Mark Reads ‘The Book Thief’: Chapter 36

In the thirty-sixth chapter of The Book Thief, Max gets to work on creating a late birthday present for Liesel. In the process, he makes us cry ALL OF THE TEARS. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Book Thief.

For the last hour or so, I’ve really struggled with how I was going to write a post about the thirty-sixth chapter of The Book Thief. There’s a logistical problem here, first of all: thirteen pages of this chapter are scans of the book that Max Vandenburg wrote and drew himself. (Bless Markus Zusak for creating these, as they add to the story so much more than if he had just described them.) I didn’t want to simply tell all of you what this book comprises. I mean…YOU CAN SEE THEM. AND THEN YOU CAN SOB FOR LIKE FIFTY MILLION HOURS BECAUSE HOLY GOD THE STANDOVER MAN.

Seriously, this chapter is like one gigantic punch in the gut. The relationship between Max and Liesel has now eclipsed how touching the Liesel/Hans relationship was. That’s not to discount the amazing things Hans has done for his foster daughter, but this spectacular form of empathy and understanding from Max is in its own league.

I wanted to tell a story again because I’ve gotten really comfortable sharing myself with the lot of you. It’s been a very cathartic and enriching experience the last year or so, and I went through a little trip in my brain to think if there was anything in my life that resonated with this particular chapter.

Truthfully, at first, I was actually stumped. Because of the nature of the way I was raised, I had very little personal interaction with anyone in my life aside from my family until at least junior high. Due to my mother’s insistent strictness, I didn’t have close friends until at least the seventh grade. Even then, I was only able to get close to people within the confines of a school schedule. Because I was not allowed friends over or allowed to go to anyone else’s house, what little conversations I could have with anyone were restricted to lunch time or breaks or small moments in the hallways or quad of my school. And really….there’s not much you can share with that little time on your hands.

So it became this concerned issue for me as I tried to think about someone doing something for me that was akin to what Max does for Liesel in this chapter. Honestly, the things that made me feel pangs of happiness or made me feel accepted or liked were never as grand or as concentrated as the book that Max painstakingly creates for Liesel. It was always the little things that I latched on to during those years, simply because that was all that I had. I remember the first and ONLY time in the sixteen years I lived with my parents (well, technically fifteen, since I was adopted a while after birth) that I was allowed to have a friend over is when my friend Pilar stopped by to help with a project for Ms. Hall’s science class. (FYI, I am still friends with her because SHE IS AN AMAZING HUMAN BEING I LOVE YOU PILAR IF YOU ARE READING THIS).

Now, I’ve shared bits and pieces of what my mother was like and some days I worry that I’ve made her out to be some sort of MONSTER of a parent. And yes, things were truly awful for me, but most of it wasn’t as blatant as the things I’ve said in stories. My mom is simply an intimidating person. She still is, though we now get along fabulously and her temperament towards me is literally the opposite of what it was when I was a kid. I remember the assignment, too. Every pair of students in class was assigned a different element from the Periodic Table, and we would have to replicate that element in a physical form. Pilar and I were assigned chlorine, with an atomic weight of 17. Was I terrified to have Pilar over? YES, I WAS. But it was inevitable! We had to work together in order to do the project. So Pilar’s mother dropped her off one afternoon, the day before the project was due, and my mom piled the two of us into her minivan to take us to Michael’s for supplies.

Mom did all the shopping. She picked out the wires. She picked out the hangers. She picked out the Styrofoam spheres. She picked out the glue. She picked the design, she paid for it, she told us nothing about how all of this was supposed to go together. She drove us home and she watched us for a mere five minutes, as we tried to shape the wire hangers and spear the balls of Styrofoam to create our element before, in a moment of frustrated anger, she did the entire thing herself. THE WHOLE THING. She did a great job, too, but I suppose that’s not the point.

After Pilar got picked up a couple hours after she was dropped off, I started worrying that I’d just lost the closest thing I had to a friend at the time. I knew my mom was strict and overbearing, but there was a sense of comfort in knowing that no one else actually knew how bad it was. It was almost like my own little secret. I could mention the fact that my mom didn’t let me do things and end the conversation right there. But now, a person I considered an actual friend has seen this behavior first hand.

