We Never Gave upÖ
We Only Let GoÖ.
Peter was born at 3:50 p.m. on August 12, 1972. He already had an older sister named Jennifer. She was 22 months old. Gary, his father, and I were married right out of high school. It was foolish as we were just 18 and so young.
Jennifer adored her little brother and was like another mother to him all of his life. She somehow knew that Pete would require "special handling." She is my angel. Now Pete is hers.
Pete was a cute, chubby blond haired baby. He looked like Alfred Hitchcock! He laughed all of the time and only cried when he was hungry.
I noticed a change in his behavior as he started to walk. He started becoming agitated after playing for a while and refused to nap. He stopped sleeping through the night and would stand up in his crib, hold on to the railing and rock the crib across the room where he could maneuver himself to the door. The pediatrician gave him some medication that would help him sleep through the night.
Pete was a very friendly and outgoing. He excelled in sports of any kind. He was also very sensitive. He was protective of others who he felt were being mistreated. He was prone to extreme changes in temperament however and even at the young age of 4, I could tell that something was wrong.
His pediatrician said he was hyperactive. The "treatment" for this would be a combination of things. First was to identify any food allergies by eliminating all foods for 1 day and then re- introducing them one at a time in mass quantities and note what behavior it caused. External allergy causes were eliminated as was the possible effective of "vitamin therapy," (the planter next to his chair in the kitchen benefited the most!)
His dad leaves when Pete is 7 and Jennifer is 9. It is most traumatic for them both but especially Pete because he doesnít understand why his dad doesnít love him.
How do I explain Pete. Now, I know that he was Bipolar. I did not know this and apparently I did a poor job describing his behavior to the pediatrician, neurologist and counselors. (In fact I was told that I had poor parenting skills).
It wasnít like there was a time clock by which to measure the "switch" between "normal" to "frenetic" to "tired." I started to see a pattern where he would be like any other active 7 year old who was good in physical sports. He could often sit and read, color or play with his little toy soldiers for hours.
Then he couldnít! He would become agitated by the littlest inconvenience to the point of destructiveness. All of the happy faces in the world on the refrigerator door, rewards or praise did not faze him. It was like his fervor would reach a peak and he would collapse. Sometimes when he was little I would actually have to hold him down as he threw himself around yelling and crying until he was like rag doll. Other times I just held the door to his room shut while he flailed, threw things and punch holes in the walls.
The hardest thing about this was how remorseful he was at his actions and vowed with all of his heart not to do it again.
I am torn because I do not want to reinforce to him that I think there is something wrong with him, but I just know there is and have to find out. I take him to the neurologist. After the electrodes and scanning testing is performed the neurologist tells me that he is "wired backwards" and he shorts out sometimes. He also tells me that there is really nothing to be done about it that he just has to learn to live with it.
The pediatrician tries him on Ritalin and another drug called Cylert, they were using for hyperactivity in those days. They do no good except give him headaches.
Pete, Jennifer and I are now our own little family. My parents and siblings live near and are of tremendous help but they are at odds over what we do "about Pete" also. I strongly believe in discipline and that there are consequences to oneís actions for which they are responsible to bear but there were just times when certain corrective measures were only going to make things worse. I always tried to make the discipline fit the mental state that I thought he was in.
Even though Pete was "all over the map" emotionally, when he was just Pete he was so much fun. We both joined soccer teams and used to go to the park and kick the ball around together. He would trip me and we would laugh hysterically. Jennifer had clubbed feet when she was born and her knees would go out so she did not participate in sports so she was our cheerleader!
Pete was all over the neighborhood and everyone knew him. He was the neighborhood protector! He caught someone in the neighbors open garage saving a bike from being stolen. He was very agile on his roller blades and dove into a child on a bike seconds before he would have steered into the path of an oncoming car.
One Christmas we made our own tree ornaments. He patiently drew around his hand on green felt. Cut it out, sewed it and stuffed with blanket batting. He clued his name in white felt across the back of his hand. I treasure this little hand more than anything I own.
We had the usual ups and downs each child experiences as they go through life. The absentee father, working mother, school and peer pressures that reek havoc among the most well adjusted child, took a devastating toll on Pete. Peteís dad continued to belittle him yet call and set up a time to come and spend some time with him, and then just not show up.
