3503– Saturday, September 28, 2019 — The Story of Little Red Riding Hood:  AKA: Autumn, Part 2

hoodie in cemetary

The years before high school went by pretty fast for Autumn and her mother.  They were not without problems.  Autumn caught shoplifting.  Autumn suspended from junior high school for truancy.  Autumn caught with 20-year-old boyfriend in bed.  Autumn doing pot and possibly some ecstasy.  Autumn running away from home.  Autumn and her mother constantly fighting.  Autumn understood that she was on a slippery slope and it seemed to all head downhill.

However, she told herself that when she turned 14 and started high school that things would be really different.  She would find a nice guy to love and they would plan a life together after high school.  In addition to her dreams, it came as a happy surprise for Autumn when her mom and dad got back together again.  Her father and brothers moved back in with Autumn and her mom.  Autumn took these events as auspicious signs that things were already starting to look up.

Within the next year, Autumn started 9th grade at the local high school.  Her brothers were in the 11th and 12th grades respectively.  Autumn wasted little time in finding a new boyfriend, but they quickly parted when it seemed that all he wanted was sex and Autumn wanted more than just sex.  Autumn was quite happy to provide some of what the boy wanted but in exchange she expected to be treated as a girlfriend and not just some bimbo.

Autumn found another boyfriend and then another boyfriend.  One boyfriend followed another faster than she could count, and her relationships always followed the same pattern.  A date, sex, more sex, being taken for granted and then breaking up.  Autumn was only 14 but within months of starting high school she had acquired a reputation as an easy girl who would put out on the first date.  The more her reputation as a harlot grew, the worse her relationships with others at the school became.  The boys all gave her funny looks and smirks as she passed them in the hallways, but it was the girls that proved her real problem.

The girls at school would gossip behind her back and she would actually find comments about herself in the bathroom stalls.  Comments like “For a quick fuck, call Autumn at 520-238-6123.”  Groups of girls talking would point to her and laugh and then grow silent and snicker when she walked by.  Autumn felt that she had become a laughing stock in school and that none of the other girls wanted or dared to associate with her.  Her life grew lonelier and more and more bleak.

At home, Autumn noticed her once loving brothers becoming more and more distant.  One day she summoned up her courage and asked them what was wrong.  They told her in no uncertain terms that she was the laughing stock of the school and that all their friends made sexual comments about her.  They wanted noting to do with Autumn and they were both ashamed that she was their sister. “Keep away from us” were their parting comments.

The school year eventually ended.  The hopes for love and happiness that Autumn cherished had evaporated like a puddle of water on a hot summer day in Texas.  Autumn kept to herself most of the summer months before the next school year.  Her mother and father were both to busy working to deal with her problems and assumed it was just teenage angst and that she would grow out of it.  Autumn dreaded the coming of school but tried to convince herself that a great guy must be out there some place if she could only find him.

The new school year started.  Autumn was 15 years old and a sophomore.  Within the first two weeks of school she met a good-looking guy who was a senior and he asked her out on a date.  He seemed really nice.  He took her to dinner and a movie and even bought her flowers.  They went out on a few other dates before he wanted to go to bed with her.  She began to think that she had found true love.

The girls at school still avoided Autumn.  Comments about Autumn would still appear in the girls’ bathrooms.   Many of the boys would make insulting remarks as she walked by.  Autumn did not care though.  She finally felt that she had found the love and acceptance that she had always dreamed of.

Autumn had been going out with her new beau for several weeks when he picked her up one Friday night and took her to his house.  They had had sex there several times when his parents were not home and she did not think anything about it.  However, tonight he seemed somewhat nervous and anxious and not his usual upbeat self.  Probably just some school related problems thought Autumn.  They arrived at his house and he promptly took her into to his bedroom and shut the door.

