“Without Her: 9 Months Later, I’m Not Okay”

    I was sitting down watching Nashville the TV show the other week. I was so happy that it returned. Since ABC cancelled it, Country Music Television picked it up. I can’t say I’m anywhere close to liking the writing this season. First off, they are screwing up every relationship on the show, everyone is breaking up or going through drama that doesn’t make since. Well, at least to me. See when you change too much too fast you lose the audience. I’m a die hard fan so, I would stick it out. I learned that  the show runners are from ThirtySomething. Do you remember the show? The characters spent most of the time wining. So understandably I’m concerned about the writing and direction of one of  my favorite shows…
     Out of nowhere, they killed  Rayna Jaymes

 I’m like “what the heck!?” What made things worse was that the hospital scene mirrored my conversation with Sharol. I knew Deacon Claybourne’s pain. Like Deacon, my loss was sudden and unexpected. Like Deacon, my life has been a series of twists and turns down dark roads. Conquering addiction depression, assaults, bigotry and fear. We both found a confidence and strength that came from the relationship with the women in our lives. Who also happened to be the absolute love of our lives. 

Deacon and Rayna we’re working on an album of duets together. It was the story of their life together. It was a pretty adventurous task which brought up old feelings and anxieties as they tried to write together. So at one point they decided to write separately and meet to put the songs together. Coincidentally, it was the same formula I came up with when we decided to write our own  autobiography about lives before we met and then our life together as a couple, the struggles of parenting and becoming One. That was about 5 years ago. We were up in Albany for a weekend because Sharol had to take a class. It started on a vacation, then when that weekend trip came we decided to spend some more time writing…. we never finished it. We didn’t get pass the outline of the chapters. Only God knows where Sharol’s notes are. Like me they were scattered all over the place, a notebook here a piece of paper there…

    I fell apart when Deacon did. I couldn’t imagine him living life without Rayna. Raising the two girls alone, the unfinished album, the business up in the air, a custody battle, a music career that was halted, teenage daughter dating an older guy that’s bipolar… and the only way Highway 65 was going to survive, is for him to finish the album that everybody’s waiting for…

      I once told someone “how am I supposed to be Papa without Nana?” They responded with “Aww”. Someone hit the buzzer please. “Aww…” is the wrong response! “I don’t know”, would have been better. I think what followed was something like “you’ll be okay” …in the words of President Trump “Wrong!” I won’t be okay, heck I’m not okay. My life was and in some small ways, but less with each day; intertwined with Sharol’s. Thankfully, I did not die with her emotionally; as so many surviving spouses do. Things would have been far worse for our two youngest that I still have to raise. So, how am I supposed to be Papa without Nana? How can I  finish the book we were working on, much less consider an autobiography without her? How will I lead this nation(6 children  and 4 grand) of ours forward without her by my side?.. a month ago I woke up to a runny nose. I thought it was a runny nose, it was blood. It took me a bit to figure it out until I saw the bright red on the pillow. I tried not to panic, but this is the thing I was most concerned about over the months. What happens if I get sick? Ill be alone. Usually, we’d wake up, one would  stay with the other just to make sure everything was fine. One would pray with and for the other. But my prayer partner is gone. Who will take care of me…? I thought, thinking of the future. I didn’t want to go back to sleep. The kids can’t loose both of us within the same 12 months I thought as I laid back down…

      So, you see, dear reader. When the car ran into Rayna, when she laid in the bed promising Deacon that she’d come back to him and when he said “don’t you die on me” as they ushered him out of the room…it was all too familiar with me. Some years ago, probably within our first two years of marriage. We looked at each other and I said “Dag, why didn’t you wait for me?”  I was referring to all the stuff we had gone through in our past relationships. If we had just waited for the one God had for us. We agreed it would have been fun to have had more time together. Like Deacon and Rayna we struggled but the love was real and genuine. They were arguably one of our favorite characters/couples  of the show. Now, Sharol  wasn’t a great big country music fan but she did like a good drama and watched the show with me from time to time. It’s one of the few shows that I can stomach watching without her, probably because I started watching it before she did. 

