Tag Archives: Mike

Sick Day

My daughter has been fighting a stomach ache all week and we’re staying home today so I can take her to the doctor. I fear it will be one of those visits where we get sent home not knowing anything more than when we arrived. I picked her up early from school yesterday. We wanted her to try to make it through a day of school (she stayed home Monday) but didn’t get very far. I have been very busy at work so I’m getting a little anxious to get back to my desk. I’ve been getting many more opportunities for writing at my job which is good but it has definitely cut into my writing energy here. There have been some things that have been on my mind.

My brother’s 50th birthday passed in December. His birthday has been hard because it comes just weeks after the anniversary of his death. This year was different and was very sad for me. My divisional manager also celebrated his 50th birthday in the first week of December. He traveled to Europe to celebrate and his managers toasted him at a meeting the following week. I couldn’t help thinking about all the choices that had been made in Mike’s life that led him down his path. Some of the choices he was responsible for but many of them were beyond his control.

We were at my parent’s house for New Year’s and my Mom showed me the christmas card she got from my Dad. He wrote her a poem and signed it “Tony and Michael”. This made me see red but I realize it is a good illustration of how truly delusional he is. If he thinks that he speaks for my brother in any way, especially now, that is just sick. I also think that if Mike has taken the small favored spot in my Dad’s brain then I’m truly doomed with him. I should give up right now because there is no way I can ever compete with his fantasy. Love for the Giants football team was one thing that my father and brother could agree on in life. I didn’t call my Dad after they won on Sunday, in fact I haven’t spoken to them at all this week. I guess that I should have called but I figured that my Dad had Mike there watching the game with him so he doesn’t need to hear from me anyway.


Damaged Goods

I just finished reading Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide by Linda Gray Sexton. Linda is the oldest daughter of Poet Anne Sexton who suffered from chronic undiagnosed mental illness and attempted suicide many times throughout Linda’s childhood. She finally succeeded and killed herself when Linda was 21 and a senior at Harvard. Linda’s lifelong struggle with depression, alcoholism, medications and 2 serious suicide attempts is vividly retold in the book. Despite being continually abandoned emotionally and physically by her mother, Linda is slowly drawn into repeating the very same behavior with her own children and family. While she knows first hand the pain that suicide leaves with those left behind she cannot resist the desire to reconnect with her mother even if it means her own destruction. The book opens with Linda’s first serious suicide attempt 6 months before she would turn 45. This is significant because her mother’s suicide was only 1 month before her 45th birthday. This can’t help but make me reflect on my upcoming 45th birthday this year and my brother Mike’s suicide less than 1 month before his 46th birthday. In a little over 1 year’s time I will be older than my big brother and time will continue on like that for the rest of my life. Linda’s detailed descriptions of her life at her lowest points also resonated strongly with me. Any reader will recognize the personal human pain she feels and lays out so unselfconsciously whether they are dealing with a depressed loved one or if they’ve traveled a similar path themselves. The book gives an eloquent voice to those who most need to be heard but because of their situations cannot get the words out.

Now I find myself wondering what kind of emotional legacy my brother and I received from our own mother. When my daughter was born my dad compulsively evaluated and criticized every single choice we made with her. I knew enough to ignore his advice even if it meant arguing over every single one. I now realize that he probably did the very same thing with my mother when my brother was born. As a new mother in a relatively new country I’m sure she had all the normal insecurities in her ability to care for her infant son. I have no doubt that my father was unable to let her find her way on her own. I can see him trying to control every single thing she did with the baby from the very start. She must’ve felt so inadequate when comparing herself to her professional Psychologist husband. Surely he knew what he was talking about! I can imagine how defenseless and alone she would have felt. Eventually my mom withdrew from the family and let my dad cast her as the enemy.  I was quite young when my dad started to tell us that it wouldn’t take much for my mother to become an alcoholic. I guess that this was to undermine our trust in her and scare me especially into wanting to be on his side. It was very important in my family to take sides. I was very aware that it was my father and I versus my brother and my mother in a lot of ways. How did this dynamic play out as we got older and my brother started getting into trouble all the time? My parents always fought about my brother. My dad would rage and blame my mother for Mike’s every fault. She loved Mike through it all but of course just having her love wasn’t enough for him in the end. It was damaged goods.

I guess the question now is not what emotional legacy will I pass onto my own daughter but whose?


Thank you to award-winning author Linda Gray Sexton for sponsoring this series, which is inspired by her memoir Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide.

I was selected for this sponsorship by Clever Girls Collective which endorses Blog With Integrity.

