Regret (a better term than guilt)

I figure God knocks on your mind, “Do something,” but one doesn’t necessarily get-it.

In one of his collections Malcolm Gladwell found, some people’s natural response is to attempt to establish normalcy–emergency landing of an airplane, one couple rushed and ran, conscious of others looking about, a form of shock, getting their bearings, taking time to semi-consciously establish whether they were okay, before fuel blew up.

In the month before Gemma’s death I was reading The Undoing Project, by Michael Lewis, about judgement and decision-making and, near the end, about how people naturally search for “if onlys” in the past that might have avoided subsequent disaster. The irony is not lost on me that she told me she was rereading parts of Anne Frank, while I probably told her all about regrets and if-onlys.

What happened to her is my fault. She said she was in various programs, a reassuring “fact.” She said, “This admission I don’t want any visitors,” an understandable strategy, sounded reasonable enough. Reasonableness can produce complacency. Kick up a stink, argue, and we’re on-it–action, grab the girl, get her in. But say all the right things and we are placated or polite in accepting that, as an adult she is doing the right things. Long ago I thought I learned, “You cannot argue with a crazy person.” Do not engage with crazy, A) it makes you crazy, B) it is fruitless and frustrating. Like Lewis says, words can make even the smartest psychologist ignore the odds–“What are the odds this is going to get worse?” and those odds did not change, just because there were reassurances.

I shrunk from arguing with ED, the eating disorder. She told me, “Don’t text, phone instead.” And I would answer her calls with, “Hi Gem!” in a tone that sounded deranged even to me, in its merriment. I recently hit Facetime by accident and cancelled, in order to just talk. Why would I even do that? Was it fear? Walked on egg-shells for large parts of 14 years, to avoid expressing disappointment and frustration, arguing with crazy.  I prefer texting (stubborn). Sam says this episode goes back a year and fortunately he was not in the habit of emptying his texting, so there are plenty of written reassurances in there (though they spoke on the phone pretty much every evening about thoughts and activities of the day).

Personally I let a thousand opportunities slip. I don’t think there were many at the funeral who failed to shake their head at themselves–I could have done something. But a mother–the mother–is really the one to know. And, what happened there?

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