   Okay, back to Decon; facing finishing a work they started together with everyone pushing and pulling on him. But of the crowd came a voice of reason, Avery Barkley, who reminded them that the man just lost his wife. Avery later came up with a brilliant idea of how to finish the record. I have been fine for months moving forward, getting done what needed to be done. Until I woke in the middle of the night. Followed by the past few episodes of Nashville…

     But don’t you worry none, dear reader, became my hope and trust is in God and I have seen him move mountains for me these past few months. Friends have come and gone but Jesus has remain. Like that poem Foot Prints, I have only seen one set of boot prints in the snow of NYC. But I know he was with me before, so why not be with me now? If the Lord said he would be closer than a brother, as close as the mention of his name, if he gives birds food and I am more valuable to him than them, then why not take care of my needs in this dark hour? 

    Of course, that does not change our human feelings and the need for human to human contact. That need to be held. Isn’t that the reason for Eve? After seeing Adam alone, with no one like him; God decided that it was not good for him to be alone. Then by God’s grace he gave Adam someone to walk through life with. So, in this too I must trust him. I don’t just say this to encourage you but also to encourage myself. As Fred Hammond  once said sometimes we just have to encourage ourselves. By the way, Decon and the girls are doing much better. I suspect the rest of the season will focus on the continuing life, after Rayna Jaymes. I know that feeling too.

Until next time…

“Without Her: Friday Night Booze and Bluez”

Atlanta, Ga in my Sandy Springs apartment. With friend and neighbor, Cat; I was 23 years old.

   It started with one glass then another then another and another…

    Like a fisherman I casted out my text to see who would bite. I was in the mood to talk. There was a lot on my mind and I needed someone. It was a long  day. I just wanted to go home and  commence with the Friday night ritual…two glasses of wine and a movie. The text from the therapist earlier to confirm our appointment, set the blue mood I was now in. The thought of finally talking about Sharol and the loss, unfortunately just depressed me. I wasn’t nervous, just unsure about opening up a can of worms. I told my daughter I didn’t feel like sitting outside, I wanted to be alone for a bit. Maybe I’d come out and watch a movie later. Perhaps I should have just watched a movie. What followed was nowhere near anything good, at least for me anyway.

    I waited, but no one texted me back. I finished the first glass and laid down on the bed and started watching Chicago PD  on my phone. I poured the second glass…now my mind was calm. My usual eradicate thoughts were in a single focus…

    The first text ring in…then the next and then another. I was watching PD and having three conversations at once. Then a fourth! The therapist cancelled our appointment! First, I find out that the church that Sharol and I started to attend just closed its doors. Some other silliness happened earlier and now, a cancelled appointment, after opening up a crappy can of “feelings” worms. Are you kidding me!?!! The second glass was done…the texting continued. Unfortunately, the more relaxed I became, the more I felt. Lost…alone… missing the woman whose picture I was staring at. The bedroom door was closed and my pajamas on…the text went on. One conversation was encouraging, the other made me laugh and I needed that, the other was familiar…it took me back to a place I hadn’t been in a while. I liked that feeling. I waited to hear from the other two. But the last one, that was nice. I was compromising myself, my integrity, my faith and my heart. It felt great. Doesn’t sin always feel good?  

Text one, was about business, well the business I’m in. Text two, continued to make laugh and smile…as hard as its been, I enjoyed laughing. Text three, continued to take me down a dark path… 

   Sharol used to jokingly say”I’m glad I didn’t know you when you were younger”… she was right and I don’t think we would have attracted one another. I was a little free spirited, lack massive confidence, filled with pain and constantly battling depression and had many ambitious plans. Oh…I forgot to mention, always drinking, all day and many times high on something…

   I have survived many things this year, but the cancelled appointment was the proverbial straw. I poured another glass of wine exceeding, me and Sharol’s agreedupon two glass limit. I drink with malice. There was nothing I cared about at that moment. I wasn’t trying to wash away my pain, in fact I wanted to feel; feel the lost, feel the abandonment, feel the shock of that Tuesday night when she slipped into eternity in my hands. I’m not a person that can easily relax. My mind runs millions of miles a second. So I’m always in a constant forward motion. Years ago when I suffered from severe anxiety attacks, the medication that I was given help me to relax and for the first time in my life, my mind was quiet with a single Focus. Well I discovered, by accident, a glass of wine with my wife has the same effect. But relaxation was not what I was going for. I wanted complete and utter abandonment of my barriers.

    As the text conversation went on, my mind drifted away. I could smell the Old Spice and other cheap cologne in the air.