He had undressed Autumn and they had started to make love when with a loud bang the door to the bedroom opened and one of his friends yelled out “My turn!”  Autumn’s boyfriend jumped out of bed as Autumn asked what was going on?  “Well, I told some of my friends how good you were in bed and I did not think that you would mind screwing them as well.”  As the new boy pushed Autumn back down and took his turn, Autumn said nothing.  She did not scream.  She did not yell rape.  She did not say stop, no, don’t or get off of me.  As one after another of her boyfriend’s buddies took advantage of Autumn, she quietly laid there and said nothing.

When the assaults had ceased and all of the boys had left for parts unknown, Autumn put on her clothes and said: “Take me home.”  No other words were spoken as her boyfriend drove her home and Autumn got out of his car and went into her house.  It was the worst day of Autumn’s short life and it did not seem like life could get any worse.  Autumn climbed into her bed.  The next two days went by in a sort of haze.  Her cellphone went off dozens if not hundreds of times, but she ignored it.

Monday started another day of hell at school for Autumn.  Walking around it seemed like everyone knew her secret.  The secret being that on Friday, she had been gang-banged by as many as five or six seniors at the high school.  How could everyone know though?  Word could not possibly have spread that fast.  Autumn received more phone calls and text messages but continued to ignore them.  Autumn could not wait for the end of the school day.  It seemed like forever before school the bell signaling the end of the school day sounded.  Autumn walked home alone.

When Autumn arrived home, both her brothers were still out, and her father and mother were most likely at work.  Autumn went up to her room, shut the door and logged onto her computer.  She signed into her Facebook account and nearly passed out at what she saw on her home page.  There in the middle of the page was a picture that had been shared more than 300 times.  It was a picture of Autumn nude in bed with a young man situated somewhere between her splayed legs.  You could only see the boys back, but it was clear from his position that he had inserted something into Autumn.  The expression on Autumn’s face was dull and lifeless but not panicked or frightened.  Autumn now remembered that while some boys were having sex with her, others had been taking pictures on their cell phones.  She realized what must be on the hundreds of text messages that she had been ignoring.

The was the final straw.  Autumn could not, indeed would not take any more.  She got up off the bed and went downstairs to her mom’s bathroom.  She rummaged through the medicine cabinet until she found what she wanted.  At this point, she turned the water on in the bathtub and started to disrobe.  When she was fully undressed, she stepped into the tub and laid down.  She opened the vial containing her mom’s sleeping pills.  She counted only twenty inside.  She was not sure if that was enough to do the job, but she was not going to rely on pills anyway.  The pills would at best make her drowsy and the razor blade would do the rest.  She was determined not to screw this up.  She swallowed all the pills sipping some of the tub water to wash them down.   It took a few minutes, but she began to feel drowsy.  At this point, she took the razor blade and slashed both of her wrists several times.  Autumn then put her hands in the warm water and laid her head back to sleep.

About three hours or so later, her mom and two brothers all arrived home at the same time.  Mom headed into the downstairs bathroom and the two boys went upstairs to their bedrooms.  As her mother entered the bathroom, she immediately noticed a tub full of red water and Autumn laying asleep in the tub.  What, her mom thought is Autumn doing laying in a tub of red water?  Suddenly her mind filled with a single dreadful thought.  She grabbed Autumn by the shoulders and shook her violently, but Autumn would not wake up.  Her mom let out a series of screams which brought both sons running.  The oldest son looked at his mom and the bathtub and bolted for a phone to call 911.  The youngest son grabbed his mom and tried to question her over her screams.  “Mom, Mom, is Autumn dead” he asked.  “No, no, no, it can’t be, it can’t be,” she said.  When 911 came, they told Autumn’s mother and brothers that they were sorry but that there was nothing they could do.  Autumn had been dead for at least two hours.

Funeral preparations started in a few days.  Autumn’s mom and grandmother were discussing arrangements when grandmother suggested that Autumn be buried next to her grandfather in the cemetery.  Something snapped in mom and she grabbed grandmother and violently shook her while yelling “Not near that Son of a Bitch, not near that Son of a Bitch.”  Both women’s eyes locked onto each other’s and both accepted what each had known for a long time.  They had suspected and then known but neither had wanted to admit it.  Looking into each other’s eyes, the truth became clear.  They folded into one big hug and began crying and crying and crying.

