Monday, April 15, 2013
A Gentle Man and a Scholar
My brother Mike calls me every morning at 8:15 am. I usually have just enough time to unlock my office door, hang up my coat and turn on my work computer before the phone rings.
“How ya doin this mornin?” he’ll ask in his thick Okie drawl.
“Just fine” I answer. “How are you?”
“I’M GREAT” Mike responds with great enthusiasm!
And so our morning conversation goes. He proceeds to tell me the establishments he has already visited. The sandwich shop where Ralph the manager gives him a free or discounted sandwich each day and the grocery store where he gets the exact same thing each day, a bottle of Sunny D and some Oklahoma caviar. He tells me he is ready for his aerobics class. He has filled his water bottle (a gift from Mary his neighbor) and he has his emergency kit consisting of his pollen hat and his sunglasses.
I tell him how envious I am and how I will be hard at work while he is out having fun at his Silver Sneakers class.
His voice often softens and he responds most sincerely, “Well Bless Your Heart!”
I love it when he blesses my heart! It couldn’t mean more if it came from the Pope!
We typically chat a few minutes more and I tell him to have a wonderful day. Our calls end with, “I love you.” followed by, “I love you too.”
That’s a GOOD day.
On the days that his mental illness has a hold of his thoughts our conversations resemble the Key Stone Cops. It goes everywhere but gets nowhere.
He greets me with “I’m having suicidal thoughts.” without prefacing it with hello.
“Why?” I ask.
“Because I’m scared of dying” he quickly answers.
“Hmmmmmm doesn’t that seem like overkill to you? If you are afraid to die why would you kill yourself? I ask while looking about to see if anyone can hear my crazy inquiry.
Sheepishly he responds, “I dunno” and then together we laugh at his illogical thoughts.
This will be a day of confused thinking and many, many phone calls. I’ll assess each call to determine if he is a danger to himself or others. I’ve learned not to react every time he has a foggy day. I have learned that this too shall pass.
Yesterday when he made his routine afternoon call he told me he had a great time at his aerobics class and that he didn’t say anything inappropriate.
I said, “Of course you weren’t inappropriate, you are a gentleman and a scholar.”
He giggled and then in a very lucid moment he softly said, “I always was, but my disease wouldn’t let me show it.”
I agree, "Yes Mike, you always were."