I was taking back and saw a guy I hadn’t seen in over 30 years. All the years it took to bury him. The mountains I climbed, to distance myself from him. The man I’d become, under God’s love and Sharol’s care, was gone. I was that guy posing for a picture with a 40 once bottle of Old English 800 malt liquor under my foot. One next to me and me drinking the other. I called it “King of Beers” today I might call him prince of fools. As I continued to slip backwards in time. So did my thought process, I’d forgotten who I had become; the man so full of faith and strength that Sharol wanted to marry. I became the dead man of the past, that texter  knew and wanted.  The first two conversations ended but the third continued…the pit was deep.

   I had always seen the devil’s attacks miles away. It would start with me and fail. Then my kids…then my wife…then back to me. Attacking my wife and kids would just piss me off and make me pray more, fight harder. But his victory that Friday was the result of a thousand tiny cuts. My tendons, that I needed to stand and fight with were slashed. Kind of like shooting Achilles in his heel.  A slow weakening of my defense. I kinda saw it coming, but hadn’t the strength or will to fight…

 Saturday morning…

My mouth felt like an aspirin bottle cotton ball. I felt dehydrated. The guilt from the night before didn’t come…but anger and disappointment did! “You’re a really nice man” one person said. “You know, you’re a stand up guy” another said. One person, over heard me calling home to check in on my daughter’s homework. “You’re a good dad” she said. “You’re a good guy…people are responding to that, they want to help” still another said. “I love you Ty…” Sharol would say, especially when I was going through something. All of the words folks had been saying to me started flooding my mind. How could I have let them down. I thought. How could I let my troubles get to me, get me to the point that I was so weak.  I’d determined that I couldn’t do anything about the night before or my past. But I had full control of the present and the future. This was not the hill in which I was going to die on!  Sunday morning, I was at my computer watching a church service online. I was reminded of who I was, of whose I was. I was reminded that years ago a good work was started in me. I was reminded of Sharol’s words, that God had her with me so that I would be the man he wanted me to become… clearly, that old dead guy wasn’t it! I determined, at that moment; however arduous this journey to the end of my life is, I will continue to beat down and bury the old man. This is not The Walking Dead.  That which is of the past and from the past will remain in the past. What has been risen like the Phoenix from the ashes of my old life is something entirely new…

    It is the thing, that encouraged the maintenance man in a hotel room, listening to me talk to my 13 year old daughter. It is the thing, that blessed my boss when he came Sharol’s funeral! It is the thing, that encourages and blesses my Co workers and bosses, when they see me working diligently! It is the thing, that, shapes generations to come simply because I gained new wisdom! It is the thing, that makes me stand and fight… and tell that hellish old man from the 20th century, he has no place in the 21St century!

     I don’t know, dear reader, how I’m going to continue to navigate through this strange time I’m in. I assure you I didn’t intend on writing about it. Heck, I thought I’d be in the forth chapter of my book by now. But life has taken me along the scenic route. Crazy, people keep telling me to continue to write. Really? Are you all crazy? Have you any idea what this subject is like for me…? But, apparently, there are some reading this and being blessed by it. That, my dear reader, was the reason I started writing in the first place. Now, I’m going do as The Afters said and have the time of my life.

Until next time….

“In The Apartments Next To Mine” Book Excerpt 5

The snow swallowed the city in a dome of white and grey.  Every so often you could see a faint flash of red or yellow.  If you were able to see it sharply, it was too late; the vehicle was already too close.

She was awakened by a gentle touch and whisked away to the bathroom in what could only seem like a dream to her…

His alarm startled him, sending a bolt of electricity through his heart.  “Crap!” he yelled, rising from his slumber.  He rose up on his elbow, then his hand and just sat with his feet dangling off the bed.  Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he slid slowly off the bed, easing his feet down onto the icy linoleum.  Geez, do I have to? He thoughtIt definitely was not a day for traveling.  Most people would stay home and watch television.  He sighed, and then reached over for his phone.  No messages.  “I guess we’re doing this…,” whispering to himself.  With the cold floor waking him up with every step, he entered the spotlight of the kitchen, put on a pot of water and headed for the bathroom.  Somehow the canary paint shined with the brilliance of the sun – or was it just too early in the morning?  He begrudgedly opened the medicine cabinet, grabbed a handful of vitamins, chucked them in his mouth and bobbed his head in the sink to drink some water.  Then he slipped into the shower and melted away in its warmth.

