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October 8, 1988 - Transcript

This is a transcript of a “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” episode entitled, “October 8, 1988.” The text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future for accuracy.

Listen to the episode here.


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I’m Nora McInerny, and this is “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.”

When we are suffering, when we are sitting amidst the rubble of our own broken lives, our ruined plans, our rudely interrupted plot … sometimes the only thing we can see is our own experience: the jagged shards of our own broken heart, the feeling of a cry stuck in our throat, the pressure of grief expanding like a balloon in our chest.

Suffering is lonely like that. Even when we’re surrounded by people who love us, the interior details of any loss are specific to us — specific to what came before, to what we’d hoped for in the future.

But if we look up, refocus, strain our eyes in the dark, sometimes there is a small, nearly imperceptible point of light. A message from a fellow traveler on this weary road trying to make sure we know we aren’t alone. That our singular experience intersects with another singular experience. That all of the things we are sure have set us apart from the world are really things that weave us all together … that connect us in ways that are nearly impossible to see until someone throws on a light.

But it doesn’t feel like that sometimes. Most of the time, it feels sometimes like our losses are as unique as our fingerprint, something nobody else could ever understand.

This is a story like that. This is the story of two young girls – Mlle and Missy. Two young girls who felt, like so many of us have, that they were alone in their families and in their experiences, in their pain.

Two girls whose stories would intersect and intertwine on October 8, 1988.

This is Mlle.


Mlle: I was the oldest of four kids. I had three little brothers. That was always very annoying, as you're the oldest and the only girl. We did not have much money. Both of my parents worked full-time. We spent a lot of time at the babysitter. We'd even have to spend nights at the babysitter’s. And I just hated that. My parents seemed like they were always fighting.


And this is Missy. Her parents also fought a lot while she was growing up in Wyandotte County, Kansas … mostly about her dad, and his drinking.


Missy: When he was drinking, he was I guess what people would consider a mean alcoholic. And so it wasn't ever very fun. A lot of fighting and things being broken around the house and stuff. But when he was sober, you couldn't have asked for a more kind, caring, loving person. And my mom said he tried several times, you know, and tried really hard to quit drinking, but it was just something he couldn't overcome. I remember, you know, like after major fights or something, they would decide he was going to quit drinking, and he would actually try and he would go to the AA meetings, and we'd go too, and he would do pretty good. But then after a year or so, it would ... you’d definitely know. when it was over. I could always just smell it. Then I’d know. I think the final straw was we came home one day. I'd been at school, and my mom had been at work. And she was working a man's job, manual labor, busting butt. And we got home, and my dad was not working. And he would’ve been sitting on the couch watching cartoons all day drinking, and we hadn't even gotten through the door. And he looked at my mom and demanded to know where was dinner. And my mom, she's an outspoken woman and basically told him if he wanted dinner, he could get up off his lazy ass and go fix some dinner.”            


When Mlle is 12 years old, her parents decide to move the family from Chicago back to Kansas to live closer to their parents. And Mlle, like most kids, didn’t choose this move … and she didn’t like it, either.


Mlle: It was horrible when my parents told me we were moving. I absolutely hated it. My little brothers didn't mind, but it was horrible for me. All four of my grandparents were alive, and my parents decided they needed to be closer to them because they needed them to help us. So we just moved to a little town -- it was 800 people -- to Mound City. 


Living close to her grandparents in small town Kansas is good for Mlle, because to be honest, she likes them way better than she likes her parents. 


Mlle: My dad was very angry. He would yell a lot. He hit us with a belt several times. He was just very, very angry. He was a Vietnam veteran. That's really about all I remember about him. We would ride the bus out to my grandma and grandpa's house every day after school. Grandma always had snacks for us. She would cook us supper. Grandma made the best oatmeal. She would always cook our favorites. She is the one, I think, that got my brothers and I eating raw potatoes. She'd always give us a slice or two. They had a huge fish tank in their entry room. We loved looking at the big goldfish in there. And then my other grandparents, my Granny and Gramps, they lived about an hour away. And that was my dad's mom and stepdad. And they were the fun grandparents. We would go camping with them in their RV. They had mopeds. We'd always get to drive the mopeds round with all their friends. We'd play cards and dominoes with them all the time. 


