My Mom, my Dad and Me

Winter SunIt was deep in the winter of 1995. Mom was at the end of a long illness. She was dying. We called for the parish priest. He came and administered last rites. When the priest left I was sitting with mom and she said “I must be pretty bad if the priest came. I must be dying.” I couldn’t answer. I just nodded my head. Mom folded her hands in her lap then looked at me. She blinked back tears and said “I don’t want to leave my family.” I don’t know where the words came from but I said “Mom, in heaven there is no time or space. We will all be waiting there for you.” She looked out the living room window for a moment then said “I guess it will be alright then”.

Mom slipped into a coma a few days later. She lay in the bed mom and dad had shared for over five decades. Dad hardly left her side. She died the next day before noon. After the funeral dad and some of us were sitting at the kitchen table. I really can’t remember who else was there because I had withdrawn even deeper than usual. Dad began to speak –

I want to tell you about what happened the night before Florence died. I always held your mother’s hand at night even then, when she was in a coma. It was after midnight when I felt her hand move. The bedside lamp was still on and I sat up and watched her. Her grip tighten then she opened her eyes and smiled up at me. At that moment I felt all the happiness and all the joy of the life we had lived together.

Dad smiled through his tears and looked at each of us as if wondering whether or not we could comprehend what he had just described.

Understanding came to me slowly. It has been two decades since that day. Now, because of my father’s gift to me, I don’t reach for the brass ring of a good relationship. I seek the Holy Grail of a love and devotion that not only goes beyond the grave but is greater than anything I can ever hope to understand.

Mania and the Muse

Bipolar disorder defined my life as much as a wheelchair.

Seven million Americans suffer from bipolar disorder, a.k.a. manic depression. An estimated three million cases are severe. In severe cases bipolar disorder can fragment one’s life and destroy any hope of doing useful work or having a meaningful relationship.

Prescription drugs did help, but left me afflicted with a feeling there was something wrong with me, like my mind had been hijacked. The writing program I completed revealed a unique benefit of being bipolar. It was a practical tool that  brought understanding, acceptance and finally a published novel. A partial list of bipolar authors and creative individuals includes: Ted Turner, Virginia Woolf, Ludwig van Beethoven, Winston Churchill, Jimmy Piersall and Ernest Hemingway.

My author’s journey was filled with practical examples of how a disciplined approach to writing can change some of the curses of being bipolar into blessings. Writing and symptoms combined for positive results. Those positives were a less manic means of communication, a much-needed routine, a sense of purpose and creative release.

The writing program I followed included a daily word count, techniques to focus the mind and methods of emotional release. Those components fostered mental discipline and emotional stamina. The simple act of daily writing brought continuity and a sense of purpose to my life. A life troubled by this misunderstood disorder. The beliefs I expressed and emotions experienced captured the elusive core of my  bipolar existence revealing a hidden pattern in a manic world.

Mania, when suppressed, is a denial of self. When unleashed it is a powerhouse of creation.

Our love was a casualty of war

Far away tonight

I am so weary but dare not sleep.

If I close my eyes and slumber

dawn will find you nearly faded.

You seem so far away tonight.

The candle at our bedside

Flickers in your eyes.

Will a light be left there

when that candle dies?

Oh how your eyes passed through me

and saw what I forgot.

I was the one you always came to

and now I know I’m not.

What dreams have you been hiding?

Is there something you can’t tell?

Perhaps an unknown anger

a fear that love can’t quell.

I can no longer touch you

the way I used to do.

And though you can’t be with me.

I will be with you.

You seem so far

So far away

Far away tonight

I am so weary but dare not sleep.

If I close my eyes and slumber

dawn will find my courage faded.

I feel so far away tonight.

I know I never thanked you

for the comfort that I got.

You were the one I always came to

and now I know you’re not.

There were dreams that I was hiding.

A secret guilt I couldn’t tell.

A closed heart choked with anger.

A fear of love as well.

It’s too late to say I love you

the way I should have done.

You broke my heart wide open

Janet, you were the one.

I feel so far

So far away

Far away tonight

©  Tom Puetz   2004