Monday, September 19, 2011

Gloria Vanderbilt, now more famous for spawning our favorite Grey Fox, Anderson Cooper, than she is for her once-fabulous jeans, recently pondered over the loss of her other son, Carter, to suicide in 1988. Carter was 23 when he jumped off the balcony of the family's penthouse right in front of his helpless, horrified mother.

"You never get over it, but you learn to live with it," she said, adding that she thinks about it all the time.

Numerous interviews where Anderson recalls his mother fondly indicate that she bucked up and remained strong for the sake of her still-living son.

"I wanted to follow him over that balcony but then I thought of you and I didn't", she recalls to Anderson, of watching Carter plunge to his early death. Those words and that attitude are harder than anyone can imagine.

Losing a child is truly a life-changing event. My mother lost her only son when he was 18. From then on, life was divided into two distinct chapters. Relating a story or memory was always preceded with, "this was before Charlie died, so it must have been 19--" or the opposite. Experiences "after Charlie died" could never have taken place in that quaint bubble that Charlie inhabited with us.

Life became one of those "Sliding Doors" or "The Box" type movies where that one event beget the next in a never-ending game of Dominoes built on a keystone that was yanked away from its foundation.

Charlie and his buddy Randy were troublemakers of the Merry-Perri Hobbit-type mischief sort, but in a small New England town where "crime" is defined as putting out your mail without lifting the mailbox flag, Charlie was a moving target wherever he went.

Charlie's hijinx could be blamed on an absentee dad and a strict stepdad, or the sheer boredom of living on a farm pre-internet and Wii. Some blame the local sheriff with too much gun practice and not enough targets. The smaller the town, the greater the Power of One becomes, after all.

The made-up "what-ifs" don't matter. The reality is that a mother is never the same. Never. The. Same.

"There is never closure on something like this," Gloria told Anderson on his show. "Closure is one of those TV words."


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