Earlier, I wrote about when our puppies got off the screened-in porch and ate glass. Around that same time my father made of, apparently, several suicide attempts. I was 4 or 5. My mother had taken my little sister to our sitter’s house.
I was in the kitchen washing dishes. One of my favorite activities. I would stand on my bright yellow stool/highchair and carefully wipe off the plastic dishes purchased just so I could follow this passion safely.
I remember hearing my father’s voice. It sounded thready. He was calling my name, but I didn’t want to answer. I called out that mom had gone out. The next call was more insistent. I climbed off my chair and dragged myself to the bathroom door.
I felt frightened. Not that I could understand why. I stood outside the door, repeating that mom was not home. In that same strange voice, he ordered me to come in.
When I opened the door, I could see him in the tub. There was white spittle on his face and red streaks of blood in the water. When he reached out for me, I could see the cut on his wrist and the blood.
He told me he had to get out of the bathtub, and that I had to help him. I needed to grab his arm and pull. Somehow, with much splashing and struggle, he ended up on the bathroom floor.
He was breathing in shallow, wispy breaths. He convinced me to sit on his chest. Per his instructions, I jumped up and down, forcing (I suppose) more air into his lungs. Eventually, my mother must have come home and called an ambulance.
I understood enough to understand that he could have died.
He was my savior. The parent I was so bonded to. If he could kill himself, what could he do to me? Why was he willing to leave me?
This, on top of the puppies, left me sure there was some deep flaw in me. I decided I shouldn’t be. I had learned that running away (that dying) was an acceptable way to deal with a problem.
It also left me deeply afraid of something happening to my father. I felt an obligation to take care of him. Already, roles were getting confused. It made me need him more; fear him more.