I remember the detectives coming to our house when I was perhaps in 2nd grade, my brother then a freshman in high school. Two men, in black suits, asked for my parents when I answered the door. They had briefcases and badges, and some sort of walkie talkie/CB. They arrived in a plain black car. My Mom told me to go to my room while they talked. We had a one story home, and my room was just off of the living room, so I pressed myself against my door to listen. I used a trick from Get Smart, I tried various objects on the door and wall to hear better, like a cup. I found the best way to hear was to lay on the floor and put ear near the crack under the door.
I heard the first detective ask a bit about my brother: What is he like? Is he an angry young man? Does he have any friends? Does he have any girlfriends? Any hobbies? My Mom started answering the questions, when My Dad stopped her and asked why they wanted to know. I had played with my Dad’s briefcase enough to recognize the “click-click” of the detective’s case opening. Then I heard some papers rustling, and the detective took a deep breath and said, “Your son is in serious trouble. Is he here?” (No, my brother was not home at the time)
I pressed my ear into the door crack so hard it was hurting my cheek, but I had to know what my brother did, and was feeling scared. The detective said, “Do you know an Ellen?” My parents said No. But I knew an Ellen. My brother had her over a few times, I thought she was really pretty, with short blond hair, bright blue eyes, pretty skirts, and one time she braided my hair for me while she waited for my brother to shower. I guess my brother thought she was pretty too, because I remember them kissing on the same couch where those detectives were sitting.
Ellen had complained about harassing phone calls, that were frightening her, and were escalating in severity. They said they traced the calls to our home, and made some recordings. They asked my Dad to look at the phone records and see how many times calls had been made. Dad simply said, “Thank you for letting us know, we will look into and make sure it doesn’t happen again.” The detective said it wasn’t that simple, and that they would need to take my brother “in” for questioning and possible arrest. My dad said they weren’t taking his son “in” any where, and that they should leave, that they had no right to come in here and accuse his family of anything. My dad said surely my brother must be friends with this girl and all the phone calls could be explained, and that phone records did not prove anything wrong was done. My dad used that voice with the detectives that always scared me in to doing whatever he said. It was cold and commanding, no emotions at all, but you could feel the hate underneath it. It was impossible to argue with that voice.
So in the era before cell phones, my parents had no idea where their teenage son was or when he would be home. I waited a while after the detectives left to come out of my room, knowing that if I came out instantly they might guess I was listening. My Dad got out a magazine and sat at the table reading, waiting for my brother to walk in the door. I got out a book and started reading on the couch, turning myself invisible, as was my greatest skill back then. My brother came in at last and Dad used that scary voice to say, “Sit down. Now”
“Who the Hell do you think you are, embarrassing me like this? Who the Hell is Ellen? And how dare you use the phone that I pay for you to use to make your dirty phone calls!”
“Who the Hell is Ellen?”
“I don’t know” (I stifled a gasp – he was lying to my Dad!)
“You’re a lying sack of sh**, you stupid SOB. But you keep that story and you’re going to jail. They can’t prove it was you or your stupid friends using our phone to be mean. You called Ellen because you were dating, and then you broke up with her and she made up this story to get back at you. Right – Isn’t that how it happened?”
“Er – Yes. Yes that’s what happened”
I remember the day I came home from school in 4th grade and found my brother and his friends all sitting at our dining room table with towels over their heads, steam or smoke coming out of the towels. He said they all had colds and were breathing in the medicine. His eyes were vacant, glossy, and so red. I was frightened and just went to my room. I’m still not sure which drug they were using, guessing they had bongs under those towels though.
I remember when one of his friends dared him to see how far he could kick our little dog. He refused a few times, but those friends were calling him a pu**y and he had that distant look in his eyes again when he finally gave in. That tiny dog traveled a good twenty feet (looked that way to me anyway, like in slow motion) in the air before falling down in the grass. I scooped him up, and can still remember the look on my brother’s face as his eyes met mine, shame and grief, but he said nothing and got in the car with his friends. I was shocked. I just sat there holding my dog, who was fine, completely fine, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t understand how this brother, my sweet gentle brother who loved all creatures could be so cruel. What was wrong with him? When he finally came back that night, he saw me with the dog and just nodded at me. He looked relieved the dog was OK, but also embarrassed. He tried to tousle my hair and do gorilla sounds, but I pushed him away. I was so angry at him. He just shrugged and walked away.
My brother played guitar more than any other activity. He tried football and basketball freshman year, but gave up when my Dad would not attend junior varsity games, not when he can watch his older brother, star quarter back on the “real” football team. So no more sports for him. His good friends, not the ones that dared him to kick the dog, came over often to jam. They formed a band and started competing in “Battle of the Bands” and playing at the local fairs and such. They had dreams of being rock stars and moving to California. My brother could by then play anything by ear, tune his guitar perfectly by ear, and create complex compositions in the style of Yngwie Malmsteen – his idol. He had a huge crush on Stevie Nicks, and still does a bit. He got two after school jobs and started saving up: First he bought a mustang, then he bought an electric guitar, then an amp, then a foot pedal special effects board, then some recording equipment. Now that I think of it, he bought way too many things, really nice things in the matter of months, for a high school kid. Did delivering pizza really tip that well? I’m now guessing he delivered more than pizza. More on this in the next post.
My brother is brilliant and would often tutor his friends on assignments, but rarely turned anything in for himself and his grades fell from nearly perfect to non-existent. Although he had the highest score in his class on PSAT, he just didn’t or couldn’t care any more. Whatever he did was not noticed, or not good enough for my Dad, and especially never as good as our eldest brother. He skipped school often. He was suspended many times. My Mom just ignored it all, and focused on her perfect children. His failing could have been her fault, so in her world, he was not failing – he was fine. No one is sure if he was experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia at this point, but it is suspected that his behavior and early drug use could have been him trying to cope with what his brain was telling him. Maybe the hallucinations had started and drugs silenced them for a bit? Again, we’ll never know, because he can no longer access those memories.
- Biography of my Schizophrenic Brother, Part 1-Pre-Adolescence (roots2blossom.wordpress.com)