One Impossible Question and One Terrible Thought

Given the path my life has taken these past 6 years, it’s a tad ironic that I’ve never felt more connected to a Bible verse in my life:

Matthew 27:24
“When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!””

While my scenario and the one described in the Bible vary greatly, I understand the frustration. I understand the surrender.

I’ve washed my hands of my own mother.

My mother, as I’ve hinted at in the past, has quite literally gone insane.

From thinking people live in her attic and pump poisonous gas into her home. To telling me kids live in her condo and hide her keys from her. Or that time she told my brother that my dad has a group of kids buried in a hole in Gary, Indiana and is going to cut their hands and feet off. And that time she broke into my house and told the police “The people told her to.”

Sadly, these are just a couple examples from the last 5 years of paranoia and schizophrenic behavior.

The many stories I could tell you would inspire laughter, disbelief, anger and frustration.

For a solid 4 years I tried. I really did. I tried to understand the how and the why. Then I stopped trying to understand and tried to just have a relationship of some sort. I tried to keep myself and my kids in her life, but safely and sanely.

I tried hard enough that only 1 year into this mess my mom’s case worker told me directly, “You and your brother have gone far beyond what most families attempt to get aid.”

So in October of 2017 I finally came to the impossible question:

At what point do I let my mother destroy herself? 

I’d exhausted all options of forced medical help and police intervention. The only way she’ll be forcibly locked up and medicated is if she hurts herself or someone else. This is, I came to find, why jails are the biggest mental institutions in the United States. They’re full of mentally ill people that just won’t take their meds.

The only actual option I have left is some type of legal guardianship over her and, plainly, I’m unwilling to do that for a variety of issues.

My mom wasn’t some super sweet, innocent, kind and level headed person before she got to this state. She’s always been manipulative, controlling, angry and crushingly difficult to deal with because she’s always, in her mind, the smartest person in the room.

So, if I were to say, oh, I don’t know, become the sole person responsible for all of her financial situation and pay all her bills and control her money, it would be absolute hell for me. She would make sure to curse me into oblivion.

She already thinks I’m an evil agent of my father used in a “game” to ruin her. If I took ownership of her finances, she would see it as my father taking final control over her life and she may snap in the worst way that word implies.

You see, there’s still 1 unaccounted for gun from the divorce. Does she have it? I don’t know.

I’m writing this now because last night I received news that the police and her condo association have finally gotten a court signed injunction to, if needed, break down her door and fix issues with her condo that have created massive water issues for the people living below her.

If my mom resists, she’ll be put in jail. If she’s compliant, she can’t be in her condo for 10 days while repairs are made.

She also owes massive amounts of money to the home owners association for legal troubles and contractor repairs. She no longer has a car because she lost it playing her dumb games with innocent, unknowing people. And she’s burned almost every bridge she has in her life.

So, finally, the very real possibility of homelessness is finally on the table and I saw it coming over 2 years ago.

Which brings me to my terrible thought. I confess I conceived this originally over 4 years ago, but I’m just now able to admit it out loud today:

I wish my mother were dead.

Not out of anger, but selfishly so that I’d still have many good memories and happy thoughts of her. Happy times with my once solid family still intact.

If she’d passed away years ago, I could remember the mom that held me as a kid and was an amazing listener. The mom that always laughed at my jokes and never put herself first. I could remember the love.

It seems that that mother passed away a year after my brother did.

In truth, I can say I have a clear conscience about it all. I tried. I really tried.

Or maybe I don’t because I know I can do more, but don’t have the wits about me to try and control the uncontrollable until one of us dies.

Maybe I say I tried to keep the guilt at bay that my mother, the woman that raised me, may soon find herself without a home.

So, I hear you, Pilate. I too have washed my hands of something.

It’s just becoming increasingly distressing that no matter how hard I scrub, some of this dirt won’t come off.

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5 Years On, It’s the Small Things that Mattered Most

Today at 12:48 PM, my brother will have been dead for 5 years.

This particular day doesn’t feel any more special or worthy of note than any others, but here I am, making note of it. Probably more out of habit than anything else.

