Tag Archives: Skank Avenue

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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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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Skank Avenue

Yesterday representatives from one of our vendors visited our office and took me and my colleague out to lunch. These are people that I’ve ever only spoken to over the phone and I’m the newest one to the mix so there was a lot of “where are you from” and “where have you worked before” type questions. I discovered that the main sales person also grew up in my hometown, Great Neck, NY. Great Neck is on the North Shore of Long Island. It was (and still probably is) an extremely affluent community. It had an excellent school system and that is why my parents moved there. Our family never quite achieved the level of financial success and security as the rest of our community. Except for a short stint in a rented house when I was in elementary school we lived in apartments my entire time there. Most of the time was spent in a two bedroom apartment on Schenck (pronounced SKANK) Avenue. The name of my street pretty much sums up my feeling about the place and my experiences living there. We did not have happy times in that apartment. After my brother and I moved out my parents downsized to an even smaller apartment in the same building so they could afford to invest in an apartment in Brooklyn (the sale of which enabled them to buy their current house). My brother had to move back in with them for a while and thankfully I didn’t have to spend a whole lot of time with them all there in that place. My brother wasn’t doing well at all at the time and my parents have a way of constantly reminding you of your failures. Those were truly dark days for him. Life in Great Neck was challenging outside of our apartment as well. I attended high school during the shiny newness of the Reagan presidency. In fact, I remember being in 8th grade science and hearing a PA announcement telling us that our new president had been sworn in and the hostages has been freed. All through junior high, middle school and into high school I felt enormous pressure to fall into step with what every other kid was doing, wearing, saying, thinking – being. I know that everyone says this and many many people feel this way about their youth but I don’t know – Great Neck just felt different. Maybe I was just too sensitive for the place but I felt openly ridiculed for being different. It wasn’t until I was in 10th grade that I learned to embrace my differences and be the theater geek I was born to be.

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