A week or so later they held the funeral for Autumn.  The interment was conducted at a cemetery across town from where grandfather was laid to rest.  Autumn’s mother, grandmother, both brothers, father and many other relatives attended.  To the family’s great surprise, hundreds of other people showed up for the burial.  Most of them from Autumn’s high school.  Some showed up out of curiosity, a few out of grief for a lost comrade but many showed up out of guilt and shame.

Autumn’s mother had insisted on writing the script for the gravestone marker in a somewhat unusual manner.  No last name for Autumn and no date of birth.  Only the month that Autumn was born in.  The marker read:

AutumnAutumn gravemarker

October

15 years Old

A Troubled Soul

May she rest in peace now

 

One week after she was buried, her mother went to visit Autumn’s grave-site by herself.  She brought Autumn’s favorite little red hoodie with her.  She stood looking at Autumn’s grave for several minutes, but she could no longer shed any tears.  It was like there was no moisture left in her entire body.  As she draped Autumn’s little red hoodie over the gravestone, she whispered two words before turning to leave: “I’m sorry.”

 

The Death of a Loved One.

I have been asked to write a blog dealing with the death of a loved one. As I have grown older, I have suffered the loss of many a friend and relative. That is a price that we pay for living too long. There are other prices but perhaps none as steep as this one. A friend of mine has joked about my rather cavalier attitude towards death. She has summed up my comments as “Well, we are all going to die sometime.” I realize that my comment and attitude is not very consoling. However, for me it has been a convenient shortcut to simply acknowledging death and moving on. I have also noted that it seems hardly a week has gone by in my last twenty years that I have not witnessed the death of someone who has been a friend or relative. I doubt whether my life is much different than others unless I am a more astute observer of death or unless I am simply less caring.

I read the book “On Death and Dying” many years ago. The stages of grief that were identified as something we all go through upon the loss of a loved one are perhaps interesting and even useful but in some ways are very similar to my comment in that knowing the stages may not be very consoling. It is one thing to have an intellectual knowledge of death but an altogether different thing to have a personal emotional experience of death. For instance, despite all the deaths I have witnessed including my parents many friends and most of my relatives, I have never experienced the death of a life partner. I have gone through a divorce after 16 years but a divorce is not the same as death. True, it encompasses a degree of pain and loss and suffering but I cannot quite equate that with dealing with the loss of a close personal partner that one has lived with for most of their life. I think this would be a very different experience. Whether or not it was expected or unexpected would have some influence on how one dealt with it but maybe less than one would think. The aspect of “expectedness” is another intellectual concept which does not deal with the emotional relevance of death.

One day I was coming in to see Karen, my spouse who loves to sleep late. She is normally a very late sleeper and I am not usually too concerned when she sleeps in. However, it grew quite a bit later than usual and I decided to “peek” in to see how she was doing. When I looked at her prone body, she did not appear to be breathing. I immediately put my head to hers to see if I could detect any breath. I could not. My immediate reaction was to panic and shake her. I started crying. Suddenly she turned over and asked “What was wrong.” I was beyond relief. In that single moment of thinking she had passed away, I had experienced a degree of pain, sorrow, suffering and loss that I have never emotionally experienced before. Karen and I have been living together since 1989 and going together since 1983. I know that someday we will part and on an intellectual basis, I have accepted the inevitability of it. However, I suddenly found that I have not accepted the inevitability on a personal emotional basis and I wonder now if I ever will be able to.