Fifteen miles away, Missy is 8 years old when her mom files for divorce. And her dad doesn’t take the news well. 


Missy: He would break in while we were gone and hide the telephone in, like, the laundry baskets, and that way no one could call the police. And then they would hide somewhere. And when we’d get in there, he would start attacking my mom, and I'd have to run out the door and go to the neighbor's house and call the police. And by the time they would get there, he'd always be gone. And it was a normal routine, like it was actually a routine. She learned to,  like, case out the neighborhood, so to say, before we pulled in and drive around and make sure we weren't being followed, because he would follow us and try to run her off the road. And it was definitely crazy. One time he actually kidnapped me from the bus stop and my mom was frantically looking for me. 


After Mlle’s family moves to Kansas, her dad becomes a construction worker, and her mom starts her own business.


Mlle: My mom first started a flower shop at my grandparents house in a little building there. So she would buy fresh flowers and plants from my grandma and grandpa's greenhouse. And she just learned how to design flowers on her own. There was no other flower shop in Mound City or around, and everybody was already coming out to my grandparents’ house to go to the greenhouse. After about I think two years, my mom bought a flower shop in the neighboring town. It was right next to a funeral home. And so we were really busy. It also made her very sick, because she's allergic to flowers and a lot of things. She had migraines a lot. it just took her away from home a lot. When you own a flower shop, your biggest days are Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, funerals. I just felt like I was needed and I had to be there. I didn't have a choice. I just had to help her. She couldn't really afford to pay many other people. She had one guy that was a big designer for us. But, it was just, that's where I need to be. 

Nora McInerny: How would you have described your mom when you were in high school, and how would you have described that relationship with your parents? You know, some people are like, “My parents are like my best friends!” and some people are like the opposite. And I think most of us are somewhere in between. 

Mlle: Yeah, I am definitely not in between. I ... I hated my mom. I hated my dad. We would fight a lot. I always grew up thinking she was a bitch. I hate that now, thinking back and thinking, "Oh my gosh, how horrible." But no, we didn't get along at all. I think she expected more of me, and I didn't want to be that person.


It’s a fact —or at least feels like a fact — that adolescence is the worst. And honestly, so is a lot of childhood. Because it’s hard to be a person, and it’s hard to be a young person, because young people have NO CONTROL over their lives! They don’t pick their parents, or their houses. They don’t get to pick what’s for dinner, usually.

For many of us, our high school diaries, or our notes, or our memories reflect this: that this time of life sucked and a lot of times that was because of our parents. Our parents didn’t get us. They were RUINING our lives. We couldn’t wait to get out and get some freedom.

Mlle’s relationship with her parents continues to be … strained, let’s say, throughout high school. As the oldest child, Mlle has to take care of a lot of things around the house while her mom works. And she resents that, because she’s taking care of her pain in the butt younger brothers while her friends are going to movies or hanging out and just being teenagers.


Mlle: They would get mad at me. I was the oldest child. They expected me, of course, to do more around the house, because they were working. I was young. I didn't want to take care of my little brothers. So it was hard being the oldest. And now I understand: Yeah, that's what you're supposed to do. But it was hard. And I just kind of hated life, I guess. 


After she turns 18, Mlle leaves home.


Mlle: At first they didn't want me to move, and I'm like, “There is no way I can live in this household and go to school.” And I think my folks finally realized that, and so I just needed to get away from them. They needed probably to be away from me, because I was probably a horrible teenager. I moved into an apartment with a girlfriend from school. That was wonderful. I finally was on my own. I didn't have my little brothers around to nag me all the time. I didn't have a mom and dad to answer to when I went to school, which was wonderful.


At school, Mlle has freedom. She can hang out with her friends, study, do whatever she wants. If she gets a job, it will be for a business that actually pays her.

