Determined to stay positive, I turned a deaf ear to caution.  After reading a few books about schizophrenia, I considered myself educated, concluding that there were many things we could at least try, to acclimate him to living with his illness.  Naïve with ideas of enabling Eric to find his self-worth again, I underestimated the severity of his condition.  Unlike our mother, I didn’t believe he needed someone watching over him every waking moment, discrediting the notion he wanted to die.  Instead, I rationalized that we needed to find a way to help him cope with his new reality.

≈≈≈≈≈

A quaint room, outside of our home, adjoined to our work shop, secluded from the busyness of a household with two small children, seemed the perfect set up for him.  A space he could call his own, it provided the seclusion he sought so often.

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Assisting me with my ornamental iron hobby would afford physical activity to consume the pent up energy churning inside him.  At days end, he would see something he helped accomplish and it might provide him a sense of purpose.

With chest full of pride, my head boasted admiration to itself for what I graciously agreed to do for my brother, when no one else, not even our mother, would.  Foolishly drunk on the intoxication of self-gratification, I was fuzzy headed to the dangers lurking in his mind.

≈≈≈≈≈

My morning routine began with an extra dose of bright ideas stirring.  My husband was off to work, while I juggled between readying Blake for school and dressing TJ for the ride.  Granny and her coworkers at the school cafeteria were expecting me to bring in some of my creations for their viewing.  Excited with anticipation of a few sales, I had the trunk of my car filled and ready to go.  Amid the hustle and bustle, Eric popped in the back door, wearing a baby blue tee shirt, bright turquoise shorts and white socks with black tennis shoes.  His disheveled hair stood there screaming for notice of the blatant signs that he had not slept all night.  Taking full advantage of my distractions, he nonchalantly inquired where several items might be in the shop, and I replied with a scattered, hurried brain.

≈≈≈≈≈

Loading the children into the car, I relayed my morning plans, asking if he’d like to come along.  He declined, leading me to believe he would stay back and prepare the shop for our work day, as he made his way back to his room.

“Be right back” I yelled before closing my car door.

Standing in front of the shop, he threw his hand up in a goodbye wave.  Backing out of the drive, I glanced up once more, he was still standing there, his face void of expression.

≈≈≈≈≈

What I would give to have that moment in time back.

≈≈≈≈≈

I was gone under an hour.

≈≈≈≈≈

We lived in a small mobile home, nestled between my husband’s parents and his sister, Vicki.  The three properties, surrounded by farming fields, were set in the arc of a deep curve on a rural highway.  Returning home from the school, in no big hurry, I smiled to myself, imagining what Eric and I might tackle for the day.  Breathing a breath of fresh air, I felt sure about our new venture.

As my vehicle made its way into the curve, flashing lights immediately grabbed my attention; an ambulance was parked in front of my in-laws’ house.  Blood drained from my face as my heart stopped beating in a jolt of alarm.  Of the possibilities reeling through my mind, “What has Eric done”, dwarfed them all.

≈≈≈≈≈

Activity, in the in-laws’ side yard, scurried directly ahead of me when I pulled into the driveway.  Opening my car door simultaneously while parking the car, I left TJ buckled into his car seat.  Vicki’s normally laid back demeanor yielded itself to a countenance of complete dismay as she ran towards me.  Panicked heaviness pricked my senses.  Nearing an audible distance she blurted “Carlette it’s Eric, he’s hung himself!”

≈≈≈≈≈

“No, no, no, no, no, no, no” sputtered from my lips, every syllable stinging like flames, lighting fire under my feet, sending me into a sprint.  There he lay, in the grass, his body stretched out, motionless, save for the forceful plunges of the EMTs, wearing the same baby blue tee shirt, bright turquoise shorts, white socks and one black shoe.  The other shoe, tossed aside in the yard, appeared to be running away.  One EMT rhythmically squeezed air into his lungs through a bag over his nose and mouth, while another listened carefully for his heartbeat.

Treading closer, I screamed his name, “Eric!” “Eric!” “Eric!”  If he heard me, I thought, he would come to; if I could grab him and shake him, he would come to.  Wrapped in a throng of arms and bodies I couldn’t fight my way through, they restrained me to stand there and watch, helplessly.  With earnest regret, the EMTs turned to me, and I knew.  The voices had won.

≈≈≈≈≈

My legs gave way from beneath me and falling to my knees, white noise dampened the chatter around me.  Covering my face in shame, I went inside my head…”I failed him.”  “I let him down.”  “This is my fault.”  “If I could just close my eyes and ears and count to ten, if I could just rewind the last hour of time” I wished.  “How am I to tell our mother I allowed this to happen?” I asked myself.  “How could I be so stupid?”

≈≈≈≈≈

Time lapsed when I opened my eyes to reassess the situation.  Peering through the crowd now gathered in the yard, I could see the weapons used to take my brother’s life.  The voices managed to convince even these inanimate objects to participate in this dastardly deed.  There, under the oak tree, a seemingly innocent plastic lawn chair rested, toppled over on its side, tired from its commissioned duty.  Above it, a solitary remnant of rope slithered from a limb, lapping its tongue, eager for its next victim.  For fear of falling under its spell, I looked away quickly.

Time crept back into calibration as my sense of hearing roared back into my ears.  With continual life support procedures, the EMTs identified a faint, unsteady heartbeat.  There was hope yet, however grim.  Eric was abruptly loaded into the ambulance and carted off to the nearest hospital, hanging on by a thread, as  I waited in absolute trepidation for our mother to arrive.

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