I lean against my partner’s shoulder as we stand close– partly because we’re in love, partly because there’s only a small patch of floor safe for standing. His arm is warm around my ribs, his quick squeeze makes me flush. Boxes and chaos: the price of our decision to live together. “Moving sucks,” is the common thread of public sympathy. Seems a laughable understatement at this point.
“They’re lovely,” he says. Our floor-to-ceiling IKEA shelves are all snapped into place. “Not the hand-made hardwood boxes we’d hoped for, but this’ll do.” I nod my acceptance.
“The boxes would have been gorgeous, but we don’t have time for the project. Or room. Or tools. We’d need a lot of tools.”
“Well, I know at least 5 men at church with all the tools we’d need. … if we were still welcome at church.” Sometimes groups of people don’t know how to be present with hard changes. Losing community sucks.
I snuggle in a little. “Historically I’ve had access to Dad’s shop. And lumber. And tools. I feel really… Isolated. I miss my resources. I miss my dad. This was what he’s good at. This was a safe space. I keep wanting to call him and say ‘Hey! I’m building shelves!’ and let him talk at me, pretend to be close. Too bad he’s halfway across the country. Oh yeah, and he doesn’t acknowledge me anymore.”
Having a shitty father sucks.
“We’re taking him to the ER.” Latest in a weekend-long series of texts Saturn and I have exchanged. I’m so glad she’s there; a dozen states away all I can do is stay informed and tell everyone I love them.
A missed call from Pewter. Heart racing, I hit call-back. He’s crying. “I don’t want to die. I don’t. I’ve worked too fucking hard to make it to today to check out now. I don’t want to die. I love you guys more than anything and I can’t do that to you. I just don’t know how to keep going. I don’t know how to survive this. I wish to God Dad had had the balls to get help. But I’m stronger than him. I’m doing it, and I’m going to get better. I love you.” I love him too. More than life. And I couldn’t protect him. No one could. I sit and stare at the closet. I want things for Pewter. Good things. Healthy and beautiful things. Like a whole new childhood. For tonight I’ll settle for basic physical safety.
Saturn calls me back– our brother has a bed in the psych unit. I wish I felt relieved. The System isn’t known for offering much to those I love. But he’s alive. A step.
Saturn and I spent a decade working together on the fringes of the mental health system. I had to tap out, but she’s still there. She has the connections Pewter needs. She’s his best ally. “I’m looking for a DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) trained therapist in the area. DBT is so much about being able to still yourself, be present, gain perspective and respond intentionally. To trust your own voice. Pewter knows what he needs, he just doesn’t know how. He needs–”
Tools for surviving Dad.
Moving projects seem infinite.
“Would it be safe to assume you don’t have a metal file somewhere?” T asks, waving his hand across the box-covered desk.
“I have a collection of metal files. What size do you need?” T looks at me with amazement.
“It wasn’t a safe assumption. I’m sorry. You are awesome!” I shrug away my partner’s adoration.
“Dad gave them to me for jewelry.”
T’s silence draws my questioning glance: he’s waiting for my eyes and doesn’t let them go as he responds:
“Your dad gave a good gift– to an awesome person.”
Slowly T’s words are informing my inner voice, a gentle voice, the one I must learn to trust.