Would she still want to be friends with me? Would she tell everyone at school the environment I lived under? Would everyone else have another thing to use against me when they picked on me? I could already imagine the taunts, poking fun at me for being a Momma’s boy, the kids telling me that the only girl I’d ever be able to have would be my own mother. It would inevitably turn to me being called gay and a faggot and I’d have to go hide in the library (LITERALLY, THAT IS WHAT I WOULD DO HEY DO YOU WONDER WHY I LIKE BOOKS SO MUCH) for the entirety of lunch like I did so many times during junior high.

Ms. Hall’s class felt like I was stepping into a WAR ZONE the next day. I know I was at a point where I simply expected bullying at that point, that it was such a staple of my day-to-day routine that I learned that anticipating it could at least lessen some of the damage.

But wonderful, brilliant Pilar did something wonderful. As I came in with our project, which got a tad smashed when someone shoved me into a wall while I was walking to class, I sat near her and presented her with it, smiling nervously.

“Your mom is fun,” she said immediately, laughing a bit.
I know. I’m sorry. I’m sorry that happened.

“No, it’s ok, our project came out really good.” Pause. Shuffle. “Besides, every family isn’t perfect, right?”

She handed in our chlorine model and spoke nothing of it again.

That small, tiny, subtle act of understanding spoke volumes to me. It was a chance for me to breathe easy about this one thing, to know that I did not have to worry that my life would be exposed to the world, or that I would lose someone I finally started to care about because of my mother.

Over the years, there have been a few people who did things for me that were unabashedly wonderful and heartfelt. When my father died, two of my friends overnighted me a vegan carrot cake, because eating your sorrows away is always appropriate. RIGHT. My friend Ernie took me in to his household when I ran away from home, and I will forever be indebted to him for how accepting and welcoming he was about what probably was a difficult situation to be involved with. There were many couches throughout the years that followed my high school days of independence, many floors I slept on and many beds that people gave up so that I would have somewhere to sleep when I had no home to call my own. And look, I know that a great deal of my life has been filled with really heartbreaking shit, but there has been a lot of good, too, a lot of moments that continue to foster my sense of hope that I have for other people, that maybe we can all work together to help those in need or those we care about.

The thirty-sixth chapter of The Book Thief reminds me of those moments. It’s a frank and comforting sense of joy that this chapter brings me. And now I’m curious about those of you who are reading along, too. What moment in your life made you feel this kind of hope or joy? What made you feel like maybe you aren’t that alone in the world?

Tomorrow, we start part five! We’re almost halfway through the novel as well. EXCITE FOREVER.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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52 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Book Thief’: Chapter 36

  1. ThreeBooks says:

    Oh Mark, you see this thing over here? It's my face, and it's crying on the astral plane for you. (also I didn't have friends until sixth grade either, even if I was allowed to have people over, but that's probably because I watched anime online and had weird delusions that one day I would be the very best writer, like no one ever was. My school was small.)

    The Standover Man will never stop being one of the most wonderful things about this book, ever. It's just so… ahsgjK! I mean, he writes it on pages of Mein Kampf and turns it into something lovely and fghjklhghjkl too many emotions, not enough words.

  2. Mauve_Avenger says:

    As promised, the images from "Pages from the Basement," for those who haven't seen them. I won't post them here directly, because they're kind of huge, but here are the links.

    The individual pages:

    In slideshow form:
    It's probably a lot easier to see if you press the full-screen button.

    ***All Images by Trudy White***

    ETA: And I lost the rest of my comment to the Photobucket slideshow-embedding fail.

    • FlameRaven says:

      THANK YOU. I had no idea these pictures were here until I read this review. I am really going to have to get a physical copy of the book and read it again. I had no idea I was missing so much with the ebook.

      • erin says:

        Really? Strange. Mine's got the pictures. They really are better than just reading about the book he gave her. What eBook do you use?

        • FlameRaven says:

          Someone gave me a link to or something like that. It's got some pretty massive formatting issues, but I was able to read it quickly.

  3. I LOVE that Zusak thought to have Max literally turn something as ugly as Mein Kampf into something beautiful.

    Also, I'm sorry, but as we progress to the next part of the book, it must be said: You are not prepared.

