Just like Papa, she's been on my mind lately; she'll have been gone forty-three years this September.
Mary-Ellen was the next-to-oldest in her family, the first to get married, and have children. I remember her as fun, caring, and crush material-to this day, I have a thing for women with dark curly hair.
Mary-Ellen was troubled, cursed with depression, a streak of which runs in our family. In her case, it tended to manifest itself in black moods, where the only recourse was to seek shelter, from everyone. They'd descend upon her like a dark curtain, without warning. I remember being out in the yard with her one summer afternoon, playing catch with her, my brother Mike, and her son Todd, who's three years older than me; at the time, I was eight.
Todd had just tossed the ball to me, and laughing, I tossed it to my aunt, who stood smiling at me....as the ball crossed the yard, I saw her expression change, and darken...the ball struck her in the chest, unheeded, as she turned, and went into the house, and up the stairs to the spare room, where she remained for three days.
Mary-Ellen was in and out of hospitals for her condition, and nothing seemed to help for long.
She and my uncle Cliff had separated several years before, and he had custody of Todd and his older twin sisters, Toni and Andi. When my aunt was well, the kids would spend time with her, often at our house, but the periods of depression got worse over time. By then, she'd moved to Oberlin, a small town near Lorain, where two of her siblings lived.
In September of '67, Mary-Ellen was hospitalized in Oberlin , after a head injury due to a fall.. Somehow, she was able to leave the hospital, and make her way to the town reservior, where she jumped in; her body was found several hours later.
To any family who might read this, I'm not writing this to open wounds, or to expose "family stuff" to outsiders, but because I'm kinda sick of NOT talking about her. I loved her, and I still miss her after all this time, and I never liked the fact that people often acted as if she'd never existed.
I wrestled with depression for years myself, and with a mother who was terrified that her oldest child would wind up like her older sister-it didn't make our relationship any easier.
I'm not blaming anyone, nor do I have any answers, other than perhaps talk to each other, a lot more.