Buy the Book

"In the deck of negative emotions, fear will always be the high card, for me, at least. In this case it was fear of the very real threat of having to discuss my ‘feelings’ with a therapist. I was suffering greatly but I still couldn’t imagine a more acute form of torture!"

Do you like what you've read here?

If so, please make a comment in the box at the end of this chapter.

03 – Recovery

The mental self-destruction after the funeral lasted longer than it should have. Spring and summer felt like an eternity. Maybe it was the dual nature of the torment, making it seem to last twice as long, or just the absence of people I dearly loved making time drag. My mind was trying to deal with a fresh wound (losing my beloved grandpa) and an old wound reopening (a strongly entrenched crush I thought I’d finally beaten). Which was more painful? It was hard to say. But the combination was greater than the sum of the parts, and the sadness stabbed at me from different directions. I was miserable, and I couldn’t escape, though I certainly tried.

My coping strategy was all about defense and evasion. Strange things like a commercial would spark a memory and the sadness would crest over me like a wave. Sometimes I’d literally get wet from it, breaking out in a cold sweat or, more often, getting soaked from warm involuntary tears. I felt totally out of control and very embarrassed with myself, so I began to retreat. I spent a lot of “quality” time in my room, quiet and alone. Being around my mom and Hoyt meant the presence of TV, or movies or music, and I just couldn’t handle the effects.

Over time I realized that I had boxed myself into an imaginary padded cell. It was boring and lonely, and I felt trapped by it. My painful reflections had no such restrictions; they managed to come and go as they pleased, totally unhindered by the perimeter of protection I’d tried to construct.

Mom and Hoyt had mercifully given me lots of space at first. They didn’t try to pull me out or push me into anything I didn’t want to do. Though I felt free to privately wallow in my own sadness, I tried to be discreet about it around them. I worked very hard not to be moody or unpleasant. But there was no sense in faking happiness. It’s like faking big muscles when you’re weak and thin. Trying to be myself in front of them was the hardest thing I had ever done. For once I was glad that I was shy; it meant I didn’t have to try quite so hard to be outgoing or bubbly—things I had never been before. Still, I knew I wasn’t doing it right, pretending to be normal for them, that is.

It was when Mom started hinting around that grief counseling might be a good idea for me that my attempts at a more convincing recovery began in earnest. In the deck of negative emotions, fear will always be the high card, for me, at least. In this case it was fear of the very real threat of having to discuss my feelings with a therapist. I was suffering greatly, but I still couldn’t imagine a more acute form of torture. 

Just thinking about that possibility was enough to effect the most immediate and miraculous emotional recovery in history—outwardly—though the inward recovery was not too far behind. That began in earnest when I initiated my own therapy sessions with myself. I told myself that I was going to have to accept that I may never get over any of this, so I would just have to settle for getting through it. 

I made an agreement with myself to hold on to the hope that maybe someday, in the far distant future, perhaps, I could be happy again. After all, wasn’t my mom happy again? I never would have believed that possible. Of course, right now my problems were tainting her happiness, and I didn’t want to be responsible for that. So I needed to start moving forward if I had any hope of getting to that happy future that I had never questioned until recently. Although, to be honest, moving forward with life was almost as scary as dealing with a therapist. Almost.

One way that I chose to ease back into normalcy, at least from my mom’s perspective, but certainly not by any other measure, was to engage her in our thing that we did—just her and me.

If I’d had any notion of how strange and lame it was, I would have never played along. But it had always seemed perfectly normal and fun to me, and now after years of participation, I couldn’t give it up even if I wanted to.

It was the peculiar little game of words that my mom had played with me ever since I could remember. It was basically a game of word switching where the players replace a normal word with some random, scarcely known, and rarely used synonym, then try to understand each other.

My earliest recollections of the game involved nursery rhymes.


Game version:

 Scintillate, scintillate, celestial body minific,

Feign do I fathom your nature specific.

Loftily perched in ether capacious,

A reasonable facsimile of a gem carbonaceous.

Scintillate, scintillate, celestial body minific,

Feign do I fathom your nature specific!



Mainstream version:

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,

How I wonder what you are.

Up above the world so high,

Like a diamond in the sky.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,

How I wonder what you are!


I loved it that the game version rhymed as nicely as the mainstream version, though admittedly, it did not sing as well.

Another game, Scrabble, was also a favorite pastime and one in which I quickly eclipsed my mother’s excellent skills, much to her conflicting maternal satisfaction and competitive chagrin. 

When I was a very young child, my mother took great pride in my impressively good diction, which surpassed that of many adults, although living in Kentucky as we did, the triumph of such a thing was somewhat diminished. In defense of my own kind, I’ll assert that we Kentuckians have numerous admirable traits and talents, but as a group, speaking with grammatical correctness isn’t at the top of the list—at least for those whose jobs aren’t specifically tied to it.

One of my elementary school teachers actually thought that I had a speech impediment because I spoke very clearly yet unintelligibly on occasion. I couldn’t help it if I was smarter than she was; none of us knew.

“Smarter” is not a fair or even accurate description. I was just a logophile (a word lover) with vast stores of minutia in the form of words and their definitions that couldn’t be used in normal conversations with people other than my mother. Though she disapproved, now that I was older and more self-conscious, I tried to tone the impressive diction thing down around normal people so that I would sound more normal and less like a robot or an alien infiltrator. Sometimes, though, I would catch myself using that “alien” vernacular of mine and feel obligated to throw in extra words to elucidate.

One of my favorite offshoots of our game had to do with phobias. There are over five hundred named phobias, and making up a new one is as simple as determining the Greek word for it and adding the suffix -phobia, which is an entirely separate and enjoyable game in itself. A side benefit was the addition of numerous Greek nouns and verbs to my minutia collection.

Incidentally, I never used the word lame lightly. The definition I preferred was “something boring, old-fashioned, weak, or unsatisfactory.” I’d always been a lover of multipurpose words, and lame worked well much of the time, particularly in relation to my life, but especially because other teenagers understood my meaning when I used it, and that made it indispensable. Well, it would be if I ever ended up with any friends. Of course, once they discovered the real me, they would probably think I was…lame.

Curious about Ash’s first impressions of Ellery?  Click on “Perspective Passport” below to find out what he thought of her.

Perspective Passport

Musical inspiration for this chapter: 

‘Here’s Where the Story Ends’
by The Sundays

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Are you enjoying this chapter? What do you like about it? Enter your comment below. Thank you!

Chapter Index | 0 Comments

No Comments (Leave a comment »)

No comments yet.

Leave a comment