When Pete was 10 years old, against my better judgment, I let him visit his father in California. I got a call from Pete at midnight one night saying that he didnít know where he was! His father had given him a $5.00 bill and told him to go to this 7-11 and get quarters for him to do the laundry . He got lost and frantically called me.
Luckily I had two separate phones in the house so I called his father and told him to please go get his son! I waited on the line with Pete until he got there fearing that Pete would receive the brunt of his anger. I was heartsick for my little Pete.
When Pete was 11 his father and girlfriend had a baby boy named Andrew. He knew he was being replaced, because he was not a "good boy." He was in a private school through the 6th grade and then a "special" school for the learning disabled, which taught based on the manner in which each individual child learned best. Pete could pickup anything in an instant by having it demonstrated.
When Pete was 12 and thru the age of 15, my parents helped me send him to a summer camp in California because there was no one to keep an eye on him during the day while I worked. I had no other choice. I could not let him wander around getting into trouble. It tore my heart out to leave him that first day. No matter what I said to him he kept saying, "donít leave me here, Iíll be good, I promise." Again, he thought it was because he was not a good boy. How wrong he was. He was a good boy and I loved him so much.
The depth of the heartache he endured because of not just his fatherís but of the worldís general intolerance and indifference was staggering and as with many issues in his life the extent of damage done was unknown until after his death.
As time went on he had his share of successes, which were so sweet and poignant that I can still feel the warmth from the memory spread through me. I still think that I can change the ending of his story when I run through it in my mind.
Peteís teens were tough. I could not "sit" on him any longer when he was going out of control. He would not listen and reacted impulsively to his frustrations in destructive anger. He made it through the 11th grade and then went to adult night school as he worked in a local restaurant during the day.
When Pete was in "neutral" his mind was clear. He was clean, witty, friendly and charming. He smiled all the time and was always there to help anyone he could. When he was "tired" he would sleep for days getting up only to use the restroom and grab a bite to eat. When he could function he became slovenly in his personal appearance as well as his living area.
The worst parts were his "frenetic" modes as I called them. This would start our by a slow increase in energy during which he would feel good, positive and productive. He would idle here for a while but the "feeling good" mode was usually short lived, and the elated mood and grandiosity was quickly replaced by angry, irritable moods. The "frenetic" stage would often, (but not always), escalate to a frenzy of increased and inappropriate spending of money, increased smoking, drinking and sexual preoccupations.
When Pete was 16 he was with "friends" one evening and one of them grabbed a ladies purse and tossed it to Pete. Pete ran a few steps and dropped it but continued to run.
When he came home he softly came to me and asked me to sit down that he had something to tell me. He explained what happened and that he would probably be arrested. He was right. The police came and took him to jail. He just hung his head in shame.
He apologized to the lady for his part. He was released to me and had a court date a couple of weeks later. The first week he did not come out of his room but by the end of the week he was becoming irritable and angry.
Jennifer, Pete and I were to meet my parents and siblings in Utah for a camping and fishing trip. He did not want to go. He wanted to stay with a friend. I said no. He became enraged and punched the front window out of my car. At his court date the judge gave him probation and read him the riot act about his atrocious behavior. I was crying so hard I could hardly speak but I did.
When the judge asked me if I had any questions I said yes and I told him about the camping trip and his reaction. I will never forget the pleading shocked look on Peteís face as I choked out these words. I could not keep allowing him to think he can behave this way without consequences. I watched as they took my son back to the juvenile detention center for the weekend while Jennifer and I went camping. It was a horrible.
Another time I got a call I the middle of the night from his girlfriends mother! She said that the girlfriend had called her to say that Pete had been stabbed and was on the way to the hospital!!! Pete was supposed to be at his friendís house 2 blocks away so I called and spoke to his friendís father who said that he thought they were in bed. He checked and of course they werenít in bed. He said he would call me if they came in.
Franticly gasping for breath I started calling the hospitals. I just knew he was dead but as I begged God on my knees to please let him be alive the door opened and it was Pete.
I was so furious with him and so relieved that I donít even recall what I said but I do recall that all of the energy I had in my body was gone and I just sank into the sofa.
