I am 11 when I learn I am good in a crisis, and that my mother is not.
While I am a prolific reader, I don’t actually yet know the phrase, “good in a crisis.” Nor have I ever heard of suicide.
But I know that something is terribly, terribly wrong when out of the blue my mother turns from rinsing vegetables at the kitchen sink, blurts out, “Jesus God!” and rushes for the stairs, leaving the faucet running. I sprint after her, up the hardwood stairs, turning left into their bedroom at the top, and follow her into their bathroom.
We find my father naked and pale, slumped in the bottom of the shower.
I do not yet know what he has done - and even when later he tells me about his cuts, it will still be years before I actually understand - but I know this is an emergency.
My mother seems flustered, and so I say firmly, “Call 911!” We both run for the phone in the next room, and she dials.
It is an ugly damp winter morning. In my memory, it's December. It might be November, though. It is grey and cold and we have recently bought my Christmas dress - a rich green velvet. I remember my delight over the color and texture of the dress more vividly than I remember my terror over my father.
The ambulance arrives, and men rush in and upstairs. We stay in the living room while my mother figures out what to do with us. We've only been living in McLean for just over a year, so we don't know a lot of people.
In what always seems to be an impressively short amount of time they carry him out, covered. My mom follows them to the hospital.
She doesn't tell us anything. In retrospect, I know she doesn't know. You never know, until they get him to the hospital, until they see how much damage he's wrought.
My brother (who has either just turned eight, or is about to) and I spend the rest of the day with neighbors. They are kind, and we are scared and confused, and my main memory from the afternoon is of the heavy greyness hovering at the windows. And that we had baked pear for dessert.