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Schizophrenia: My Other Mother

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As far back as I can remember, there was always something a little “left-of-center” about my mother’s behavior. She was a highly intelligent woman who had worked in medicine during the ‘50s, prior to my birth in the early ‘60s. My father was completely devoted to her in every way, and seemed almost protective of her. They had a great, solid marriage, but little did I know that there was something seriously wrong, brewing just underneath the surface, and that both of my parents were working very hard to try and hide it.

When my mom would get angry towards me, it was over things that had no rational basis to them, seemingly created in her own mind. As a small child, I never knew what would set her off, because the rules seemed to change everyday, sometimes every hour. What had made her angry yesterday, was what made her laugh today. What made her laugh an hour ago sent her into a verbal and physical rage towards me in the next hour. When my father wasn’t around, her delusions and paranoid behavior became more apparent. If someone rang our doorbell or knocked on our door, a flood of quick, precise, and silent hand signals would come from my mother, instructing me to quietly crawl (not walk, because the person on the porch may “sense” sudden movement) from where I was towards a room in the back of the house, where I was to sit very still until the “danger” had passed. The reasoning for my exit to the back-of-the-house, according to her, was so that the people standing on the front porch wouldn’t hear us breathing behind the front door, or spy any possible movement from within the house.

During these bizarre hide-and-go-seek rituals, my mother was usually selecting which blind was best for her to begin her surveillance upon the unsuspecting intruder. Even if it was a family member, anyone who was unannounced and standing on our front porch became the “enemy.” After several unsuccessful tries of trying to rouse some life from within our house, these poor would-be visitors would look at our car in the driveway, look up at my mother’s bedroom window, and scratch their heads as they were leaving. Once they were gone, I was not immediately allowed out of my exile, because, as my mother would say, “They may come back because they think we’re really home, so give it a few more minutes, just to make sure the coast is clear.” Once this “coast” of hers was clear, I would be allowed to move freely about the house, however, not before I was “briefed” on what my mother saw while she was peaking out of the blinds. She would tell me who it was, what they were wearing, what type of vehicle they were driving, and then she would begin the “pondering.” This would take her the majority of the day, where she would ponder upon why so-and-so would come to our house, and what were they “really” up to. As a small child, I would keep my mouth shut and let her conduct both sides of this conversation, but, she did like to bait me. She would begin simply enough by asking me, “Why do you think so-and-so came here, without even calling ahead?” I would then offer something neutral like, “I don’t know.” However, this was usually not an acceptable answer, so she would repeat the question in a less-than-friendly tone this time. Her tone and a particular look that she would get in her eyes were my clues to how crucial it was that my next answer be the one she wanted to hear.


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