But just a few weeks into her first year of junior college, it’s her mom’s birthday, so Mlle makes the drive back to Mound City. She’s being a dutiful daughter … but her expectations for the visit are low. 


Mlle: I went to the flower shop. I had just wanted to stop in and see her. And it was really nice. We got along, like I had been out of the house for six weeks, I felt like I appreciated her more. I think she appreciated me more. We did not fight at all, and it was nice to see her for her birthday. I did not hate her at that point. 

Nora McInerny: And does that feel big? 

Mlle: Oh, it was wonderful. I mean, it was just like, "Wow." You know, "She's not such a horrible person after all." 


She’s not such a horrible person after all. It’s not a huge realization, and not all is forgiven, but it’s a little moment that feels big, that feels good, that seems to signal that the move to junior college and living on her own was the right one. That things with her family could be different. Could be better.

The next night, the family has plans. They’re going out to dinner to celebrate Mom’s birthday. 


Mlle: I could not wait to go for supper, because we went to one of our favorite places called Gebharts. They serve the best fried chicken and onion rings. We all went together, all six of us went in our old car. And it was great. We all got along, which never happened. No one was a pain in the butt, like my brothers. Everybody just got along, and it was a great birthday for my mom. It was wonderful. I loved spending time with them. 


This is an amazing moment for Mlle. After years of constant arguments with her parents, tough punishments, and feeling like a second mother to her little brothers, she finally has … a good day with them. A great day, actually.

After dinner, the plan is for Mlle’s parents to drop her off at her apartment at the community college.


Mlle: My boyfriend at the time was going to pick me up, and we were going to go cruising. We went to my apartment, called my boyfriend. And he didn't answer the phone. So my folks was like, "No, we need you home tomorrow. You can't get a hold of him. So you're gonna come home with us." I was like, "Crap." So I was mad. So I get in the car, probably really pissed that I have to go home with them. 


So Mlle, her parents, and her three little brothers drive home after dinner at their favorite restaurant, where they celebrated Mom’s birthday — and where, quietly, Mlle had done her own celebration of sorts, hopeful that her relationship with her mom might be improving.

It’s October 8, 1988.


Mlle: I remember right inside town, looking out the front car window. And it was really foggy — couldn't see in front of us. And it was just like, wow. And then I think I just went to sleep, because it was late, we had a big supper. And then I just went to sleep. That was the last thing I remember. I remember waking up, and I was on a hard surface. Someone was right near me, and I said, "What happened?" And they said, "You were in a wreck." Then I realized I was on the highway, is where I was. And I asked, "How's my family?" At that time, I didn't know if I was hurt. I had, I had no idea. I just woke up. And someone right there, it was just a passerby, had told me, "They're all gone." 





Mlle, her parents, and her three younger brothers have all just been in a massive car wreck. Mlle’s entire family — her brothers (Trent, Christopher, and Brandon), her mom, her dad — are all dead. 


Mlle: I remember just seeing a lady, and I was cold. She gave me something to put on me. And I just remember the highway was hard. And it was dark, and I don't even remember if it was foggy or not. I think my world kind of stopped. I remember telling them, "You need to call my grandparents." And I also told them they needed to call my mom's best friend. So I told them, “Call Phyllis, and call my grandma and grandpa.”


A few hours later, over in Wyandotte County, Missy’s life is also changing.


Missy: I was 11. I was just a couple of months, actually, shy of being 12. It was October 8th of 1988. Probably about 4 o'clock in the morning when my mom woke me up. She woke me up and told me that I needed to get up, that we needed to talk. She had something that she had to tell me. And of course as a kid I'm like, "I don't want to get up," and I was arguing with her, and she told me, "No, it's something bad. You gotta get up, we got to talk now," and I got up. And I remember standing at the foot of my bed, and she told me that my grandparents had called and my dad had been in a bad wreck and he was dead. And I guess about that time is probably when I let out the wail of the scream I let out. She says she'll never forget. I won't, either. 


Mlle won’t wake up again for days. When she does, it’s not on the blacktop, but in a hospital room.