Five years on and I’ve realized it’s the small things that have left the largest impact on me since Phil’s passing. How people around me reacted at a low point has taught me a great deal about loving others.

Patti, the receptionist at work who heard me lose it on the phone when I got the news, who came over to me and rubbed my back with one hand back and forth slowly, gently as I cried at my desk. She cried with me as I packed my things to go be with my family.

Jeff, a good friend that was walking into the hospital as I pulled up to it, who simply sat with me in silence and waited patiently for me to say it was okay that he go home to his family.

Brandon, a dear friend that drove 4 hours to be there at the funeral and embraced me like a brother.

An uncle that, to this day, sends me “head check” texts on the anniversary of Phil’s death as well as on Phil’s birthday.

Seemingly endless amounts of people that showed up to the visitation and offered kind words and cooked meals for our family.

Almost daily messages in the weeks and months that followed of people talking about Phil and sharing funny stories.

Others reached out and offered sage advice on dealing with loss. One such friend even shared how he was able to grieve after he lost an infant to SIDS.

Loss, it seems, has the ability to expand love in this world as well as end it. I count myself blessed for having received an overflowing amount of it.

I share all of this now as a poor way of saying thanks to those that have lifted me up in low moments.

Having been shown such kindness and grace from family and friends, it further cements in my mind that it’s the small things that matter most in life.

A gentle hand. A warm smile. A strong embrace. Kind words. Being present.

These things matter.

A Death, A Loss of Faith, A Baby, A Divorce and A Wedding

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The Pratt boys from today’s wedding – Me, Dad, Masen and Jay

Today my father got married to a very nice woman named Gayle. Gayle’s a very sweet lady that adores my father and he, in turn, loves her dearly. By all accounts and from every way I look at it, they’re going to be very happy together and will serve each other well. I couldn’t be more thrilled.

But as I stood on stage with my dad, my older brother, Jason, and one of my father’s dearest friends, Mark, I was hit with a very sudden and unexpected crushing sadness. I was thrilled for my father and Gayle, but it hit me up there on stage, listening to my dad swear vows to a woman that isn’t my mom, that this was the climax and finale of the death of my brother.

If my brother dying suddenly on May 16th 2012 was the start of a new book in my life, today, with my dad marrying Gayle, was the end of that book. A final punctuation mark on a rather tumultuous 4 years summed up perfectly with, “You may now kiss the bride.”

After Phil died my immediate family, a once shockingly close knit group, was thrown headlong into uncharted territory which resulted in my mom hating my father, me losing religion and having a baby girl, begging my father to divorce my mother and finally with my dad marrying Gayle. (Certain drama left out because well….I don’t want to share it.)

The only constant in all of this is that my brother hasn’t been here for any of it. While I should’ve seen it coming, it was today, over 4 years after Phil’s death and a good 3 and a half years of being totally numb to almost all emotional pain that I was brought to tears and forced to again face the realities that Phil has missed everything and will always miss everything.

Would my parents have divorced if he hadn’t died? Would I still be a happy member of the Christian village? If my parents divorced, would my dad have met and fallen in love with Gayle?

Phil is both the missing component in all of these events as well as the very likely reason any of these things are happening.

So, it was with both great joy and sadness that I hugged my father and Gayle and wished them the best of luck in their new life together.

I just wish Phil was there to give dad a hard time and to take pictures with us again.

This is all probably his fault anyways.

The only picture of all the Pratt boys in existence – Me, Jay, Masen, Phil and Dad

 

Memory and the State of Things

bittersweet symphonyI heard Bitter Sweet Symphony on the radio today and it got me all reflective and sentimental. Not only because it’s a pretty damn great song from my youth, but also because it was played during a video slideshow summarizing the life of my brother at his funeral.

I generally avoid going “there” with my brother anymore because I’ve said my bit and have grieved and don’t feel the need to dwell or add more baggage than is currently strapped to me already. I loved my brother and he knew that. I’ve celebrated his life, but I’ve allowed myself to continue living. Continue reading

“Now I am Become Red Starbucks Cup, The Destroyer of Worlds.” – Satan

satanIf you think the title of this post at all resembles what J. Robert Oppenheimer said after the Trinity Bomb went off and he realized that we’ve created the capacity to end ourselves, you’d be wrong. This is what Satan was quoted as saying recently as his way of finally toppling the great majority religion of Christianity in America.

