Saturday, April 3, 2010

Dialogue in Several Voices

You don't know everything.

Well, duh. Tell me something I don't know.

You don't know everything.

That's not news.

You think you do.

(Pause.) I've never said that.  I make mistakes.  I know that.  I do things I shouldn't do. I don't think I know everything.

You think you know how things should be.

How things should be?  In a way, doesn't everyone? Peace and love and everyone getting along and being with a person they love and doing jobs they want to do and food and health care, well, all of that, sound trite but aren't they really the answer? To how things should be?

You think you know how to get there. What will make people happy.  How to make people happy

Oh, come on.  I've always been very proud of my humility.

And you love to help.

What's wrong with that?  Isn't helping good?

On the off chance you know what you're doing?

I suppose, but....

Oh, humility.

I'll tell you a story.  Once upon a time, half a lifetime ago to a human, eons to a fruit fly, and nothing to a rock, there was a young girl. Teens her own age described her as *different* and a little weird. For an adult--which you  were supposed to be at the time--she seemed...disconnected.  As though we were alien life forms that she visited, finding us *different* and a little weird. She lived in a Star Trek world, scored by the Beatles, and embraced--one way or another--by Spock.

By the way and somewhat as an aside, speaking to "you" is tiring and a little confusing; remember this is a story and it's about you, but I am telling and it is also then about me. A first person P.O.V is easier. The pronouns become simpler.

Her younger sister was my oldest son's junior high girlfriend at the time.  She encouraged--almost begged me--to ask her sister to sit for my four kids. Which of course I did.

It was easy to bond over the Beatles and Star Trek.  And it became evident very quickly that she was a broken winged bird with a sad sad story.  The details are important, of course, for her life, but beside the point for the story.

I adopted her.  Oh, not legally and she still lived at home with the little sister, the dad, and the alcoholic mother--who happened to be another broken winged bird with a sad sad story. They fed her, clothed her, paid the bills, and took the brunt of her intense mood swings and terrible silences.

She was happy at our house.  Not effervescent happy, but ...happy.  In fact, she liked it so much that I just recently learned she told  her little sister to stay away:  "It's MY place now."

The church ladies (and, yes, I was one of them) took that sister under our wings.

Wait a minute--what was wrong with that?  If anyone needed  love and support, that poor child did.

No question, yep, she needed love and she needed support.  Couldn't get even a late night infomercial attorney to argue against that. .But--well--OK, define love. Start with that.

Caring for someone, delighting in them. Thinking of them before you think of yourself--you know, the whole love thy neighbor as thyself thing.  Caring. Trying to do right by them.  You know, love.

Warm feelings?  Needed?  Helping.

Yeah.  Warm feelings.  Caring.  Trying to help.  You know she didn't wear a bra because no one ever took her shopping for one.  

Poor baby.

Yeah, poor baby.  I know you're being sarcastic, but she was a poor baby, and a poor child, and lonely, broken, confused, angry.  She needed helping.

Did anything you did, collectively, individually, church ladies, you or me--did anything we ever did really help?

She got a bra.  

Now you're being sarcastic. Did she ever get what she needed?  Oh, and by-the-by and just wondering--who ever got the younger sister a bra? Back to the older sister, though.  Did she ever get what she needed? 

I don't know--no, probably not, no.  But we--I--tried . Really. Truly.

(Speaking in a gentler tone.)  I know.  You, they, I, we--all tried very very hard to help, to give her what she needed.  But--what did she need?

(Long silence.)  I...don't...know...I guess.  Love?  

How can you give someone what they need if you don't know what they need?  And, even  if you do know, how do you know you can provide it?  I mean I might know you need a heart transplant but that doesn't mean--

Finish the story.  I don't like the ending--never have--and I don't like the post script either, so you might as well get it over with.

OK, we'll skip all the middle part, the mother dies, the getting married, moving away--all of thatWell and some pretty bizarre behavior.

Skip to the phone call.  I know that's where you're going, so just go.

The phone rings.  After years, that voice, her voice.  From the past, well, once the past, but now in thepresent, the right now.

I can hear it in her voice, something is terribly, terribly, horribly wrong.

And she called you.

I'm here.  At a hospital.  They think I'm crazy. My therapist, my husband (she called him by name but I won't).  They're trying to put me in the hospital.  They think I'm crazy.  Am I?  Do you think I'm crazy?  I'm not crazy am I?  Not enough to have to be locked up, am I?  Tell me what I should do, should I...?  I'm scared, but I don't think I'm crazy...?

She really didn't want to be crazy, did she?  And she called you.  When the chips were done and she needed someone--

Shut up.  I know what you're going to say.

Because you said it, which means that--

I said it.  You said it.  We said it.She didn't want to be crazy, which is, you know, a pejorative word for mentally ill   And she did not want to be that.  

So we told her--what? 

That she wasn't.  That of course she had issues and problems and needed help, but of course she wasn't crazy and didn't need to be locked up.

Which amazingly and exactly coincided with what she wanted to hear.  You don't need to be locked up--you don't need, oh, what's that word? Oh, yeah, right--treatment.  I think that's what they call it.

How do you know?  That's what my husband said.  How do you know what she needs? You're not there, you have no idea what's going on.  How can you say anything?  Not your business.