    • @Zippy8604 says:

      I think my favorite part is that you can still see the words through the page but you know that all Liesel is looking at are the pictures and Max's words. I swear I poured over each page for like 5 minutes each.

      • ldwy says:

        Yes, I love this. I wonder if the artist printed them on, or actually did her art over the book pages, like Max did?

      • knut_knut says:

        Me too! I felt like I was really looking at Max's book, as if he was a real person, which made it even sadder

    • Mauve_Avenger says:

      Especially as this is someone who likened giving Mein Kampf to Liesel to a lamb handing a knife over to the butcher.

      I loved that Zusak described the book as gagging and suffocating underneath the paint.

      • Stephanie says:

        I love that image as well. Just like how the power Hitler's words have are sort of gagging and suffocating underneath the love the Hans and Liesel have and Max and Liesel have. I mean, not quite suffocating, but they are subdued.

  4. And now you see why we were worried about the ebook thing. Did the drawings show up okay?

    Also, regarding the little things providing so much joy, you must read I Am the Messenger after this. You don't have to Mark Reads it, but you should regular-read it, at least. It's a book all about the little things providing joy and bringing people closer together.

    I remember in college one night—well, I know it was November 11, 2000, actually, because important things tend to happen to me on 11ths—I was hanging out with a girl, and I don't even remember the circumstances anymore. But I do know that we ended up sitting on the steps outside her dorm (well, college, it was Rice) and just talking for, like, two hours. We had only just met recently, so to have a long, in-depth conversation with someone was just phenomenal, as that sort of thing never seemed to happen in high school. I knew from that night that we were Friends, and it was lovely.

  5. cait0716 says:

    This chapter was beautiful and powerful and perfect.

  6. Ellalalala says:

    Fifty million hours? A conservative estimate, I fear! Readers of The Book Thief are probably having a disproportionate effect on rising sea levels…

    The Standover Man is just… argh, too good. The way you can still see Mein Kampf underneath it. The pictures. My heart hurts.

    I loved your story, Mark.

    • Ellalalala says:

      I chickened out of writing my most humbling, hope-giving experience first time round. It was a few years ago when I was experiencing my first major depression and (just to make things more interesting) in the throes of coming out. Even though with hindsight it shouldn't have been so surprising that my friends and family (and even the boyfriend-of-five-years-whose-heart-I-had-broken), who have always been awesome people, were so understanding and accepting and supportive and affirming, at the time it felt far above and beyond the call of duty and what I deserved. (To be fair, I was a total nightmare.) It was the first concrete realisation that at the times when I no longer had my best interests at heart, they did and would pull out all the stops to keep me in one piece. Just thinking about the things they did for me, little and enormous, makes me a bit teary.

      • ldwy says:

        I'm glad you decided to share. That's an uplifting story-even though it was so hard for you at the time, I'm glad you had such wonderful people in your life supporting you.

  7. anninyn says:

    This is the most beautiful thing in the whole book, for me. Turning Mein Kampf, a hateful, nauseating book into something about love, and honesty, and all the good things in human nature. I cried. I cried a lot. This book does that to me.

    When I was 11, my dad started drinking. He'd been the best father in the world until then, telling me he loved me, telling me no matter my path in life he would always love me, even if he didn't approve. My mum was ill, and had recently had a miscarriage, and had pulled away a little. She came back, but still. Dad filled in the gap. Then his dad died, and he lost his business, and we lost our money. We'd never been rich. We'd often been desperately poor. But I'd spent the last six years being 'comfortable' and now we were poor again. And my dad was drinking. A lot. He started hiding the empty bottles in my bedclothes.

    I didn;t have very many friends because I was weird and clever. But I had one. I met the second a little while after this started happening. Me and L and later S spent a lot of time together making up stories. Neither of us was in an ideal situation. L's parents were divorcing. S hated her stepdad. But we read harry potter togethere, and played games together that were the precursor to our LARPing when we were older. We wandered in the countryside getting filthy and forgetting what was going on. Words and books tied us together more than I can say, And 14 years later I can still phone these two girls up at any time.

