Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Parrish Faces a Challenge


I’m cold.  The thermometer reads 58ยบ but I feel colder than that.  A few minutes ago, I preheated my mattress pad and climbed into bed to get warm and begin to write.  Honey promptly jumped up here with me and is snuggled at my feet.  The TV is dark and quiet, the only sound in the house coming from the copper fountain in the foyer.  It’s babble is soothing to me.  

My legs have been hurting for days.  The wind and rain that I love so much make me stiff and sore, and now it’s winter outside.  There’s a nasty cold bug going around the island, but I don’t feel as though I’m getting sick.  I’m just cold and still a little depressed.

There are those who believe that things happen for a reason, that we are thrust into situations and events by some grand design.  I don’t believe that.  I think life gives us what it does and we make of if what we can.  I can’t see a giant hand moving us around like pieces on a chess board, repositioning us so as to bring some sort of synchronicity to our lives.

I’m thinking about the idea that things happen for a reason because of an event that occurred last night.  Parrish told me about it when I picked him up today to go grocery shopping.

Parrish was returning to Concorde Suites after a late afternoon walk, and when he approached the Baymont Inn, which is across the street, he witnessed a man in the front parking lot screaming at a woman in a car.  The language was vulgar and abusive.  The man shouted the name “Diane” a number of times.

As the woman drove away, Parrish could see the man clearly.  He recognized The Famous Writer from my  description of him.  

“Are you The Famous Writer?”

Parrish offered his hand, which The Famous Writer refused.

“Who wants to know?”

“I’m Parrish Gray, Claudia Schlottman’s son.  You spent a few weeks at her house.”

“So, you’re the ruffian jailbird.”

“I suppose you could say that.  I understand that things got unpleasant while you were at Mama’s house.”

“Your mother is a shallow cunt!”

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me.  She’s a cunt and you’re a ruffian and a jailbird.”

“And you are a fucking ass-hole.  That’s my mother you’re talking about!”

Parrish described The Famous Writer as disheveled with his gray hair in disarray.  He was wearing jeans and a pajama top that was only partially buttoned, and he was carrying a bottle of Pinot Grigio.  His round red eyeglasses had slipped down to the tip of his nose, and he kept pushing them up. 

“Mama, he looked like a maniac!  He looked just like a crazy person.”

“That’s because he’s a madman, P.  Please don’t take anything he said to heart.  He’s a mean old man, a hopeless alcoholic, and there is no dealing with him.”

“He asked me if I were going to hit him.  The old me, drunk and unmedicated, would have decked him and ended up on jail for assault.  I might have killed him.”

“Punishing yourself because The Famous Writer is unacceptable is punishing the wrong person.  We have no control over him or his speech, and as much satisfaction as I would get out of knowing he will somehow suffer for his bad acts, that is out of our hands.”

“Mama!  He said you don’t know anything about music and that you listen to shit and call it music.”

“I don’t care what he said.”

“But it’s just so wrong!”

“I don’t care and neither should you.”

I tried to reassure him, to make him see that what The Famous Writer says should be ignored, dismissed as the rantings of an unbalanced soul.  

“But he called my mother a cunt - to my face!”

“I understand that, son, but it’s not important what he says or what he calls me or anyone else for that matter.  He’s angry and bitter and has been drunk for weeks, maybe months.”

“I really wanted to hit him.”

“But you didn’t!  There’s a victory here for you.  Don’t you see?  You walked away.  I don’t think I have ever been more proud of you than I am right now.”

I am particularly impressed that P didn’t call me last night and rant about his experience.  The drunk and unmedicated Parrish would have been taken a swing The Famous Writer, and there is no telling how seriously he could  have injured the diminutive man.  It is like a gift to me that he didn’t call me five or six times to tell the story.  He knew I was in a funk yesterday and needed some down time and some rest, so he saved the story for today. 

Instead of burdening me with the events of his evening, he opened his journal and wrote about them.  Yes, cj, there is a Santa Claus.  I have been trying for years to convince my son to write down his feelings. 

This is no small victory.  That Parrish could refrain from beating the shit out of The Famous Writer is nothing short of a miracle.  That he would write about it rather than call me to tell on The Famous Writer is a side of him I don’t know.  I am encouraged, very encouraged.  And, to add to my feelings of being blessed, he called about an hour ago and told me he had an emergency ride to AA.

There is hope.  There is always hope.

Those who believe in the idea of things happening for a reason would say that P running into The Famous Writer was some sort of test, that he was led there in order to be able to prove to himself and to me that he is growing and healing, that he can problem-solve without violence.  

I’m just glad he handled it the way he did.  I am so very glad.

© 2013 cjschlottman

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

It’s four in the morning and I have been wasting time scrolling through Facebook.  For over a week I have been wasting time on Facebook, on solitaire.  I will tell myself I am too tired to write but then spend hours burning my eyes out of their sockets staring at my computer screen engaging in moronic pursuits.  Why is that?  Why is solving a cryptogram more important to me than writing down my thoughts?