But I love herI love her and I, I want to help.

She didn't go in the hospital.


No.  She didn't. At least not that night, not then.

Nice to be needed, isn't it?  And that used to be the end of the story didn't it?  Well, barring the subsequent phones calls of love, reconciliation, gratitude--oh, and the threats to bring a gun and shoot the entire family.
  That used to be where the story ended.  Kind of sad, but hopeful too because she did have a therapist and she wasn't all that crazy and...well, you could always figure that maybe someday and somehow it got all better.

And the unicorns were dancing on the front lawn, sparkling in the silvery moonlight, gleaming in the sun. 

Hey. That's sarcasm.

Yeah?  We used to wonder, you and me, how it all turned out.   Turns out nobody really knows, not around here anyway.  All the letters come back to the family--

No one here and not at this address.







  1. Well I was sitting here doing some of my own writing (thinking of writing a book and work on it from time to time, not far), anyway, crying over what i had written and thinking, maybe a blog would be better, thought I would check out Gwen's, oh a new post from reading it and thinking...crap...K and her had it out a little this morning about things that have happened recently, then I keep reading...and the minute I saw star trek and the Beatles I KNEW first off the little sister got her bra when her dad gave her his credit card and dropped her off at the mall, amazing with her now I cry again, a good and bad cry...bad because I feel so terrible that my sister caused others such grief, concern and even worry and happy because after all these years I have been able to reconnect with the person that my sister pushed me away daughter always asks me why i let her do that...well I knew that she was getting what she needed there...and is she crazy, I do think so, after she married, and moved out I found her journal...I did what my father told me not to, I read it, well I knew right then she was crazy and thank you so much for this writing today...and I hope that you can know you did do good by both sisters.

  2. I thought about giving it to you to read and then I thought no, I will write it and then remove if if it was something too painful for you.

  3. Hell, I am open with my life, learned that long ago, not to be ashamed of my mothers drinking, I didn't cause it, and I had nothing to do with my sister having the mental problems it is her problem (amazing I did it on my own without therapy), and that I am my own person and like me or not this is who I am and this is my life, I have nothing to hide!!

  4. I have to say I can't stop reading this, I just keep going back and reading, and again, I feel terrible that others outside our house had to deal with her mood swings, outbursts and silence, and only because you told me she did these things, I always thought that it was flowers and pupppy dog tails when she was at your house and that is why I was happy she was I am still glad she had you, but sad that you had to deal with this also, you didn't sign up for this, so to speak.

  5. The only regret I have is missing out on you. I had no idea she had told you to stay away. The broken winged birds need love and gentleness, but the birds that have fought the same fight, have the same pain and are still trying to keep on flying...they deserve support and love too

  6. I know, I wish we had stayed in closer contact. But to be honest at one point the ex would have chased you away also like he did most of my friends (not on purpose but I think because no one could stand him, however I wonder if you would have been one of the few that would have told me to run). But I believe that things happen for a reason and all that has happened in the last few months has been to bring us back together, me here for you and you here for me. Plus I always knew it was coming from her and not from you and always knew you still loved me, heck you were at my wedding and not her!

  7. I remember the wedding and the reception

  8. Yes and I still have pictures of you at the reception and at my bridal shower, I was so please that you could be there, esp since the girl giving the shower made a point of saying quite often that I didn't have a mother to help me with all this, and even though I wasn't going to ask you, because I just didn't want to feel like a burden, I was so happy you were there and told her better then my mom, I have my second mom here.....

  9. Thank you so much for being here today

  10. Gwen - even if you can't give someone what she needs, giving what you *can* give is still a mitzvah.

    Amy - I read your side on your blog as well. It was an incredible loving thing you did, giving up your second mom for a sister who seemed to need her more.

  11. Having been a witness to some of this story, with so little understanding at the time, I'm shocked at its retelling, especially in learning Amy's background of what went on.

    I would hope that you know that you did the very best that anyone could do to help all the wounded birds that you allowed into your home during that time. Your home was a sanctuary, and the emotional nourishment you offered saved many of those birds from far worse fates.

    Only the truly good continue to worry, years later, whether they did enough.

    Thank you for all that you did for me during those years. The touch of your heart lives with me to this day.

    Love, Paula

  12. I so very much loved and love you all. I think wounded birds help one another--

  13. Rachel, I knew that my sister needed this more then me, I am just sorry that Gwen and her family had to put up with some of the "crap" she put them through and wish I would have known more, but no matter what i never would have been able to help or stop her.

    Paula, there was so much no one knew of the situation at the time...believe me.

    Gwen, we love you so much, I never stopped and always knew you were there with me no matter what.

    I told my dad last week that Gwen and I had reconnected and have been able to spend some time together, after my sister disowned the family he blamed everyone, the church, the ladies, the ministers, and Gwen. I was afraid of what he would say....he was THRILLED that we had reconnected. I know there is so much about all of this that my dad does not know, but for him to have moved on and realized that this wasn't anyone's fault make me happy.

  14. Memories I have buried (which is odd for me) have been flooding back did take her out several times and buy her bra's she just refused to wear them, and we never realized that when she did start wearing bras it was the ones you had bought her, we were just happy she was...