She stood in the doorway naked and dripping wet.  No movement; just still as a statute, staring at her wrist…a moment later a flicker of one finger.  “Come eat baby.  Breakfast is ready,” said the voice from the kitchen.  But it was a ploy, a white flag…a surrendering to the will of the naked statute standing in the hallway, a compromise to continue the day as planned.  But Venus did not budge.  She stood firm in all her great beauty, naked and unashamed.  The voice continued to prompt for a response.  Then, with no further words, put two blueberry waffles in the toaster…and waited.

The charcoal grey sky, gave way to a light heather grey.  The imprisoned sun was fighting to be seen but it was outmatched.  He peeked out the howling window on his way back to the kitchen to eat.  Bacon, eggs and cheese…? He thought. But the white bearded, Quaker starred at him from the cabinet. “Dag!”  Grabbing the box, he continued on with the original plan.

The blueberry scent drifted down the hallway.  Suddenly, the statute came to life.  She let out a loud screech of joy, tapped her wrist to her forehead and shot down the hallway.  The slapping of her bare feet on the floor put a smirk on her mother’s face.  She’d won this round.  The shivering, cold, purple-lipped, 70 pound, wet child leaped onto the chair.  She tilted her head, closed her eyes and smiled.  With a blank expression, she stared down at the plate…within an eye’s blink the plate soared across the room.  She screeched again, flapped her left hand and stuffed the waffle in her mouth with the right.  When her mouth was full, she commenced with the sharing of her food.  First, she smeared the waffles on the table top, though her mother protested against it.  Then, she shared her blueberry waffles with the wall, stove, refrigerator and her mother’s face…

“No, no…no!”  He shouted after looking up at the clock.  He rushed up from the table banging his hand and dropped the plate.  “Really!”  There was no time to worry about the pain.  He ran to the back to get dressed and ran his toe into the edge of the bed.  “@%#!”  Still the clock kept ticking away the time.  He tossed on his shirt, backward, tripped putting his leg into his jeans and forgot to shave…”Dang it.” He yelled running down the hallway, taking his coat he let out a long sigh, touched his face and thought, she likes fuzzy anyway.  The thought made him chuckle. He dashed out the door. “The bottle!” the yelled, shoving the door open.  Leaving the key in the door, he rushed back inside, snatched a small gift and a tiny bottle of water off the table and bolted back out the door.

 

 

In_The_Apartments_Ne_Cover_for_Kindle                                                                                                                                        Excerpt taken from “Spectrum”

video Interview Pt. 3

Hello fans, followers and curious folks, the moment you have been waiting for is here! The 3rd and final part of the interview. Enjoy and feel free to “Like” comment and share…it’s fun to share. Thanks.

“In The Apartments Next to Mine” Book Excerpt 3

2015 book trailer (6)“I don’t know what I’ll do as far as a career, but this is just the beginning of my life. I hope I’ll be able to go home like my Dad suggested years ago. Thank you all but, I can’t take any more questions. I have a plane to catch.”  With that said he stepped back, turned and fell into Cynthia’s waiting arms.

“That was the bravest thing I have ever seen,” she said as they walked through the sea of flashing lights.  Hailing a taxi, they headed for the airport.  During the entire flight, neither one uttered a word – they just watched the flight attendants in navy blue suits walk the aisle passing out peanuts, sandwiches and drinks.  Caleb took his infant size pillow and laid still against the window all the while trying to ignore the six year old kicking the seat from behind and the rank smell of the adult diaper needing to be changed from the seat in front. Cynthia just laid motionless watching the in-flight movie until she fell asleep.

Arriving at O’Hara Airport in Chicago, they hailed a taxi with the help of a red cap.  This time Cynthia tipped with a little more gratitude.  They hopped into the cab and went straight to Chicago General Hospital. “Excuse me nurse, I’m here to see Rev. Bowmont,”

“Yes ma’am,” the nurse replied. “He’s in Room 323.”  With butterflies in her stomach, she pushes the door slowly entering with Caleb following.

“Hi Daddy,” She reached back for Caleb’s hand.

“Hello, little one.  I’m glad you came.”

Pulling Caleb closer, “This is…Ca…”

“Oh, I know who he is.  I just saw him on the news.  Come on in son.”

After sitting and talking a while and repairing the father-daughter relationship, Rev. Bowmont prayed for the two. He reminded them to trust God with the rest of their decisions.  Then he pulled Caleb close and whispered, “Son I know firsthand what some of those video games do and how some of them rob our children.  The Ranch Ministry I started years ago was because of you.”

“Because of me…?”

