Friday, January 16, 2009

Milking The Blues

Sometimes, it doesn't take much to start one off into a downward spiral of depression and self loathing. It's different triggers that lead to what Grandmother Todd called The Blues, Granny Mary called sadness and Mom and I call depression. Sometimes you can actually pinpoint the moment it happens. Grandmother Todd went through a particularly harrowing blue period after an incident with a goat and some milk. It started off a great day, the kids were at school, the husband at work and Grandmother Todd was making her way through the household chores. She'd washed the breakfast dishes, put the washing out to dry, and mended a few socks. She swigged a thermos of black coffee on her way out to the barn to tend to Billy, the goat (sure, it was a female goat, but what are you going to call a goat other than Billy?).

Billy was eager to be milked and Grandmother Todd was eager to get back into the house out of the chilly January air. She pulled up the stool, corraled Billy and plopped down the bucket. Billy's milk filling the bucket slowly but surely, and Grandmother Todd let her mind wander as her hands worked through the repetitive movements of squeezing, pulling, releasing each teat. She thought about her other chores. She wondered what the children were learning in school. Then she thought about her own schooling, abruptly stopped at 14 because she had to work to help the family. She wondered what she'd be if she had stayed in school. Probably a school teacher because that's the most women from rural Kentucky could hope to be. But maybe a nurse. That would be interesting, being a nurse. Helping people. Having people depend on you for their lives. Grateful for the kind word, smile and aid you have given them. She'd be important if she were a nurse. But she wasn't a nurse, she was a lonely housewife with two kids who were becoming independent and a husband who wandered the town and the bars like a dog who can't remember where he buried his bone.

And that's all it took. That thought, the thought she had no control over her life. It flipped that switch like it had so many times before. Sometimes she'd come out of a Blue period after just an afternoon. She'd go back into the house, leaving Billy half milked, and crawl back under the covers. Not crying, not sleeping, just staring at the ceiling letting her mind race over all that was wrong with her. But the kids would come home, and she'd have to get up. Help them with the homework she barely undertood. Make dinner. She'd put on a brave face, and if she was lucky, The Blues would retreat into the back of her mind, to the bottom of her feet and stay hidden and forgotton, for now. But sometimes, she wasn't lucky, and The Blues stayed firmly put. Her every move would be shadowed by a thought of why. Why am I doing this? What's the point? Those times, everyone in the house just moved out of the way, waiting to let The Blues pass by.

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