Go West Young Man – Biography of my Schizophrenic Brother, part 6

Little is known about the years my brother lived in California. Or at least little is known to me, for a few reasons. His contact with me personally was limited to a few seconds on the phone every few months, or a quick letter in the mail. And everything was always “peachy” his word for life was great. The other reason little is known for this part of his Bio, is that my memory is terrible for this time in my life because, well, this was a terrible part of my life.

I can’t tell this story well, I think, because I can’t completely go back and put myself into these memories. So I will instead list all of the events that were happening in my home while my brother was in CA.

  • My parents divorced when the 2 years were up that my Dad had given my Mom to become independent. That day my mother came home from work to find all of her belongings in boxes and suitcases on the front lawn, and the door locks had been changed. She did not have a place to stay yet, and stayed with friends until she could find an apartment. They got a 1 bedroom apartment together, he slept on the floor at first. My other brother moved out to stay and support my Mom with his Fast food money.
  • I had back surgery to straighten my spine and woke up paralyzed from the surgery. My dad denied me the physical therapy at the hospital and told the doctor’s he would do it himself, because he wasn’t about to pay thousands of dollars for me to exercise. My dad’s sexual abuse on me worsened in that period since I could not walk away from him – being paralyzed, and from being alone in our house with him. I can barely type these words here, so moving on.
  • My dog “disappeared” (I now know my Dad took her away, but he let me search in vain for months)
  • I started menstruating. The joy soon wore off on that one.
  • I started high school as a limping freak with a leg brace and a cane. My one leg had come back mostly strong, but the other still dragged. I was not able to join any sports or wear pretty shoes.
  • Dad sold my childhood home and moved us to an apartment in another city, but told me to use my Mom’s address at school so I didn’t have to change schools too. I hated lying.

My brothers knew very little about me. Even my Mom knew very little about me. I felt alone in the world. My Mom did not ask for custody or even visitation – she just left me. I did not share any of these details in my letters to my brother in CA. I now know that he did not share his troubles with me either.

In his peachy letters to me, he sent me trinkets, once a ziploc baggie full of sand and shells from the beach. Another time he sent me a few guitar picks that he said belonged to members of Poison. A photo of him sitting in the “O” of the Hollywood sign. There were others too, but I can not recall. I cherished those items once, though now I have no idea where time and many moves have put them.

But I now know:

  • He was in a terrible motorcycle accident, hospitalized for many weeks, and that my parents knew but never went out to see him.
  • He lived on the streets/beach for much of his time in CA.
  • He had many girlfriends.
  • He tried every drug ever created.

At some point before we sold our house, my oldest brother moved back home – with his college girlfriend. He was asked to pay monthly rent to my father to move back into his own home at age 19. While they were there, they all decided we would take a family vacation that summer: Me, my dad, my oldest brother, and my brother’s girlfriend. They decided we should go “Out West” and see Vegas, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, and my brother in CA.

I could write an entire book about that “vacation”, but will summarize here. All 4 of us crammed into my Dad’s car, and he did ALL of the driving. He has never been a passenger. He would load up on coffee and cigs and drive straight through the night. We crossed several states without stopping to sleep or shower for days on end. I did my best to freshen up in diner restrooms. My dad smoked continuously and I coughed continuously, or held my breath to avoid coughing, as he yelled at me every time I did. I’d have asthma attacks in the front seat, use my inhaler, while they all laughed at me. Our first hotel was a rustic cabin in Yellowstone park, 1 room, 2 beds, no water or electricity, that would have cost more. I was pretty sure my Dad wouldn’t touch me while my brother and girlfriend were in the room, but not positive. I slept sideways by his feet, like a dog, wheezing all night in the thin high-elevation air. By morning, I was sick and dizzy. I could barely stand. I apologized to them for walking so slowly, between my limp and the no oxygen thing.

We went to a bear safety class, mandatory for all visitors to the park. The ranger saw me and told me about the high elevation and that I was getting mountain sickness. My Dad said that was stupid made up BS and we were staying for the 3 days he paid for. My brother and girlfriend hiked through the parks, while I would make it to the trailhead and just sit there enjoying the beautiful park anyway. I saw geysers, blue pools so beautiful, but sulfur smelling, I saw a moose, an elk, so many birds, and even a Grizzly cub! Luckily my Dad did believe in bears, so we wisely got back in the car and far away from baby bear before Mama arrived.