Mlle: And the first thing I asked was, "What day is it?" And they had told me it was Tuesday. Well, growing up from being a florist, I knew a lot about funerals also, so I knew how long from when you die to when the funerals are. And I think I figured it out, and I'm like, "Oh. When's the funeral?" And I woke up on the day of my family's funeral. I think I kind of freaked out a lot at that point, knowing they were having the funeral without me. I had broke my leg, my right femur. When I woke up, my leg was in traction, waiting for them to put a rod and screws in my leg. And I knew my head hurt. And that was all I really knew. I just could not believe it, that my mom and dad and my three brothers were all dead, and I had no idea at that time why. My mom was an only child. My mom's parents lost everybody except for me. 


What Mlle says there – about it being unbelievable – that’s how Missy feels, too.


Missy: Of course, as a kid, you always just think it's not true, and most funeral services also are like, open casket, so you could see the person and process it and know, “Okay. There they are. They're gone.” It was my first funeral ever going to where it was a closed casket because of the crash. My dad was in one of the trucks that blew up on impact due to the gas tank, and so there was no way for an open casket. So it took a long time for me to even come to senses that it was him. 


It’s not just the fact of her father’s death that Missy has to contend with and eventually accept, but the circumstances around his death.


Missy: My dad had been at a family friend's house that night. He had left drinking, and they tried to get him to not drive and to stay there. And they tried getting his keys and he wouldn't let them get up and left, and said he was heading down to Oklahoma to my aunt and uncle's house and never made it out of Kansas. For the longest, I never even wanted to get my driver's license, and I did not want to be the person responsible for people's lives behind the wheel. 


It’s impossible for us to know which of our decisions, actions, reactions are the linchpin, which of the innumerable choices in a day could be the one that changes everything.

What if Mlle’s boyfriend had answered the phone and her parents had gotten on the road to Mound City just ten minutes later?

What if the family had gone to a different restaurant, or stayed for another cup of coffee after dessert?

What if Missy’s dad had handed over his keys, or drifted off the road and onto the shoulder instead of crossing the center lane?

Missy is just a middle-schooler, alone with the burden of this complicated loss: that her father died, that he died while driving drunk ...

… and that her father was driving the car that killed Mlle’s family.


Missy: I found out about Mlle and her family when, like the new newspaper articles started coming out, because it was long before computers and internet and all of that. And that's when I found out that there was another family. I knew he had hit another car, but that was the extent I'd known until the newspaper said that it was the whole entire family -- mom and dad, the three sons and then Mlle had survived. I couldn't believe a whole family on top of it had lost their lives. And I felt really, really bad for Mlle and for losing all of her family in one, one blink of an eye, basically. I wanted to reach out to her to tell her how sorry I was. And that I wasn't like my dad, and I'm so sorry that he'd done that to their family. That he chose to get behind the wheel after he was so drunk.


Missy doesn’t reach out. She doesn’t know how to track Mlle down, and she’s not sure that Mlle would want to hear from her. She’s the daughter of the person who killed Mlle’s family. She doesn’t just feel grief, but guilt – a secondhand kind of guilt for the sins of her father. So she keeps Mlle tucked into the recesses of her heart and her mind, this girl on the other side of the accident.

And she creates her own mythology around Mlle and her family: that they were happy and perfect, everything that her family was not.


Missy: The story that I had always thought had happened was they were coming home from a church dinner. And my thoughts of them was a perfect family. You know, your mom, dad and just the family and going to church. I was just hoping her life was better, you know? And I always felt like my dad destroyed a happy family. I went to counseling after that. My mom had taken me to a counselor before, during the divorce, because it got so ugly. And it was so hectic and hard on all of us. So she had found a really nice lady. Her name was Molly. And I went to see Molly on a regular basis through that, and we got through that, and it helped. And I didn't see Molly anymore until when my dad died. I went back to see Molly again to talk, and it helped. But then Molly was an older lady and retired, and I did not connect with the other person that came in to fill her shoes. And I never found anyone quite like Molly, that I felt that comfortable with. And so I had tried counseling a couple other times in my life since then. But I guess I just never found the right person to go back to and talk to on occasions when you feel the need. 


