And the dish ran away with the spoon.

Christopher is in a place where the vaguely recognized faces of undergraduates dress in scrubs and open doors that allow me to the other side. Apparently he was in a bad way one morning, riding with dad, on empty and worried that his nausea meant he could be in real trouble. They went to the emergency room and he was involuntarily admitted after some troublesome conversation.

Caught out of his room. What a terrible way to emerge.

Dry-erase boards read all kinds of stupid shit like: tend to your gardening. Read. Go for a walk. Play a game. His roommate sleeps in the “quiet room” for unknown reasons and one young man on the floor is always at real, live war. For several days my brother had to live in this environment with no word on why they felt he needed to stay or what kind of process he’d be put through.

The only thing he had was the yellow paper folded in his pocket for every day of the week. 7 a.m. therapy. 12 o clock lunch and meds. More therapy. Visiting hours. Dinner and therapy. Movie choice. So many questions and the horrible feeling that no one would receive his inquiries.

One doctor brought in a diagnosis and read it out loud in front of us.

“Okay, well, it rules out schizophrenia entirely: psychosis NOS”.

Chris turns 90 degrees towards me and says in a low, calm tone, “Did that guy just call me psychotic?”

The things I had to say about his living conditions, learned behavior and other probable causes for any angry outbreaks made a few eyes widen behind their clipboard. A pen started scribbling as I humiliated myself with a blunt summary of my twenty years living
with him and the half-wolves who tried to raise us.

Now they’re thinking that he isn’t so crazy and they’re asking if he can move in with me. Now it’s my fault for not being able to house him and I have to insist on group therapy and whatever social program that might be able to help my brother with the few, simple things that overwhelmed the both of us for half our lives. He hasn’t been able to get through and recover the way that I have – he just couldn’t take it.

We ate dinner at home without him, Brad taking his seat. Pointed ears visible to a keen eye, my mom put a hand through her hair and passed the green bean casserole. Dad, furriest of all and with large, dull fangs, sat there with us for the first time in a year and found ways to make little, offensive comments as though they were part of decent conversation.

“I don’t like green beans.”
“I don’t either, but I like them in this. This is good.”
“You could put peas in it, that’d be good. I don’t know why your mother didn’t.”
“It’s fine the way it is!”
“I really thought she would have.”


There was a glimmer of hope when Chris was released a few days later with an understanding that his condition was mostly environmental. Maybe they’d all seek therapy, take hard looks at themselves and try to make things better. I called the day after he was sprung just to say “hi” but Mom answered the phone.

“Chris is back in the hospital.”

The night he got out I had driven up there to drop off my friend Julie. He custom-ordered us some pizza but we could only stay a few hours. He was talking about wondering if we would take him to buy a PS2 and we just chuckled, dismissing his spontaneous attitude of the moment so late at night.

Apparently, after we left he took off with low-life Mitch who allowed him to drink until he was sick. Chris woke Mom up in the early morning hours, naked and yelling that he believed he was dying between vomits.

Mom yelled at him and went back to sleep. Sound asleep. She heard a man’s voice call and a light flash down the stairs, saying he was the sheriff and that her son had called 911 saying he was dying and that no one was home. Ambulance lights, a $400 house call that insurance doesn’t cover, flashed outside.

All I can think is that if I had paid him more attention, split my finances one more way and brought him down to entertain he might not have made those poor decisions.
But I’ve remained exhausted from the holiday panic, run down so far that I’ve had to fight an impressive head cold while diving into one of the busiest weeks in a long time – so I told Chris I’d see him soon. And look how that turned out.

He’s right back where he was only this time he’s being given oxygen and is hooked to an I.V.

One of the real kickers is that while Julie and I waited in the pre-stress unit room (as the minutes ticked closer to visiting hours), toward the end of Chris’ stay – Mitch walked through the elevators in front of us and proceeded, emotionless at the sight of me, to approach the phone and be allowed through the doors. The drug dealer got there first, signed in first. It really upset me and yet I said nothing, circling his name on the sign-in sheet and writing “drug runner” under his association field.

All of the severity had vanished from Chris’ face with Mitch by his side and it was hard to get a serious word in edgewise. I wanted to order him gone, screaming it at the top of my lungs, perhaps being admitted myself.

Mitch fell onto Chris’ bed, the only place there was to sit, and stretched out.

“I should really stay here. Square meals, TV, crazy people to entertain you, shit, yes!”
“Do you have the kind of money for that?” I asked, looking at the outfit he seems to wear every time I see him.
“Oh, yeah. Oh yeah.” And then the fucker winked at me, “You know my profession.”


2 responses to “And the dish ran away with the spoon.

  1. Holy hell. I remember how pissed you were about Mitch and his affect on Chris’s attitude while you were trying to talk to him. I couldn’t believe he just skated into the psych ward before visiting hours and acted like the place was his candy store and he had some right to be there.

    I can’t believe he would get Chris that drunk though and leave him to suffer the consequences. And how could your mom sleep with him naked and raving about dying? What a freaky way to wake up.

    I’m sure the ambulance bill did nothing to help, but hopefully he’ll see the damage Mitch continues to inflict on his life. He needs a swift kick in the balls and a shallow grave next to Jamie’s. Pardon me if that’s not polite to say.

    I’m sorry to hear he went back, I’m sure that didn’t help him if he was drunk and not understanding that he was just sick from alcohol. If there’s anything I can do, just let me know.

    And thanks for finding the Tragic Kingdom cd. I’ll be thrilled to hear it again.

  2. when you are around these things enough you learn that there is a basic script. all the dynamics play over and over again. approaching you to take him in is just part of that. you could place bets and win everytime. i wasn’t sure you understood what i was trying to get to the other night. its not uncommon for the thing between chris and your parents. its a dynamic. he has learn to manipulate them with his illness and they are stressed to the max and that leaves them in no condition to deal. the thing with the hospital is that they want to stabilize him and move him out. so they look to you.

    what i was trying to say the other night is to talk to his doctors without him there. tell them you are not an option. you have a dynamic with him too. if you do that then they won’t talk to chris and you and put you in a place where you have to feel guilty. chris won’t have to have his feeling hurt if you say no.

    if he has no options to get him out of the hospital then they start looking for a group home or something like that. until they have no options then they have to keep trying for family. its a legal/logistics issue. if they can get you then they haven’t used up slot they can place someone else in.

    you and chris have a dynamic. when he comes that record will start playing again. chris won’t advance. you’ll get dragged down cause its hard. really hard. if chris gets placed in a group home where the dynamics aren’t there… where people can watch his meds closely. where he will have weekly or daily therapy… where he can get a job and start going down some more normal path- that is the best thing that can happen to him. he’s working towards the future instead oif surviving day to day.

    a clarification… not all psychosis is due to schizophrenia. but all schizophrenics are psychotic.

    you owe autumn some happy. you’ve been there for chris. press to get him placed. that is the best outcome for everyone but mostly for chris even if it doesn’t feel right. thats my .5 cents worth. :)

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