Feeling Suicidal? I Can Relate … Because of My Family (There’s No Home for You Here)

A scene from the movie “Rudy.”

In January, 21-year-old Washington State University quarterback Tyler Hilinski killed himself. Although he left a note, suicide investigators began interviewing people he knew to figure out why a young, successful football player who’d been carried off the field “Rudy”-style after helping his team beat Boise State in triple overtime last September would end his life and a promising career. Journalists have blamed mental illness, sunny weather, and even tree pollen for the fact that 123 Americans kill themselves each day, but for me, a clue to Hilinski’s death lay in his parents’ press release. According to USA Today, it said he “was the kid that put a smile on everybody’s face when they were down, especially his family.” As someone who nearly killed herself at age 27, I couldn’t help but wonder how many people had returned the favor. Then again, my family may as well have chipped in for the sleeping pills I bought Christmas morning of 2002.

There’s No Home for You Here

white broncoJuly 26, 1999, eight days after my 24th birthday and two weeks after the player I’d been dating moved to Japan for work for three months, my father got drunk at the bar across from Ford and beat my mom so badly that she buckled my diabetic, epileptic, and mentally disabled 20-year-old brother into the white Bronco my father had bought her during the O.J. Simpson trial the next morning and drove to her on-again-off-again divorce lawyer’s office, where she waited for his receptionist to arrive and unlock the door.

my father
My father and his archery trophies.

Seeing how shaken and bruised she was, her lawyer called the police, who came to his office, interviewed her, noted the blood on her shirt, the slap print on her face, the bruises on her wrists, and the fingernail indentations that remained in her right wrist six hours after the assault, and, despite her pleas not to, issued a warrant for my father’s arrest.

Not having anywhere else to go, she returned home and told my father what happened, hoping the warrant would scare him into calming down. Instead, he went to the police station to tell his side of the story, which no doubt included the fact he’d recently learned my mom had slept with not one but two of his best friends during their marriage.

Due to domestic violence laws that had been passed during the O.J. trial, an abuser’s version of events no longer matters once officers see signs of abuse, so he went to jail for the weekend, giving my mom 48 hours — minus the time she spent answering collect calls commanding her to bail him out Monday morning — to pack everything she and my brother owned, move it into a storage unit with help from me and the coworker who’d given me $1,000 in March so I could move on from my own unhealthy relationship, and hug me goodbye before they fled to a domestic violence shelter for a month.

my aunt mom father and uncle at my parents wedding
My aunt, mom, father, and uncle at my parents’ wedding in 1973.

While she was in hiding and unable to contact anyone, I called the aunt who’d babysat me at age 4 as my brother lay in a coma for a week and turned me into an anorexic at age 13 by telling my mom that she was “skin and bone” before glancing at me and saying, “You’re thin, too, but you’ll never be as thin as your mother.” I’d never liked her, her gold-rimmed glasses, her slippery polyester slacks and blouses, her brown curls that remained the shape of her hot rollers after she removed them, or the snootiness that something about her nose and thin lips always conveyed, but she’d ended every phone conversation with my mom by saying, “If you ever need anything…,” so I asked if my mom and brother could stay with her and my uncle for a while when they left the shelter in late August.

She said no.

“We don’t want any trouble back here,” she said, meaning somewhere near Pittsburgh — four hours away from my father, where my mom and brother would’ve been safe. “Your uncle and I are too old for that baloney.”

no home for you here lyricsDumbfounded that the woman my mom had always spoken so highly of and the only relative my mom had consistently kept in touch with since she moved to Ohio in the ’70s would be so selfish when my mom and brother were on the verge of homelessness, I said, “Okay, thanks,” pushed End Call, and bit my tongue anytime my mom said, “Aunt Mary said to say ‘hi,'” from that day forward. She had enough to deal with; I didn’t want her to know that her aunt had turned her back on her the way her mother had while her stepfather — i.e., her aunt’s brother — peeped beneath the bathroom door as she bathed.

Years later, as my mom’s body began decomposing underground, my aunt’s daughter found me on Facebook and said my aunt had developed Alzheimer’s. All I could think was: how convenient.

6 thoughts on “Feeling Suicidal? I Can Relate … Because of My Family (There’s No Home for You Here)

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