Next stop was Vegas. I clearly remember the moment I could breathe again, as we went down and down out of the mountains. Until the  A-hole decided we needed to climb Pike’s Peak. Luckily, his car also had trouble getting enough oxygen so we went back down before reaching the summit. I was gasping, but it wasn’t until his car was sputtering that we turned around.

I was not impressed with Vegas at age 14. My dad bought me makeup and a short skirt, and told me to pretend I was 21 and that I left my ID up in the room if asked by security. He said it would be more believable if I was alone playing the slots, so he actually went off to play poker. I actually got away with it a few times, but I thought the slots were dreadfully boring and the room too smoky, and so just took my book or sketchpad to the restaurant or stayed in the room when my Dad was not using it with a prostitute. At least the room had electricity and water, oh how great that shower felt! Turns out the room was free if Dad promised to gamble enough.

And then I saw my brother, for the first time in years. He had driven from CA to meet us in Vegas! He looked so thin, too thin, and taller than I remembered, but had the same long hair and amazing, yet sad, green eyes. He barely recognized me in my 21 yr old costume, and just whistled, and said “My baby sister grew up while I was away”. He smiled and hugged me. I’ll never forget that hug.

We followed him back to his house in CA, and his van died in the extreme heat on the highway. They attached a tire to the bumper, and we pushed his van all the way back to his house, my Dad stopping every time his own car went into the red zone. My brother’s roommate clung to the ladder on the back of the van to relay messages from my brother to my dad. It was very exciting to me, and I laughed so much, more than I had in years.

My brother’s house was amazing! Just 2 blocks from the ocean, which I got to stick my toes in – it was so cold! I didn’t even wonder how he afforded such an amazing house at the time, but found out later it was owned by a drug dealer, and my brother and all his roommates were working for him delivering drugs with pizzas. Girls would come and go in this house, that could have came straight from MTV videos, wearing fur coats with string bikinis underneath. One girl sat on my brother’s lap, kissed him right in front of us, then said “see ya later” like that was a normal way to say good-bye. They had an in ground swimming pool, with a 6 foot iguana living in it.

Hollywood Sign

Hollywood Sign (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That night, my brother took me to the Hollywood sign, and I have a picture of myself sitting in the “O”, just like him.

We then said good bye and started our long trip home. I saw the painted desert, Grand Canyon, Arch of Missouri. We covered so many states so my Dad could brag how many he covered in so few days. At the end, his coffee wasn’t enough, and he started veering off the road. My brother had the audacity to ask to drive, to give dad a break, which only started a screaming match of how he has no respect.

My CA brother stayed there for another 2-3 years, without much contact. We heard he lost that beautiful house, heard of a few arrests, heard of a few girlfriends, and heard of a few gigs for his band. My next post will tell the story of how he came back home, and how that hug in Vegas was the last time I looked in my brother’s eyes without the foggy veil of schizophrenia.

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10 thoughts on “Go West Young Man – Biography of my Schizophrenic Brother, part 6

  1. There are times as I read I want to hunt your father down and hurt him, for all the pain he caused you. Yet, here you are standing up and speaking out, telling the story of both you and your brother. This is such a feat of strength, endurance and love.

    I am so glad, you are here now.

    • Thanks Valentine, yes, I understand wanting to get back at my father. As I write these stories, and I get more distance, I also want to go back and help this hurting family, prevent what I know is coming next in the story, or at least hug the scared little girl I used to be. And I think that’s why telling my stories have become so important, a way to validate what happened to us, grieve, and then move on. Just so many stories, so many hurts to process.

  2. What an amazing journey you’ve been on. I am sad for you having had to live through so much trauma and abuse as a girl. That’s really heartbreaking. I’m sorry your brother didn’t get to stay with you growing up. Your father sounds sick and depraved.

    • Anya, Thank you for reading my brother’s story and for your kind comments here. It has taken all of us in my family this long to realize the full extent of my father’s sickness and depravity and how it hurt each one of us. But mine is a story of survival and looking forward, and of hope and healing.

  3. Pingback: Diagnosis – Biography of my Schizophrenic Brother, Part 7 | Roots to Blossom

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