“Yes, the Ranch is to bring the city youth up to the mountain to get away for a while and to explore the stars and feel real animals.  The most popular violent games they’ve played have been the ones you developed personally.”

“I’m sorry sir.”

“There’s no need for that.  You’ve made the right choice now.  I prayed for your change of heart years ago.  I’m just glad I was able to see it happen.  Thank you son, for your witness to the video game industry.”  After shaking hands, they said goodbye.

“I’ll see you soon Daddy, I’ll call you from Austin too,” Cynthia said, waving on the way out the door.

They stayed at the Bowmont Ranch until Monday morning.  Boarding yet another plane, they headed to Austin, Texas.  Once again, upon landing, they rushed to a taxi, traveling in the bright Texas sun. It wasn’t long before they approached the college campus,  now surrounded by the NFL Officials, news media, helicopters circling and thousands upon thousands of ‘Longhorn’ fans all chanting Jedidiah’s name.  Like the woman who pushed her way through the crowds to get to Jesus, they too were pressed on all sides.  Finally making it to the office, they were escorted to the field where the press conference had already begun.  Unable to make their way to the stage where the rest of the family was, Caleb and Cynthia managed to squeeze up front just behind the ‘press corps’.

There standing before him was the youngest of the ‘James boys’.  The once chubby, ashy, slow poke had become a man.  A literal tower of strength, his deep brown muscular frame glistening in the sun, he leaned on the podium with his left hand – his left shoulder and profile resembling the regal look of Daddy.

Jed leaned forward with his hands cupped over his eyes as he spotted his big brother and smiled.  Putting his hands down, he continued with the conference.

“Alright, alright guys, where were we?”

“You were going to tell us what we’ve waited to hear all weekend,” one reporter comments.

Playing with the press, Jed replied, “Ah – what was that?”

“The draft Jed, the draft!” they shouted.

He inhales, raising his muscles underneath his orange and white ‘Longhorn’ polo shirt, and answered the long awaited question.  “When I was a boy, my parents got me into football because they thought I was built for the game.  Being from New York, we were huge ‘Big Blue” fans, so it was easy to love the game.  In high school, I played football because I was good at the game.  I also wanted a college scholarship. I received it – then came here to school.  I played college ball for ‘me’ because I wanted to play football – because I love the game.”

“Yes, Yes,” a reporter shouts.  “What’s your answer?”

                                                                                           

                                      “Going Home” and more can be found inside…

2015 book trailer (5)

“In The Apartments Next to Mine” Book Excerpt 2

2015 book trailer (5)“It’s okay Jay.  I can do it,” Jared said.

“No, it’s not safe.  They might hurt you!  Jared, come back!” he yelled desperately.  But he was too late.  The police burst through the door smashing Jared into tiny bloody pieces.  Henry tried his hardest to restrain Jay but he broke loose and ran for the first officer through the door.

Jacob, seeing only his brother’s blood went after the “beast” who slain him.  He grabbed the blue beast by the throat and squeezed till his yellow eyes popped out.  He watched the droll from the fangs pour on his large hands.  When the beast clawed at Jay, he broke both of his arms and was going for the legs when the rest of the pack charged at him. The defender was no match for their weapons.  Like fire, the small pellets from their claws burned through his chest.  Jay’s blood spread quickly across the hard wood floors. Nicole stared in horror as she witnessed the whole thing.          Salt streamed down her full face as she watched her baby being carted off like a panther by hunters.  Yet, she couldn’t move.  The whole scene was being played out on what looked like a muted big screen television – badges flashed from all directions, guns drawn, Henry, with his hands outstretched, his mouth moving but no sound passing through her ears.  Then like an explosion, she heard everything at once which caused her to scream.  “Stop…stop!”  All fear now gone.  “Get your hands off my husband.”

“Ma’am, calm down, we’re just…”

“Just what?!”  Arresting him for nothing! She interrupted.

“You bust in our home, shoot my child and now you put guns to my husband’s head, frighten my daughter and tell me you’re just…just what?  Just gonna make a statistic of my husband?  You claim he’s resisting arrest, why would he need to be arrested?!”  Her heart moved like a commuter train within her.  Her words were full with rage.  Then before the police could answer, the paramedics cut in to remind them of something far more important.

“I have a pulse…he’s still breathing and I need to get this man to the hospital now!”  With that the sirens rang through the streets as the ambulance driver tried to break sound and speed barriers to get Jacob to the hospital.

