It’s heavy. It’s so heavy and I carry it every day. The responsibility. No one else can, or will, shoulder it. I suppose that is fair. He is mine after all…my cells, my blood, my history. Lying in bed at night, I wonder what will happen when I am gone. What will happen to him? Who will do the laundry, make sure the surfaces are clean, remember his appointments? I don’t ever want to die and leave him all alone, and sometimes I want to die today and be free of it all. Wow. I said it.
Schizophrenia is comprised of a million little things. An odd glance that becomes something else altogether. A twitch or involuntary kick that tells a story of medicine and bodies. A glint of recognition, maybe the remembrance of love? Voices. The voices in his head, certainly, but there are voices in mine as well. Singsong, sad, taunting, my own voice reminds me that I must stay alert. I have a slight edge of fear every time a phone rings, there is a knock on the door, or a letter arrives.
“My coffee maker broke,” my son announces, matter of factly, when I answer the phone.
“How did that happen? Nick!”
“It just doesn’t work anymore.”
I drive to his apartment and we go to the store, where I convince them to exchange the broken one for a new one. I drop him at his place with the new coffee maker.
As I merge onto the fast lane of the freeway, my phone rings.
“Ma, I’m just the most unlucky guy in the world!”
Oh God. “What now?”
He tells me a long, convoluted story about how the glass pot broke when he was opening the box. After all that, he can’t make coffee! I’m a half hour away by now. I don’t want to have to go back tomorrow so I turn the car around.
I decide to see how long and how loud I can scream in one breath. I end up coughing.
As I pull into his parking lot, I notice the light falling through the lattice of the fence, inch-size boxes of shadow pepper the asphalt.
“I was almost home, Nick. I have other things I have to do,” I complain as I ,arch’ into his kitchen. “All I do in my life is run around doing things for you and you don’t even appreciate it…”
“I do appreciate it.” Loud and clear. He says this loud and clear.
“You do? Well, you’ve never told me that.”
I feel better.
These are my days. Impossible combinations of unlikely mishaps that happen on a regular basis. Impossible conversations with friends who ask sensible questions to which there are no satisfactory answers. Try to stay calm. Try to be nice. Try not to lose it.
Washing his dishes, I come across something really odd. One of the forks has been bent and twisted into what resembles a flower. The tines bent in actual curlicues. Has Uri Geller been here?
I hold out the disfigured spoon to Nick and say, “What the hell?”
“Oh, it bent.” An answer. A true answer. An unsatisfactory answer.
When Nick was a teenager, he worked with me in my painting business. He was such a talented artist, there was nothing he couldn’t do. We worked side by side on murals that decorated the walls of restaurants and houses all over Los Angeles. He’d sit and calculate complicated geometric patterns and cut precise stencils. He charmed my clients with his gracious good manners and his cartoon dimples. We’d have lunch together and discuss his future plans, laugh about his sisters, poke fun at each other. One day, returning from lunch, we passed a small bakery in a strip mall. The sign read Mom and Son Donuts. This was exactly the kind of thing we both found humorous. I pointed at the sign and we laughed.
“What do you think, Nick? Will that be us one day? Mom and Son Donuts…” I smiled.
“Now, that’s not funny, Ma,” he said.
“No. Probably not,” I turned the corner and we moved on to other things.
That was years ago, when the future was filled with unrestrained dreams. These days the idea of running a small donut shop with Nick doesn’t seem like a failure. As a matter of fact, it would be nice. Maybe we’ll get there one day.