Pete was a bit shaken and scuffed up but otherwise unharmed. He was in such a state however that he turned the issue at hand against me by asking me what was my problem after all he was the one who was in the fight!
When Pete was 18 he was working at a local restaurant as cook in training. I had a seminar out of town and my parents were going to look in on him. When I returned I found him sitting on the couch with his right arm in a cast. I did not want to ask.
This "episode" was the first time he has ever become so frenzied that he did something and did not know it until after it was done. He was putting the dishes away when his "girlfriend" stopped by. According to him she was yelling at him for something and she wouldnít stop even after he asked her to and he grabbed the knife from the rack and sliced his arm! He said he didnít even feel it but was shocked back to reality when the blood pulsed from his arm. She took him the emergency room where he collapsed as he went through the doors.
When Pete was 20 his sister Jennifer got married. He loved his sister so much and was as proud as a peacock as he walked me down the isle. What a time we all had.
When Pete was 21 he had lost two restaurant jobs and seemed lost when a friend called and said that there was an opening where he worked at a graphic sign company. Pete went in for an interview and went to work the next day. It wasnít long before Pete was head of the production department!
When Pete turned 22 I got him an apartment close to his work. He did not have a car (long storyÖ), so I had been taking him and picking him up or he rode his bike but it was 10 miles from my house to his work and I didnít like that because he often worked at night.
He made friends in the neighborhood immediately and although he was always needing a little help with his rent, groceries or clothes he was pleased with himself. I was hopeful that "we" had managed to find a way to manage his moods. We enjoyed lunches together and he would never fail to make it to a family get together. He loved his family very much.
Peteís father had not stayed out of his life and had continued to cause Pete much sadness. His father would come to town to visit his mother and go see Pete only to take advantage of him, (take his food and money), get drunk and start hitting him.
During their last parting things were said and done that would only be known by me after his death when I found an account of it in Peteís personal items.
On Aug 25, 1995 when Pete was 23 his father would die of alcoholism. This would be the beginning of Peteís final downward spiral. His "episodes" increased in frequency and his "frenzied" behavior caused him to loose two apartments.
Calls in the middle of the night that he had been in a fight and there was a knife and he doesnít know if someone was hurt.
Calls in the night, he was trying to save his cat from his last apartment and he sliced his finger to the bone and no one was around.
Calls in the night from jail, he was just walking across the street when the cops stopped him and he wasnít doing anything wrong!
Calls in the night, he had borrowed a friendís motor-cycle and someone had pulled in front of himÖ.
During this time he had met two other "young ladies," Angela and Joann. Joann lived in his first apartment complex and is a very nice sweet girl who lived with her mother. The problem was she like her booze. The other girl, Angela also lived with her mother but their vice was drugs. Pete and Joann got an apartment together but when Pete was in a manic phase he would sometimes not come home. She would drink and they would fight.
He would call crying and dismayed yet again at his behavior and could I please help him.
The day to day routine of constant worry and waiting for the next traumatic event took a toll on us. When the back line phone number would ring at my office I knew it was Pete and I shook as I picked up the phone. At night when the phone rang and it was a wrong number it would take me hours to calm down and fall asleep again.
If it was Pete, (unless he was in the hospital), I told him that he just had to deal with the situation and not sleep at all. I tell Pete, I am turning the ringer off at night. If you get yourself into trouble you will just have to deal with it. I later regret this. But I understand it.
In 1997 they were evicted from their current apartment. Pete would stay with Angela and her mother. Pete called one day and said that he couldnít stay there because they "did drugs." I got him an apartment in my name and moved what was left of his belongings once again
. Why did I not bring him home? I did not bring him home because I did not have the energy. Any help I could give him from now on was more effective from the peripheral. I still had no idea what was wrong with Pete. We were still "learning to live" with his episodes. I made my decisions based on this and the fact that if something happened to me I needed to know that he could take care of himself.
Joann moved back in with Pete and although I am fond of Joann I was concerned. I knew that she loved Pete but they were an unstable partnership.
In November of 1997 Pete had a peak manic phase at work. He had been on one of his work-a-thons and had worked straight for 20 hours when a fellow employee came up to him and asked him a question. Pete was so intensely focused on what he was doing that he barely heard him.