Confused? I was too until I finally googled why the hell I keep seeing fury flung at Starbucks over Red Cups. Continue reading

The New Normal

phil 2

Tomorrow marks the 2 year anniversary of the worst day of my life. The death of my brother and best friend has had a larger impact on me than any other single event in my life. Even though the list of people more significant to me than Phil is limited to my immediate family of my wife and children, I don’t think any death will so vastly shape and change me again. I may be more devastated, but not so wholly changed.

Mother’s Day marks the last time I saw Phil alive. We went to the park where he was to be married and taught my son how to roll down a hill. We went back to my house and watched the sort of okay horror movie, Insidious. I remember not feeling well and when he, his fiance and my mom and dad got up to go home I didn’t hug him goodbye, something I always did. Instead I went to the medicine cabinet to get Tylenol. We discussed the Rammstein show we’d just seen and how awesome it was. We said goodbye and that we loved each other. I can still see how he stood and looked at me in front of my door just before he turned to leave. It’s all burned into my mind.

A new normal is something I’ve been looking for. The world doesn’t stop turning for the death of anyone. You have to press on. Take your licks and keep moving. Focus on what you can manage and deal with the emotions as they come. Cry. Drink. Talk. Weep. Breathe deeply. Shake your head clear and get back to living.

Mentally I feel like I’ve never been better in my life. The sad days are few and far between anymore even though there’s barely an hour that passes that I don’t think about Phil. It’s a numbness that I’ve welcomed and cherish. Not that I don’t have strong feelings about it, but it’s good to compartmentalize it to some degree. There’s a healthy balance of letting it out and keeping it in. Life goes on. People live. People die. Sometimes it’s the ones we love.

Am I mad? No. Not in the least. In fact, there’s much I’m thankful for. Like the fact that Phil and I were so very close. We purposefully shared a room up until the day I got married. We always hugged and said, “I love you.” We hung out and always laughed a lot. I’m thankful that if Phil had to die it was over as quickly as it was. I’m thankful I got to see him the day of the accident and hold his hand while he still looked like Phil. I’m thankful for the outpouring of love from people I both do and don’t know.

The new normal feels like it’s slowly happening on its own and I welcome it, but also feel guilt for it. To not mourn for someone as much as you feel they deserve does bring about some feelings of guilt. You feel this way even though you know they’d not want one single tear shed. It’s just human nature. We want to honor the ones we love.

The new normal also feels like a mess because, well, it’s new. Phil’s personality was very mellow and he was a great glue for my family dynamic and without him, much has changed drastically and I mourn for that as well.

Sometimes I feel alone in this and sometimes I feel the lift from my brother, Jason, who walks this trail with me. Two where there are supposed to be three.

Most days are great, but days like Mother’s Day and tomorrow are not fun days. They’re a reminder of what was lost and the hole in my heart that I’m trying to not notice all the time.

In an animated movie I saw last year there was a point where the narrator talked about hearts breaking and the truth in the statement can’t be overstated. He said, “When your heart breaks, it can grow back crooked. It grows back twisted and gnarled and hard.” 

Sometimes I feel like the character he was speaking of. Still very much me, but increasingly numbed to many things I used to feel greatly about. It takes an astonishing amount of anything to get an emotional reaction from me anymore. It’s given me extreme tunnel vision. I worry about my kids and my wife. That’s it. That’s my world. So long as nothing happens to them I’m impervious to pain of any kind. I’ve actually grown to love this as it gives my life and tasking a laser focus. No distractions. There was recently another death in the family of someone I really cherished and I barely felt anything. Is my family okay? Good. I’m good.

All this thinking and reflecting about the living that I’ll never have with Phil, I’m always reminded of the great ending to the poem, Maud Muller, that states:

For all the sad words of tongue and pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”

Another day. Another year. Another normal. I’m getting there.