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Kurt Cobain: A Mother's View

Wendy O’Connor talks publicly about her son for the first time since his death

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”[Kurt and I] were like twins. We never did get that umbilical cord cut. When I would think of him, he would call me — it was really weird. I loved his music. He would play his drums for me — he was a drummer before he was a guitarist — and I would be just gone on it. He thought I was just being his mother. Kurt and I used to be goofy together; we’d have these little laughs. But then he stopped laughing. And that’s what really flew the red flag up for me, that it was really getting serious.

”Kurt’s problems were ongoing, and we struggled with them for years. I talked him through so many nights. He was probably a mis- or undiagnosed depressive, which runs in my family. My grandfather, I would say, died from that, ’cause he tried to commit suicide and eventually died from the injuries. Also, manic-depression is a progressive disease. Once you get past a certain stage it’s almost unmanageable, even with antidepressants. I now know in hindsight that the sleeping he was doing in his teenage years was the very beginning of it. He was sleeping so much, but that was also masked by just being a teenager. But now I look back and go, ‘Ah-ha, that was the very beginning of it.’ And, of course, once they leave home, they’re out of your control. He would call me crying and suicidal. He would always call when he got desperate. And then the last week he didn’t call. That was horrible, because I knew.

”People have asked me, aren’t you angry at Kurt for taking such a cheap way out, for leaving Frances and you, and I said no, not at all. People don’t understand what depression is. The way I explain it is, have you ever been hit in the stomach and lost your breath? It’s a horrible panicky situation. Can you imagine being in that state of mind, in that state of anxiety and fear for years? He was a wonderful person, but he just couldn’t stand the pain anymore. That’s why I’m not angry at Kurt.

”One thing I envied about Kurt and Courtney was how uninhibited they were with Frances. She’s such a brilliant little girl — like 2 going on 4. I worry about what’s going to happen when she gets older and people are talking about her parents. They will say stuff about them without even knowing them. And so much that was written about Kurt was wrong. I just hope the truth sustains her.

”I taught Frances a part of the Nirvana song ‘Heart-Shaped Box’ [that goes] ‘Hey, wait!’ Kurt cried when she sang it to him the first time. She doesn’t sing it so much anymore. But there’s a big tapestry downstairs of Jesus, and we go down there, and she says, ‘Daddy!’ I go, ‘Well, he kind of looks like Daddy.’ She talks to it. She tells him all the things that happened during the day.”