And there are many thoughts for me to write down.

Parrish appears to be emerging from the funk that engulfed him when he got out of jail and realized that there was no reward waiting for him.  At first depressed and withdrawn and on the edge of hostility, he is now accepting of the fact that he must make a life for himself that does not include living with me.

Last Wednesday, after an aborted attempt to see a psychiatrist or at least a nurse practitioner, at Gateway, I took him to the ER.  He was out of lithium, the only drug he’s been on since being released from detention.  Because a nurse called in sick, or so the story went, the personnel at Gateway were unable to see P for his scheduled appointment, and when he explained that he was completely out of meds and was on the verge of crisis, they referred him to the ER.

When we arrived at the hospital, Parrish was visibly manic and I watched the mania escalate in a matter of half an hour.  He was frightened, afraid he wouldn’t get the medicine he needs, even more frightened that he would drink if he didn’t.  He wanted to see the doctor alone, and I didn’t protest.  Learning the accept what might or might not happen has been a hard lesson for me, but I have finally reached a place in my personal development where I can tamper my desire to make things right for Parrish. 

Years of trying to manage him were an exercise in futility, yet I continued to make the same mistakes time and time again , year after year.  Trying to run his life did nothing to make it better and ultimately ended in disappointment for me.  I was even so foolish as to try to break up his relationship with a woman I knew to be toxic for him.  My feelings stayed hurt for years because P could not handle his illness and his life and I could not do them for him.

In June, when he tried to kill himself, something happened inside me.  I cannot name it, but there was a profound change in my own desire to live.  After four years of paralyzing grief and depression, I experienced a new desire to live, but I wanted more.  I wanted to thrive.  Was that because Parrish came so close to death?  

I could have let him die.  He begged me to let him die, and it is only now that I begin to write down my feelings, write down the events of those weeks when he was hospitalized.  The other day I looked back through my journal entries for this year, and there are none from the day he was hospitalized on June 19, until I was here on Saint Simons on July 20, to find a place to live.

I need to back up, revisit those weeks and write it all down now.  Why did it take all these months?  I suppose it was some sort of psychological defense mechanism.  I talked to Ann Carol and Sondralyn about it.  I talked to my friends about it, but I did not write it down.  At least, if I did, I don’t remember it and cannot not find any evidence of it in my journal.  I didn’t write a blog post about him and the events in our lives between April and September, and as soon as he got arrested, I stopped writing about it again.

I didn't stop writing; I stopped writing about him.  In future posts, I will tell that story.

At the hospital, a physician gave P a dose an anti-anxiety medicine, prescribed Celexa and Elavil and Valium and gave him a week’s worth of each, and in three days he was more stable and began letting go of his resentment and started to be grateful for the things that are right in his life.  On that day, I reminded him that he experienced a miracle on the day his daddy and I joined forces in support of him.  In the previous weeks, he seemed resentful of the fact that we were on the same side after all these years.  I believe in my heart that, without proper medication, his illness was fueling his life, his feelings, his inability to understand how fortunate he is.  I don’t blame him.  I can’t blame him for being sick.  He can no more help being sick than and diabetic can. 

The difference now is that, by some miracle, I have internalized the idea that I cannot fix him.  Hell, I’ve been saying that for years, but for whatever reason, I now believe it.  I have unhooked my happiness from his.  I want more than anything for him to be sober and properly medicated and reasonably happy, but if he is not, I will live my life as fully as I can in spite of his troubles.

The ER staff made Parrish an emergency appointment at Gateway for the next day, and that appointment led to another on Monday, the day before yesterday.  Because we got him moved into an extended stay hotel on Sunday, he was able to walk to that appointment.  Beginning in late January, he will see a private psychiatrist who will monitor his illness much more efficiently than a public health facility can.

I have not abandoned him and neither has his father.  He checks on P regularly.  I have told Parrish for years that as long as he is actively working on managing his illness and is sober, I will do everything that is reasonable to support him in living the best life he can live.

During the first two weeks after his release from jail, I took him to the Social Security office to apply for his disability benefits to be reinstated.  We applied for a new Social Security card and went to Driver’s Services to obtain a picture ID for him.  Both are now in his wallet, along with his Medicaid card.  In the past, I kept all of those things in my wallet, afraid he would lose them, and with good reason.  He may lose them this time, but they are his to lose, not mine.  I cannot run his life for him.  His disability benefits will now come to me, and for a time, anyway, I will handle his money.  I expect that to change.  I expect Parrish to stay sober and prove to himself and to his father and me that he is responsible enough to manage his own money.  That will come with time.

For now, I need to get some sleep.  I am cooking Christmas dinner for my son.  I’ll go pick him up at his little efficiency and bring him over here and we will cook together and enjoy a Christmas meal for the first time in more years that I care to count.