Henry was still arrested, arraigned and released, then met Nicole at the hospital. Mercy General was known for many things but being the best hospital was not one of them.  However, Jacob received excellent care partly because he had become a local superstar.

“Mr. and Mrs. Jackson?” the surgeon asked.

“Yes, Doctor,” they answered in unison.

“Your son is in critical but stable condition.”

“Can we see him?” Nicole asked

“Maybe in a couple of hours, he’s still unconscious.”

Nicole turned to see Henry just staring into space.  “Henry, did you hear what the doctor said?  Henry?”  She called again.  Still no response; Henry collapsed in the vinyl chair.  With his hands still in his pockets, he began to wail, out of both pain and anger.  His shoulders caved in on each other, his body curled in a slumped ball.  He no longer looked like the tower of strength Nicole knew him to be.  He was now in need of her strength.

“If you’d like, I could have someone come and talk with you,” the doctor offered cautiously knowing that the suggestion being made could sometimes make matters worse.

Nicole rested her head on Henry’s. “That would be fine, thank you, doctor…?”

“Roberts,” he finished as he disappeared around the corner.

Two hours later, the triage nurse was wrapping up Henry’s hand when the psychologist walked in.

“Mr. Jackson, I presume” smiling.  What happened to your hand?”

“He put it through the candy machine,” the nurse answered.

“Really? You didn’t see the strip on the bottom that said ‘push’?” making light of the situation.  Henry looked up at the man and answered, “I did. I thought it meant the glass.”  The two men laughed as the very angry nurse left them alone.  “I don’t often make light of people assaulting fixed objects.  It often means there’s something going on inside.  But in your case, I read the report.  Heck, if what happened to you and your family happened to me, well I’d take out the coffee machine as well,” the doctor continued. “By the way, I’m Dr. Michael Arnold.”

“Henry Jackson, that’s my wife Nicole,” pointing outside the door. “Why don’t we all go somewhere quiet to talk?” The doctor asked.

They found a nice spot in a corner outside the hospital’s chapel.  The doctor explained how Jacob had been tested for drugs as well as other tests.  The test for drugs was negative.  So he asked them if they knew what brought on the behavior and why the cops shot him so many times.  So Nicole explained that she had heard him talking to himself in the room.  When she asked who it was he was talking to, he’d told her to ‘shut up’.

“Did you have an argument earlier?” the doctor questioned.

“No, he’d been in his room all day.”

“What about you, Mr. Jackson, anything odd?”

“Ah…yeah. When the cops banged on the door, he told Jared to come away from the door.”

“Who is Jared?”

“Our youngest son.  He was killed by a drunk driver.  But that was five years ago. Jacob was acting like he was standing in the room.”  He tossed me like a rag doll then bolted for the door.” he continued, puzzled.

“Mrs. Jackson?” The doctor’s face now full of concern.

“Yes,” she answered.  Her expression said she knew more.

“Um, a couple of years ago he said he saw Jared eating in the kitchen,” shrugging her shoulders.

“Was that the only time?” the doctor continued to probe.

“The coach in high school called me in because Jacob was in the locker room talking to himself.”

“What was he talking about?”

“The coach didn’t say – just that he was arguing.  And I didn’t ask Jay either.”

“Excuse me doctor!”  Henry was now furious.

“This happened more than once and because of it – whatever “it” is our son is dying upstairs! But for some unknown reason, you never told me! Thanks, Nicole, thank you very much!”  Knowing that asking Henry to calm down would go badly, Dr. Arnold just calmly spoke to Nicole while Henry paced the hallway in front of the chapel.

“Nicole?” choosing his words carefully.

“Do you know if there’s anyone in either family with a mental illness?”

Her eyes searched the hall, “What do you mean?”

“He means anybody like that crazy uncle of yours, Nicole!”  Henry barked.

“Uncle?” asked the doctor.

“Um, ah, it’s not my uncle.  He’s just “high” all the time.  My father was diagnosed with schizophrenia”.

“What?  You told me you didn’t know your father and you heard he died when you were 12 years old!” Henry’s voice was so loud that the chapel door creaked open and a pair of tiny child’s eyes stared at him.

