By Tabitha Colburn
She’s on the floor. I tell her I have to use the rest room, and that I can’t wait anymore. I nudge her, still begging. I turn around and grab the corded phone hanging on the wall. The number is so well ingrained into my memory. Dad answers his cell phone, still at work; he was always working in order to provide food and shelter to his four kids and wife. He is on his way home now, three hours before the end of his shift. His boss has been such a blessing for our family, so lenient on my dad.
They show up at the door, my dad and our old pastor, eager to help. Quickly, but with obvious strain, they pick her up and load the 250 pounds of dead weight into the car. He lovingly seat belts her in, and then ties a rope that is kept under his driver-side seat to the handle of her door. The ever-so-important rope crosses her body and he holds it firmly in his hand for the duration of the ride.
Watching him go through the routine, I think of the sad humor that brought about using the rope in the first place. Before the idea of using the rope, she managed to struggle away from dad, open the door, and tried to jump. He quickly maneuvered to the shoulder, so worried for his wife’s safety. When a pedestrian on the bridge above noticed a tall man trying to get a petite, struggling girl back into a car, she yelled at my dad, threateningly asking if she should call the police on him. Dad actually needed the cops to help control her; he couldn’t do anything without the risk of hurting her, a risk he wouldn’t take. He gratefully called up to her to call them, which caught her completely off guard. His call to me brings me back to the present. “I’ll see you later.”
I watch as he backs down the driveway, knowing I won’t see him again until the next night at the earliest. I’m in charge. I cook, I clean, I keep the kids calm, I put them to bed. I am 12.
I learned a new word that day: catatonic. It was a new symptom, a coma-like state instead of the usual mad rants and raves. These new drugs, on top of messing with her weight, looks, and ability or desire to keep up with hygiene, caused a completely new array of symptoms to watch for.
She has been through so many different psychiatric therapies, so many different pills, and has changed so much, though never for the better. We have cautiously walked on eggshells, nervously tested for drug-caused cancer, and had our dreams turned into nightmares, night after night. Each morning held a new question for the day. Would she get out of bed? Would she go to the hospital? Would we be staying at another family’s house this week? Would I be the mother of my siblings again? Would we be loved and cherished as her children, or hated and undesired as a perceived threat?
I wish they could get it right. The pills they keep trying on her, and then changing yet again, seem to make her worse and worse. I begin to wonder, would I have had my mom if they hadn’t diagnosed her so severely from the get-go? If they hadn’t jumped right to the heavy psychotic prescriptions, but had instead carefully watched her during the ever-so-common postpartum depression, would I have been able to be a sibling, instead of a mom at age eight?
It wasn’t bad at first. The four of us didn’t know what was going on. All of us were two years apart in age, and we simply grew up at my dad’s parents, 10 hours away from reality. But that only lasted until I was seven. She was home when we came home from Pennsylvania. We saw our mom for the first time in almost a year. It was nice, but it didn’t last very long. Her mom came to live with us just a few months later because she was gone again. I learned to cook and sew while in Pennsylvania, and I had to use it.
It used to be good to see her come home. It used to be good to have her mother us. It became better to have her gone. We couldn’t wait until she was hospitalized again. The computer was always out to kill her, Dad was sleeping with all the women on TV because he held the remote, and I couldn’t adjust to mom mode, then daughter mode, then back again.
Her smile used to be pretty. Her brown eyes use to illuminate with happiness. Her auburn hair used to flow gracefully. Her ivory skin used to be so charmingly dotted with freckles. Her petite frame used to move so gracefully. Her kindness and generosity used to be so extreme that strangers could see it. The drugs and the general psychosis destroyed her, destroyed my mom. She has no memories, no personality, no drive.
Life kept going, and we all had to grow up, mom or not. I stayed home until I was 20, but the girls were old enough to handle themselves and my brother, my stronghold through it all, was leaving. He left with a new wife and child for the army, and I left to live with my boyfriend. We both have good memories of her, fun memories, happy memories, enchanting memories. We can remember her smile, her grace, and her motherly affection. Now, they are nothing but memories, nothing but dreams.
Tabitha Colburn is an English 101 student.