Home > Family, Grief, Love, Personal > The During, part 4: Fragments and Shadows

The During, part 4: Fragments and Shadows

It’s so hard for me to read these particular entries, knowing as I do now how little time I then had left with even fragments and shadows of my mom.

Click here for The During, part 3,
or here for the why of these posts.

November 2, 2006

Yesterday I was stressing. I was stressing about my mom, whose 49th birthday corresponded with my 28th. I was distressed by news her locks had been drilled out and her house emptied. The distress continued straight through the evening, when Rache and I walked through Mom’s bare house, walked the neighborhood in search of her, and talked through some of our worries and guilt. That eased some of the burden on my heart, though I confess my sadness continues and likely will till there is some kind of resolution to this sorry situation.

Newly 28, with none od the sadness showing

Newly 28, with none of the sadness showing

November 3, 2006

Is it okay to fill out a missing person report when the person who’s missing maybe just doesn’t want to be found by you?

Does the fact the person is mentally ill really change the answer, as long as she’s able to keep herself alive, even if it’s just in the most basic and biologically literal sense of the word?

June 13, 2007

Nick and I just dropped Rache back off at her office, following which we drove by my mom’s house. She had a sale out on her lawn and a sign which read “JUMBO SALE” affixed to one of the trees out front. Her legs were crossed and her body was angled toward the oncoming traffic, so that when we stopped at the intersection Nick and I could turn and watch her for a moment.

She was chewing an apple and looked, at least for that moment, wistful and dreamy. Her face still had the hardness I’ve become accustomed to in glimpses over the past couple of years, but it was good, I guess, to see how she is apart from her interactions with me.

Three or four weeks ago, Mads dropped by and had a brief but coherent conversation with Mom. It’s been a few years since I’ve had one of those. On the one hand, it was a sign of hope – is she being treated? Is there a chance my mom could live in a world with light, electricity, and some joy? On the other, it was a heartbreaking reminder of how much has been lost, to know that a single lucid exchange of five minutes could be exciting.

The next day, I stopped by and tried to talk to her, but she didn’t respond to me. Just laid on her couch in silence, waiting for me to be gone. It’s so sad to recognize that, even if my mom gets or is getting help, she may continue to wish me and my siblings gone from her life. I guess that would be easier to live with if only I could know there was any amount of peace in her life. All I know now is she is living from Dumpsters and trash cans, and while it’s good to see she’s making it work now, somehow, I just wish there could be a little less darkness in her already tragic life.

It’s not my responsibility beyond the changes I, with my siblings, have futilely tried to work through government agencies, but it is so painful. And as Nick and I drove on past, Nick patted my leg while I cried. There’s no easy answer. There’s just, that one day every few months it hits me, feeling what I feel, breathing, and remembering that no day of mourning is without conclusion. The best and worst of days all, in a set number of minutes, come to their close, never to be revisited.

July 11, 2007

Rache and I just spent an hour with our mom. She doesn’t like us, but that’s not important. What’s important is she’s clearly getting some kind of help and is taking care of herself. There’s furniture in the house again and if Mom is not exactly happy, well, there’s a chance at least maybe someday she will be. With or without us.

May 17, 2008

Reading this book, I remembered how my mom once – in a lucid moment – told me that she would be giving me legal responsibility for deciding if she should stay on or off life support. She smiled as she patted me on the hand and said that she knew I would be cold enough to do the right thing if, when the time came. I think “cold” is the word she used, but she was quick to add she didn’t mean it in a bad way. She explained a little more, in words I’ve long since forgotten, that I would have the capacity to do what was necessary as my obligation and not be destroyed by it, or falter in doing it, for whatever my personal feelings were. This is probably the same aspect of my personality people have addressed when they’ve said I should be a judge, or a rabbi, or a diplomat.

June 21, 2008

Anna asked if I minded her saying I remind her more every day of my mother, not just in my face but also in my carriage and gestures. I smiled and said I absolutely didn’t mind, that in my mother there was an irascible enthusiasm and love, and that as an adult I feel blessed to have walked through my life knowing absolutely that no misguided expressions ever undercut how much my mother loved me, or my siblings. That was an extraordinary gift, and if my mother suffers from schizophrenia now, it does naught to change that I consider it an honor to remind people of my mother as she once was.

Made over for Mother's Day not long after

as she once was

June 22, 2008

I really didn’t want to run this morning. Despite that, I pulled myself off the couch, planned a 16-mile route, and set out for a roughly three-hour run.