Mlle doesn’t know that Missy exists, that there is another survivor from that night, a little girl who was woken up in the middle of the night and told that her father would never come home. A girl who reads the paper looking for Mlle, who thinks about Mlle and her family every day.

Mlle is alone in her own grief, and in her own kind of guilt. She’s gone from being a surly teenager getting into it with her parents … to a miracle. Her grandparents’ angel. An inspiration to the people around her who survived. 

And she’s happy to be alive, yes, sure...but why did SHE live? Why not her younger brothers? Their mother? Why is she the one who was pulled from the wreck and survived? 


Mlle: I am so thankful my brothers did not live, since they were so young, I just didn't know what they would do for a mom and dad. I was thankful my mom did not live, and my brothers had died, because emotionally I didn't think she could deal with that.

Nora McInerny: I imagine too when people are calling you their angel, it's a miracle that you survived, that there's a burden to that, too.

Mlle: You know, when they called me their angel, I didn't understand it. I just was glad that I was left for them, since they were in so much pain. They had all lost their grandsons. My brothers were the only one to carry on the family name. Our family died off so fast, with one man hitting us. So, yeah, it was a lot. And when I'd come home to Mound City, I had so many people say, "There's a reason. There's a reason why you were left. We might not know that now. But you'll figure it out." I thought, "Oh, crap. Why was I left here?" You know, there was a while where I didn't want to be left. You know, I hated it. It was sad. I lived with my grandparents, my dad's mom and stepdad. You know, I would cry myself every night to sleep and listen to music that my friends had sent me, just inspirational music, and I'd just cry every night to sleep and just wonder why. Why did I get left here? And I decided it was for my grandparents. Absolutely, it was for my grandparents, is why I know I was saved.


Mlle stays with Granny and Gramps for two and a half months while she recovers from surgery and goes through physical therapy for her broken leg. Granny and Gramps were the fun grandparents. These were the ones who used to let Mlle and her brothers drive their moped and go on RV trips. They’re who taught Mlle and her brothers how to play cards and dominoes. The ones who just lost their grandsons and their son … and who are stepping in to parent their only surviving grandchild.


Mlle: I didn't want my grandparents to see how much it hurt that I lost my little brothers that was a pain in my butt. You know, I've lost my mom and dad. And at that point, at 18, you're also kind of invincible. Not a lot of things matter, even your family dying. I don't, I really didn't get the scope of it, you know, for a few years and then a few more years after that. My grandparents turned out to be everything to me. I knew my grandparents better than I ever knew my mom and dad. My grandparents were in my life longer than my parents, which is not normal. Everybody thought my granny was my mom, you know? She died a year and a half ago, and for years and years Granny and I would be out, and I would be out and I’d help take care of her, and I would just always with her. And we’re inseparable. And somebody would say, “Oh, your mom is so cute.” I’m like, “She’s not my mom, she's my granny. Can’t you tell how old she is?” My best friend's mom and dad wanted to adopt me, and they had found out I was 18, so I didn't need a legal guardian. But her parents had just turned into my mom and dad. It's always weird when I call them Mom and Dad and someone’s, like, "I thought your mom and dad was dead." And I'm like, "OK, my best friend's parents is my mom and dad now, you know, it's my kids' grandparents." They are Grandma, Grandpa. We might not be blood, but we have each other. 


We’ll be right back.


———


Mlle and Missy both do what they can to just keep going. But October 8th comes every year. And every year, these girls brace themselves for and survive the same worst day of their respective lives … alone.

Decades pass. Each of these girls becomes a woman, has her own family. Each of them feel their loss echo around them in different ways.


Missy: My kids have turned out well. My daughter’s graduated from high school and college, and she's doing well in her career. My son's graduated from high school and is doing pretty good. He's still searching for what his career may be. My youngest daughter, she is a sophomore in high school and she's doing good in school. You know, I, I'm always on my kids about don't drink and drive, you know, stay where you're at. Get a D&D. Call me. I personally don't like to drink, probably for obvious reasons. 

