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  • I took this photo because I think it's ironic the maid's car is so dirty. My father is a doctor, but I have no medical insurance.

    I haven't had insurance for most of my life. As a kid I would see my father's friends as a "professional courtesy" case. Lucky me I had no real issues. Excepting I do have one. I struggle with depression. I don't know if I came by it organically, like something is wrong with the chemicals in my physiology, or if depression is habituated in me from modeling.

    I watched my mother pendulate from being goofy and happy, creative and kind to very crabby, self-centered and non-functioning as a parent. Like the time she fails to pick me up from school. I figure we ought to get on the late bus; go home by ourselves. My older brother disagrees. "Then she'll come here and be worried about us. She won't know where we are." He stubbornly refuses to leave. A half hour later he concedes, we ought to ask the office before they close up, if we can borrow the phone. I call home. Well. She is certainly not worried about why her kids are an hour late.

    My mother barks, "Didn't I remind you two this morning to take bus tickets ?"

    Yes she did. She does that every morning. But on Wednesdays, she picks us up so we have time to get to our music lessons. "But you don't have lessons today!" she blurts out in an exasperated tone. "Don't you remember they were cancelled?" She is mad. She is actually mad at me, a nine year old child. She makes no effort to hide her annoyance. She chews me out. I ask her if we should walk home. "Of course not," she snarls. "Just stay put and I'll come get you. And stop crying for heaven's sake!" I can't stop sniffling and tearing up.

    Only after I have a child do I realize the enormity of her strange actions. I can't imagine yelling at my son for being afraid. I can't imagine not wanting to soothe him. To apologize for the misunderstanding. I remain amazed she wasn't the least bit worried about us. I suspect she was using the afternoon off for something more preferable than picking us up from school. But what? What difference could the 15 minute drive take? At most an extra half hour to herself? What was she thinking? I'll never know.

    When I was 20 my mother died under mysterious circumstances. The family is in denial about the actual cause of death. The body was quickly cremated. Actually cremation was my idea. I couldn't abide with idea of her corpse, in a box, under ground. But now there's no going back for a new autopsy. I guess at the time I just wanted "it" to be over. Her grip on my life. Our family dies with her. Every man for himself. My older brothers effortlessly absorb into their wives' families. My father remarries and adopts his stepson. I'm on my own, a single parent within a year of my mother's death.

    As I neared the age she was when she died (50) I felt an increasing sense of doom. Like I couldn't believe I would live longer than her. I dreamed of dying in the same mysterious manner. Without symptoms. Without warning. In my sleep. At home.
    Reluctantly I woke up the morning after. Fifty years old and a day. Then another day older, and another. Years pass. Sometimes I feel quite ok with where I am. Not bad for a girl who had only three years of high school, three years of college. Not bad for a person without "ohana" (family ties or support.)

    At other times I feel sucker punched. My brain, without my conscious consent, will flash back on a 45 year-old unpleasant memory. Why? My heart will pound. My breath will bottom out. I resent being reminded of events I can't change. I can't fix. Events that were not my fault. I've had my share of expensive therapies. Obviously nothing cures me. The issues stay lodged in my tissues. Reemerging at inconvenient episodes. I hate the randomness. My sadness does not seem tethered to foreseeable conditions. My happiness does not seem anchored by understandable actions.

    I am not bi-polar. I've never been manic in my life. I seem to swing from normal to depressed without warning. Although he never met my mother, whenever my son says he feels depressed my body goes on red alert. I worry. I don't know how it is my parents quit worrying about me when I was 20. Because for myself, I'm not sure I know how to stop. But I will say this one thing about them. After they quit talking to me I realize much of what I did in life up to the age of 20 was either to make them happy or to tick them off. After I had my own son I had more important things to do. Freed from the tyranny of making them proud, I had a life.
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