11th, 13th and 18th are some of the longest stretches of road to run in Eugene, so the middle leg of my run took me by my mom’s house. I was surprised as I ran by to see my mom standing on the steps, backpacked up and ready for work (she helps Grampa, and has promised to be there when he passes away).

She saw me, too, and, most surprisingly, asked if I wanted to accompany her to the bus stop. So I maintained a slow pace as she stopped every block or so to pull out a few acorns and tell me which squirrel she was feeding. It seems she knows all the squirrels of the neighborhood, and takes great care to see to them. It was sweet to see that, through everything, she still is driven to nurture.

When we reached the bus station, I leaned in for a hug. Mom made a noise of disapproval, but allowed me the hug. That’s something.

July 6, 2008

The thing that surprised me was that, at the end, during the scene where EVA’s repaired WALL-E and he shows no recognition of her, I didn’t cry. I mean, I assume that’s the part that my friends have mentioned tearing up at. But for me, it was an uncomfortable, complex, deeper sadness that brought forth. For those of you who have watched it, that’s what having a loved one who’s schizophrenic is like. You’re looking at the same person, and they’re driven by the same needs (“directives”) as they were before (in WALL-E’s case, gathering and scrapping; in my mom’s case, nurturing, be it children or the neighborhood squirrels), but though you keep on looking, the “real” them is out of your reach. You’re left talking to someone who looks the same, trying to establish a connection, but only creating fragments and shadows of what you had before.

August 12, 2008

After taking Sai on a speed walk, wherein a random passerby asked me, “How the hell do you walk that fast in those heels?!,” Briel and I watched “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” at The Grove. Only one subplot rang false with me. Another, which had highs and lows, nevertheless had me crying for its incredibly accurate portrayal of life with mentally ill family members. Something a few Eugene folks I’ve run into haven’t been able to wrap their minds around is that you cannot save someone with mental illness. You can do your best, and if that fails, struggle with taking the bad moments as well as the good, and trying to build your own life not centered on that which cannot be undone.

October 1, 2008

I can’t quite describe my mood this morning. After spending the whole night thrashing, trying to find a way to beat the heat that didn’t leave my apartment just because the sun went down, I woke up and went, “Yay, it’s October!”

Almost immediately after thinking that, A Mood set in. This mood is the summation of my life so far, and is comprised of, among other things:

Hope, for what may yet be had,
Sadness, for what has been lost,
Anxiety, for what I have yet to do,
Regret for what I haven’t said or done right,
Gratitude, for the love I have felt, from within and without.

I barely restrained tears while running and thinking on Monday’s conversation with my mom, wherein she told me she’d found me an old My Little Pony castle at a garage sale and refused payment for it. “It’s not much money for you, but it’s a lot for me. But it’s your birthday present,” she told me.

It was one of the most lucid conversations I’ve had with mom for five years, if only because it was possibly the shortest.

Please stay tuned for The End, and
 feel free to share your thoughts and experiences here if so moved.

 last : The During, part 3: Treatment beyond Our Consent | The End: We Will Carry You with Us : next

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  1. September 14, 2015 at 12:24 pm

    I remember (I believe it was with you and mom in L.A.) watching A Beautiful Mind. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I didn’t like the movie. I think it was because I was living with mom who was mentally ill, though I hadn’t exactly realized it. I watched it at a later point and liked it, though it made me profoundly sad. It was well made and well portrayed. I understand why it got awards, though when I first watched it I had wondered why.

    • September 14, 2015 at 12:44 pm

      You did watch it in L.A. with me and Mom. We watched it at the same Westwood theater where we watched the first couple LotR movies opening night.

      I hadn’t remembered when I watched that movie. I do remember watching it and thinking with some sadness, “I wish Mom could do what he did.” I didn’t reflect any further on that, or think about its implications. I just had that longing.

      What seemed so surprising at the time is so perfectly clear to me in hindsight.

      Love you.

  2. September 14, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    How difficult it must have been to grow up with a mother who suffered from schizophrenia. So much as a child we don’t understand. It’s not until we’re older can we separate the illness from the person, and sometimes not even then.

    • September 14, 2015 at 12:51 pm

      Looking back, everything is crystal clear to me. It seems strange I should have taken so long to see it!

      Rereading these entries, it was interesting to see acceptance slowly creeping in. To move from “I MUST FIX THIS!” to “I must learn to accept this, while being prepared to lend a hand if a hand is ever sought.” It’s a hard but important lesson to learn, one that makes many future painful lessons a little faster to learn.

  3. September 14, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    Those mixed emotions are so very familiar. Contradictory, held often simultaneously. And very real.