    These days, we're better. My dad is getting treatment for his depression and alcoholism and I forgave him years ago. S gets on better with her mum since her mum stopped putting her stepdads over her. L works, and gets on well with both parents. We aren't without our scars and damage. But we know, through thick and thin, no matter what we will always be there for each other, we will always push each other and protect each other and annoy the ever living fuck out of each other.

    And if it wasn;t for books, for words and the power they have, I wouldn;t even be friends with these girls.

  8. jennywildcat says:

    This Chapter (as well as your amazing, inspiring story – really all your personal stories, Mark) =

    <img src="; border="0" alt="Every Life 2">

  9. anninyn says:

    Well, L I met at seven when I told her if she wasn't my friend my invisible wolves would eat her. I still think tht's the only reason she hangs around.

    But yes, the rest of our lives. We've fallen out, big and small. Me and L once didn;t speak to S for six months when she went against our advice, dropped out and went to live with the man who'd cheated on another friend with her. We didn;t trust him, we thought he was bad news and we were proven right in some pretty awful ways later. When she came back all was forgiven. We had to not speak to her, because when we brought up our issues she flipped at us and called us horrible names. But no matter, it;s aways been US.

    When my husband married me he had to accept that in a way he was in a relationship with S and L too, because they aren't going anywhere, and I'll never be free of them.

    We plan to spent our old lady days going to pubs together and scaring bar staff by croaking 'Oooh, young man/woman when I was younger you'd have been on me like a fox on a hare. How about it?'

    • ldwy says:

      Avoiding wolves sounds like a fantastic reason for a great friendship. 🙂 And your plans for the future sound good too. Me and my girlfriends want to be sit around in rocking chairs on porches with views and drink tea. But you never know, maybe one day we'll bump into you and L and S in a lovely pub, too.

  10. shortstack930 says:

    This was such a touching chapter. I actually received a similar birthday present when I was in my senior year of high school. My best friend wrote me an entire book that she laminated and put in a big binder for me. It was a book entirely about how we met and how we spent our years together in high school. She put pictures of the two of us, and letters from each of my friends describing how much our friendship had meant. And at the end she put a letter from herself, telling me how much I had meant to her and how she knew we were graduating and would be growing and changing but that no matter what I would still have this book and these memories from our childhood. Nearly six years later I still have that book and take it out to read every so often, and the two of us are still best friends. It's gifts like these that are the most heartfelt.

    Just the fact that Max had to paint over pages from Mein Kampf in order to make her a present shows how much Liesel's gift meant to him. He turned such an awful book into something beautiful for her to treasure.

  11. deleted2934595 says:

    Honestly, and this is going to sound stupid, but a series of blogs/blogging platforms changed and saved my life. First, (I was young, preemptively, okay) Xanga, where I started writing creatively and showing it to people instead of just keeping it in my head, and met some of the people with whom I am still friends. Then, a mix-making community, where I discovered the music that has made my life complete. Next, Jezebel, where I became the earliest version of the flaming liberal I am today. Finally, Tumblr, where Jezebellians who left the site for a variety of reasons have formed an incredibly tight-knit community of diverse, funny, frighteningly brilliant people with whom I am blessed to interact. The people I've met on the Internet saved my life, time after time, and I will never be the same.

    One specific moment? Those happen all the time. My oldest Internet friend sending me a book of Tolkien's unfinished works because she found it in a used bookstore and thought of me. Another Internet friend sending me a postcard from Germany for Christmas just because. Letter exchanges, baked goods exchanges, mix CDs, messages and letters of encouragement and love and support: the people I've met online, in many different places and times, are the people who have given unending love to me, and are the reasons I'm not dead or still sick or deeply, deeply unhappy with everything around me. Those people and their gifts and love and support and conversation (virtual and physical alike), are my personal version of this moment in the book.

  12. kiss says:

    Beautiful review, as always.

    • HieronymusGrbrd says:

      “Mark reads ‘The Book Thief’” gets so few comments at some days that I appreciate everybody who announces his or her presence, even if he or she has not much to say. So who is the brazen, dog-hearted cutpurse who voted this down? (Starting to practice from the Shakespearean Insult Sheet. Thanks again, Idwy. And yes, I made sure that I know what it means.)