“Henry, please,” Nicole pleaded.  “Please, look at the kids.  Come sit down,” tears streamed from her eyes.  “Honey, I’m sorry I lied,” searching his face for understanding.  “I was 12 when he died,” she continued.  “My dad was a young man with troubles – at least that’s what people said.  He couldn’t handle life,” they said.  “So, he shot himself. I came home and found him holding a picture of me in his arms.  Blood was everywhere – the ceiling, the walls and on his favorite arm chair.  We would sit in it together to watch football games.  I found him slumped in our chair with my picture because he gave up on me!  That’s what I told myself.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I was told that my Dad was schizophrenic.  I was only told because I was marrying you,” she held his hand.  “My mother didn’t want me to have children.”  She leaned back on the bench and began to cry.  Henry looked into her oval face.  The look in his eyes told the story of his heart.  He loved Nicole.  He couldn’t imagine what it would be like to carry such a burden.

“Mr. and Mrs. Jackson, I believe that what your son was going through, is quite possibly schizophrenia,” Dr. Arnold said.

“Do you know what made it happen?  Was it football?  Jared?”  Nicole asked.

“No,” he continued.  “No, in your case Nicole – may I call you Nicole?”

“Yes.”

                                                      Kaleidoscope and more can be found inside…

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“In The Apartments Next to Mine” Book Excerpt 1

 

2015 book trailer (5)The doors closed…

 

We sat across from each other. She’s tired from the journey through the years, me from the day’s travel…She looked down staring in her hands as if in deep thought.  I stared at the thick hunter green veins spreading up her arms from her hands like cob webs. Her weathered skin covered in brown spots; hair like fur all over her forearms.

My eyes traveled south to her legs; arthritis had moved in, bags, furniture and all. Her scrawny ostrich legs were capped by knees nearly bigger than her whole body.  She was wearing beautiful, sensible black shoes. The kind you would take to a craftsman to repair; a cobbler, whose skills the young women have no need of – they tend to throw out worn shoes. She was from a different era, she knows the value of a well-made shoe and her generation, poor as they were, kept things and repaired them often.

My eyes floated back up to her hands they trembled a little; her decrepit joints mimicked falcon claws as she scratched through her hand bag. In search of what – her youth, some gum, a thought she could not remember…? I continued to scale up her person…The classy knee length, carbon colored skirt was complemented by a cherry red cashmere cardigan sweater. Her head was still down but I could see her timeworn face. Fuzz blanketed her sad, shar pei expression.  Her frail shoulders stiffly moved as she continued to claw through the bag. The stubborn gray fought against the boxed blond and won the fight. It didn’t seem to matter to her,  She still pinned it up like a 1940’s movie starlet. She had the class and charm to go with it. Curiosity filled my marrow as her trembling head lifted…I wondered what she looked like in her youth…

Our eyes latched.  My head tilted like the old RCA victor dog and suddenly through her cataracts blue eyes, I was whisked back to the 1940’s. I heard a swing band playing in my head; it slowly grew louder in my ears. I looked up…I was no longer on the 6 train.  I was listening to the A Train and Ella was singing it. “Look,” I thought. “There she is.”  She was standing against the wall wearing the same clothes, tapping her foot and gently applying bright red lipstick. She was 70 years younger, with clear blue eyes like the Caribbean ocean. I walked toward her to ask for her dance card but McCullin’s arms were already around her waist.

They would have danced all night but a husky voice burst through the air and ordered the men back to their base…they were shipping out. I stood motionless as their hands, like time, slipped away. She never saw corporal McCullin again but like many girls waiting for their guy to come home, she took his name, Mrs. McCullin.  Her ruby red lips parted to a half smile with warm tears dripping on her cardigan as she turned and waved to me…I heard the faint voice of the conductor in the background.  As the subway doors closed, she stood on the platform searching in her bag…for her dance card.

2015 book trailer (6)

 

 

 

 

 

   “The Widow McCullin” and more can be found inside…

 

 

 

 

 

“Becoming Unglued, When The World Looks Different”

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I was thinking about what to write about last Friday. I had a couple of choices at the beginning of the week then I read a Facebook post that reminded me of something I wrote.

