A LINGERING SADNESS

In the fall of 1973, my mother gathered my (then) 3 brothers together and said, “Since we cannot decide on what kind of car to get, do you think we could decide on what kind of baby?”  (Note – In August of 1972, my mother had married Mark Shriver, who then adopted  me and my 3 brothers.  We had had a VW bus since 1965 (actually, we were on our second one by then) and since we were now 6 people, the bus just wasn’t big enough anymore, and so the need for a new car.  I do not remember what my brothers wanted, but I thought we should get the metallic blue beetle.  Yeah, like that was big enough!  In the end, we got a Dodge Sportsman Van (long before minivans were around) and a Mercedes 450SL.  Clearly, the van was for the kids and the 450SL was for the adults.) I, of course, wanted a girl and my brothers wanted a boy.  As I would be almost 14 years old when the baby was born, I’m not really sure what good a sister would have done me.  Really, I wanted a girl so I could make her little dresses.  I got another brother.  Andrew Mark Shriver was born on 29 April 1974.

When he came home from the hospital, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  My mother had brought home a red baby!  I did not even like him until he was about 3 months old.  Then I fell in love.  He became ‘my baby.’  Although I was not his mother, I did have a huge influence on him, the main thing being I did not ‘allow’ him to have a southern accent.  Oh, no!  Since none of us had been born in Atlanta (me and my brothers in WV, my new father was born in NJ, and my mother in Missouri,) and none of us had southern accents, I decided he would not, could not, have one either.   When he started pre-school and came home saying things like, ‘ya’ll’ and ‘fixin” and ‘cut on the light,’ I knew I had to step in.  I am proud to say that I was quite successful.  So much so, that when he went away to college in Maine, when I went to his graduation, he introduced me to his friends as ‘she’s the reason I don’t have a southern accent.’  No one could believe that he had been born and spent his entire life in Georgia and did not speak like his mouth was full of cotton balls.

We went to the same private school: me, only for my senior year in 1977/78 and Andy, from 4th grade on.  Because there were so many years between us, and even Brian, who was closest in age to him was still 9 years older, most of his friends did not realize Andy had older siblings.  When people saw us together, they just assumed I was his mother, and were always surprised to find out I was his older sister.

In my mind, Andy had it all–he grew up in a family with 2 parents who were not divorced, he was, in essence, an only child, he had every advantage and he was a good kid.  He never did drugs or smoked (I do take credit for this since I told him if he ever smoked cigarettes, I would make him eat them, lit!) and he did well in school.  He went to college and actually graduated in 4 years, like you are supposed to.  After graduation, he went back to Atlanta and got a job.  He had lots of friends and seemed happy, seemed being the operative word.

Pretty much everyone in my immediate family suffers from either depression or has bipolar disorder.  I now know that I spent a good part of my life clinically depressed.  I am the only one who has every gotten help with it.  I have been in therapy various times through my life.  I took antidepressants, which were hateful, but they did what they were meant to do and got my chemicals back in balance.  I asked at the time whether I would ever have to take them again.  My doctor said maybe, but that there was no way to know for sure.  I have read and participated in all kinds of self-help seminars.  I have worked really hard to stick around, which is my way of saying I’ve worked really hard not to kill myself.  The same cannot be said for anyone else in my family.  Is it fun to deal with all the crap?  Ah, no, it’s not.  But there is something in me that makes me have to do it.  Just as after my attack.  Even my therapist said I had a choice to do it or not, but I never felt that I did.  I absolutely had to do it.

Andy was suffering from depression, but he never let anyone know.  He was also suffering from a completely ‘fixable’ heart condition.  Again, he never told anyone.  No one knew that he was, essentially, a ticking time bomb.  And that bomb went off on 14 June 2011.  He died from an aortic aneurism.  I will never forget the call I got telling me that he was dead.  How could this be?  He was 37 years old.  He was my ‘baby.’  And as it turned out, the only ‘baby’ I ever had.

Yesterday was, what should have been, his 40th birthday.  I spent the day feeling pretty crappy.  I was able to work, and while I was working, I could keep my mind off of him.  I worked until about 8:30p, and that’s when I realized that working had kept me from dwelling too much on his not being here.  I miss him more than I can say or even understand.

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