"It's all on my shoulders"

Updated: Jan 27

I got into my car the way I usually do; thoughtlessly and quickly. It was nearing the end of October and the air was starting to offer a cool, brisk chill at the end of the day. It wasn’t the end of my day, however. I still had three more homes to show and a two-hour drive before I would arrive at my own home. I settled back into my warm leather seat, connected my sleek, red iPhone to Bluetooth and pushed the start button on my Honda CRV.


One of the main criteria when purchasing a new car, was that it had heated seats. I abhor being cold, but when my bootie is warm, I’m invincible. Then again, I have to be.


Like so many other women on this planet, I am the sole financial support for my family.


It’s all on my shoulders, and I feel the weight of it, every single 12-15 hour workday. It is oppressive and crushing, but I face it with fierceness and discipline. Unlike many other single women, I love my work, and frankly, I could be sitting upon the warm leather seats of almost any automobile of my choosing, but I’m practical and I’m cautious. I’m under no illusion that “I’ve got it made.”


This day, as I settled into my driving pattern of periodic checks in my rear-view mirror to be sure the family of six in the minivan behind me were still following, alternating with my retorts to “Eleanor,” my misguided GPS, I felt frantic and unfocused. I sat up in my warm, leather seat and inhaled, and then exhaled slowly and deliberately in an attempt to calm my heart and mind. I continued to focus on my breathing for the few minutes it took to drive to the next property. I repeated this exercise following each showing and then I headed for home. As I pulled away from the last house I showed, I checked the rear-view mirror one more time. My clients still had two kids to put in car seats. I backed out, waved to them, put the car in drive and begin heading toward home. The coast was clear now. It was safe to let it out now. Not all of it. I still had to be quiet. But I was getting good at that; silent sobbing. I had been practicing in my bathroom now for weeks.


As I increased my pressure on the gas pedal to gain distance between me and my clients, I allowed the tears to fall; sadness, fear, anguish, grief and heartache all culminating in a tortuous physical pain in my chest. This was not a heart attack. It was a heart….breaking.


“Mom? Where are we?” She was awake. I wiped the tears from my eyes and inhaled, once more, exhaling slowly, and cleared my throat. Now I have to shut it all off again. It doesn’t help. It makes the pain worse. But she will not see my pain. She will see her mom, constant, stable and safe. I can do this.


Tess is my 21-year-old daughter. She is the middle child but doesn’t fit the standard birth order characteristics of such. She is the second of three girls. They are all five years apart, so perhaps that is too much of a gap to be considered relevant in the formal birth order characteristic chart, if there is one. I don’t know. I’m not really into that type of thing.  


Tess’s birth was planned. All my girls were.  Despite my propensity to hyperemesis gravidarum, or severe and constant “morning sickness” that results in extreme nausea, vomiting, weight loss and dehydration, I took my chances. The second one wasn’t any easier than the first. The third was worse.


From the time Tess was able to walk, she began her secret plot to take over the world. At least that was our running joke about her among family and friends. My beautiful, chestnut-haired, round-headed, blue-eyed little girl was less than jovial. She was sober, pensive, and bookish. She detested getting dirty and loved wearing dresses. She thought costumes on Halloween were a ridiculous custom that needed to be done away with, as she knew she could get free candy by simply holding her bag out. She knew this from age three.


By the time she was five, she was negotiating. Parenting “experts” might call it manipulation. I always preferred to see it as a future skill set that could benefit her in her later years. Perhaps I nurtured it at an unconscionable cost.  


When the last baby was born, another baby girl with long strands of strawberry blonde hair, Tess decided she was going to name her. For the first few months she would call her either “Twisty” or “Smoothy.” This transitioned into “Doctor” and “Professor.” She finally landed on “Jeedo.” I wouldn’t and still don’t know where that came from, and just for the record, that is not what we named our youngest daughter. However, 16 years later, it is still what she calls her. At least, it was.

 

Tess doesn’t call anyone anything anymore. She talks in one-word sentences. She cries. She hyperventilates. She doesn’t eat. She sips water, sometimes she will take small sips of soda or tea. She is skinny. I can see her ribs, her hip bones, her collarbone. But she’s breathing. She’s alive. Her heart is still beating.  So is mine. It is beating out of my chest.


We are almost home now. It is 8:30 pm. In three more hours, my “shift” will end. It doesn’t mean anything though. My shift never ends. I am the mom. The Mom. I will continue my watch. She will once again, sleep by me in my bed tonight. I will hold her hand all night to be sure it stays warm, and there. She will not end her life on my watch.


The 48-hour watch is over. The last time Tess tried to end her life, it wasn’t during a time she was on “watch.” Tomorrow I will get up early to mow the lawn. I will bring her with me. First to the back patio where she is in complete eyesight, and then to the front. When we go to the front, I will have to move her chair from place to place so I can see her. She will continue to sit by my side at my office, and in my car with my appointments. I make no explanations or excuses as to why she is there.


I still do my job with as much passion and care as I have always done.


Other people have real lives too. Almost everyone on this planet is going through something at any given time. I will take her with me, and I will continue to watch her breathe, just as I am suffocating.


For more information on how you can help those struggling with suicidal thoughts, visit Mission 22 and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.


Jen Fischer is an associate broker and Realtor with Ascent Real Estate. She has been in the business for over 15 years and has remained as a top agent in the industry ever since. Attributes that set her apart include; communication skills, integrity, work ethic and a strong marketing ability. She gives110% to every- thing that she does. She prides herself in being Available, Accountable, and occasionally Adora- ble! Thanks to her incredibly loyal clientele, personal referrals and repeat business form the foundation of her career. She hails from Salt Lake City, Utah where she graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in journalism. She writes a weekly real estate column for the Ogden Standard-Examiner. Jen currently resides in Layton but has recently opened another satellite real estate office in St. George. She is the mother of three adult daughters whom she loves fiercely. She married Gary Lee Fischer in 2019.

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