Mlle: I have such a good relationship with my kids. I would have loved to have that, you know, with my mom, you know, with my dad. Just, you never realize what you don't have until it's gone, or what you do have until it's gone. I feel like losing my parents and my brothers that I hide a lot of stuff. I don't show much emotion. It takes a lot to make me cry in public, like, because I have gone through it all. You do not want to see me cry. But it takes a lot for me to cry in front of somebody, because no one wants to see me go down. So I just think I carry a lot more inside of me. I never wanted to show my grandparents I hurt. That's hard. You know, it about killed them, and they didn't need to know that it about killed me. 


Missy outlives her father. Mlle outlives her parents.

Missy and Mlle’s children grow older than Mlle’s brothers ever will.

They each dread and survive this same day, over and over, for their own reasons.


Mlle: My kids don't have their blood grandparents. They don't have three more uncles. When I got married, I knew I didn't have my dad to walk me down the aisle and my mom to be proud of me. It takes a long time to really understand what you are missing in life with them all being gone. October 8th is the only day I let me fall apart. I don't like to be around anybody else, I don't like to have any other commitments. Because it is the day where I will let myself cry and hurt and be miserable and reminisce on my little brothers, on my mom and dad, what it would have been like to have them now. I'll fall apart that day. I just don't want to do anything else that day. My family has realized that. Please don't plan anything for me that day. Just my day to grieve, and I really don't do it any other day. But that day, I will do it all day long by myself.

Missy: You know, each year on October 8th is … you can't ever forget a day like that. There's been a few years that the day passes by, and you don't realize it, and you're like, “Phew! I slid by that one this year. Thank goodness,” you know? But not often. I hate knowing that she has to go through the same feelings and emotions. But it does make you feel like you have some type of a special bond, because on the same day we're going through the same emotions, the same feelings. It’s the same hard day. It's the same hard time, trying to build the courage to get through another year of that day. 


And in 2018, Missy builds up another kind of courage. She finds Mlle – through Facebook – and she sends her a message.


Missy: One day I just decided to search her name to see if maybe she was on Facebook. And she was. I seen her pictures and stuff. And I sent her a message through Messenger, and she actually didn't see it until almost a year later, because we weren't friends, and she didn't know where to retrieve it from. And she had a friend, I guess, show her, is what she had told me, and seen my message, and I guess she didn't even know about me all those years. You know, she had just found out about me through the message I sent her.

Mlle: I open this up, I think it was a day before the accident date, and I'm reading this message from this girl. Melissa — come to know, call her Missy — that said it was her dad that had hit me 25 years earlier. And she understood if I didn't want to contact her. But she would love to talk to me. And I looked at that date on that message, and it was from a year ago. She had wrote it on the day of our accident, October 8th, a year ago. And I thought, "Oh, my gosh, I'm just seeing this message."

Nora McInerny: How do I feel to see those words on your screen?

Mlle: I had no idea. The man that hit us, the only thing I ever knew about him, that I had read in newspaper reports, was he was a divorced man. And I knew his name. That's all I knew. And then this message that I got said it was a daughter. And I thought, what the heck? So I messaged her real quick. She actually was on. I gave her my phone number. I said, "I am so sorry. I did not ignore you. I never saw this message come through." And it just happened to come through a day before the accident that I saw it. And I said, "I would love to talk to you."

Nora McInerny: What did it feel like to have her reply?

Missy: It felt like a twist of emotions. Like, I was so happy. I was nervous. I was kind of scared to see what she had to say, considering the circumstances. I'm just really excited, you know, just so many emotions. It was just … all of them combined in one, it was. It's hard to explain. 

Mlle: She ends up calling me. It is late at night. I am talking to this girl and find out that it was her dad. Her mom and him had got divorced. She was like, 11 or 12 at the time of the accident. And her mom and grandma kept newspaper reports also — the newspaper clippings from where they lived. She had kept all those for her, and she had read those. And her mom and grandma had heard things about me. She told me that she'd always want to reach out to me But her mom said, “You know, she might not want to talk to you. Your dad killed her family. Just wait.”

