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My little brother Jordan's mother has a long history of mental illness. It’s the extreme kind where she constantly hears voices and sees things that we don’t see. Its present enough that she hasn’t and probably won’t be able to consistently live a normal life that that extends beyond her apartment and the occasional doctor’s visit or trip to the store. She’s a kind and surprisingly witty person but she just doesn’t have the coping, adapting and socializing skills necessary to make it out here. She calls me regularly to check on Jordan and to make sure the owners of the voices haven’t got to him and has been trying to convince me for the past two years that both Jordan and I should carry guns at all times. It’s really endearing and only makes sense that her main thought in life is how to protect the son who due to her illness, she has rarely been there for. But she has always tried to protect him.
Once, she hitchhiked up to North Carolina while off her meds and on a pretty heavy alcohol bender. She saw a child who she thought was Jordan in a Walmart. Naturally, she called him and when he didn’t come to her she went and picked him up. It was time to go home of course and mama was happy to have her boy back in her arms. Only the boy wasn’t happy and the boy wasn’t Jordan. He cried and screamed and fought her. She punished him for this disobedience as some mothers do. Pulled down his pants and began to spank him right there until the child she thought was her son was wrestled away and she was handcuffed, whisked away, and ultimately charged with kidnapping and indecency with a minor. She didn’t set foot in the free world again for 10 years.
Then, she came back to Dallas. Jordan was by this time grown and in the Navy, desperately trying to be something more than those who came before him. He can’t even be around her most times. The things she says, the transference of confusion-it’s just not something that he is currently up to. She lives with her mother who is in her last days and also slightly frail in mind. It’s just the two of them. One filling her final hours with catholic prayers and nurse visits and one marking the passage of time with cigarettes, prescriptions, weekend vodka and no missed calls. I go and see them once every week or two to check on them, program new numbers in cell phones, deliver medicine or just to break the silence. The small apartment they live in is essentially two box rooms joined. It smells like a mix between an old apartment and hospital cleaning products. I took her a stack of movies and taught her how to use a dvd player recently. Maybe living vicariously through cinema could give her a moment of reprieve from her life as an outsider. Not sure if it worked but she told me that she did like Cocoon.
These visits can’t be about my feelings of course but still, when I leave some times their situation and the bleak isolation of it all sticks to me for a while as I return to the outside world. Simply because of the way she is, she doesn’t have this option. Many times during the week I drive by there on my way to other places and always feel a shot of sadness when I can't or don’t stop. On July 4th she called to say hi, ask about Jordan and see how we were celebrating our independence. We were down at the lakehouse and I told her so. She is used to her situation and doesn’t express any regret at not being there or being invited. She just told me she went to the dollar store and bought a lawn chair and that afternoon once the sun softened was going to sit out front for a while. I could see it all in my head and I hung up and swallowed the lump in my throat. She hadn’t even went out there yet. It was only two o’clock. But I knew she would because she said so.
She would sit in her lawn chair on the small patch of cheap apartment grass with a plastic cup full of ice and whatever else she needed that day. The street they live on is a one way on the outskirts of downtown and it’s blocks from a stop light either way. The cars would just come and go. They would never stop.