I have to say I do not cry very much but I did that morning. I seldom cry at funerals but I cried at my Dad’s funeral, Sister Giovanni’s funeral and a few friends whose services touched me quite a bit. I have cried every time I have read or seen a production of the “Little Match Girl.” I have cried over the song “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.” There is something that evokes sorrow in me that has more to do with loneliness than death. I have never seen any scales of loneliness related to the death of a loved one but I might assume that some correlation did exist. I have a 98 year old Aunt and God-Mother who is one of the most positive older people I know. She has lost two of her three sons and her husband of over 60 years. She continues to love life and other people. I asked her three years ago how she keeps such an attitude when she has seen almost all of her friends and loved ones pass away. Her reply was that she simply makes new friends. I am sure she loved her sons and husband as much as the next wife and mother but she simply chooses to move on. I contrast this with a comment that I heard about Thomas Jefferson who felt that at the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence he was no longer a part of this life. The following is a quote by Jefferson on aging:

1815 February 5. (to John Vaughn). “…nothing is more incumbent on the old, than to know when they should get out of the way, and relinquish to younger successors the honors they can no longer earn, and the duties they can no longer perform.”

I see a vast difference between Jefferson’s attitude on aging and my Aunt’s attitude (at least as reflected in this quote.) My Aunt has not gotten out of the way. She still performs duties and tasks to help others. Indeed, that Christmas when I was talking to her, she was leaving after dinner to serve meals to the elderly at an “Old Folks Home.” I jokingly asked her if she was not “Old” and she pensively replied “Why I guess I am, I just never think about it.” She lives in the present and maybe that is the elusive secret of happiness or satisfaction. Osho says that for too many of us the only thing that exists is the Past or Future. We are either so busy trying to recapture memories of “better” times or else we create possible futures that we hope will bring us “better memories” than we had. I have noticed that all of the great religious leaders have stressed the importance of living in the present. Jesus said:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:25-34

Buddha noted: “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” I could give writings upon writings that speak of the need to live in the present but would this help you deal with the loss of a close personal partner? Good advice seldom deals with emotions. What then to say to anyone who suffers a loss of someone they have lived with, loved with and known for most of their lives? Perhaps nothing! Maybe this is just the time to be with this person. I would suspect that the feelings of loneliness would be almost overpowering. Is it any wonder so many people seem to die shortly after the death of a long term partner? What can you really say in the face of what this person is going through? Almost anything will sound cold or trite. Just feel for a second what this person must now be feeling.

Most of what we desire in life can summed up as: Fame, fortune or power. We strive to accomplish as much wealth, attention or power as we can. We think these three goals will bring us the happiness and security that we all seek. Deep down inside we are all insecure insignificant beings who feel that somehow money, fame or power will bring us the significance that assuages our sense of loneliness and inadequacy. But it never does. The nearest anything ever comes to doing this for us, short of an emotional and spiritual awakening is the love of a close personal partner.

I would not trade all the fans, all the Facebook friends, all the media glory, all the TV fame, all the money in the world or the highest office in the world for the love of my partner Karen who intimately knows me and cares about me. Karen brings me coffee, bandages my cuts, asks me how I am doing and what is wrong, cuddles with me for no reason, walks with me, consoles me when I am feeling inadequate, supports my stupidity, tolerates my quirks and even my sometimes meanness and poor dispositions. How many of the Rich and Famous have anyone in their lives like I do? Those of you who have or had had a long time personal partner or loved one know what I am talking about. How to lose such a partner and go on with life? I am sorry if I do not know the answer or the secret. Give up or trudge on? Can you make a difference for others? Can you help share the pain and help others deal with the pain you are now feeling? What can you leave the world after your partner leaves you?

If you have had a partner like I have, you have experienced the greatest gift in the world. That this gift will someday be taken away from you is inevitable. That it will cause you great pain and sorrow is perhaps also inevitable. In the end, we come back to the beginning. Life goes on. You were loved and you were needed. There are others who are not loved and who could benefit from your love. There are others who are not needed and who could benefit from being needed by you. The biggest gift we can ever give others is the gift of ourselves. When a gift has been taken away from us perhaps it is time for us to find a way to give a gift of ourselves.

Time for Questions:

What is your experience with death and dying? How have you handled the death of a loved one? How have you helped others who are going through this pain? What will you need when you lose your partner or a close loved one? Can you share any experiences with others who might benefit from your experience?

Life is just beginning.

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