Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Love and Demons

I loved my first husband with a passion known only to youth. I, indeed, would have lain down and died for him if he had asked. I could see no future without him and my past seemed cold and colorless until he arrived on the scene. We grew up together raising four children in the process. It was an ever changing weave held together with laughter and adventure, tears and raw desires. As often happens with unions created in adolescence we fell spectacularly apart. Not quickly, even though it happened in an instant it took eighteen years. Not physically, our chemistry was solid. Not even emotionally, we shared our love of family, shared a religion, and shared a vision of what could be if we just hung in there.

My husband had a ‘nervous breakdown’; an over used but very apt term. As I was going through the nightly drill of dinner cooking, homework helping and living room cleaning his boss phoned the house. Since this was before caller ID was prevalent I snatched up the phone ready to chew out either a salesman or a bill collector, only half paying attention as I stirred, spelled, yelled and diapered.

“Ms. G----?”
“Do not bite your sister!!”
“Hello? Hello?”
“I am not interested, thank you”
“WAIT!! This is Lonnie? From the garage?”
“He’s not home yet; can I have him call you?”
“I just wondered why he didn’t come in today?”

Now THAT got my attention. I turned on the laser death stare, impaling my brood so they froze where they stood and let loose the evil hiss mother’s only pull out when life or death depends on complete and total attention.

“Not at all? He didn’t come in at all? He left at the same time he usually does” I snuck a look at the clock and was shocked to see he had left the house 13 hours before, uniformed, lunch in hand with a kiss and a wave like always.

Lonnie, realizing that I had no clue what was going on quickly backtracked, hemmed and hawed and finally, with a mumbled “I am sure there is a good reason” slammed the phone down. I lit a cigarette, gave the kids their dinner and started making calls. Our family first, then police departments, then hospitals. I finally found a nurse at an ER front desk who remembered him checking in sometime in the morning. She assured me he was just fine at the precise moment he walked in the front door. I was frightened and angry and relieved. I started hollering “Where the hell have you been?” even as I grabbed him hard and hugged him to me.  I looked into his face and saw a fear so deep and dark I recoiled as he burst into tears and hung on to me for dear life. I was lost. We were lost.

I am a mother, I did what a mother does, I hugged him back to me, patted his back and said it’s all right, it will be alright but I knew something tragic and permanent had happened and I was at a loss. Like kissing a child’s hurt knee it was ineffectual but he, assuming I could fix it, cried out his pain on my shoulder

I hustled the kids off to bed. The fact that there were four of them meant that even in a hurry it took a bit of time and when I was finished, the last tooth brushed and nose kissed, I realized he had gone to bed.  The door to our bedroom was locked. I sat through the night at the dining room table chain smoking and worrying.

At six o’clock I opened the sliding glass door to the cool February morning and let the smoke blow out. I made yet another pot of coffee and poured us both a cup. I walked quietly upstairs and hesitated before I tried the door. Still locked. “Honey? Honey it’s time to get up! I have coffee!” I heard a strangled cry and I left the coffee by the door, letting him know it was there, and went to wake up the children.

As the kids squabbled about cereal bowls I peered outside. The regular houses had the regular lights coming on. The regular neighbors were either driving out slowly or returning from a hard nights work. All of my children were subdued, dressing without prompting and eating without enthusiasm. They drug their feet as they gathered their books and backpacks. My oldest daughter finally asking was her daddy ok? I felt my breath hitch as I said he just had the flu, no big deal. “Why was he crying? Does he feel that bad?” I had no answer so I just nodded my head and ushered them to the door.

For the next three weeks he stayed mainly in the bedroom. I would hear the door unlock and I would scurry up to try to talk to him, to gather some clothes, to ask him why. I grew angrier and angrier as I was met with either silence or tears or the locked bathroom door. On the 19th day I used a butter knife to open the door and started screaming like a harridan.  “What the &$#@ are you doing! Talk to me dammit! TALK TO ME!” I had a shelf with countless paperbacks which I started hurling at the lump in the bed with all of my force. I got into a rhythm with the books yelling “TALK TO ME” whumph “TALK TO ME” whumph “TALK TO ME” until he shot up and slung one back at me. “You bitch!” “You bastard!” We stood on both side of the rumpled stale bed, both breathing hard and ready for battle. “I need to see someone” he finally confessed. “No shit Sherlock” I replied. We went down together to make some calls.

My husband never went back to work. He was diagnosed as Bi-Polar after many failed stops and starts with various doctors and medicines. A couple of years after his initial break I found out what had happened that day.  He had been driving down the road, as always, when a terrible and black void as deep and wide as the universe opened up in front of him. It was full of evil, shadows that took on and lost form as they beckoned him into their terrifying world. Some hours later he found himself sitting in a parking lot on the other side of town, alone, the void gone, the creatures at bay but forever now a part of his consciousness. He did not know who he was or why he was there. As he calmed he realized he needed help and by the time he got to the nearest hospital he knew himself as well as he ever would again. He waged a valiant battle but the demons finally caught him.