1982

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“Mommy, where are you going?”

I can see by the momentary flash in her eye that her first thought is to answer with a lie.  Then the steely reserve I know so well ices over a portion of that protective instinct, and in a voice as clear as frost she answers me.

“Your Uncle Geo is in the hospital.”

At six years of age, I’ve already had my share of experiences with hospitals.  Nervous parents, noisy waiting rooms, doctors asking too many questions.  How did you really get hurt?  

How, indeed?

Sometimes silence is the only answer.

I shake off the recent memory of my broken arm and blink up at my mother.

“Can I go too?”

This is a hard question to ask.  I distrust doctors.  I dislike medication.  Already I despise hospitals, with their antiseptic smells and their cold white sterility, the dispositions of their staff members even colder still.  I hate hospitals.  But I love my Uncle Geo, and I hate the thought of him being in a hospital even more.

So I ask to go with my mom.  I want to see him.  He loves me, after all.  He would be happy to see me.  He knows I understand about hospitals.  And he doesn’t treat me like a little kid.  He’s a teenager and he’s awesome.  (My mom always rolls her eyes when she says this, but I can tell she thinks he’s awesome for real.)  I can wait with him and play with him and that will make him feel better.  He always smiles and laughs when we play together.  Especially when we play football.  Except we can’t play football in the waiting room…  Maybe he would like to snuggle my Shamoo whale stuffy?  Or I could read Green Eggs And Ham to him while he’s in the waiting room.

Except…

He’s not in a waiting room.

He is in lockdown.

My mother’s answer to my question is “NO.”

And she’s smart enough to know exactly how smart I am.

So she explains.

And the words “Psych Ward” and “schizophrenia” will ever after be a permanent part of my vocabulary.

0 thoughts on “1982

  1. Fatal

    Quite of a bit of this resonates… and from more than one perspective. Very raw, my love. Thank you for sharing this glimpse.

    Your writing is, as usual, superb.

    xoxo

    Reply
  2. wildoats1962

    In many ways 1982 was the best year of my life. There were plenty of bad things going on in my life, but they were outweighed by the good.

    I have an uncle, a sister, and a nephew that have been diagnosed as schizophrenic. The nephew is from my oldest sister, the sister that has it is a middle sister. The uncle was treated with shock treatments in the 30’s or 40’s and developed Parkinson’s probably as a result. He died in 1999, and had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s for 47 years, so that would’ve been 1952. I don’t know when the shock treatments were. They didn’t talk about mental illness in those days. I know the only reason he lasted that long was because he volunteered for experimental treatments early on. He was much younger than the average patient. My sister was diagnosed right after puberty, and my nephew was a young adult {approx 20}. It does make one question any odd thoughts that one might have. Another curious thing is that out of six kids three of us are sleepwalkers as adults. A sleepwalker might appear to be awake, but not remember what happened during a sleepwalking incident. It kind of strains the definition of awake. Ambien makes it much much worse. Although curiously enough Ambien has one positive side effect for me. I don’t get motion sickness when I plow snow.

    I have been looking for a song by Robin Williamson, I think it’s from 1976 on the “Journey’s Edge” album. The chorus is, “Put on your red dress, red as a red geranium, I’ll hold your hand until your man gets back from the sanitarium.” It has one stanza that contains the line, “We’ll hire a team of lawyers, hitch them to the lights, then stare at the ceiling with feeling.” Amazon has the album, but I can’t find out for sure if that song is on it, or if it’s available in a format other than vinyl. When I Google the lyric, I get previous posts *I’ve* written.

    Reply
    1. Mrs Fever Post author

      There is a common misperception amongst the general populace that electro-shock therapy is a thing of the distant past, and that its function was to torture patients. EST is, in fact, still very much in practice, and while its short-term effects are varied and its long-term effects are not yet fully known (or recognized), it is a type of therapy that many willingly volunteer for.

      Mental illness tends to manifest during puberty. When the diagnosis comes later (such as your nephew’s at age 20), I tend to wonder if it’s just not recognizable until later, or if it actually *develops* later in life. My uncle’s diagnosis was determined when he was in high school, which was technically post-puberty I suppose. It was also pre-cocaine. Schizophrenia and coke is a volatile cocktail, and he was committed long-term more than once during his drug days.

      I don’t think somnambulism and schizophrenia are necessarily related, but it’s interesting the way the two conditions are dispersed amongst your relatives.

      I get motion sick, but not from plowing snow. That’s a new one on me.

      I hope you find your song, Wild.

      Reply

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