Early the next morning, I boarded a plane, my anxiety as high as the clouds outside the plane’s narrow window. I never liked flying, but considering what I was facing that was a forgotten issue.
Sam’s home was a tent in someone’s backyard. His hair and beard had grown into a scraggly mess, but that was negligible compared to the vacant expression and confusion in his eyes. He looked like a remnant of his former self. On the plane ride back to New Hampshire, he asked me to open a package of crackers for him. When I asked him why he couldn’t do it himself, he said he was afraid to hurt the cellophane. Dear God! I thought. Hurt the cellophane? On the drive to our house, he said not to make any left turns because they’re evil.
Immediately, I called my husband and on the way to the hospital, I prayed, Please let it be drugs. Drugs! I could deal with that. Just don’t let it be schizophrenia. That was an illness I knew I couldn’t cope with, having seen those poor afflicted people on the streets: the homeless ones, dirty and talking to themselves. It never crossed my mind that these folks are someone’s son, mother or loved one. I guess God was busy that day I asked for help, but now when I think about it, I no longer ask why my family was chosen. I think, why not my family?—similar to author Christopher Hitchens (“Why not me?”) upon getting his cancer diagnosis. Mental illness could happen to anyone and does over and over again. At some point we all face tragedies, but what’s more important is how we deal with them? Suggestions are always welcome.