LETHAL ICE CREAM
Even now, more than forty years after the fact, I still have a hard time believing that my mother tried to murder my sisters and me. That event, obviously, changed my life forever. Initially, it put me on a downward path into the darkest place imaginable. Evil came into my world. Yes, I do believe evil exists, but it was only by passing through the darkness of evil that I was able to find the joy of being awakened in the light, and certainly, I also know love exists.
In April of 1973, I was a normal, eleven-year-old suburban kid. On the day it happened, even though it was the middle of spring, in Chicagoland it had only recently turned warm, and there were gray, slushy piles of snow on the roadsides. It was in the low fifties, and the dark sky promised rain.
The weather wasn't unusual for the Chicago area at that time of year, but this day was going to be special. At least that's what my mom said. We'd gotten up for school like on any other day, but much to my amazement, my mother had said we were going to see the Ice Capades at the old International Amphitheatre in Chicago.
Like any kid, I was over the moon with the thought that I didn't have to go to school. Even when we were sick, Mom insisted we go to school, so this was nothing short of amazing.
"Woo-hoo!" I shouted when she gave us the news. "No school today!"
"Really?" said my younger sister. "You want to go see the show, don't you?" said Mom.
We all screamed with excitement and assured her that we did.
"I'm going to run out and get some gas so we don't have to stop on the way," said Mom. "Why don't you kids just relax and watch TV till I get back."
About an hour later, my mom pulled the car into the garage, and we heard the garage door close. I thought that was odd because we'd be leaving soon anyway. We lived in a split-level, and the garage was on the level above the family room.
We could hear her setting paper grocery bags on the counter, and then she came to the head of the stairs and called down to us. "Kids, you wait down there for a minute. I have a surprise for you." I jumped up off the couch and headed for the stairs. "What is it?" "Wait," she said. "I said you have to wait. If you come up too soon, you won't get the surprise. You hear?"
I went back to the couch, and my sisters and I giggled as we speculated about what the surprise could be. "Okay, you three," Mom finally called down from the kitchen. "Today's going to be a special day. Who wants some ice cream before we leave?"
We were off the couch and up the stairs in a heartbeat. Mom had three bowls on the counter and was dishing up some ice cream. We squealed with excitement. But when I took a closer look at my bowl, I froze. It was covered with what looked like crushed up white candy.
"Wow!" I said. "What's this topping? One piece has an S on it." Mom seemed disturbed somehow, and distant, but she continued to prepare the dishes of ice cream, so I thought little of it. Maybe she just had a lot on her mind. "The S means your special, and it's a special day today."
We all thanked her and went back downstairs to watched TV while we devoured the treat. At first, my sisters didn't see any of the special bits in their bowls, but then they too found the pieces marked with an S.
A few minutes later, my mom came down the stairs with a blanket draped over her arm. In one hand she had a hammer, in the other a box of nails. "What's that stuff for, Mom?" I asked. She didn't respond. She just started nailing up the blanket across the entryway that lead into the family room. That shut out a lot of light, and the room immediately became stuffy. I thought I caught a faint whiff of car exhaust, but I didn't think anything of it.
"Mom why are you nailing up the blanket?" She turned to me again. Her eyes were empty and almost lifeless. "It's a surprise for your daddy when he comes home from work."
I frowned. "What surprise?" "Oh, you'll see."
I was bewildered at the time, but years later, when I looked back on the "surprise" she had in store for Dad, I realized the depth of her hatred for the man. She went through the door from the family room to the garage, leaving the door open. I figured she must have left it open because we'd be leaving any moment. I hurried to finish my ice cream.
There was no sign of Mom for a while, and I started to wonder why we hadn't left yet. If we didn't hurry, we were going to be late for the start of the show. But now I was tired for no apparent reason. Done with our ice cream, we just watched TV while we waited for Mom. My sisters lay on the floor with their pillows, and I stayed on the couch. I began to smell more exhaust fumes and thought I saw a faint bluish wisp drifting in from the garage. "I think the car is plenty warm now," I yelled toward the garage. My mother didn't respond.
Now I began to feel more than tired. I was woozy, sleepy, and sick. The room was becoming foggy from the fumes billowing in from the garage, making it difficult for me to see the TV. My sisters seemed oblivious to the exhaust; they were sitting closer to the screen, but they did begin rubbing their sleepy eyes. The carbon monoxide burned my eyes, and I had to squint to get them into focus. I could taste the filthy exhaust as it coated the inside of my mouth and nose. My chest got tight, and I began to cough violently. I felt isolated—alone, and I wondered what was happening to me and hoping I wasn't going to have a full-blown asthma attack. I couldn't imagine why we were down here alone and why our mom wasn't here to help us.
On the floor, my sisters were gently rolling from side to side. They weren't saying anything, but each gave an occasional little whine or moan. Then they closed their eyes, and they seemed to be drifting in and out of sleep.
It was getting harder and harder for me to breathe, and I quickly realized an asthma attack was coming on. I didn't have my inhaler with me, but I didn't have the strength or alertness to get up and get it. Soon I was choking and coughing. I was gasping for air, but there was no clean air to be found.
Then a virgin thought entered my mind: This is what death feels like. I'm going to die. ...
Robert Crown - Suffering Ends When Awakening Begins - © All Rights reserved