To learn more about Linda Gray Sexton and her writing, please visit her website.

Half in Love Relationships and Depression Series

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Dear Mike,

So this is Xmas, and what have you done?

I keep hearing John Lennon’s Happy Xmas (War is Over) playing everwhere. I remember sitting on the floor in your room on Skank Ave. I’m infront of your stereo listening to that song. You’re probably playing it to show me how much better it is than Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmastime. You’d always get sentimental during the holidays and you’d pull out your old singles and the Beatles’ Blue and Red albums and play them for me. This year is the 30th anniversary of Lennon’s death and it is hard for me to believe that it has been that long. I also can’t believe that someday it will be 30 (or even 10) years since you died. I don’t want the time between when you were alive and when you were not to ever stretch that far apart but I cannot make it stop. I was listening to NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast the other day and they were talking about It’s a Wonderful Life. Linda Holmes said that she really loved that movie not only because it’s about a noble person who makes sacrifices and how those choices enrich all the people in their life. She loves it because it shows how those sacrifices come at a price to the person. Making hard choices is hard and life sucks a lot of the time.

I made Glenn wake me up in the middle of the night on Monday so we could go outside and look at the lunar eclipse. It wasn’t as big as I hoped it would be but it was very cool looking. I thought it looked kind of like a smooth orangey cookie. Or maybe that was the oven talking. We just got our new oven installed on Monday and I started baking as soon as I got home from work. I had you partly in mind when I asked Glenn to get me up. I don’t know if you had ever seen an eclipse or not so I’m saving that memory for you Mike. I know that there will be more “things” I’ll be saving for you along the way. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to give them to you but maybe I already have.

Merry Christmas.



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Better Days

From the best of 2007 files . . .

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To My Brother

My brother Mike took his own life three years ago today. It’s hard to believe that it is already three years past. In a lot of ways it still feels fresh. It makes me sad that it is already three years. As time moves on we get further and further from when he was here. Lots of things keep happening in between the time that he left and now and I just wish sometimes I could make it stop.

For some reason it reminds me of a Native American story about dogs. Long ago people and animals all lived together and at one point God decided that it was time to separate them. God created a great chasm in the earth and started to put the people on one side and the animals on the other. All the while the space between them kept getting bigger and bigger. Just before the very moment when it would have been too great a distance to make it to the other side, dog jumped over to be with man. I can’t make that leap anymore. I lost my chance. I’m losing him and I’ve been losing him for three years now and it makes me so sad.

Here is what I wrote to read at his memorial service. I thought I’d share it with you now.

Dear Michael,

We were supposed to see you at our parent’s house for Thanksgiving. I’m angry that you couldn’t have just said that you didn’t want to come home. They would have been really upset and mad but it would have saved us from this new world of pain. Speaking as a parent myself, I can’t even begin to understand what it must feel like to lose your child. No matter how old they get they will also always be the tiny baby you held in your arms. All the planning, shopping, cleaning and hoping they did to get ready for your visit must feel like a cruel dirty trick now. You never dream that someone you love so much could do something so final and terrible to you. If you hadn’t gone and done this insane thing I know I probably would have been whining about the long ride out to Long Island and it makes me feel so petty and guilty now. Now I’d gladly take the four hour car trip and listening to everyone arguing over nothing to this bizzaro-world alternative. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20 and I don’t have to tell you, the perspective from this end is a real kick in the ass.

Your full name is Michael Roy Peluso but you seemed to go by many names. In our family you were always Michael and Erica called you Michael. You and Erica visited us for Piper’s third birthday almost two years ago. The morning after you left I asked her if she liked having her Auntie Erica and Uncle Michael at our house. She turned and said to me, “I don’t call him Uncle Michael, I call him Uncle Mike!” To your friends, you were Mike, Peluso, Pelusi, Big P, Huge P and sometimes just P. I have always thought of you when I hear that Rentals’ song, “Friends of P.”

