Two weeks ago we published an article about No Longer Afraid, a book for dying children by the pediatric tragedy team of Doris Sanford and Graci Evans. I ended it with a warning: it would get worse. Today we’re going to read 1993’s It Won’t Last Forever: A Child’s Book About Living With a Depressed Parent, and it’s worse. Than everything.
As always, Doris thought about the delicate subject she was writing about and came up with a title that meant sideways of nothing. A book about living with a terminally depressed parent called It Won’t Last Forever is like a bag of used COVID swabs named Your Future is Magic. It doesn’t help describe anything, and later people will say, “What was the name of that sad thing? It was weird… like ‘Try Your Best, Melissa’ or something.”
Try Your Best Melissa, I think, is dedicated to MIKE BURCH, the author’s son-in-law. And to the parents of any of my future wives, if you want to make a picture book about a sad lady who can’t get off the couch, please don’t dedicate it to me. Judging from this, I don’t think I’ll take it as a compliment. “With adoration and a full heart I dedicate this depression manual to the lazy son of a bitch who married my daughter– a sad piece of shit and inadequate husband.“
The very first page of Sorry, Can’t Remember drops us right into the grim situation– young Kristen’s mother has left her to take care of her baby brother. The art of Graci Evans really shines here. Not because these are well-rendered abandoned children. In fact, this is almost an art lesson in why you shouldn’t use the same values for your foreground and background. But something about these billions of fussy scratches made unexpertly by cheap colored pencils communicates to the viewer, “all existence is suffering.” If you showed this page to someone who had never seen words before they would know those little shapes above the crib are describing something terrible.
Kristen’s mother is in rough shape. She’s recently unemployed and divorced and has no hobbies other than weeping into Kleenex. Graci has chosen to draw her as a bloated swamp corpse getting its eyes eaten by clams, and thanks once again to MIKE BURCH, the author’s son-in-law, for whatever his role was in this.
Eventually the mother goes out looking for work, so she leaves the baby with literally the most nearby person, her neighbor Mrs. Gerhart. Mrs. G, shown here demonstrating one brave artist’s struggle with drawing feet, seems almost suspiciously eager to watch the baby. She is helped by Barbara, “her special friend,” which seems like something elderly lesbians might have called their wives in 1993, but there’s no other reference to why their friendship is so special. All we know about them is that when you hand them a random baby and then ask for it back, they say no.
If Doris was a more talented writer I would think this deliberately vague title along with Mrs. G’s reluctance to end her babysitting sessions would be foreshadowing some dark twist. Are she and Barbara a childless couple looking to steal a baby? Cultists looking to eat one? But no, it’s just a turn of strange choice of words in a series of strange choices.
The thing about Doris Sanford is she is a well-intentioned, kind-hearted idiot. And we need to keep that context in mind here, because I don’t think it’s supposed to feel menacing when the book cuts to Kristen in a swimsuit getting grabbed by the special friend of a neighbor under the words “Barbara was alone with Kristen.” These aren’t warning signs of an impending kidnapping and this really is just a book about depression.
It should not alarm us that Barbara seems to have been watching Kristen’s family for quite some time. The author simply thinks it’s normal for your apartment community’s activity director to know everyone’s untreated emotional disorders and disclose medical history to their children while they are alone with them and have them mostly undressed.
Kristen takes what she has learned about depression and confronts her mother with it. She says to the woman who was recently laid off and divorced, “All you care about is yourself. Why did you get depressed anyway?” Then she finds the new bottle of sleeping pills some doctor prescribed to the depressed woman who sleeps all day. Good authors write what they know, and I’m not sure why I brought that up. Anyway, Doris Sanford stories take place in a world where every single person is dumb as fuck and wrong about everything.
So let me get this straight, book. Kristen said to her suffering mother, “All you care about is yourself,” then finds a bottle of obvious suicide pills and makes the conscious choice to leave them. Then her mother tries to kill herself. And this little girl is the protagonist? If this girl turned to the reader and smiled, not a single reader would be surprised.
I also want to throw it out there, how the random neighbor unwilling to return children after babysitting them found a dead body with a note that basically said, “I give my kids, the ones who have a grandmother mentioned earlier in the book, to the terrific lady who discovers my remains and her special friend, bye.”
I guess this is good news, but Kristen’s mom survives and gets released from the hospital weeks later. She also starts taking medication and “reading helpful books,” a phrase that carries an element of terror when written by a woman who spent a decade publishing dangerously insane “helpful books.” And speaking of Doris Sanford’s decisions, on this page we find out the girl who instantly recognized nonbenzodiazepines as a suicide method is pretty sure Easter bunny isn’t real.
But she’s wrong.
So Whatever This Book Was Called, a tale of depression and suicide, has a happy ending! The special friend of Kristen’s babysitter, the one who became her “legal guardian” after finding her mother’s body, dressed up like a bunny and leapt from the shadows when she was alone! I hope this helped, children of sad parents!
This article was brought to you by our fine sponsor and Hot Dog Supreme, Micah Phillips: Take off the Easter Bunny suit, Hot Dog Supreme Micah Phillips. Take it off… slowly.