Remembering Molly

June 27, 1994|By Charles P. Thobae

I HEARD the news of my daughter's death two years ago this week in Memphis, Tenn. -- our last overnight stop from New England enroute to our Texas home.

I was stunned when my sister told me. My first thought was that Molly's death was a misstep in the natural order of things. My 34-year-old daughter was not supposed to die before me, a 61-year-old.

During the drive from Memphis to Houston, my wife and I sought comfort in shared reminiscences. When she was a child, I had initiated Molly into the male world of duck marshes and bass ponds. I conjured up a picture of her wearing my hunting parka, a blond head peeking out of that monkish garb with her face looking sad for the small buck I had just shot. Without uttering a word, Molly and I came to the realization, then, that we would not become deer hunters together.

While rain spattered on the windshield, crossing the Mississippi into Arkansas, I shifted focus and attempted to form a picture of Molly's death and her last lonely moments of despair. I could not complete the mental scene. Perhaps it was too close to my own threshold of mortality.

Passing into the pines of East Texas, I became analytical and tried to assess the blame: heredity, chemical imbalance, circumstances, institutions, other people. Myself.

Later when I was told I shouldn't blame myself, I disagreed. I still have to accept a measure of responsibility because my child had everything to do with me and I with her. As her parent, I was among those who contributed to Molly's world.

I kept thinking that my preoccupation with my second family during the past 25 years possibly deprived Molly of my attention when she needed it.

Molly left me without a stated reason. I am angry at her for bequeathing to me the burdens of guilt and self analysis. I realize after two years that I will never be completely free of these specters. Nor will I ever truly know why she did it, or if, in fact, she could have controlled her urge to die. Beyond loving her terribly and missing her more than my capacity to describe, the mystery of "why?" adds the greatest tragic dimension to my sorrow.

Molly was a humanist every day of her life. Her loyalty to those whom she loved and honored was quite fierce and remarkable. I am certain that her suicide was not intended to hurt me or others who were close to her.

In truth, her suicide had to do with Molly herself. Her high ideals could not come to terms easily with an imperfect world where wars are waged and animals are killed for the sport of it. I could not change that world for her.

Nor could I change the genes that contributed to her personality. From early childhood, Molly's life was an undulating landscape of inner conflict. In her adult years the valleys became deeper and darker. The peaceful plains and meadows were fewer and the rugged landscape became too much for her to travel. Finally, she made the decision to discontinue her journey.

I visited her grave recently and a wave of sadness enveloped me. Her grave marker appeared as lonely as Molly must have felt the night of her death. It reminded me of a watercolor landscape she painted for me when she was a student. In this picture, the umber plains of north central Texas roll almost treeless under a taupe and violet sky. The picture is as sad and lonely as her grave. Molly saw the world in her unique way and I realize I could never have fully entered her landscape.

I said earlier that my daughter had everything to do with me and I with her, but part of Molly had nothing to do with me either.

Charles P. Thobae writes from Houston.

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