The fellow employee asked him again and Pete responded for him to wait a minute. When the fellow employee thought it had been a minute he again asked Pete a question this time touching Pete on the shoulder. The next thing Pete knows is this poor guy is on the floor. Pete had socked him. Again he felt awful and apologized as this had never happened before at work and he was embarrassed. He was "let go" until he could get his anger under control.
Pete finally decided that he needed help. He felt that he had been a guinea pig when he was little and did not believe in counseling but I explained to him that there were drugs available now that could help him cope but he would have to see a psychiatrist.
After three failed attempts to get him there, (he was afraid they were going to "commit" him and he refused to go in), he finally made his appointment. The psychiatrist was a good one. He had previously worked in a menís prison dealing with their anger management.
When Pete was officially diagnosed I do not know but he was placed on a drug that is used to treat Bipolar Disorder called Tegretol, (Carbamazepine). He said that he felt "even" on this drug. He did not have his usual "peaks and valley" mood swings. I was very encouraged and I think I even slept through a night or two!
Hope was short lived however as one day he called and I could tell in an instant that he was "manic." He told me that he stopped the medication because it wasnít doing any good! In actuality he had felt so good that he just knew he was "cured," and besides he didnít like some of the side effects. This was probably March of 1998.
He had been doing a number of odd jobs and had not gone back to the job he loved so much. I do not know the realities of the next few months because Pete was so ashamed and tired of "disappointing" me and "causing me worry" that he pretty much kept details to himself but I knew that he was failing.
He entered a drug program 3 times but never completed it. He would call me to please take him to lunch, please pay his rent, please, please, pleaseÖ. Joann left, Joann came back.
Peteís last few months were hell. On the 5th of July 1998 late in the evening, Pete called me and said that he had been to the emergency room because he had been bitten by bugs. His apartment, he said, was crawling with them. He had called the apartment maintenance department and they came and sprayed.
I took my son-in-law and fiancťe with me to his apartment. (My son-in-law is a police officer and my fiancťe, a silent friend and supporter while I raised my children). My poor Pete was sitting on the hood of Joannís car (she was at her mothers), looking puny and scared. He was definitely on the manic scale or was on the way back down I do not know which.
We went into his apartment that needed a good cleaning and saw no bugs anywhere. He showed us his arms and legs where he had been scratching but we saw no bites, just his scratch marks. I was mad. I was sad. I was at a total loss as to what to do. I thought, do I bring him home? What do I do? Oh God, what do I do.
What I did was to take him into his room and sit him down and tell him that he needed to clean up his apartment, eat the hamburger we brought and take a shower then he would feel better. I told him we would deal with the rest tomorrow. He just cried and said, "mom, I am so lonely."
I hugged him and left telling him that he would be ok. I canít believe I did that now. I donít believe for one moment that in the long run doing anything else would have made any difference in the outcome but oh how much more alone he must have felt when his mom, the one he called "the best," the one he always counted on was leaving him there. It breaks my heart to this day.
I tried and tried to get him to go back to the doctor. I continued to give him all the support I could give. He still was doing odd jobs but nothing substantial.
One night not too long after this July event I lay in bed one night as usual battling worry, fear and great sorrow when it all came together. I realized my greatest fears and I prayed to God: "Dear God, Please donít let anyone be hurt or killed because of my sonís actions. Please Please Lord if he is going to live the rest of his life like this OR if he is in jeopardy of loosing his eternal life, please God, please take him nowÖ. I sobbed and sobbed but I slept like a baby.
On July 17, 1998 Pete would write his goodbye note which we would find in his wallet on Sept 25, 1998 after he died. Peteís 26th birthday was in August of 1998. His sister Jennifer had a baby boy named Cole on September 3, 1997. What joy we got seeing Pete play with Cole and how much Cole laughed at Peteís antics.
This is the last picture I have of my son. It is on his 26th birthday at Marie Calendars. It is of Jennifer, Pete and Cole. Pete is so thin but I donít really notice it at the time. He is quiet and sad and I know this. He tells me he is ok, but he tells Jennifer he isnít. I donít know this until later.
