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Near-death experience

1You’re ten years old and a sound sleeper, so it’s already unusual that something has woken you up in the middle of the night.  You go out into the hall to investigate.  There are strangers in the house and flashing lights out the window.  Your father tells you to go back to bed.

When you wake up the next morning, your mother has disappeared from your life.

It’s 1970, before school counselors or lettered conditions like PTSD.  Your father means well, but he’s not the communicative type, not one for expressing his feelings to others or eliciting others to share their feelings with him.  He’s from the Depression Era, and he barely saw his own father growing up during those desperate years.  He’s a veteran of the Second World War; difficulties are part of life.

He’s also dealing with his own trauma, as his wife lingers between life and death.

You get shipped off to stay with friends, or with your grandmother.  Very little is explained to you, and you understand even less.  Years later, there won’t be much that you remember, aside from the indelible images of that first night.

You won’t remember waking up the next morning to find your grandmother home with you instead of you parents.  You won’t remember when they took you to visit your mother one last time because no one thought she had much time left.  You won’t remember shouting at her for having abandoned you.  You won’t remember the outgoing, cheerful little boy you were before that cold, winter’s night.

You only remember how hard it was for you to talk to people from that moment forward.  You remember how easily you cried during the years that followed, and how much you hated yourself for crying so easily without understanding what made you that way.  You remember how you considered taking your own life, but always managed to convince yourself that you could do it tomorrow.

A decade passes before you really recover.  In some ways, you never recover at all.

Click here to read the whole essay.

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