Tag Archives: suicide

The Numbers.

“Forty six, forty seven, forty eight, forty nine, fifty…”

The FitBit wasn’t worth its price tag of $350. I could count. Out loud. Extra maxillofacial muscle exercise never hurt a girl, anyway; Lord knows, our ability to use our voices had always been our truest arrow. Best to keep that one sharp.

On the way home after the walk, behind the wheel of my 10 year old Pontiac, I heard Fareed Zakaria using his to expose two far more alarming numbers.

The first came from an author named Jonathan Haidt, whom he was interviewing. Did we know that the suicide rate among American girls was up 70 per cent since 2011?

Instantly, innumerable faces came into my frame. Sixth, seventh, eighth grade teens, at the school where I’d spent the final 12 of my 25 years in public education. The ones whose eyes were half shut, bodies immobilized by heroin, sitting like mannequins in the middle of music class.

Fareed had already moved on. Did we know that 90 per cent of all Venezuelans lived in poverty?

No. I was sure that we did not.

There was much that we Americans did not know. We persisted, however, in crowing on about what we thought we did. The less about which we were sure, the more plentiful our public pronouncements.

In fact, the media was rife with these. We’d managed to elect many, with skills well honed in the craft of selling the official statistics on any number of issues over which our vote should apparently have some control. And, they were eager to tell us all about it.

I was almost home. The idea for this piece already taking shape, I knew I’d probably gather the 26 pairs of drip dried underwear into their drawers and then set my seat down in front of the screen to write it.

Rain was pretty much scheduled for the rest of this Sunday. Would I be counting any more steps, or just fretting over the absence of sun drying options for the remaining laundry? The dryer could be repaired for about $230; a new one, installed, for about $520 with tax.

These numbers were disparate enough. They created distance, between me and those who wanted my money. Venezuela could use some American charity. American girls needed more than funding to reduce the number of their diminishing lives.

Counting the cost was up to me.

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© 9/9/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo   All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Please respect original material. Thank you.

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The Treasured Place.

It seems that the oldest about to die, in their moment of lucidity, request – demand, if strong enough – to return to their most treasured place. The place of relief from oppression, the place of personal balance…..a field of blueberries, a pond by an oak…….for Mammy, it was to “g’out ‘n the porch.”

No concrete platform, balconette, steel-guarded veranda, or womanized deck in her day, but a true “place”. Hand-hooked rag rug runners layered a white-washed clapboard floor, in blues and greens and whites, held down by carpet tacks and deeply cushioned wickers painted royal blue, the blonde rocker facing out, the chaise-lounge to the left of the center door, cushioned with large, Victorian roses and, on her side, the steady squeak-creak, squeak-creak of the pillow-upholstered, quilt-draped, metal-framed couch swing with its odd, mechanical rhythm as she bore up and settled in the left end of it, peeking out over the gnarled tangle of potted, knotted, blossoming begonias and geraniums shoulder to shoulder across the sill. And, all shaded and fortified, on all sides, with deep royal blue canvas awnings that whipped and billowed in the wind, wafting the spicing, sour scent of twin whisker trees reaching up and out from their trunks on either side of the ascending path between the rock gardens below, a canopy for all those walking up the steps to reach her porch as Mammy watched, expectantly, always grinning with joy at the sight of anyone. A sure place to inspire, to expire……a beautiful place to die.

Bonnie was a beautiful, country girl. Her features shaped her face naturally, the nose slightly broad, her smile wide and immediate, the giggle tight in coiled anticipation, her eyes sparkling with suspended tears. She was flawlessly presented, her grooming a facade, the working woman’s costume, a professional’s care to hair-weave and correct placement but, above the dress, always the radiant countenance of a perfect innocent.

Mammy’s bosom was large and full, her body round. Nestling up against her provoked little childlike reflections, part resolute, part wonder and awe, the giving over of self to the greater God. She reached the end of her days when a 72 year old ectopic pregnancy’s adhesions reared their encroaching head, halting her body’s processes.  She was 98; rather than allow her last hours to be increasingly painful, the surgeon performed the necessary, delicate and successful procedure, and then we waited. As expected, the anesthetic was an assault, her O-levels were stubbornly resistant and, slowly, her magnificent, tender mind succumbed to insufficient breath. She passed away in a blissful, oblivious dream-state, watching a cat on the roof outside that wasn’t there, after my mother made the agonizing decision to pull the plug on her respirator but not before she spoke, repeatedly, of “going out on the porch”. How I wish I’d had the presence of mind to have them try to bring Mammy home. The porch would have waited for her.

Bonnie should have, at the very least, been brought to Mammy’s front porch, just once in her life. Had she sat there even one time with my precious grandmother, squeak-creaking back and forth on the metal swing, breathing deeply of the sill-flowers and the whisker tree, feeling the slight breeze pass between the awnings and listening to Mammy’s sweet old stories of the good old days, I doubt whether she would have made the irrevocable choice to leave this earth at the might of a steel locomotive just after 4pm in the October of that fateful year. How many times we revolved around the thought that it was the glare of the autumn sun at that hour, masking the oncoming train, hoping for the miraculous assurance that she never knew it was coming.

But, sooner or later, we all know it’s coming.

There’s something about saying goodbye to your second parent, the last one to go. When you know the orphan’s heart, you begin to live differently. Your fear of the unknown hereafter is succoured when the resignation settles in, because your parents are already there. But, I do think that we should all choose our point of departure, our place, live within and as close to that spot as we can get, and then pray that we are granted the nearness to it when that day comes. And, just let nature take its course. Whether we get to be there in this plane, or the one in our imagination, we should take care not to let ourselves or anyone else pre-empt that moment. We would want to be as close to our treasured place as we can be, so God can recognize us in the crowd.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 2000-2014.

all rights reserved. Thank you so much.