my point of view…
I don’t know how Flip was affected but I do know he was very close to our mother, much closer than I was and close also to Wrighty, the woman who came to take care of us before and after our mother’s death and in some ways took her place.
My dad was much harder on Flip than he was on me…far more critical…greater expectations impossible to fulfill.
Without some help. and love and support–and there wasn’t much of that [or what there was, was taken away], it’s impossible for a young child to survive so much loss….
There are just 2 memories that I have from those early years:
The first was soon after our mother died when Flip was probably 6 years old and I was 9. My dad took care of us on Sundays only and we were in his car, not any special kind of car, just a station wagon and he had just bought us milkshakes. Flip put his milkshake on the dashboard for a minute and it spilled and my dad went into a rage….then there was silence.. I remember a feeling of shattering, shattering what was already so fragile. I remember it still.
My other memory: Every summer we spent with our grandparents at their summer cottage on Lake Michigan. We sometimes swam in the lake but it was very cold and so we learned to swim in something called ‘The Lagoon’. The Lagoon was not very deep and there was a lot of seaweed and mud on the bottom but it was much warmer than the lake. I had already learned to swim but Flip was very fearful of the water and so he hadn’t learned. But one summer when my dad was visiting and Flip was probably 8, my dad decided it was time. And so he forced Flip to jump into the water and swim to the other side Flip did as he was ordered- he was cold and white and shaking badly when he pulled himself out…there were other kids around, kids who could swim. I could feel his terror and humiliation. And after that he didn’t spend the summers in Michigan. More shattering of what was already shattered…
He did not do well in school…my mother had tutored high school kids in the past and she worked with him but after she got sick, I think school was a very difficult and lonely place for him…. and good grades meant everything to my dad.
After my dad remarried, when Flip was 12, he started reacting to everything that had happened and he started running away. I remember the police calling when they found him.
A child psychiatrist advised my dad that Flip needed some therapy, needed help..badly
My dad however, having been in the Navy during the 2nd world war
sent Flip to military school in Florida.I remember when Dad asked about counseling for Flip, the school administrator told him that they didn’t believe in therapy. What they believed in he said, was “turning boys into men.” Those were his exact words.
Flip wrote quite a few letters to my dad and my stepmother the year he was in military school…It’s very hard for me to read those letters even now so many years later.
Sometimes he was asking for things he needed sent. Sometimes he was writing about his grades. Mostly I think he was just hoping someone would write him back. I doubt if they did though..they were never very good at that and I don’t think they ever visited him while he was there. Money was never an issue..they just didn’t bother…parties and golf games..those were the priorities..always
Of all the letters he wrote, this was the saddest:
“Dear Mom and Dad,
Thank you for the stamps.
Today we had our Mother’s Day Parade. It was the longest one we have had all year. A few kids fainted and goofed up but it must have looked good to the mothers because they clapped for a long time.”
He only lasted a year at military school….when he came home, he was sent to The Devereaux School in Victoria, Texas, a boarding school for children with emotional problems. Flip did not come home for a long time after that and when he finally did, my dad just could not/would not let him alone. He focused on 2 things: his hair was too long and he was smoking…. cigarettes.
Flip was home for about a week and when he left-one of his friends drove him back to school- he took one of my dad’s guns with him and he shot himself through the heart in the school gym. He was 16 years old.
There were 2 funerals for him-one in Houston and one in Hinsdale, Illinois where his life had begun. My parents bought him a new suit to wear in his casket-he never wore suits but even in death, to their way of thinking, it’s important to portray the right image.
He is buried next to our mother and our grandparents in a cemetery in Oakbrook, Illinois.
James Philip David Jr. ‘FLIP’ May 12 1950- August 1966
I did not expect to feel such terrible sadness and anger when I was writing this. Many things in my life, I have had to put in the past in order to survive and move on. I am glad though that I went ahead with writing this -really I had to. I hope it may be helpful to someone else and be a reminder too, that things like this do not have to happen. CP
Below is a short video clip of Dr Elisabeth Kubler-Ross talking to high school kids about suicide. Please take the time to watch it..it pretty much sums up everything I’ve been trying to say and you will not forget her message…
Also a relevant clip from The Dead Poet Society
*If you have found this blog helpful in some way, please make a contribution. This blog is my particular way of contributing: by hopefully passing on the wisdom of the many teachers I spent time with and learned from: Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, addictions counselor, John Bradshaw, near death survivor Dannion Brinkley and Anishnabe Elder, Dave Courchene as well as many hospice patients and Elders that were part of my life.
A few years ago I experienced a huge betrayal which changed my work and my life. I learned that ‘your best friend can be your worst enemy’ and I lost a lot: my job, my salary and I could no longer do the work I had planned to do. Looking for a way to continue, I started this blog. Part of my story is here and this is also where you can make a contribution https://www.gofundme.com/poohsrainbow
As we are all in some way connected in this life, I sincerely thank you for your help.
Cindy Pickard firstname.lastname@example.org
PART 3 OF ‘My Life Story’ will be continued in the next post but I don’t what I’m calling it yet.