“WHAT?” It was in stereo, Dad and I. I was so confused I was seeing gray. My skin seethed pricks and tingles.
“What,” I whispered again, still not able to fully grasp what Mom had said. It had to be a mistake. She had a headache. It could happen. I looked to Mom for the answers.
She was lost in Dad's embrace; a mass of sobs and hugs.
Then in a flash I thought, where is Molly? I leaned back up the stairs to see if I could hear her up in her room. No noise. Either she was already sound asleep, or listening intently. The little bit of a song... should I stay or should I go... played in my head. I decided to stay and let Mom and Dad triage Molly later, if she was even awake.
The rumbling between Mom and Dad subsiding, Dad pushed Mom away to look at her face and asked, “What happened?”
I watched as Mom closed her eyes and licked her lips. Fortifying herself to say the words she must. And after a long sigh, in a low voice she started. “Mrs. O'Brien came home after shopping to find Carolyn not breathing on the floor of her bedroom. On the dresser was an Extra Strength Tyenol PM bottle. She called 911. They were able to revive her. ”
“They med-flighted her to Seattle. To Children's.” Mom collapsed down onto one of the kitchen stools and leaning against the table buried her face in her hands.”I should have seen this coming.”
“Margie,” Dad quickly chimed in. “No, you couldn't. Don't beat yourself up.”
Looking directly at Dad she replied, “Yes I should have Sam. Carolyn is clinically depressed. She's on medication. That's why Bobbie's family didn't want her living with them. They said it would be too much for them to handle. I thought it was under control. Poor Mrs. O'Brien.”
“Poor Carolyn.” It was me who said poor Carolyn. All this time I assumed Carolyn was off having fun, neglecting her mom when Mrs. Marché needed her daughter most. I never imagine Carolyn was suffering too.
“And having Bobbie's family, the Sutters?” asked Dad.
“Yes, that's their name...” interjected Mom.
“Refused to let Carolyn live with them to finish the year. What is it 8 weeks, maybe ten?”
Mom seemed to switch sides, “You can't blame the Sutters. They were just being honest. It was wonderful of them to let Carolyn spend as much time as she did over there. It's just too bad they were uncomfortable with the short term 24/7 responsibility. It was a lot to ask.”
“Mom,” I asked, “would she have done it, taken the pills, if she lived with the Sutters?”
Mom sighed and shook her head. “No one will ever know. Poor girl.”
Ushering us back to reality, Dad asked, “What now?”
“Call the hospital.”
At this point I dragged myself up to bed. Molly's room dark, her low rhythmic breathing was a pretty good indication she hadn't heard what was happening. Good thing; she wouldn't understand and would probably spend the night worrying instead of sleeping. Come to think of it, I didn't understand, and was resigned to my own night of sleeplessness when Charles glided through the attic door and into my room.
“Dear lamb, sleep eludes you?”
“Carolyn took a bunch of pills.” Tears chocked off my words. “They think she tried to kill herself.”
“Oh the poor child. To be so lost. Death is never the answer.”
“Can you see her? Can you help her?”
Charles shook his head the the light flecks that made up his image shifted, distorting his face so it looked like it was being smeared into the darkness. “No lamb. Then looking right at me he uttered, “Perhaps there is another?”
Did Charles mean me? What could I do? It must be Mom. She'll be going back, I know it. But then what?
The next morning, early before Molly came down for breakfast, a brief kitchen discussion on logistics ensued. It was settled. Mom would be leaving on the last afternoon flight to Seattle. She had a hotel room in the city to be close to Carolyn. The doctor thought it would be best for Carolyn to fore-go the rest of school, in order to complete a month of residential therapy before moving east. At home, here in Stockbridge, we would have one week of school, then April break, and then more school. With no breaks until Memorial Day.
“When is the installation?”
“Oh not until July or later,” Dad lied. I knew he was working on getting the piece finished for the park's summer open Memorial Day weekend.
Mom looked puzzled. “I thought it was sooner...”
“Nope, a wishy washy July... with no hard and fast deadline.” Lying again.
“So my leaving is of little impact on your work?”
Dad nodded and sipped his coffee. Then looking in my direction fired off a quick wink. Mom didn't seem to notice the underlying current. Lips flexing and puckering, eyes fixed on the trees out by the barn, she was thinking. Then turning to me, “Sarah, I'll be gone another month in all likelihood.” Sigh... “I know it's been tough. Will you be able to manage?”
I don't think Mom was really looking for an answer. Carolyn was her ward. Technically she was a part of our family. Mom's absence wasn't a vacation, wasn't fun. She would have done the same for Molly or me. I nodded, yeah we'll be fine.
She gave me a weak smile before the apparent weight of it all knocked her head and shoulders forward about six inches.
Then the hard part, telling Molly. Signaled by her half asleep steps coming down the stairs. When faced with adversity, whether at work, or at home, Dad picks himself up, puts his head down and keeps moving forward. Me, I was learning. Molly was still the baby. She still preferred Mom tucking her and Piggy in at night. Dad and I no matter how we tried, could not compete. Her steps hitting the landing, Dad looked to Mom. Mom looked to Dad and I looked to both of them. This would not be pretty.