      • ldwy says:

        Hahaha, glad to see those getting some use!
        I know what you mean, these reviews have had a significantly smaller comment pool than other MarkDoesStuff projects. It's understandable, but it still makes me happy when new people comment, or conversations do grow!

  13. @Leenessface says:

    Caught back up again, sweeet.

    I realy enjoyed this chapter, The Standover Man was super heartwarming. I love the little details to it, like the fact that you can still see a bit of Mein Kampf behind the white paint. Details!

    Pilar sounds like an amazing person. 🙂 All your friends!

    Also, I don't know if you're thinking about a next project yet, but I have a series I'd like to recommend (to anyone, really): Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness. I devoured them at the beginning of 2010 and it's one of my favourite series next to Harry Potter, His Dark Materials and all things written by Tamora Pierce.

  14. feminerdist says:

    I have so many of these moments.

    Like three years ago when my mom died, all my friends showed up to my house with beer and chicken. I'm southern, this is just what you do.

    Or during Hurricane Katrina, when all of us in Baton Rouge opened up our houses to New Orleans people, my New Orleans family inculded. My cousins slept on my mom's floor, and my dad slept on my couch. My boyfriend asked no questions when we all stayed at his house because he got power back first. His friend spent days barbecuing food for all the displaced families. We all spent days eating barbecue, drinking beer, and having a good tme with friends. A lot of bad shit went down after Katrina, but I got to spend that time with good friends, and I got to see people helping each other out.

    • ldwy says:

      What great stories. I'm glad that you have great friends and family. Beer and chicken sounds good 🙂

  15. Mikan says:

    For me, the moment I first thought of and remember best is kind of stange.

    I used to have a lot of trust issues and the kind of irrational belief that no one would ever want to be my frined. That was thatnks to being bullied in elementary school, and my stepdad making me feel like Cinderella and making me feel worthless. I did have some friends, and one night we were having a sleepover. All was really well and we were having fun.

    Then I farted accidentally. Of course I was really embarrassed and worried due to my issues, but my friend just said we had been in fart terms for a long time already. (I still lol at her choise of words) I think after this I really realised how silly it was to feel like my friends didn't like me and just hang out with me because they didn't know how to get rid of me politely. We are still very good friends.

    • HieronymusGrbrd says:

      Another opportunity to practice the Shakespearean Insult Sheet? Was this downvoted by a churlish, clay-brained canker-blossom because we are not allowed to fart?

      • Ellalalala says:

        The Shakespearean insults are so awesome, it's kind of tempting to vote something down just to incur one!

        (It is a truth universally accepted that farts cement friendships like few other things!)

  16. HieronymusGrbrd says:

    Oh Mark, I want to give you all the hugs, and I want to hug Pilar too (hey, I’m hetero).

    I thought very hard about your Question, but there doesn’t seem to be any single moment I could tell about. My upbringing was quite different from yours, and although my parents were poor, it seems very privileged to me now. Having friends over was no problem und seldom needed, because like Liesel and her friends we could still play on the streets all day. I was the clumsy boy, half-blind without my glasses, and the worst football player ever (not feeling the desire to win, even if I can enjoy a game), but it was generally accepted that everybody had to freeze when the glasses fell off my nose, so that nobody would trample on my treasure. To me it felt that your type of hope and joy was always there, ready to be fetched, but often I just walked the other way.

    I prefered to be alone, reading a book, building complicated machines with my construction set or just day-dreaming. My mother was quite concerned about this (particularly the day-dreaming, so I learned to camouflage this by a pretended activity, mainly walking). I still can go familiar ways without noticing anything around me, and I still have to force myself to have a social life, because I prefer quite times with a good book over nearly any kind of company. Can I say that I’m a loner by choice? Probably not. Being too shy to open up to anybody (if it isn’t anonymous on the internet) wasn’t really my choice, but I refuse to believe in destiny.

    Appararently all this made me a good listener and I usually made new friends when they needed somebody to talk, not always to my best, because even bullys sometimes need to open up. But I’m a bad talker, and really bad when it comes to talk about emotions, and my advice, based largely on theoretical knowledge, often seems inadequate to myself. So I’m totally Prof. Quirrell before he was possessed by You-Know-Who, and I should be on the guard.

