Day 39: Gratitude for a Special Person

I hate reality television and anyone who exploits the tragedies of their fellow humans. To laugh at them on Jerry Springer or expect wisdom from someone raised in poverty or who got the short straw at birth is sad. I am grateful for the people in my life who are different, who got that short straw. I have had so many people in my life who had a bad roll of the dice. Cancers, suicides, mental illness and tragedies have struck down so many friends and family. My life is full of empty seats but I am grateful for each and every one I’ve known and lost. Each morning I embrace the same sunrise or rain but I am warm, educated and loved, so many wake to that same sun, hungry, desperate and lonely. Today, I am grateful for one who left but still remains.

I have someone in my life who was born with a ticking time bomb. No one knows what causes schizophrenia, there are a lot of speculation but no one knows yet. I grew up with someone who was not only family but my best friend for a long time. We’d meet for long walks and longer talks. We’d walk to Crystal Lake and talk for hours. She had an amazing sense of humor and a mind like a razor blade. She was my polar opposite, rebellious and wild. She lived each day like it was her last. Boys fell in love with her as soon as they met her. She didn’t take them very seriously and they could stay with her only if they could keep up.

ResplendentQuetzalShe joined the Navy while I was in the Marine Corps. She’d visited me in Virginia and decided the military was a fun life. She was back after only a few months in boot camp. I had just bought the new frame for her photo when she showed up on my doorstep shrugging her shoulders and laughing. She started drinking and dating a friend. He told us one day that she was acting oddly. I laughed, she never fit into anyone’s predefined space. She worked at odd jobs, short order cook, waitress but these jobs never lasted long. We still had long talks, she spent her days in the woods painting. She emerged each day with amazing paintings of birds done in a surrealistic style. Or so I thought, they were realistic, it was what she actually saw. One morning she kissed me and said she was going home and walked out the door with a backpack.

I saw her a few more times, very briefly. One day we were talking and I asked her what it felt like when she went away in her head to a place of delusions, paranoia and hallucinations. She told me that it was like taking acid but knowing you didn’t and knowing you have no control and might not return. She said it sucked but quickly changed the subject. That was our last talk. She never returned to her brain. We still talk on the phone and she hasn’t had any major episodes in years, chances are she never will again. The treatments she’d been given, electro shock therapy, harsh drugs, restrained confinements and commitments have taken their toll. She’s not coming back.

Her last full-time job was putting away the shopping carts at a grocery store and cleaning the bathroom. She earned minimum wage and went to the VA for medical care for her diabetes. the wild soul who once danced in halter tops and bellbottom jeans, who had boys enthralled is now laughed at by teenagers and worse insulted by adults. People who knew her a long time ago assume she did this to herself. My family assumes she drank herself to this state or is the result of using drugs. No one has time or space for her. And, to be fair it isn’t easy. But, she seems to sense this and will slap me back to reality with a simple phone call.

How is your broken tooth? She asks and then tells me she’d been saying rosaries daily for my tooth for over 6 weeks. She was a bit irritated that I hadn’t updated her sooner because it isn’t easy to say a rosary -especially when there are so many waiting for her prayers. I apologize and change the subject to my problem with mice in my kitchen. Then she thanks me for reminding her of the many murdered ants she needs to pray for and for whom she’d promised prayers when she sprayed them. Before I could say anything, she told me how much she liked them in the morning, how they stood at attention on the countertop and talked to her while she had her coffee. She missed them and wished the landlord hadn’t made her kill them. They helped her feel less lonely. I suggested a hamster and a habit trail cage. But, she told me she didn’t want to be a jailer.

I could understand and marveled at how fast she could turn a conversation to batshit crazy. I sometimes wonder where she is, where is the beautiful wild soul. Kinda makes me hope there really is a heaven or a place where we can meet again and talk, long talks.