I can’t really remember at what age I first noticed that my mom was…different. I do remember thinking when I was very young that she seemed like two different people. Very drastic swings between happy and sad. One minute she would smother me with kisses and snuggles. The next, she would disappear to her room, only to emerge later, cloaked in melancholy. I would question my sister and she would say, ‘it’s just who mom is. She’s quirky.’ She couldn’t mask the concern on her face as she fed me these lies. I could sense there was more to the story, but I wasn’t going to find out what it was. No one was wiling to tell me much of anything. I always felt like it was my fault. Like maybe it was something I did that made her suddenly become angry or sad.
Looking back, I can now see the pattern. The progression. I can remember how the swings would pick up momentum. Happen more regularly. The shift of emotions would become more intense. Then, she would be gone. For weeks at a time. My dad and sister would become quiet and introspective. The house felt like a tomb. Cold and quiet. The house of the dead. I’d be told she was traveling on business. My father traveled on business all the time, so I never questioned it. Yet, I could see the worry on my sisters face, and I could hear my fathers whispered voice, when he’d take hushed phone calls behind closed doors.
I was always kind of a momma’s boy. I leaned on her really hard for the love my father always starved me of. She had to work doubly hard on my behalf. I was emotional, unstable and full of self-doubt. She was my reassurance. My medicine. Her business trips hit me hard. I would ask every day when she’d be home again. ‘Soon Daniel. She’ll be home soon.’
Then she’d be back. Good as new. Things would return to normal. Sometimes for a couple weeks. Sometimes for half the year. Then the pattern would start over again. She’d love me a little too much. Give me hugs that were a little too tight, and a little too long. Kisses. Hundreds of them on the top of my head, or my shoulders or back, or wherever. It was ticklish and funny at first, but then it’d go too far and become uncomfortable and scary. Inappropriate. I’d see the stern looks from my sister and dad as they’d turn to leave the room. I’d wonder what it was that I’d done wrong. It’s when I knew she was not being herself. When she’d start to turn into someone else. Someone who I didn’t know, and who scared me. She’d start to say strange things that didn’t make sense. It’s when I knew that soon she’d lock herself in a room and come out mad at me. It’s when I knew that it would happen again and again, the repeating pattern. It would get more intense and more regularly, until she went on another business trip.
It was late winter and the long, icy nights were losing their battle with the sun. Slowly, the layered history of so many snowstorms and frozen rains were sinking into the warming earth. The longer days giving promises of the approaching spring. The rebirth of the forest and the return of the chorus of birdsong. Life.
I was in my bedroom working out some algebra problems. Stuck on a particularly difficult equation. I decided a trip to the kitchen to fetch a granola bar was on order. I needed to step away for a minute to clear my head. My mom was on the phone, pacing around the entryway and laundry room, and had not heard me come downstairs. I hadn’t intended on eavesdropping, but she seemed fairly agitated. I lingered in the kitchen, listening to her half of the conversation.
“It’s getting worse,” she told someone on the other side.
“I can tell it’s going to be a bad one. He can’t get the medication right. I’m losing my mind. I’m scared. I don’t know what I might do.”
She went on and on like this. It painted a vague picture for me. Not enough to know what she was talking about, but enough to give me some ideas. Enough for me to connect some dots and string together a lifetime of clues. I was suddenly very scared for my mom, but I didn’t know what for. I quietly retreated back upstairs and went over all kinds of dreadful scenarios. I simply didn’t know enough.
The next morning I got up extra early and cornered my sister in her bedroom, before she left for school.
“What’s wrong with mom,?” I asked point blank.
“Mom. What’s wrong with her, like with the doctors and stuff.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Kari shot back, sounding a bit annoyed.
As she tried to scoot past me, I blocked her escape, letting her know she wasn’t getting out of this so easy.
“I heard her on the phone yesterday. She sounded worried and she said some stuff about her medicine not working anymore. I know you know what’s wrong. Please tell me. I’m worried about her.”
She took some time, rolling things around in her head. I could tell she didn’t want to tell me anything, but I had her, and she had to give me something.
“Look. Mom has been having some problems and she just needs a little help. She’s working on it, ok? Don’t worry. She’ll get it straightened out.”
She wiggles her way past me, thinking she got off easy. As she disappeared into the bathroom, I called out, “you mean like another business trip?”
Kari leered back at me through the entrance.
“I’m not stupid, you know. You guys have always hid stuff from me. It’s bullshit!”
I walked past her without meeting her eyes. I was pissed off. I went back into my room, slammed the door and sat on the edge of my bed. I don’t know if it has to do with being the youngest, but I’ve always been treated like a baby. Sheltered. Left out of the loop. And all these secrets. It drives me mad.
Kari made no attempt to talk to me, or share any more information. She just hurried her way through the rest of her morning ritual. Thanks sis. Just another wedge between our distancing relationship. Screw her. Screw everyone.
I was determined to find out what in the Hell was going on, so after my sister left I went into my parents bedroom to snoop around. They had picked up a locking medicine cabinet after my attempted suicide, but of course, when I went into their bathroom, I found it unlocked. There weren’t any prescriptions in there, just typical, boring stuff. I checked night stands and dresser drawers and found nothing. I was about to give up, when I decided to check the walk-in closet. Sitting in a cubbyhole, amongst all the dress shoes was a gunmetal grey, metal box. I flipped open the lid and found an arsenal of prescription drugs. All of them with my mom’s name on the label. I pulled out my phone, and snapped off some pictures of the long, complicated names of the drugs. I planned to look them up after school.
I got home after the longest day of school ever. Actually, I say that almost everyday. Seriously, summer can’t get here soon enough. I flipped open my laptop and started to research the uses for the various drugs I found in my moms bedroom. Most of them were classified as antipsychotic drugs used for treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Holy fucking shit! These are some serious drugs for serious conditions. I spent the next hour learning about schizophrenia and bipolar. I could definitely see a lot of the characteristics of schizophrenia in my mother. It was frightening and depressing. I could also see a lot of those characteristics in myself. I came to find out there is a strong genetic connection to being schizophrenic. Great! I was born into this world by an abusive alcoholic and a schizophrenic. Nice gene pool, eh? I’ll be lucky to see twenty. I had to stop myself from digging any further. It wasn’t going to do me any good to keep reading.
Instead, I decided to check my email, to see if there was anything new from Adam. He and I have had to deal with email as our only way to communicate. In the last two months, I’ve only managed to see him once, during a sleepover. Things didn’t work out for us to be alone that night, and we were both pretty disappointed. However, in a few nights, I’d be staying over there again and we’ve been devising a plan that will allow us some time alone. Basically, after Mark falls asleep, I’ll sneak up to Adam’s room. Not too complicated, unless of course, Mark doesn’t go to bed. We had a plan for that, too.
Reading Adam’s newest email, I could tell he’s excited about my coming over. I sure in the Hell know that I am. His email made more than one mention of kissing, and touching, and ‘other stuff’ as he put it. Why can’t it be Friday now? I knew I had some homework to get to, but after Adam’s email and the anticipation of Friday night, I had other personal matters to tend to first.