The week before his death he calls me at work. He says that he really needs help. He is now hooked on drugs that at first helped him but he canít stop now. He thought he wanted to die but he really doesnít. I give him the phone numbers (which I find later in his wallet), of places to call to see what they offer. I tell him that he needs to call them and let me know what he learns. I tell him I will pay for treatment but he has to find out what the options are. I am letting him go.
On Wednesday September 23, Pete calls me at work. He needs $45.00 for something, I donít even recall now. I said ok it will be ready for him at the bank. He proceeded to tell me that there was no help available in town. All of the places were full! I didnít even challenge it. I just said, "oh."
He then told me that he thinks he broke his hand last night because he punchedÖ.I interrupted him and in a loving sing songy voice I said that I didnít want to hear it. He said, "yeah, ok." "I love you". I said back to him as I sighed with desperation and frustration that I loved him too.
My fiancťe and I had built a house together in Sept of 1997 and were waiting for the "the right time" to be married. This meant basically for Pete to get better. I new he was not going to. My fiancťe said that he had to that he had no other choice. He did not understand like I did, that Pete did have a choice.
I never actually thought that Pete would take his own life but I knew he would some how cause his own death by placing himself in the situation to allow it. Pete had been to our house only once. My poor Pete had become so embarrassed and ashamed that he hid from family. He would still say that I was the best though. I told him every time I dealt with him that I loved him and I would do anything to help him but I didnít have the ability to fix him. He always said, "mom, I know you love me."
On September 25, 1998 at 6:30 a.m. someone is tapping at our door. As my fiancťe opens the door, before I even know who it is, as I put on my robe I know that it is Pete.
I cautiously walk down the hall and see my daughter and my sister standing there huddled together with timid shocked faces. As I approach I am aware that I have heard some whispering and I see my fiancťes white face as he says to meÖ "Diane, itís bad news." I say, "itís Pete, isnít it?" He says yes that it is. I ask if he is alive.
"No" they say in unison. I scream and run back into the room yet I am immediately held motionless. I canít cry but to whimper. I canít move. They come in immediately and I say what happened.
Jennifer says, "he shot himself mom," with such dismay in her voice. I mind fumbles around and I hear myself saying with some peace, "well, at least he wasnít shot."ÖThey look at each other like I have lost it.
The first thing I want to do is to go see him. Then I think, no I donít because he is gone. I wanted to cradle him in my arms before he was too far away. I thought his presence would still be near him for a while. I donít know why but after I was told that he looked fine and I could see himÖ I didnít want to anymore.
I had to know what happened you know, exactly.
September 23, 1998. Pete had not come home that night. He did not come home the next day. At 2:00 a.m. on September 25, 1998 Pete came home. Joann was furious, worried and hurt. She had been drinking. Pete had a gun with him. He said he borrowed it from a neighbor to protect himself because someone was after him.
(She said he had had the gun for about a week. The gun a 22 made up from two different guns!). She knew he had been at Angelaís and was confirmed later by Angela herself. This is where he was getting the drugs. An argument ensued.
He was pacing and pacing telling her to be quiet that someone was after him. She said she just kept asking him why he didnít come home to her. He fired two shots into the wall. He said if you donít quit I will shoot myself. She said, "go ahead." He did.
She called 911 and they told her how to perform cpr. He was "alive" when taken into the ambulance. She told the police officers that his sister Jennifer was married to a fellow officer and that she had tried to reach him but the recording kept coming on. They sent two officers to Jenniferís house and told her the news.
I am lucky. I had my son for 26 years. He was loving, fun, handsome, kind, generous and sincere. He was troubled, heartbroken, lonely and despaired but he always knew he was loved. The bullet left no damage but a small entry hole at his left temple that I would not have seen had I not known where to look. He felt no pain. He feels no more sorrow over what he perceived to be the regrets of the intense suffering that he caused and felt him self.
I am at peace. I ache to embrace him, to discuss the last hockey game with him, to watch him play with Cole. I miss seeing Jennifer and Pete mix it up and share a hug. But I am at peace for God lent him to me for a little while and I loved him as best I could. I loved him so much that I gave him back to GodÖ I let him go.
Diane Prater...Peteís Mom
Diane, Pete's Mom