I always thought I would be a catatonic. I was sure that if a major trauma came my way, and I ended up having a nervous break-down, it would be the silent treatment that I would revert back to. Essentially I had to learn to talk as an adult. Growing up, I had lots of thoughts, lots of ideas – lots going on in my brain – that I never shared. Sharing my thoughts and feelings seemed a bit superfluous. So – catatonia was my mental illness of choice.
Then I found out differently. I found out I was closer to a hysteric.
The revelation happened the moment I found out my brother had been murdered. The phone call came; I listened carefully as my brother’s friend described the evidence that led him to believe that my brother had been murdered. He said he heard on the radio that an elderly man had been killed on Grammer Av. He said the radio said that the man lived alone and worked from his home. The friend felt that sufficiently described my brother that he took a ride to my brother’s house, and found 10 police cars surrounding the house. He repeated (as if I might not be believing him the first time) that he was fairly sure that the man who had been murdered was my brother.
I had no hope of mistaken identity. I knew instantly that he was right – that my brother was dead.
I started howling. Screaming. Bleating. Sounds came from me that I didn’t know existed in my repertoire of noises possible. All those noises with no audience. Or, at least no audience other than my own vigilante surprised observing self. They weren’t being made for sound effects – they were just the deepest sounds of anguish that it is possible to emit from one’s throat and mouth and lips. It turned out that I was not the silent catatonia type at all – quite the opposite. Loud suffering agony.
I was beginning to think that the universe was plotting against me. The week before I had fallen on rocks in my lake – splat right on my face. I had to be lifted out of the water by helping hands. At first, I thought I would never walk again – my legs had no sensation. Turns out, I had only knocked up my knees.
Then two days before my brother’s death, I was walking to a restaurant, and my necklace fell off – into the street. I was grateful that I had seen it, as I had just put my father’s military dog-tag on the necklace. It would have been awful had I lost that relic of his life. I shared a nice conversation with a friend at the restaurant, and then started walking home, he going his way and my going my way — peacefully, harmoniously, feeling good. Randomly, for no good reason, in exactly the same spot as my necklace had fallen off, my foot twisted out of my shoe – and I went down. I was in the middle of the street – again, unable to move, second time in a week. A nice couple came over and asked if they could help me get up. Good idea, as cars were about to bear down on me. They brought me to a bench on the side of the street. I sat, contemplating how I was going to get home – a mere 3 blocks away. They asked if I wanted them to get a taxi for me. That seemed really decadent. How could I take a taxi three blocks? I decided to call my boyfriend. He answered. I asked him where he was. He said uptown. I said that he was of no use and hung up in his face. I called my daughter, and told her she had to come get me. Then I thought better of that – she could come get me, but I still wouldn’t be able to walk home. The taxi was apparently the way to go. My daughter’s friends were at the house when I arrived; they carried me up the two flights of stairs. And the next day, I found that I had broken my foot.
I planned to call my brother to tell him. I was waiting for the right time. I wanted to have time to have a leisurely conversation with him. The last call we had had with each other had been just that – the longest call we had in quite a while. Just shooting the breeze, saying random things to each other as they occurred to us. He spoke a little about his friend Max – who he had generously allowed to live in his home while Max was visiting New Orleans – on hiatus from a rehab center that he had been in for a year. I expressed concern about Max. David told me that Max, eighteen years old, had been kicked out his family’s home because he had tried to molest his sister. I suggested to David that perhaps that was not all that Max was capable of – that he might be violent. That David should watch his back with Max. But I knew that saying that would be to no avail. David had taken a sort of adopted-attitude toward Max, and felt that their relationship would help Max. That was the last time I spoke to my brother. He died without knowing that I had broken my foot.
I went to my brother’s funeral in a wheelchair.