For today, life is good. 

© 2013 cj Schlottman 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Make it Work - or Not

I suppose, now that Parrish has been out of jail for a week, that I must begin again chronicling his story.  After a three month hiatus from writing down his story and how it affects me, there is again much to say.

The phone rang at about ten in the morning last Monday, 
and it was P calling to say he is out of jail.  I expected him to be released three days later, on Thursday, and was unprepared to deal with him.  I had a been suffering severe back spasms for three days and was in terrible pain and having difficulty getting around.

He said he was at the bus station, so I told him to sit tight and give me time to collect myself before coming to get him.  The phone went dead.  I checked caller ID and realized that he was not calling from the bus station at all.  He was calling from the jail.  His first lie came only minutes after his release.  I redialed in an effort to reach him again, but the woman who answered said he was already gone.

I tried to dissuade Marnie from going with me to deal with Parrish.  She had been to Athens with Stanley all weekend and was tired and stressed.  She insisted on going, saying she didn’t want me to go alone, given how bad I was feeling.  So, an hour or so later, we got in the car and drove to Brunswick.

Parrish was outside the old Greyhound station on Gloucester Street.  He seemed agitated and refused to make eye contact with either of us.  He was chewing a massive wad of gum and the smell of cinnamon permeated the car.  I immediately wondered if he had already been drinking, just hours out of jail.  

I decided when he was arrested in September that, upon his release, P was not to come to my house for any reason.  I was resolute in my decision and had made it clear to P while he was still in jail that coming to my house was not an option.

“Do you want something to eat, Parrish?”

“Yes.  I haven’t had a decent meal in three months.  Then can we go to your house so I can take a shower?” 

“No, I will take you to a hotel until we can secure and apartment for you.  You can clean up there.” 

I drove to Waffle House, where we ate breakfast.  Having taken the time before we left the house to research affordable hotels in Brunswick, I them drove to Microtel and checked P in for a week. 

We went to Wal-Mart where, fueled by mania, he commandeered the shopping cart and began wheeling around frantically, dropping items into it and criss-crossing the store.  He had found a tin of snuff in his bag while we were in the car and had some of it tucked inside his lip, so he found a cup to spit in and carried it around with him.  Had he been drinking?  It seemed so to me.  Still in severe pain, I hobbled around after him, wanting only a warm heating pad and my bed.

We left the store with provisions and a phone for him, and from there we went to McGarvey’s Efficiencies for a rental application.  Learning that he could not file the application without a photo ID, we took it with us, and I instructed P that he should fill it out the best he could and that we would get his ID from the Department of Drivers Services later in the week.

A couple of months ago, I bought a book called Buddhist Boot Camp.  It’s a daily reader of short pieces, teachings of The Buddha, and I have been working to assimilate these lessons of inner peace and acceptance and tolerance and empathy into my life.  On that day, remembering to breathe and center myself in my own peace, I was able to make the situation tolerable for myself.  I was unswayed by Parrish’s reaction to my resolve.  He was unbelieving that he could not play on my sympathies and manipulate my actions as he has in the past.  I had three months to do the work I needed to do to prepare for that day, and though I was sharp with him on a couple of occasions, I didn’t lose my temper.  I didn't know until then just how willing I am to protect myself from the stresses foisted upon me by others, even my son. In the middle of the chaos that is Parrish, I held fast to my decision to care for myself first. 

On the way back to the hotel, I told him to make a list of the things he needed to do.  I asked him to call his psychiatrist and make an appointment, to call Social Security and make an appointment to go in and apply for a new card and check on eligibility for Medicare.

“I need to call and get a new debit card for my SSI.”

“Yes, you should do that today as well, but your first concern is to get in to see your doctor.”

“Okay, I will.”

“And you need to call AA, find a meeting and ask that someone pick you up and take you to it.  It’s the quickest way you can start to help yourself.”

“I don’t really feel like going to a meeting.”

“It’s your life.  Work on it or don’t.  Your happiness depends on you taking care of yourself, and if you don’t, you will be back in jail before you can turn around.”

No response.  

By the time we returned to Microtel, Parrish was in full blown mania, rushing around in a confused state, declaring that he didn’t have the phone I purchased for him.  I sat quietly in the car while he located it.  Marnie helped him get his things inside while waited, wondering whether he would be able to handle life without me running interference for him and repeating to myself that he would have to.

Later in the day, he phoned my house no less than six or seven times.  With him there is always a situation, some sort of crisis or decision to be made.  Each time he called, I asked if he had made the calls necessary to get himself launched into his new life.  The only thing he had done was call to get a new debit card.  Money is what matters to him at a time when he is at a critical crossroads in his life.  I cannot change that.  

I finally stopped answering the phone.

© 2103 cj Schlottman