Life Is Too Short To Be Little

Life is too short to be little. That's what my grandfather wrote on our fireplace mantel.

I am not going to be mad at my mother.

I'm going to go back to my attitude of gratitude.

My brother's death brought out a lot of anger and a lot of regret, a lot of remorse in me.

What more could I have done? What should my mother have done?

Well, it went the way it went.

It is a tragedy that my brother couldn't have become stable and happy.

Last night I was invited to an award ceremony for an organization called MARRCH. They deal in the world of addiction and recovery mostly, but there is certainly a mental illness component to what they encounter with clients as well.

They were honoring some pretty terrific people, two of whom I know personally, one of those being the very moderate Republican senior Congressman Jim Ramstad from Minnesota. 

Jim Ramstad was good friends with a great Democrat from Minnesota named Paul Wellstone.

In Jim's award acceptance speech last night he talked a lot about how many issues in the world are non-partisan and how he and Paul Wellstone would spend hours talking about what should be done about addiction and mental illness type issues. 

He did say though, in his speech, that Mister Wellstone would often say to him, "Jim, I love you like a brother, but sometimes I wonder how you can be so wrong." Haha, true that.

Well, I noticed in all the speeches and discussions last night that these very concerned and educated and experienced people in the field weren't really talking about people like my brother.

My brother was drastically paranoid and psychotic. He had hallucinations and he didn't trust anyone.

He wasn't a drug user at all. He was an alcoholic probably, but the people I spoke with who cared for him said that he didn't have access to alcohol and didn't have alcohol in his bloodstream when he came to them.

I was thinking about how there was a time in America when there were state run insane asylums or whatever they called them.

I think there were stories a while back about how they decided to empty the asylums and put those people back out in the world.

Some lived with relatives and some joined the ranks of the homeless.

In Jane Eyre, the great British Gothic novel by Charlotte Brontë, there is a mad woman who is chained in the attic. She is truly insane and a danger to herself and to others. She eventually gets loose and sets the house on fire.

When my brother lived with my mother for a period of time when he was in his early forties and his many other options had been exhausted, he often threatened to kill her and I was often receiving desperate calls from them both.

At that time we had my brother admitted to the Chicago Read Mental Health Facility, but they quickly discharged him saying that he was not a threat to himself or others so they couldn't keep him there long term. I discussed his situation with the directors there at the time and they told me that unless he had actually tried to kill himself, his mother, or someone else, that he wasn't considered a threat.

Well, the good news is he didn't kill anyone, he didn't try to kill our mother, he didn't even kill himself, although the condition he was in at the age of sixty when he died would be arguably a form of suicide, like a person who did not take care of his body or his mind, as if he didn't value his life.

My brother was miserable and he didn't value his life, even though he never tried to kill himself.

So, these are the thoughts I'm grappling with now.

The AA people and the addiction centers don't seem, from what was being said at the event last night, to have a component that works for the seriously delusional. 

All the stories were more typical AA type stories, like they sobered up and they got straightened out, and they went on to be great people.

That was never going to happen for my brother.

He was put on many anti-psychotic drugs during the time that I was able to be involved in his life, but he hated all the medicines.

Once a guy like him is out on the streets, they get withdrawn, they talk crazy, they don't trust anyone, they run away from anyone trying to help them.

My mother did everything she could to try to bring my brother back home to her once he decided to leave the program he was in and stop taking his medications and get away from his mother.

She found him through the police once. He was begging on street corners in Denver.

The Denver police helped her go to him and try to get him to come home with her.

She was standing out in the street with the police officer next to her and she was calling out to him, "Bradley, Bradley, it's me, it's your mother."

My brother, and you have to remember we never really liked our mom all that much, my brother took one look, picked up his knapsack and started running as fast as he could in the opposite direction.

At the time, when I was calloused and foolish and heartless and young, I said to our mom, "Well Mom, if he knew it was you and he ran, then at least we know he's not that crazy!"

I thought it was funny that my brother ran instead of dropping to his knees and crying in gratitude that our mother had come to save him.

But now I don't think that's so funny.

He may have been so delusional that he didn't know what was good for him.

My brother may never have known what was good for him.

I think I should have tried harder to do for him what he couldn't seem to do for himself.

But I was raising three children in a difficult marriage and I was afraid of my crazy brother.

I loved him but we had already been through so much with our parents that I just wanted to live a peaceful beautiful life.

I didn't want my family's craziness to follow me.

I didn't want it to rub off on my sweet little kids.

I didn't want to be crazy myself.

So I let my brother run off when he said he wanted to go be a wandering homeless guy. He said he didn't want to take medications and live with his mom or in an institution.

He said he didn't want us to try to find him.

So, he had some years maybe of freedom, but within twenty years he would be so physically deteriorated and so mentally disoriented that he would finally die in a hospice center for indigent patients in California.

Move on Courtney.

Take what you can gather from this and move on.

Your brother, in his glory, was a magnificent child of God.

That spirit of his best self is with you now for your journey.

Move forward Courtney.

And love your broken mother who could not save her son, and can't save you either.





Courtney October 30, 2018 @08:38 pm
Thank you for this helpful feedback Jeff...your comments are much appreciated. I am definitely getting a better feeling going about the whole thing. I am enjoying thinking about my brother today and especially about songs he liked.
Jeff Parkman October 30, 2018 @07:09 pm
I'm glad to see that you seem to be moving through the stages of loss and grief quite quickly and that you are not blaming yourself or your mother. Generally, we all do the best that we can in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. And you are right--- life is too short to be little. I admire your resiliancy.
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