Nora McInerny: One of the things that you mention when you said you reached out was that you wanted her to know that you weren't like your dad. Were you worried that people would think you were like him?

Missy: As a kid, I always did. You know, I just felt like, you know, she needed, they needed to know not everybody in the family was like that. I guess it maybe it was just my conscience because it was my dad that caused all of it, you know? But when I opened her message, I couldn't have dreamed up a kinder, sweeter woman than what she is.


Mlle and Missy slowly begin to build a relationship. They compare notes and memories. It’s not a friendship, exactly — that’s not quite the right word for it. But it is a connection. 


Missy: I'm angry at my dad for just up and leaving. He never called to say goodbye first off. As a kid that kind of broke my heart a little, but you get over that part. The hardest part is knowing that your dad took out an entire family and you're the only kid, and now you're left to live with the thought of, “My dad killed an entire family and left this poor girl orphaned.” There's really no way of getting over it, I don't think. I ain't found it yet.

Mlle: She felt horrible.She said she wouldn't be upset if I didn't talk to her, because it was her dad's fault. And I'm like, “Missy, you have nothing to do with this.” But she felt the pressure of her dad killing a family. I was just floored that he had had a daughter and there was someone like that that had all that pressure on her too. And I told her, I said, "It is not your fault whatsoever. And I will never blame you."

Missy: Whatever her reaction was, was okay with me. Like, I would have taken it if she wanted to yell at me and cuss me or whatever. I was willing to do that and allow her that. She's a very sweet woman, and I'm glad I found her and reached out to her and it worked out the way it did. 

Mlle: It was so emotional. It was just like closing a door. There's never any hard feelings for her. I knew she had a horrible life. Her poor dad had died also.


Her poor dad. Mlle lost her family to Missy’s poor dad. Not to a monster, or a bastard, but to a person whose daughter still aches for him.

Mlle lost her family, Missy lost her father, and they each lost these relationships when they were still young, when these relationships were complicated and fraught, not just because adolescence is difficult, but because relationships are difficult.

Really, the only upside to adolescence … and every phase of life … is that it eventually ends. We grow up, and we grow, and the arc of time gives us chances to reinvent ourselves and our relationships with the people around us.

Hopefully. If we’re lucky.

Mlle’s brothers could have grown up and become her peers and not just her responsibility.

Missy’s father could have gotten sober. He could’ve gotten help. He and Missy could have forged a healthier relationship. He could be a grandfather to her children.

 

These losses – Mlle’s family, Missy’s father – aren’t just what was, but what may have been. It’s the loss of possibility. The possibility of redemption or reconnection. The possibility of more. 

There is no more, no could, no other option.

There is only what was, a perspective that shifts for each of them as time passes.

Mlle suffers from the migraines her mom had … and now, her mother’s moods and her need for help at the shop make a lot more sense than they did when Mlle was a teenager.

So does her father’s coldness. He was a Vietnam veteran who received no mental health services after he came back from a war.

Missy’s dad wasn’t just a drunk driver who killed a family. He was her father, and he suffered from alcohol addiction, and she’s seen that same disease affect other people in her family over the years.

Time doesn’t heal these wounds, but it can disinfect some of them. It can take away some of the guilt, some of the rage, some of the horror. So can connection; what cannot be fixed can at least be carried … barefoot, in the snow, uphill, both ways.

Next year, October 8 will arrive again, same as it always has. Mlle and Missy will grieve, will cry, will remember. 

They won’t be together, but they won’t be alone, either.

They never were.


This has been “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.” I’m Nora McInerny. Our team is Marcel Malekebu, Jeyca Maldonado-Medina, Jordan Turgeon, and Megan Palmer. “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” is a production of APM Studios at American Public Media. Executive producer and editor Beth Pearlman. Executives in charge Lily Kim, Alex Shaffert, Joanne Griffith.