    Oh well, I promised to say something about ‘The Book Thief’, so here is what I intended to say before I read your review:

    Parts of Mein Kampf transformed into a beautiful booklet about friendship! Who would have expected this?.

    When I saw page thirteen, I was in tears. VALUABLE:
    I don’t know about water, but I’m sure Max suffers from a lack of daylight, and of opportunities to move and fight.

  17. Cerrie says:

    Ohhhhhhh Mark, I feel your pain.

    When I was nine, my brother, R, had one of his rage episodes while a friend was over. I had to barricade us in the basement to keep him from beating us up until my parents could do something. Even then, we just sat there on the floor and listened to the screaming. I hadn't told her, S, what he was like, and it was one of the first times we had gotten together outside of school. I still remember the look on S's face, partway between fear and revulsion, and she said "How is he ever going to find a wife?" which was about the last thing on my mind.

    She never really talked to me again, and when I started middle school, things pretty much turned perpetually violent at home. There was no question of having friends over, ever. I also really hated conformity and bullying, which in middle school is pretty much social suicide. I dressed the way I felt like dressing, and I ran my mouth off when people said things like "fag" and "retard", because I came from a completely tame elementary school and had absolutely no understanding of the phrase "pick your battles". I was constantly harassed, and my few friends didn't want me dragging them down. One new girl I met, K, stuck by me, even to the point of fighting with me when some of the other kids would gang up on me (we are still friends). K saved my life when I was really depressed, and she was the first person to come over to my house once things got more calm.

    I can COMPLETELY RELATE to that feeling of being exposed, when other people know what your home life is like when it sucks. When you know that they could do anything they want with this information, and you just have to hope they are a decent person. I had a million excuses for everything just say "Nah, I can't. Too much homework" or "No, I'm fine, I'm just tired" or "Oh, that? It's nothing, I walked into a door" (which wasn't actually lie. I DID hit a door, I just omitted the part where R opened it into me) . I can also totally understand the whole diving-into-books part, because print was my escape rout of choice. I would just read until I stopped hearing what was happening through the wall, or across the classroom. Books and K got me through a couple of hellish years known as middle school.

    I'm in high school now, and just starting to bring over friends when my brother's out. Things have settled down both at home and at school by now, though I don't really tell people how bad things used to get. I haven't had a friend over at my house while he's had a meltdown since I was nine, so the couple of friends I HAVE told think I'm exaggerating. I say things like "I love R a LOT, he just becomes a different..thing… sometimes. It's not my brother then, it's the mental illness. My BROTHER wouldn't hurt me" and they think I'm not getting enough sleep. It's frustrating, but at least I won't have to deal with it in a few years, except when I come home to visit my family.

    Damn, what is it about this blog that makes me share things like this? MARK WE ALL LOVE YOU

  18. Phoebe says:

    I loved this chapter!!!! So wonderful to see the contrast that such a loving environment could be in such a bad place to be. Plus, FYI, if you look closely at the pages of Max's story you can see the faint words of Mein Kampf under the pictures (because he painted over it)

  19. ThreeBooks says:

    You, you, I want to hug you. Here, have all my astral plane hugs.
    <img src=""/&gt;

  20. Emily Crnk says:

    I love love love the picture of bird!Max hugging Liesel on the wall of the basement.
    It fills me with an inordinate amount of warm fuzzies.

  21. canyonoflight says:

    What moment in your life made you feel this kind of hope or joy? What made you feel like maybe you aren’t that alone in the world?

    The day I realized I wanted my best friend to be my best friend. To understand how important that was for me, you have to understand my history with "best" friends. My childhood best friend and I did the normal growing apart thing. So, once I found another best friend at the end of middle school/beginning of high school I was so happy to have someone with whom I could do everything. I will call her T. T and I were friends for five years…until she started doing cocaine and I found out from a new friend that she was calling me a "bitch" behind my back. Within the same week or so I learned that she had been talking behind my back to our mutual friends for years. Still, I was worried about her. She was doing cocaine and sleeping with strange men without using protection. So, I wrote her a letter, full of concern and offers of help with the drugs. I found out that she showed the letter to her mom and THEY LAUGHED AT ME. I considered her mom to be a second mother to me, so the hurt was doubled. I talked to her face to face and she chose drugs over our five years of friendship and, most devastatingly, over her own well-being. I couldn't put myself through trying to be friends with her after all that, so I never spoke to her again.

