When in Doubt Suck Your Thumb by Brad Myers

It was 1975 when I used to watch television lying on my stomach with my head perched on my hands. My elbows always got sore so I would shuffle or cross my arms and rest my chin on them…Then my chin would get sore. Eventually, I’d be lying on my side or sitting cross-legged until I could go back to my tummy. Sometimes I would be lucky to have a throw pillow thrown at me. But I do remember the smell of our 1970’s shag carpet and picking our dogs hair out my mouth at times. I can’t describe the smell but the main ingredient was cigarette smoke. But I loved lying on the floor in our living room watching television with my family seated behind me on couches and chairs. I had a secret too; I could suck my thumb without them knowing.

I never sucked my thumb outside of our home, only at night and I finally stopped sometime in the 5th grade. It was a security thing, comfort, I’m not real sure but I remember Dad asking me if it “tasted good.” What a tool. Although, he had vested interest in getting me to quit: the constant forward pressure I was putting on my upper teeth was going to cost him a fortune in orthodontics in just a few short years. When I stopped sucking my thumb I also stopped lying on the floor when we’d watch television. Maybe it wasn’t as comfortable as I remembered and just a way to hide my secret.

Fast-forward to September of 1995: I was feeling sad and wanted to be alone. We were in my parents’ neighbor’s house so I retreated to the living room, where I found myself wanting to lie down on my tummy. So I did. I faced the television, rested my head on my arms and sniffed the carpet. No cigarettes. I took in what had just happened the night before and I started to cry. The crying became sobbing—so much that my head started to bounce up and down on my arms. Uncontrollable sobbing. Picture a bobble head sprinkler. After a minute or so, it just stopped. My chin rested on my soaked arms, I tasted salt and my nose ran- I was a mess. I glanced up at the black television screen and the thought just sort of ‘hit me.’ I’m not sure why, but my first thought after my outburst was, “It won’t hurt in twenty years.” I don’t know why I thought that. I’ve never said that before or thought it ever, or had given it as advice to a hurt friend. I remember thinking it odd back then, and it’s still odd now. It’s also very untrue.

I lay there for another ten minutes or so, just waiting for my face to dry. I closed my eyes and imagined watching television in this same position with my family around me- “Gilligan’s Island” was on. I could hear my Mom’s laugh and my Dad’s La-Z-Boy creak as he buckled forward with laughter. Although my eyes were closed, I could see the familiar glow of the hanging lamp above the television. I could hear the hum of the dishwasher. And I could now smell cigarettes, and it wasn’t that bad. I told myself that it won’t hurt in twenty years, and then I slid my thumb into my mouth.

I was twenty-nine years old on September 14th, 1995 and my Dad had just killed himself. Granted, it’s not exactly twenty years yet so maybe it’ll feel better this September. But it does still hurt after twenty years, and it’s in an entirely different way than I thought. As much as I like to think it is; everything isn’t actually all about me. Weird, right? Starting in September of 1995, it was going to be a pretty harsh nine months. Less than twenty-four hours before my Dad fired himself, my boss fired me from my job of nine years. I would get another job in six weeks and then get fired from that one six months later…Just thirteen days before Gwen and I were married. It was a turbulent time filled with endings and beginnings. It was the first of twenty years, and it still hurts, just in a different way.

He decided not to see our wedding. He chose to never be involved in my kids’ lives- his grandchildren. He chose not to be proud of me. He also chose not to be disappointed in me. He chose to abandon his wife of 30+ years. He chose death over all other things. I have my own disappointment in him and it’s been almost 20 years and it still hurts. But it hurts for different reasons, ones that he never thought of, ones that I never realized would matter.

I write because it feels good to get things out. It feels good to make others feel – laughter and pain. It’s a release, for me. I think it’s helpful to remember and document things/events in your life. Your life is only made up of many events. I’m not much for self-help. Meaning, I don’t think what I have to say helps anybody. But a piece like this should have something positive or helpful, so I’m going to try. Ridicule at your leisure:

Suicide never dies. You have a choice and sometimes that choice is a difficult one. If you feel that killing yourself is going to make things go away, you’re only half correct. For you, everything goes away, but for others, the troubles just begin. And if you feel you’re in such a depression/hole/circumstance that your only way out is to destroy the lives around you by taking your own life, then by definition your troubles aren’t your own. Seek help. If your dying impacts anyone else, then you have an obligation to at least that person, to let them know. Does that sound weird? Example: You want to kill yourself, but your business partner Charles (for example) will be left running the business. And you know Charles doesn’t have the skill to spin a top, let alone run the business. Is it your place to abandon him without letting him know first? And I’m not talking about leaving a suicide note. I didn’t get one, so don’t be a dick and write a sad note making it worse. Own it. Have the conversation:

Hey Brad, I love you son, but I just can’t take it anymore. My MS is fine, I have a loving wife and children but I just don’t want to live any longer. I’m the biggest coward you’ll ever know and I just don’t love you or myself enough to see how things turn out. I don’t care what happens to you, Gwen, or any children you might have. It’s just not worth my time anymore.

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If you’re contemplating suicide, then you’re contemplating living. Make good choices. Make the choice that’s going to make the most people happy. Choose to live. It’s not always about you, sometimes we do things for others, like choosing to live. Here’s the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1(800)273-8255). There are people that care about you, that love and will miss you. Suicide is not an answer, it’s a permanent, irrevocable gesture of incredible weakness that tells everyone you ever knew (or might come to know) that they weren’t worth your being around. Nobody likes you when you kill yourself. Not one person close to the suicider(?) ever said, “Yeah, that was probably a good choice, he had that weird cowlick in his hair part. I’m glad he’s gone.” Don’t leave that legacy, live yours, be a part of theirs. When all else fails, stick a thumb in your mouth, not a gun.

 

*Brad Myers resides in Gig Harbor and has a long list of writing accolades. Check out his book Paid to Poop on Amazon.