Getting to (W)hole Part III: The other shoe.

I endure hardship, folding it into life like melted butter into batter. It is an expected guest, though an unwelcome one. What unfolded in the summer of ’08 was an […]

October 23, 2010 // Tracy Shaffer // No Comments //

I endure hardship, folding it into life like melted butter into batter. It is an expected guest, though an unwelcome one. What unfolded in the summer of ’08 was an unexpected test. I could no longer swim in the waters of chaos, the vortex of mental illness is far too strong. The dam broke in the marriage in February of ’07, flooding me with the realities of raising two sons solo as a Realtor® in a declining market. Two soccer schedules at two different parks had me driving in circles, keeping the boys in their schools meant a ten mile daily commute; I spent many a morning burrowed in the underground parking lot, napping in the back of the Volvo before going to my office. Endurance is endearing, enduring is exhausting. Under the circumstances, this was a trade up; at least the chaos was my own. Slowly, putting one stiletto in front of another I moved forward, no longer sacrificing my life on the alter of addiction. While he took to climbing mountains, I became adept at moving them. It got better. Until the other shoe dropped…
The boys had been with their dad for the Fourth of July weekend. I was on my way to meet them half way for the kid swap when the phone rang. No one had heard from my brother since Thursday. Now if Steve hadn’t called me, his wife or his life-long friend in three days, something was seriously wrong. I promised to go by the house and check in, I called the boys to say I’d need more time, and I got dressed slowly and methodically, thinking ‘are these the glasses you want to wear when you talk to the coroner? Should I take a sweater in case it’s cold in the morgue?’ Driving across town I wished I had some dry cleaning to pick up, contemplated a drive through the Starbucks, anything to delay what I knew was inevitable. I ran through my mental Rolodex, looking for someone who might meet me there, cursing and asking, ‘Why do I have to do this alone?’ Tears were welling but not falling, waiting in the traffic jam of my numbness. The ten minute drive felt like an hour. I pulled up to the house; his car was catty-wampus in the driveway, the keys lying on the threshold of the front door. My deepest fear confirmed in that moment. I walked around the back of the house to check the back, stood at the sliding glass door looking in. A clear voice spoke to me, very strong, “No baby, don’t do this. Don’t come in, you don’t have to do this.” I knocked as a matter of protocol and called the police. “My brother is dead.” “Are you with him?” came the first of many questions from the 911 operator. “No, he is dead at the bottom of the stairway.” I said, having no evidence save the premonition I’d had months earlier as I followed Steve down the stairs. I waited for the cops to come, alone. My real estate partner, Lea, called with a question about condo rules. I answered in a trance and told her where I was. She landed there in minutes, like an angel; staying the five hours it took for detectives and coroners to process the scene. I didn’t break until the photographer arrived. Steve had been a professional photographer and in our LA days I’d been his model, rep and muse. I was crushed under the weight of irony. The family gathered for the “Shaffer Shiva”, a ritual that requires more vodka than prayers. And time passed.


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