In my book there is a story called Kaleidoscope, it’s a story about a family dealing with a member’s mental illness. Henry and Nicole Jackson‘s son Jacob suffers with Schizophrenia. He is a talented football player on the rise to NFL stardom…that rise however is interrupted. Henry discovers that Nicole’s family has a history with this particular mental illness. The couple must now, like other families in america, face a hard really…

unglued 6 I wrote the story for a psychology class. I studied many forms of mental illness, I found that schizophrenia was the most perplexing. It was that thing that as kids we saw displayed most often and the people with it were “crazy people”. Schizophrenia is indeed the classic definition of crazy. Some people here voices, see things that are not there and they respond to them. Of course anyone looking at such a person can see that they’re talking to no one.unglued 4  Unfortunately, the illness causes many to be violent towards others. Think about it, if you saw something scary and thought it wanted to harm you what would you do? If you heard voices that were not your own, how would you react? Now, multiply that by the lifespan because that’s how long a person must live with the mental illness.unglued 5  Yes, there are medications and treatments and facilities for people to have help. But they must still live with it. Some medications make people feel better, normal and after a while they stop taking their medication. The end result? They spiral down.unglued 7

Schizophrenia is one of dozens of mental illnesses…Depression, Panic attacks(anxiety attacks), Bipolar and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) are all forms of mental illness. Like  broken bones, there are many types of Fractures, simple, compound etc. Likewise mental illness has many levels and layers. Over the years some have been declassified and reclassified…Anxiety attacks to Panic attacks to Mood disorders, one can hardly keep up. But the point is that, for many it’s a hellish existence for 60 or 70 years of life. If they make it that far, too many like Robin Williams, take there own lives…unglued 10

I know all too well what it’s like to feel yourself slipping away. To know that you know the face in the mirror yet you don’t recognize yourself or the feelings you have. It’s like smelling the pizza, feeling the pizza, putting the pizza in your mouth but tasting nothing! I lost about a year and a half to severe panic attacks. It was a gradual decline starting with feeling uncomfortable on the crowded train…now I live in NY and I know tourist think that squeezing in a train is fun. But most new yorkers Hate being pressed together like sardines. My feelings weren’t the typical annoyance we strap-hangers feel, I was suffocating. I felt the same way at home when we ate together or in large wide open spaces. I would often jump off the train at the nearest stop just to relax, which caused me to be late. Then on day the flood gate opened…I was on the R train headed to Queens when I felt the train car close in on me, like the curving street scene in Inception. It was just as the train was in the middle between Manhattan and Queens. A sudden fear took me, one I’d never felt, I kept picturing in my mind the water crushing the car. The more I tried to shake the image the worst things got for me. My heart raced, my head began to swim and I could no longer control my breathing. I did all I could to stand up and not cave in to the feelings…thankfully the stop came.

What followed was days and months and soon a year of descent into a pit of despair. The sound of water, talking, loud noises, vibrations, touch…anything would send my body into a panic! My head/brain felt like it was floating away, I wore a hat all day just to comfort myself. Brushing my teeth was near impossible because I felt like I was choking, the same with eating which caused me to loose a ridiculous amount of weight in a short period of time. All of these things and more brought on feelings of my death, which made everything worst still!… To add insult to the injury I received such expert advice! “Why don’t you just…”, “Not enough faith to be healed..” “What are you scared of…?” “It’s in your mind..”  As if the person doesn’t already feel crazy! unglued

You see dear reader, you can see a broken window, arm, leg, a torn shirt, a leaky pot but you can’t put a bandage on an internal injury like a broken mind. You can see the effects of the injury, some more than others, but there is nothing physical for the outside world to see to say “Let me help you with that” No one will reach out to carry your bags of groceries. They will stand aside and whisper…  I am not writing this piece this week as an expert or with stats you can find or supplying a number to a helpline. I am writing as someone who has experienced the pain of becoming unglued. I am a christian, so I put my hope and trust in the words of the bible and Christ Jesus. You may put yours elsewhere and that’s fine.  For me, I had a praying wife that got me through, who held my hand in the hospital, who drew close to me even though she was terrified of loosing her husband, who kept watch over me when I couldn’t sleep, eat or sit for more than a minute. She was and is my teammate through that time. Many marriage fail in a crisis like this but we were pulled closer, we had no others…It’s been 13 years since that lost time.

    I write this week, to encourage you dear reader. Think about that family member, neighbor, co-worker, anyone you may know or whom you may be caring for…with Love. It’s not just a word, it’s action. It encompasses compassion, empathy, insight, a willingness to help, the capability to hold on and let go, to hug or the patience to wait to be able to hug…and much more. It all demonstrates Love. unglued 2 Dear reader if you feel anything like you’ve read about reach out to some one for help. Don’t wait for them to come to you, they can’t see what you feel. One last soapbox thing, that friend or helper shouldn’t be offering you anything that would make matter worst.     Until next time…

                  33 I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” -John 16:33(HCSB)