Remembering Alana

 

I remember the night before Alana’s birth.  Two year old  Sarah snuggled in bed with me when a thought hit me so hard it was like someone narrating my life announced, “This is the last time there will only be two of you.”

It was a lie.

Four years ago I lay in bed planning the day. My house sitting vacation at Sarah’s complete, I braced myself for Monday at a job I hated.  On Sunday I’d attended a NAMI caregiver’s course and was eager to talk to Alana about it and what I’d learned.

If only the day had gone as planned.

Instead, on my commute to work, Alana’s boyfriend called me. I answered the call after almost blowing through a stop sign because of a thick, ground obscuring fog. I half listened as he rambled on that he and Alana had fought, but she couldn’t find her purse, and wouldn’t leave without it.  I neared the interstate ramp and pulled over and asked him what he wanted me to do. He told me to come over. He’d leave the door open for me.

Have you ever called 911 for someone you love? I mean real 911, like they’re not responsive and they’re not flexible, and they’re not warm, but you call 911 and start CPR because who knows…miracles happen.

Just not for me.

We prepare for the arrival of our children, but there is no what to expect when your child dies textbook to follow. There are no parenting discussion boards that cover cremation vs burial, church service or not, writing an obituary, and packing up a short life’s worth of belongs. The rituals of death are meant for the old and the sick, not for a vibrant 27 year old spending the weekend with her boyfriend.

When Alana was killed it killed a part of me that can’t be fixed. It took the spark of joy her smile summoned. The feel of her fingers pressed into my back when she hugged me tightly. A million text messages about things only we would find amusing. A belief that I could be happy.

I didn’t physically crawl into the casket with her the last time I saw her, but part of me might as well have. As much as I want to get over it and move on, no amount of therapy, medication, exercise, meditation, or positive thinking has helped. Instead I get up each day, put one foot in front of another, apply my happy mask and hope it doesn’t slip and expose the broken, sad person beneath.

And underneath all the pain, sadness, tears and despair, I can finally understand a small piece of Alana’s struggles with depression and marvel at the effort it took her each and every day to be the bright, smiling person she presented to the world.

If she were here I’d ask her forgiveness for the years I remained silent while family members discounted her mental illness as her being dramatic and bullied her about being unreliable and discounted her need for treatment. It wasn’t until late in her illness that I finally stepped up and became the mother she needed and deserved. I’d apologize for that, too.

Alana wanted me to write about living and loving children with mental illnesses. I wish I could honor her wish, but instead I’ll end with a Facebook post of Alana’s that illustrates why she would have been a great advocate for mental illness if only her life had not been cut short.

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I miss her today and everyday. Alana Concetta Carpenter 8/17/87 – 10/20/14

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There Are No Tears For You

This morning I buckled down to go through all of the court papers, emails and bullshit of the divorce settlement that has dragged on for two years as my ex sporadically hires an attorney to file motions when his obstruction and non participation don’t work. I long ago decided not to spare another tear for him, and I’ve remained stoic each time a roadblock has been placed in the way of selling our properties in New Hampshire or getting money the court has ordered him to pay. When I left, I had no job, a $500.00 bonus check from work, a cashed in investment and the belief that anything was better than remaining near him.

Eventually, I thought, we’d come to an agreement to split what we’d both worked hard for over the years and I would have the money to buy a house, fix it up, take my daughters on vacation, have some fun.

It hasn’t worked out that way.

And I am crying today, not because of the thousands in legal fees I’ve had to pay while he’s ignored the court and made excuse after excuse not to do the right thing. I’m not sobbing because he ignored my pleas when he wasn’t paying the mortgage on our NH home which jeopardized my ability to buy a home here. I’m not even weeping because he told me “no one died on his watch” and I am responsible for the death of my daughter.

I don’t cry for him.

I cry because the last weekend of my daughter’s life, when she needed me, I was too busy going through the last minute papers he’d filed with the court for an upcoming hearing. Instead of having a little patience and time for her, I was sucked into the giant fucking abyss of his trying to get out of splitting our marital property when I should have been with her.

That is why I break down and dissolve into tears. Every court notice, response, email, and summons is a reminder that I wasted the last few days of my daughter’s life worrying about this man who lives on spite.

Alana and I dreamed of the day the divorce would finally be over. She talked about finding me a man who loved and respected me and twirled me around a dance floor. We fantasized about the trip we’d take to Key West, the place we had the best vacation ever, and the things we would do. We’d straighten out her school loans and get her back to college. We’d live the life we deserved, away from the belittling and bullying we’d lived under in New Hampshire.

Our lives, already better in South Carolina, would only get better.

And now, every moment spent on fighting my ex is a reminder of all the things Alana and I never got to do because, as the Taylor Swift song Alana said reminded her of her father goes, “he’s just mean.”

So today, through the blurriness of my tears and the despair in my soul, I dive into the dirty business of my divorce and pray that this will be over soon.But make no mistake, I don’t cry for my ex or what he has done, I cry for my daughter.