As children of mothers with depression, we have to teach ourselves how to cry because there is danger in the sadness. It feels like giant cavern that could swallow me whole, a darkness that I might never escape. So I flitter around saying, I’m fine! I’m fine! and going to parties and talking and drinking the wine. But I am not fine. I am terrified of this sadness. I am terrified of the silence.
I have not learned to trust the silence. So every time I cry it feels like I am touching the hot stove, dropping into the underworld, but I always come back up. Why don’t we learn that lesson as kids? My mother came back up. I have watched her come back up over and over and over again. But I guess when you are twelve, eight years might as well be eternity without oxygen.
I think about River leaving for a couple of weeks and I am gutted. Even though I see we are both tired. We are both needing a change. It’s hard for me to trust it. It’s hard for me to trust that the times we sang, “I’ve got the Redstone in me!” at the top of our lungs will carry us through. How can a Minecraft parody hold us? The dinners we’ve eaten out on the back deck while we listened to the tinkle of the fountain and talked about aircraft carriers. He is getting more patient with me constantly bringing singing and dancing into our Lego war games. He is learning I am simply not a serious soldier. I, like Kermit T. Frog, am more likely to break out of a Russian gulag by putting on a musical than climbing through the sewer or stealing a gun and fighting my way out.
I don’t blame my depressed mother for my fear. She was doing her best. I do feel recklessly devoted to letting my son see my full range of emotion, because it’s silence I must protect him from. I see it’s silence that puts the big questions in his mind. So I get mad when I have to tell him ten times to put his shoes on. And he cries as he asks, “Why are you rushing me?” And we both see the madness of the rush. We absorb it together for a minute. That minute is everything because it connects us instead of pushing us apart. And then his shoes are on and I am full of frustration, because I’ve told him to put his shoes on 7547 times in the past year, but also wonder—that I get another day with him, that I get to be the exhausted one telling him to put his shoes on over and over again.
I’ve known for a while that if something happened to Rio, my feisty, loving, little purse dog, the thing I would miss the most is the little “cha cha cha” of his tiny claws on the wood floor. The sound he makes moving around the house. I cannot abide the silence.
So tonight I will drop my son off at his dad’s and say goodbye for a few weeks. And I will come home to sit with the silence. The thing I most fear. It’s my work to do, that I’ve been doing these past five years. I am learning to transform the silence into quiet, which is much less menacing. Quiet is something I can live with. Quiet can hold the sadness.