    My best friend after her was mentally ill and I was completely ill-equipped to help her (let's call her K), even though I tried. Another friend and I forced her to be observed for three days by psychiatrists at a nearby clinic because she was going through a very scary manic period. I think her physically/sexually abusive father had just been up for parole. She was diagnosed as bipolar. I realize now that I handled it horribly when she stopped taking her medication, but I was worried for her. When I found out, I flipped out. She was living with my family and me. Mostly, though, I was concerned that instead of talking to me about it, she ran off to her abusive ex-boyfriend. Long story short, I kicked her out because I was so constantly worried about her that I was getting ulcers and wasn't living my own life. I have spoken to her since, however. Once in the store shortly after my dad died and once at her husband's wake (he was killed in Afghanistan). I want to make amends, but my therapist doesn't think I'm ready to let her back into my life because I have a codependent personality and I would likely try to take care of her to my own detriment.

    I had already met my current (and forever) best friend (let's call her M) when I kicked K out. She made me realize that it was doing too much harm to my well-being, constantly worrying about K. Anyway, when I realized I wanted her to be my bff I was so relieved that she would be someone who could take care of me as much as I could take care of her. I was practically a mother to my previous friends and that just isn't healthy or fun. With M, I've become a stronger person.

  22. SecretGirl127 says:

    Oh my, that was horrible and wonderful. People always surprise me – in their negative behaviors and in their positive ones. It is those little gifts from people you don't even really know that make such an impact. Glad you are doing well.

  23. Ellalalala says:

    This is such a great story. 🙂 I'm proud of that kid!

    What you wrote reminded me of something that happened a couple of years ago. A boy I used to know from secondary school who was a bit of a bully sent me a message completely out of the blue apologising for the way he'd behaved, and saying that he'd always secretly liked me and the other kids he'd been cruel to but he was a coward who got in with the wrong crowd. Since leaving school, he'd spent years feeling ashamed of himself and trying to be a better person and finally felt that he was someone he could respect. It was so unexpected and heart-warming.

    Ach, people! People are the best!

    And I completely second your thanks – this place and these people are wonderful.

  24. NomDePlume says:

    Everything in this chapter makes me feel warm and fuzzy, and gives me hope in humanity! Max is the sweetest person ever, and the drawings are adorable. It reminds me of what the Bill Nighy character in Vincent and the Doctor says about Vincent Van Gogh; he created beauty and joy out of pain. Similarly, Max creates something beautiful out of something ugly.
    Like the Doctor says, the pile of little things in life aren't unimportant, and to me, they make all the difference. For example, sometimes, I'm having a really bad low, and I hear a good song, or read something funny, and I smile or laugh, and I feel like I shouldn't because life is bad, but I go ahead and do it anyway!

  25. NomDePlume says:

    (Continued from last post)
    I'm sorry to hear about your childhood experiences, Mark, and everyone here. I had similar experiences when I was growing up, as I have a religious mother; for some reason, she never liked me reading story books, but I learned to read when I was three or four, and it fueled my ever active imagination for adventures. When I was given some money by a relative, the first thing I wanted to do was buy a book I had my eye on, only my mother wouldn't let me. So my aunt, the mum I never had, went out and bought it for me; one of the nicest things someone has ever done for me.
    Again, it's sad to hear everyone's stories, but also uplifting, because everyone here seems to have turned into such lovely, thoughtful, empathetic people!

  26. flootzavut says:

    "there was a sense of comfort in knowing that no one else actually knew how bad it was. It was almost like my own little secret. I could mention the fact that my mom didn’t let me do things and end the conversation right there. But now, a person I considered an actual friend has seen this behavior first hand."

    I really identify with this. As an adult, I still get this childish terror every time I tell someone for the first time that I was abused as a kid. It's so scary. It gets a tiny bit less scary each time, but it still scares the pants off me. It's giving someone the ultimate weapon to hurt you, and hoping that they won't use it.

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