Reading the note Tyrone wrote some months before he passed was like peering through a dusty window into a house I knew very well. The years since I’d been his confidant had not offered much healing.
In the 90s, Tyrone recalled being compared, critiqued, and told to be more like his brother. He felt his brother could do no wrong. I never got a chance to get to know Tyrone’s brother well. He was married not long after we were, moved out of state with Angela, and we only saw them on holidays. They were just beginning to grow their family when Tyrone and I became separated.
I knew that Tyrone felt that nothing he did was ever good enough. There had been many suicidal thoughts, with different amounts of effort toward completion. But he came back from them. He kept trying. I know he felt like he was growing up in a world that was working against him; like he belonged to a different time. I know that success to him meant him providing for his family and me staying home and raising our children. I often wonder how different life could have been if that were the case.
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Before Frank’s funeral, Coraline expressed interest in reading the note Tyrone left behind.
It was something I knew might happen one day. But I still didn’t know how to prepare her.
Because her aunt and uncle were going to be in town, and I didn’t want her alone to process the contents, we waited until they could all be together.
The first several pages were an exercise for his therapist, according to Donna. They were written in March of 2007.
The last pages were written not long before the depression he’d battled most of his life took him away in September.
Coraline read the note. She passed it to her uncle, who read it and passed it to Angela.
We had a difficult but revealing conversation.
Coraline didn’t want to take it home, but asked me to hold on to the note for her.
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We learned that the things that Donna said to Tyrone as he was growing up, were also said to his brother. They were never able to have a friendly sibling relationship. Donna had them believing the other was his enemy. They could never talk to each other — they could only talk to her, and try to please her.
We believe that Donna played a key role in the demise of our marriage. I didn’t see her need for him to be dependent on her. Not at first.
I won’t pretend the domestic abuse never happened, but I don’t focus on it. I did not have the skills to de-escalate a tense situation and neither did Tyrone. Our mental health challenges were not compatible. You know we tried — for more than seven years, we tried. I was never going to be the wife content to stay home and cook and clean. He was a hard worker but struggled with the provider role at times. I wanted to work, and enjoyed my job. Donna watched Stuart during the day. Things became difficult when Tyrone lost a longtime employment position while I was pregnant with Coraline. Donna helped with money and groceries, and it was very difficult for Tyrone to accept the assistance. But he struggled to find stable income, and he couldn’t turn the help away.
We believe that Donna played a role in the divide between Stuart and his sisters. We didn’t realize it was more of the same from Tyrone and his brother’s childhood.
Stuart remembers things happening that the girls living in the same house do not remember. We have to assume they are planted memories. The kids were never as combative toward each other as they were after a weekend at Donna’s house.
We learned Donna did not allow Tyrone to take his kids to his house for his parenting time. That was one of the most revealing facts of the afternoon. She even kept him divided from his own children. She relinquished control to no one.
I learned Donna made it clear to family members that Tyrone’s note contained very different information than was revealed at last. It wasn’t a surprise that she told others the note had been critical of me; that she’d destroyed it to protect me, and to protect Frank.
I remember her still as an individual with a serious untreated mental condition. She was sick. I wish we would have seen it earlier in life. I wish we could go back and protect those who suffered because of it.
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We put those feelings aside, and remembered and honored Frank yesterday.
Coraline and I are very grateful to have loving and forgiving family in our lives.
Angela and I watched our beautiful young people comfort and hold Frank’s sweet friend in her grief.
We remembered Tyrone, whose funeral service had been in this same room.
We will always wish for just a little more time with the ones we love.