    And, like you, love and laughter are the foundations of my world. Strong, supportive foundations which stand tall against the hurricanes of life.

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey.

    • September 15, 2015 at 4:20 am

      It’s been good revisiting these entries for the chance to revisit them myself with more wisdom–or is it experience?–accumulated … but better still has been finding understanding rare found outside my siblings. It turns out knowing others are out there and finding them are two very different things.

      Thank you for sharing this journey (and your words!) with me.

  4. September 14, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    If I haven’t said this before, I meant to. Thank you for sharing these stories.

  5. September 14, 2015 at 9:01 pm

    Sending a hug. This is so painful to read … but I’m so grateful to you for sharing it.

    • September 15, 2015 at 4:21 am

      There’s something more I want to say, but I think it’ll take me time to find the right (loving) words.

      • September 15, 2015 at 7:46 am

        The constant, faithful love you express toward your mom, the lack of self-pity and bitterness … it blows me away. I am truly blessed to read your words.

  6. September 15, 2015 at 8:14 am

    So much of this reminded me of my own Mom. They even kind of looked alike.

    I know this was tough on you like it was on me. We feel like the parents and they are the kids.

    • September 18, 2015 at 3:29 pm

      That is exactly right. I remember the before, when I used to feel like the kid … but it wasn’t like that for many years.

  7. September 16, 2015 at 2:46 am

    The adult you begins to stretch to your needs, see your ‘failures’ in new light. I rejoice in the emergence of you in your journals, even as I continue to wish I could whisper in the ear of the you then, ‘it will be alright you are so loved’.

    • September 18, 2015 at 3:30 pm

      I remember myself as always being one way. Reading these entries made me also rejoice to see it wasn’t like that. I did grow. I did stretch. I became aware that I was not equipped to unilaterally effect change, and that that was okay.

      But I would not have been aware of all those changes, of how much different (though in many ways still the same) I am, had I not read all those entries.

      Such freedom in the revisiting, and in the revisiting with loved ones!

  8. September 19, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    I find this post deeply moving, and in a funny way, it gives me direction. Mr Xmas is in the grips of his ever coming and going depression, which I guess is slightly less debilitating than your mom’s schizoprenia, but there’s this hard thing to learn “I must learn to accept this, while being prepared to lend a hand if a hand is ever sought”, seeing someone you love suffer, be a different version of themselves and being absolutely powerless.
    Your strength is an inspiration, I hope I can get there too.
    Meanwhile, big hugs

    • September 20, 2015 at 7:05 pm

      It took me years to learn that. I hope others can learn it more quickly than me, and thus suffer less.

      It was really uncomfortable reading my private entry about walking into Mom’s house and staying even while she shouted at me. It wasn’t her shouting that made me uncomfortable, but my force; not all force is loud, or angry-looking. I wouldn’t have done that nearer the end, but then … I felt like my good intention gave me any and all right.

      Later, once I realized that wasn’t the case, I watched for those moments she might be receptive and forced less. It felt better that way, and made it easier for my mom to be receptive than when I was trying to force help on her.

      I’m not saying it’s bad, of course. It’s human to want to help loved ones, and to be frustrated and fearful when we can’t! But it’s good to recognize the limitations in what we can accomplish for other people in their lives when they don’t want it, even if they would want it in another time or another frame of mind. There’s nothing easy in it, or to feel guilty or ashamed about, but I can say … the road was less rocky for me when I walked only those portions of the road I was welcome on.

      Big, big hugs and love as you find your new balance. ♥

      • September 21, 2015 at 8:12 am

        Mmm, gives me a lot to mull over… Since I have been trying to force potential help and solutions onto Mr Xmas, when he clearly does not want them. I just get terribly frustrated, and he just runs away.
        Learning to accept mental illness as a part of someone, and accepting that there is nothing you can do are tough lessons of tolerance to learn.
        Thanks for showing me the way ! x

  9. September 21, 2015 at 7:13 am

    I love how honest your posts are. And how relatable. Thank you for sharing.

    Please take a look at my blog: The Suitcase Kid
    https://thesuitcasekiddealingwithabrokenhome.wordpress.com/ where I discuss my lifetime battle with mental illnesses including depression, eating disorders and anxiety. Thank you.

    • September 25, 2015 at 2:21 am

      Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. I’ve opened your blog in another tab for perusing this weekend.

  1. September 15, 2015 at 4:18 am
  2. September 15, 2015 at 4:50 am
  3. December 25, 2016 at 6:06 pm
  4. February 20, 2017 at 11:00 am

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