Friday, September 14, 2007

Chris, Part III

As promised, this is the last chapter in Chris' tale and my part of it. It is also the hardest for me.

Roll forward 5 years to 1980. I am living in one of the Southern California beach communities. Single, somewhat carefree and enjoying my work. Life was very good and beyond mortgages, motorcycles, surfing and dating, very uncomplicated.

One Sunday I was returning from a great ride on the Ortega Hwy and decided to stop at the Baskin Robbins around the corner from where I lived. In line behind me was Chris. She had seen me walk in the store and followed me in (I am not hard to spot). I had not seen her since I graduated and the news I had of her was a bit sparse since of the 3 room mates, Liz was the only one that semi regularly communicated with Chris.

We chatted over a couple of scoops of ice cream and caught up. She had squeaked out with her degree in Communications and was working minimum wage jobs looking for something "in her line". She had been living with her boyfriend for about a year in the same community I did and had become completely estranged from her Mother. She seemed in good spirits and appeared to be moving forward. We swapped information and then I went on my way.

2 weeks later she called. She had a fight with BF. It got physical etc and she asked if she could stay with me that night. I agreed. 3 days later she had reconciled with her BF and was back with him. During that time I came to understand that Chris had not resolved any of her problems. She was still a "downer" to be around.

For me, this was a very good time in my life. I was enjoying work and play. The OH and I were becoming an item. I was happy.

Over the course of the next 6 months I continued to hear from Chris. I started blowing her off or avoiding her entirely. At various points I told her "I am not your Mother", "Just deal with it" and some other witty advice. I had helped fix her problems once before. I had no desire, interest or energy to share her problems again. There was silence for about a month. I was actually starting to worry, but did not want to call. Then her loser BF called.

Chris had killed herself.

The BF held me responsible. His position was that Chris had been looking to me for help and I had refused it. Liz and I attended the funeral. It was not much of one and I would be surprised if 20 people were in attendance. Notable in their absence was her Mother and her two youngest siblings that still lived with her.

I hope the reasons this has been difficult to write are becoming apparent. I do not accept the loser BF's condemnation, but I do have to look at my part in this. Am I to any degree responsible for Chris' death? If I had tried, could I have saved her from herself? How responsible am I or anyone for problems that wash up on our door steps? Is responsibility universal? Could I have made a difference?

Would she have been a boat anchor and dragged me down with her?

26 years laters these questions still haunt me and I am no closer to being able to answer them.

Thank you for your patience in reading this. It is a story I needed to tell for a long time.


Freewheel said...

Wow - what a story!

To me it's clear that you did help this girl quite a bit. I mean, you could have kicked her out as your roommate back in college, but instead you actually helped her get her degree!

It also strikes me that the loser BF has some nerve blaming you when he was hitting her! If anyone could be blamed for pushing her over the edge, it was the BF. Ultimately, though, Chris was responsible for herself, and what happened was yet another bad choice that she made.

sage said...

I just read the Chris stories--you did a lot to help her but some people just can't be helped. Her BF is a big jerk, to beat her and then try to blame others for her suicide. Losing a friend to suicide is difficult and you do a lot of second guessing (or at least I did and am doing after having a good friend commit sucide last November). I realize why this post was hard to write, hopefully writing it was helpful to you.

BTW, I had to chuckle at the way you described guys in college in the mid-70s--I was one of 'em!

Balloon Pirate said...

I'm so sorry you've had this weight in your life. It's time to put it down. You did nothing wrong. None of it was your fault.

None of it.

Thanks for sharing this with us. I hope it helps you heal this wound.

God bless.


Fantastagirl said...

Wow - I so did not see that coming...

To me - I think you went above and beyond, some people don't want to be saved, and no matter what you do, they will end up where they end up.

Sounds harsh, but for 2 years I stood by and watched my best friend in high school do everything to keep her "older boyfriend" happy.

He killed himself the day of our high school graduation because she said she wanted to walk across the stage, and he felt she needed to be with him,... I told her to go - because what was the worse that could happen? Kill himself?

He did, and the jerk left a note saying that had she loved him enough, she would have choosen him over some stupid high school graduation...

Yeah... she blamed me, and after the funeral she never talked to me again...It took me a long time to figure out that it wasn't my fault, it was all on him.

I saw her mom a while ago, and asked how Shell was doing - She is living with them. She has 4 kids by 4 different guys, hasn't been married to any of them and is pregnant with #5. I'd say she hasn't forgiven herself yet.

Ed Abbey said...

Thank you for sharing a very personal story.

Leesa said...

Yeah, I was shocked as well. Did not see it coming and I understand your questions. You, of course, were not the reason Chris killed herself. But it is hard to believe it. I feel for you, sweetie.

sue said...

Thank you for sharing this with us.

Your fault? No. Do not own this. If anyone should hold some responsibility it is the BF, but even having said that we can't truly know what was going through her mind when she made this decision... and having been in that place myself, trust me... there is no blame to be placed.

Alice said...

oh man. i think it's really easy to shoulder the blame in a situation like that, but i also think that people need to be willing to accept help (eg, actually make a change, not just use your couch for a night) in order for our efforts to make any difference.

Saur♥Kraut said...

YOU POOR THING!!! No, no, no! It's not your fault. Although it's human nature to take on the guilt, of course.

I've recently run into this myself. I have a f*ck-up friend who is always making horrific decisions and threatening to kill herself. She continually disregards any healthy advice, makes bad decisions knowing that they're bad, and then whines about the consequences. She reminds me VERY much of your friend.

I have tried to help, I have driven her to the doctor for anti-depressants (she stayed on them for only a month) and nothing has helped.

Finally, I decided to disconnect. My boyfriend has said "what if she kills herself? Won't you feel guilty?" I have done a lot of soul searching and the answer is NO. I have a life, and I refuse to be drained by a psychic vampire.

You have to draw the lines, you have to take care of yourself, and you have to allow people to make it or fail on their own.

Killing herself was a foolish decision that SHE made. You did what you could and, truthfully, didn't owe her ANY help. The help you gave her didn't make a difference. That wasn't YOUR fault, it was hers.

There's an old quaker saying that I adore: God helps those who help themselves. I try to remember it at all times.

Notsocranky Yankee said...

What a sad story. I hope it helped you to write about it.

If her BF had not blamed you, would you have ever considered it your fault? I don't think so. Because it wasn't. He put that idea into your head while trying to blame somebody else. She had a lot of problems that you could not "fix". I commend you for the help you gave her.

mal said...

To all- Thank you for your kind thoughts. I NEVER took jerk BF's comments to heart. I have more respect for cockroaches than him.

Any condemnation was of my own doing. It gets better with time and distance. Certainly writing about it for the first time has helped.

I think my guilt may be tied up with whatever genetic programming makes us humans.