Typical. I forgot to get my Jeep inspected last month and my plates expire in September. Last week, a cop pulled me over and was nice enough to just give me a warning instead of a ticket. That doesn't happen often, so I chalked it up to good luck or a good hair day. I couldn't say it was the cleavage that got me out of it. Unless that female cop is in to that sort of thing. Hey, who knows? Whatever the reason, she was nice and just gave me a warning.
So I took my Jeep to the mechanic on Tuesday to have the inspection done along with a couple of other things. I decided I would walk back and forth between there and my office which is almost 2 miles each way. It was a great day so the weather was cooperating with my plan. I picked up the Jeep around 4:00, so I still had time to run by the DMV to get the new stickers for my plates. Joy. The DMV. Everyone's favorite place, right? I mean where else could you spend countless minutes winding through ropes, listening to everyone's phone conversations or watching parents deal with unruly, impatient children who clearly do not understand the process at the DMV. Poor kids. I'd have to say I might act a little unruly too if I had to sit around in this place for too long. When I have to go to the DMV, I try to make it as quick as possible. Don't think too much. Just get in, get out.
You see, the DMV is one of the last places my first husband (Dale) went on the day he took his life.
Dale had left work early that day which was nothing unusual. I'm sure he had plans to do something around the house. His driver's license was about ready to expire as his birthday was just 5 days away, so I guess he decided he was going to take care of that before he came home. I didn't know any of this until after the fact. My dad and a now-former brother-in-law had been the unfortunate ones to volunteer to clean out Dale's car which was where he had decided to end his life. They threw a lot of stuff away because they didn't want to upset me. But one of the things in the bag of his stuff was a brand new driver's license. I can't tell you how hard I have studied that picture. It was the last one taken of him. Could I see any signs? Did his eyes give away his depression? His anxiety? As hard as I search, I can't find anything that answers any questions.
Every time I go there, I wonder if I am walking on the same ground he walked? I took our son there to have his picture taken for his learner's permit. I had to wonder if we sat in the same seat as Dale did that day as we waited for his number to be called. I put those two pictures side by side sometimes. Father and son. Our son resembles him a great deal. Except that my son has that joyful look on his face that all teenagers who just got their learner's permit have. Dale had a weary look. He never liked his picture taken anyway, and I can see that irritation in the curve of his mouth.
I think what bothers me the most about him stopping there that day and renewing his driver's license is that it tells me one thing: he wasn't planning on killing himself at that moment. I mean, if you were planning on leaving the world, you wouldn't care whether or not your driver's license was expired, would you? But he renewed it. Why?
He sent me a text around lunch time and asked “Are we okay?” Irritated because I was at my wits end with him asking if we were okay, I finally said, “I don’t know.” I basically told him that his anxieties and jealousies were driving me nuts and that he needed to stop. (Me being on Facebook and renewing old friendships with people he didn't know were causing him a great deal of stress.) I told him I wasn’t leaving him and wasn’t asking him to leave. I didn’t know until after everything was over that at that point, he had already stopped to get gas in his car and bought a 12-pack of beer and was sitting in his car in our shop at home, drinking away. He hadn’t really drank at all in the few years prior to this, so it wouldn’t have taken much to get buzzed or drunk even. He told me that he was a man without hope; that without me, he had no life; that he had built his whole life around me. I told him he had a family who loved him very much, he had a lot to be hopeful for, that I wasn't seeing anyone else, that I wasn’t leaving but was not really happy, either. I agreed to talk to our pastor with him. It didn’t matter how much I told him that there was not “someone else.” He would, in one text, apologize for being accusatory but then in another, would keep accusing. He had told me the day before that he didn’t want to be like this. He didn’t want me to think that he didn’t trust me. But his insecurities just didn’t let go. I tried to reassure him that day and told him we would talk when I got home. He sent me this text: “Good0bye boo. i love you.” I sent a text back. I can’t now remember exactly what I said (and sometimes I wish I hadn’t erased all of the texts). No response. Not wanting to jump to any conclusions and being at work, I just assumed he was upset with me and that he was going to go to a friend’s house or his sister’s house or somewhere just to get away for a little while. Other thoughts had crossed my mind because I’m a worry wart that way and my imagination runs wild, but I held it in check as best I could. He wouldn’t do that. No way. He wouldn’t leave us. About 3:45, I got a call from school to tell me that Peanut Butter was still there and hadn’t been picked up. I tried to call Dale several times. No answer. I left work to go get her and was completely and royally pissed off at this point. I couldn’t believe he had left our little girl at school. She was only in the 1st grade! She had already been feeding on his fears that I would not come home one day, so I could just imagine how freaked out she probably was. Still, I was trying not to totally freak out myself. I picked up the kids (except for Peanut who was at an after-school practice) then went home. Dale’s car was in the shop when I pulled in the driveway. Fear gripped at my throat but my mind still didn't want to go there. I told the kids to go inside. I walked up a little incline in the driveway to go toward the shop. I could see that he was sitting in the driver’s seat, with the driver door open. His left leg was slightly leaned out of the car. I noticed he was tilted over a little bit toward his right, like he had fallen asleep. I saw his face. Looked like he was asleep. I took a step closer and immediately knew what he had done. I turned away so I wouldn’t see any more that I may not ever get out of my head. He was gone.
How does this happen? How does a person go from renewing their driver's license, an everyday, normal activity, to deciding to take their life? Well. I'm here to tell you that I don't know. I really just don't know how it happens. I've beaten myself up over and over again for things I said or did or didn't say or didn't do. I've ran the scene through my head like a movie repeatedly. All I can say is that I can't understand it because I am not (and hopefully will never be) in that same frame of mind. I did not grapple with the same mental instability. I did not have the same fears he had or the same feelings of desperation. I have to be able to step outside of what he did and understand that he was not in his right mind. People who are not suffering from depression or anxiety attacks can't understand how the mind works when it is plagued by those things. I cannot come to grips with "why" because my healthy mind can't wrap itself around it. So here I am again ... at that place I know so well at the corner of Acceptance and Perseverance. I have accepted that which I cannot change, and I will persevere.
Even at the DMV.