Emma, at nine years old, looks in at the new bedroom, bare of toys and games save one doll for herself, and one for Sue. The diagonally placed twin size bed takes up much of the room that the sisters share. There is a tall, narrow window in the wall on the left side of the bed, the side that Emma sleeps on, and just to her left against the wall is their four-drawer dresser.
Emma, wearing only a white tank style t-shirt and underpants, approaches her side of the bed, and kneels down, resting her knees on the clean plywood floor, and her small hands against the rough, army green blanket whose edges are neatly tucked in between the mattress and the bare box springs.
“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
Emma climbs onto the bed and scoots down between the fresh, clean, smooth white sheets, and settles in. Sue comes in and climbs in, too. Mom peeks in, says good night, and flips the light switch down, dimming the room. Soon the hall light clicks off also, and the house is dark and quiet.
Emma struggles to stay still lying next to Sue, but inevitably irks her sister, who tells Emma to go sleep at the other end of the bed, which Emma promptly does, tugging the blankets loose from the tight tucking. They each have their own space now, and after a few more tosses and turns followed by more chiding by Sue, Emma falls soundly asleep.
“This number is no longer in service,” the recording said.
Dad’s only living sister had just been knifed out of my life. The search to find the 97 year old petite lady began. She may have gone into a nursing home, then my heart tightened, she may have passed away.
“Hello, my aunt lives in your apartment building and her phone’s been disconnected, please call me back.” Twice this message was left, along with contact info, in the next few days.
A few days later, my cell phone rang, and it was the lady who managed the apartment building. My muscles tensed as if bracing for the bad news. It was. My Aunt had passed in May. Why hadn’t I called her sooner, I knew she was old and I may not get to speak to her again, now it’ll never happen.
My throat tightened as the situation was gently explained. She did not die of old age, she fell and hit her head, was taken to the hospital, and a few days later, joined my Dad in the great unknown, beyond this earthly life.
Seven years ago my Aunt had told me she had no one left, now that her brother was gone.
Reassuring her that I was still here didn’t help. We live thousands of miles apart. We both knew it wasn’t the same as having someone close by. At 97, she did not participate in the internet society, although she said she did get a computer once, then gave it away in frustration.
There was one bit of good news though. Someone came to take care of my Aunt’s after death business. The apartment manager had scribbled down a ladies name on a piece of paper. After a few seconds of rustling in the papers on her desk, she presented me with the only clue to the last of my Dad’s family.
Who was the mystery friend or relative that may be able to answer my questions?
What were the circumstances of her death? Would they know what her life was like in the months before her passing?
So the search begins for more answers.
Decades ago I set my life goals by using the book
“What Color is Your Parachute”, in combination with working with the State of Alaska Vocational Rehabilitation Department. By then I had finally been given affirmation that there really was something wrong with me, that I was not a hypochondriac. I always knew I was a little crazy. But just a little. Depression is probably better than some of the other brain malfunctions that are obvious in some of our homeless people here in Waikiki.
The goal setting gave some organization and a time frame to my life’s purpose. Getting through all the smaller life goals was key to finding the one thing that I want to be remembered for. My longest term life goal was to be able to create awareness of mental illness. Coincidentally, mental illness has become one of the most studied illnesses in the past 30 years.
And, yep, I came out of the closet. There’s a lot of prejudice about this topic still and maybe always will be. Not all of my friends and relative approve of my openness about my illness, but how are they going to know if no one will talk about it?
The first of the trilogy of my autobiographies
will touch on this topic towards the end, when I had my first huge episode of depression, and stayed in that state for most of my marriage to my first husband. Even though my mental state caused some really life changing problems, we have some incredible memories. We lost one son, and we had another son that lived. We traveled and drove to or through every state except Hawaii. We experienced life in northernmost Maine and southernmost Georgia and Missouri. I was welcomed into a wonderful family, my in-laws. We celebrated Christmas’s, birthdays, and anniversaries.
So here I am,
a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and still I fight. I can’t believe I lived this long. I am so grateful that there are now medicines that help. I have achieved a lot of my goals, and because of those educational and work and relationship goals, now I am working on that life long goal of spreading the word of mental illness. The second and third books will deal with my fall from grace and then my climb back up to a more normal life.