If you’re friends with P.
Well, then you’re friends with me
If you’re down with P.
Well, then you’re down with me

Having this happen at Thanksgiving has helped me to see that I have a lot to be thankful for. I’m thankful for my life, my parents who love me and my health. I’m thankful that I’m able to recognize and appreciate all the love from friends and family that surrounds me. I don’t think that you knew how many people really loved you or maybe you did but didn’t trust it. I’m so very thankful for my husband Glenn. I almost lost him in February in a horrific car accident. He shattered his knee and has been working on his recovery ever since. He has leaned on me a lot throughout this past year and I tried my best to hold him up to support and comfort him. Now when I look to him for support and comfort and he opens his loving arms to me I know how truly lucky I am. I’m thankful for my beautiful daughter Piper. She teaches me to be patient and to appreciate life’s smallest joys. The Friday after Thanksgiving, the three of us took a little family trip to a nearby farm. We were chased around by a paranoid looking turkey. We saw some emus, llamas, turtles, some pigs and a peacock. Piper got to pet the fluffy bunnies and goats, feed a bottle to a baby lamb and have a pony ride. Her smile was eight miles wide the entire time. It beamed its glee right into our hearts that day. She doesn’t bother to stop for sadness when there is happiness all around her. I’m sorry that you won’t now get a chance to really know the funny, wonderful person she is becoming.

I’ve taken comfort from the many conversations I’ve had with your friends. Without fail they’ve told me how much they loved you and what a special person you were. Without fail they’ve told me that they were in regular (sometimes daily) contact with you. And without fail they’ve told me that they had no idea you were feeling this way. And if they had known, they would have dropped everything to be by your side in the deep dark hole you’d fallen into. Mike, they would have carried you out on their backs.

Our 90-year-old friend and neighbor Alice Potter passed away recently. She attended the same church in our town for over 50 years. I went to the 8:30 am service there the Sunday after you died. I felt she would have wanted me to go there. I walked from my house even though it was only 20-something degrees out. The church felt warm and welcoming once I passed through the heavy wooden doors. I didn’t know anyone there though everyone I made eye contact with wished me a smiling good morning. I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t smiling. The service was good. I liked the hymns and the lesson about needing to stand up in the word of God. As I walked out the minister shook my hand and I introduced myself to her by saying that I was a friend of Alice’s. She seemed to remember me from the funeral. Then I just started telling her what had happened. She immediately put her giant arm around me and spoke gently to me. She told me that the moment you left this life God was there to welcome you and hold you in his arms. She prayed while I just cried and let myself sink deeper into her enormous shoulder. I’m not sure how you’d feel about me becoming a regular churchgoer though I have a feeling you wouldn’t like it. But since your action compels me to seek more meaning in my life, I really don’t care.

Mike, I’m angry with you. I’m angry with you for leaving me an only child. I’m angry with you for leaving our parents without their only son. I’m angry with you for leaving them with the final image of you dying in a hospital bed. I’m angry at you for leaving Erica behind with so much sadness. She really loves you and didn’t deserve this from you. I’m angry with you for leaving us with all these questions that we can never have answers to. And I’m angry with you for forever depriving me of the pleasure of making you laugh and of ever seeing your beautiful face again. Even with all this anger, I still love you and will miss you for the rest of my life. As you know, I have also struggled with depression and loneliness in my life. To me, it felt like being trapped in the very smallest room with an even smaller door. I hope that wherever you are now you’ve got the key in hand and you’re striding for the door headed for peace.



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So it begins . . .

My Mom has cancer. She has Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She’s had pain in her leg on and off for a while but it started to get much much worse about a month ago. She went to the Doctor who did an MRI and they found a large mass. It is pressing on the nerves in her leg and it is what is causing her pain. A biopsy said it was Lymphoma. When she first told me about the tumor that all I could think was, so it begins. Both of my parents have been very physically healthy up to this point. They are very lucky. I hope the luck isn’t going to run out now.

It really makes me sad that my brother is not here for her now. It also makes me mad that he is not here for me now either. She really misses him now and nothing I can do will ever fill her need. My dad is having to take on a lot at home now which is what he should be doing. My mom can’t really move too well because of her leg. He’s complained to me that she’s telling him what to do, down to the simplest detail. It’s just payback time as far as I can see. He’s been telling her what to do for the last 50+ years and now it’s her turn.

I’m going out there tomorrow and will be there when she starts her antibody treatment on Monday. I’m looking forward to meeting her doctor and I hope to have a chance to talk to her. My parents have a way of fudging up the facts. It’s a lot for them to take in at once. I imagine my mother is totally overwhelmed and my dad is not a good listener. This is ironic of course because he is a Psychotherapist. All I keep thinking about is if my mom ends up passing away before my dad I will probably have to kill him. I don’t know how I’ll deal with him all on my own.

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Lola’s Dream

My mother often tells me the dreams she has about my brother. This is her latest:

My parents are sitting on the beach and looking at the water. They can see Mike in the water and he’s swimming towards shore. There are a large group of people nearby who also see Mike swimming. It seems like the group of people are going to start to cheer for Mike and encourage him. My mother decides that if they start cheering she will too. But they don’t so she doesn’t either. Finally Mike reaches the shore, gets out of the water and walks right by my parents like he doesn’t know them. She woke up.

