Sneak Peek at My Forthcoming Memoir, Aprils and Decembers

Today I’m thrilled to share a sneak peek at my forthcoming memoir, Aprils and Decembersavailable on December 10, 2015 from Black Rose Writing!

A drawing by Ben.

A drawing by Ben.

Excerpt from Aprils and Decembers, a Memoir by Dawn Quarles

And so it was for four days. That pep rally I’d given myself on my drive home from Troy’s house, the one about being strong for Tate, wasn’t playing out the way it was supposed to. I did not eat, or bathe, or function like a person should, especially one who has a child who’s grieving and dogs to feed and friends who just want to know you’re okay. I did nothing except move from bed to bathroom and back to bed, my old fallback habits when my life absolutely and completely crippled me. My mother cared for Tate, fed him, entertained him, and distracted him, just like she had when I left Troy the year before, because I just couldn’t do any of it. I was useless, again, save for one thing: lying with him in bed on those nights talking about his dad. I knew that arrangements were being made for Troy’s funeral but I was left completely out of it, as I expected to be. I resurrected myself in brief chunks of time to make phone calls to the insurance companies and to answer lingering questions about Troy’s personal affairs and accounts to employers and others not personally involved in his death. Oddly, many of the folks I had to deal with regarding Troy’s business treated me as if I were still his wife and when that happened, things moved smoothly, thank God.

I held off my friends as long as I could until I finally heard Colleen and Ellen push right past my mother and stomp up the stairs in their heeled boots towards me, dressed to the nines, animal print scarves and the works, demanding to see me face to face. I hated them for it at first because I knew they would break me down again. Then I loved that they were there when I did break, coming into another storm after me yet again. I talked about what happened for the first time and they cried right along with me.

We sat together just as we’d done almost two years earlier, reflecting on the sadness I was again facing and quietly piecing together how I got from there to here. They knew everything that I’d experienced, they were there when I tried to die, and they were there when Troy did. I was able to get some of my questions answered about how the news spread so quickly the night before and I was right in thinking that I was racing the clock to tell Troy’s children and his parents about the accident. Small-town drama addicts and petty scandalmongers were to blame, a gossipy collection of thoughtless women, all hot on the scent of my trauma before I’d even gotten the phone call myself. In those moments, hearing about how people made careless phone calls and sent selfish texts, I wondered if it ever crossed any of their small minds that someone’s father/son/brother had just taken his own life gruesomely and was that really the kind of information you want to take credit for disseminating?

In true small town form, our community rallied behind Tate and me. My friends overwhelmed us with stories of what was going on back at our schools. I was moved to tears at the personal messages they were instructed to deliver to me. When I finally spent some time alone with my phone, I read a large collection of the kindest, most genuinely heartfelt messages and listened to the gentlest condolences from colleagues, students and friends, husbands of friends, wives of colleagues, parents of kids in Tate’s class, parents of my students. Even the lunch ladies at Tate’s school took up a collection of change for him attached to a handwritten note telling them how much they loved him.

The one that meant the most though, the one that made my back straighten and dried up my tears, came from my old principal. This was the same man Troy called around the time of my breakdown, convincing him that I was a neglectful mother as I careened towards my own destruction.

“Dawn, when I was ten years old, I lost my father. I turned out just fine because I had a strong mother. Be one.”

That man is one of the greatest men I’ve ever known. I needed no other reassurance at that moment in my life than for someone who knew from experience that a good man could be raised without a father. He told me that it was possible, and that I could do it by myself. His gift for prose saved me when I did not think anyone could have had just the right thing to say. I needed his directive and I wanted to show him that I could do it. That one piece of encouragement branded itself on my brain and guided me through the next few years while I struggled to raise a young boy all on my own.

By Thursday of that awful week, there were so many things demanding my attention. I am still shocked and sickened at the things a grieving person is expected to step up and handle in the days following a catastrophic loss. Banking and employment contacts, ordering death certificates, arranging the identification of the body, making arrangements for the house to be cleaned up and receiving autopsy results. These were just a smattering of the things I juggled. There would be months of this type of thing although admittedly, keeping busy with these mundane activities kept my mind off the event planning taking place around Troy’s memorial. I was left totally out of that. I got wind of it when Kelli reemerged from obscurity, after we hadn’t seen her in years. Yet since her father’s death, poof! she was there…making arrangements and putting on a big display of grief. She passed by my parents’ house one afternoon and asked for family pictures for a slideshow she was putting together and I immediately felt a suspicious burn in my gut.

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About Dawn Quarles

Dawn Quarles is a high school political science and American history teacher who moonlights as a blogger and writer. She lives on Pensacola Beach, Florida.

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