One thing I’ve learned is what a memoir is and how it differs from an autobiography. An autobiography is the story of your entire life starting with “I was born on a dark and stormy night in the back of a pick up truck while driving through the Utah desert” and ending with where the person is today.
A memoir is different. It’s a piece of a life story. For me, the story is specifically about being the mom to Keven Legere.
The challenges for me is making sure my message comes across within the story. I could write about Keven all day long if this were a book about him, and no one would want to read it but close friends and family. What I'm trying to convey:
some universal truths about human nature
awareness of how closely mental health and substance abuse are related
that suicide is usually not a selfish act
educating people to help end the stigma
letting other parents know there is support and how crucial it is after losing a child
Most of the people in my writing group are writing memoirs, some about their recovery journey, traumatic childhoods, cancer survival etc. I have learned SO MUCH from them and we’ve become a close group. I can honestly say I would not have gotten this far without the love, accountability, wisdom and laughter I get from this group every morning of the week!
Hello Readers, thank you for stopping by! This week I am shaking off any insecurity and fear about sharing my work publicly. After all, I'm writing a book! I need to get used to people reading it - that's the whole point.
This is the beginning of Chapter 2, its about a 6 minute read.
This is a FIRST DRAFT.
An Unexpected Life
“You just got pregnant.” This announcement came from a male voice inside my head. It was March 3, 1990, around 11:30 p.m. Could it be the voice of God? My intuition? The crazy thing was, I believed it.
Tim and I met several years earlier when his best friend, Tom, and my best friend Kathy asked us to be the best man and maid of honor at their wedding. They introduced Tim and me a few months prior to the big day, we hit it off and started dating. After three years, we split up. About a year into our break-up, we got together one night for “pizza and a few beers” and ended up at his place. As I got ready to leave, I blurted out to Tim, “I just got pregnant!” and shared about the voice in my head. His reaction surprised me. He looked at me for a moment, saw my expression, and didn’t challenge my news. “Okay, well let me know when you find out for sure.”
At-home pregnancy tests were new on the scene, and I didn’t trust them. At two weeks along, I met with my doctor and expressed how much I did NOT want a baby. “Good news”, she smiled as she re-entered the exam room. “Your urine test is negative. We’ll take a blood sample just to be sure, but I don’t think you have to worry.” Relief flooded over me. I had been given my life back! The last two weeks I’d been obsessed with thoughts of how a baby ruin my life.
A few days later, my doctor called me at work. “No! No!” I screamed into the phone; my voice carried through the office. I left immediately, no way could I focus on my job. Driving to Tim’s house, I tried to imagine how he’d react. Being a decent guy, he’d feel obligated to ask me to marry him. In that case, the answer would be “no’’. I wasn’t in love with him. Later I'd wonder if it would have been better for Keven if I’d married Tim so he could be raised by both parents. It haunts me at times - would his life have been better if I had said "yes"? Would he still be here today?
As I pulled up in front of Tim's house he was out front washing his truck with his shirt off. He worked construction and was a surfer. He had blond hair and a bronze body with sea-blue eyes and a beautiful smile. Definitely one of the best looking guys I'd dated. Lucky for Keven he resembled his dad (except for the blond hair).
Tim had a daughter, Amy. She was 15 years old. I’d known Amy’s mom in high school. She got pregnant, and Tim married her only to leave after five years. He had little interaction with his daughter. I loved Amy, and the break-up with her dad didn’t affect our close relationship. We stayed in touch with phone calls and letters and later, Facebook. She was thrilled to find out she was going to have a half-sibling. If she would have lived closer, they would have seen each other more often. Keven was always proud to say he had an older sister and bragged to his friends about how cool she was. Amy had her own struggles with drugs and they became extra close in the last few years of his life, texting and talking often.
Tim looked up to see my car pulling in front of his house. He turned off the hose and walked toward me. “So, you’re pregnant?” he raised his eyebrows as he asked. “Yep.” We stood there staring at each other than he asked, “So what’s the plan?”. “I’m having the baby”. I’d decided not to end this pregnancy. I’d done that in my early teens out of fear and desperation. Despite not wanting a child, I’d do my best to be a wonderful mom.
“Well, we could get married,” he said. Despite the romantic “proposal”, I declined. Relief swept across Tim’s face. What came next surprised me and pissed me off. “Promise me you will never tell my family”. What the hell? He had a big, fun family. I loved his parents and his siblings! Out of pride and anger, I agreed. “Okay, if that’s what you want, I won’t say a word!”. Sure, I didn’t plan on this kid, but I didn’t want to deprive him of half of his family. My family, although wonderful, lacked the big happy family vibe that the Thompson’s had.
Tim’s handsomeness turned ugly to me at that moment. I knew him well enough to know why he didn’t want me to tell his parents. They’d badger him to be a responsible father, plus he didn’t want to pay child support. He didn’t think of the baby as our child; he thought of it as my child. Nothing more was said. As I drove away he called out, “keep in touch”, I didn’t respond. I went home and cried for hours, trying to figure out how to tell everyone else.
It was fate that I saw Lisa, Tim’s sister, at the park when Kev was 18 months old. She took one look at him and exclaimed, “That’s Timmy’s kid!”. I explained to her I had promised Tim not to tell his family. She took care of that for me! Lisa was thrilled, so she bought a bottle of champagne and drove to her parents’ house to share the good news. They were ecstatic and called immediately, then planned a big party to welcome Keven into their family.
Keven loved his grandparents. On holidays he’d spend the mornings at home, then go to the Thompson’s and spend time with his dad’s side of the family. It meant a lot to him to be included. When he old enough to drive, Kev would show up at their house, unannounced, for afternoon visits. They told me they loved opening the door to find him there. He was an excellent conversationalist, even when high, and I don’t think they realized that sometimes when he stopped by he’d been using.
Then one year after Christmas dinner, he passed out after the meal. They called me in a panic, wanting to know if they should call 911. I asked if he was breathing and he was. I told them I’d be right over since it was only a minute’s drive from my house. Fortunately, he woke up and Tim drove him home. After that incident, the invitations slowed down. I completely understood. It shook them up to see their grandson in that condition, not to mention that he had showed up high on Christmas day. It was unfortunate, but it’s very common for the people closest to you to pull away if you’re high around them, they can feel disrespected and hurt.
That same evening back in 1990, after telling Tim the news, I walked downstairs and found my mom and sister at the kitchen table. “I have something to tell you guys.” I paused for a moment. It was clear by my facial expression that it wasn’t good news. “I’m pregnant”. The first words out of my mom were “How could you be so stupid?” followed by “It will great to have a new baby in the family”. My sister, Therese, although surprised, was thrilled. It took me a few months to catch up with their enthusiasm.
Looking back, I had no idea being a mother would be the greatest joy of my life. At age twenty-nine, I worried about the lack of freedom and change in lifestyle parenthood would bring. l had great friends, a fun social life and a “dream job”. A baby would ruin that, right? I cried daily, at work and at home. Did Keven sense this from the womb? Were my selfish, negative thoughts the reason he felt unworthy and not good enough? This haunts me. He was showered with unconditional love all his life - except for those first 8 weeks. I still think about it to this day.
Around three months into the pregnancy, for no apparent reason, I woke up one day thrilled about the tiny being inside me. I wanted to be a mom! My family and friends let out an enormous sigh of relief. My constant crying ended. Even with the exhaustion and discomfort, I loved being pregnant.
Amy, Keven and Tim