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What’s the one thing you dread the most?

Right now, it’s my Dad being mad at me. I know, I’m 44 years old and I’m still worrying about what this crazy old man thinks of me. We had a phone conversation earlier that didn’t end entirely well. I’m pretty sure that he is mad at me. We are getting ready to go there this weekend and I dread the thought of getting Mad Tony at the start of the visit. You usually end up with Mad Tony in the end but at least you get to have a little of the Happy Tony at the beginning. I’ve pretty much shot all chance of that to hell. We’re going to be getting off the ferry at around noon time and we were thinking of getting something to eat on the way to their house rather than rushing there hungry. We’re not going to have time for a lot of eating in the morning before we leave and I try to avoid buying the crummy pricey snacks on the boat. My mother wants to make a big deal and have lunch ready and waiting for us and I tried to tell her that we’d be doing something else. Then my father gets on the phone to ask me about something else and at the end says that we’ll all have lunch when we get there and sounds all hurt and insulted when I tell him our plan. You’d think he was freaking Emily Post from the way he acts. What a phony. Growing up our family was a train wreck. Where were all these niceties then? By the time we got off the boat, drove there and get inside with our stuff and eat it will be waaay after lunch time. Then we have to sit down and eat a gigantic dinner a couple of hours later as well. How many more ways can I diss him? Let me count them! I’m so so tired of this crap. When we were growing up we all tried to avoid upsetting my father because when he threw a tantrum he put babies to shame.

Even though I have such little respect left and even though I’m a grownup with my own family and even though I still have so much anger towards him over Mike . . . I still can’t stand it when I think he’s mad at me. I hate myself for this. Ugh, I am filled with DREAD.

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The Compass

My sister-in-law sent me a box of my brother’s things. She included his watch, his camera and his compass. He kept in its original box including the instruction booklet. The compass was from his back packing days. At the beginning of High School he started to get very into hiking and rock climbing and went on a lot of Wilderness Expeditions with Outward Bound. These were long trips to faraway places. One summer he even climbed a glacier. Like any young person he enjoyed getting out of our apartment and being away from the family. It seemed like he was never home after that and always traveling somewhere. He followed the Dead for a while and then after High School came college starts and stops and then he was a punk and used to go into NYC for the music and the drugs. As the younger sibling stuck at home I always felt that he was leaving me behind. He was. After getting a taste of the bigger world he never really wanted to be at home again and spent the rest of his life trying to escape Skank Ave.

My sister-in-law told me that she was sending me a box but I totally forgot about it. I was very puzzled when I got the note at home to pick up an insured package at the post office. When the clerk brought the box out and I saw the handwriting on it I knew what it was. It’s strange but her handwriting looks so similar to my brother’s. When I see it I have to remember that it is not from Mike. I found myself hugging the little box on the way back to the car and bursting into tears as I was buckling my seat belt. She’s been talking about sending me this stuff for a while but now that I have it I can’t help but feel sad. I’m not going to be receiving anything else from my brother again.

He took the compass with him wherever he went, whenever he traveled. It’s funny that someone who really needed a compass in life, had a good compass yet still got so very lost.

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3 for 16

If you could go back in time and meet your 16-year-old self, what three things would you tell yourself?

  1. Don’t let your brother Mike slip out of your life. He’s going to steal from you in a couple of years and it’s going to hurt. You’re going to be angry. When you’re angry with someone it is easy to let your heart harden towards them. The anger will subside in time as it always does. Just don’t forget to reopen your heart again. Don’t miss your chance to truly forgive him.
  2. You are just starting to really get into theater and performing now. I should probably tell you to pay a little more attention to your schoolwork, especially math and science. You won’t listen to me so I’m not even going to try. You are finding out where your happiness lies and no one is going to steer you away from that, even old you, I mean me.  Let me make just one little suggestion to you 16, get a teaching degree.
  3. You will meet the love of your life in about 15 years so you’ve just got to relax and hold on until then. I’m not sure what else to tell you 16. I’m not feeling especially filled with wisdom right now. I will tell you what I always tell my daughter (yes, you have a daughter and she’s a STAR), treat people the way you’d like to be treated and that life sometime means you have to do things you don’t want to do. You are beautiful, be kind to yourself. Learn everything you can and don’t postpone joy. Oh and buy Apple stock in a couple of years and hold onto it.

Good luck and take care of yourself.

Love always,


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