Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Gift for William

Tomorrow is Friday and I will be visiting my brother William. William is my big brother of only 2 years. And unfortunately he's in a mental institution, of sorts. My mother likes to think of him as just "away" or "recouping" but it's been six years with no improvements, so I'd say this is where its at.

They say William has schizophrenia. My mother says the whole thing is hogwash and it's the medications that make William crazy, but I saw changes in William long before my mother was willing to admit it. William's once-clean apartment turned into a hovel that would have made even a hoarder cringe. And then there were the conspiracies. At first, I just thought he was taking after my mother thinking that everyone was out to get him and there was a reason behind a reason as to why he needed to pay this bill or not park his car there. But then his explanations, paranoias, if you will, became more elaborate. And then there was that tiny problem of him needing to take it public, like out in the street, which did not go over well with his neighbors, or his boss, until he found himself without his job at the car wash and out on the streets.

It wasn't until he was living in his car that my mother decided to step in. She believes in tough love and was convinced that the lower William sank, the closer he was to pulling himself up from his bootstraps. I disagreed. Which I don't do too often, particularly to my mother.

Unlike my mother, I don't dread my visits to William. He is always happy to see me and we manage to have things to talk about. Sure, there is a bit of sadness to see that this is the extent of his life: he'll be lucky if he makes it as far as an assisted living facility. And he shares a room with an elderly man who chirps whenever someone raises their hand to gesture, sneeze, or put on a coat, but William seems accustomed to this. It's normal to him, even if it makes my mother exhale loudly and roll her eyes. The hardest part I think for my mother is to see the change in his physical appearance: bloated and obese from the medications. He looks like a killer, a little like those grainy photos of my father than my mother keeps in a shoebox.

In any case, William appreciates any small gift I bring for him, more than anyone else. It's tricky giving gifts to William. It can't be anything that could be used to hurt himself. I've made the mistake of giving him home-made jelly in a mason jar. Glass. A potential weapon. Pens and pencils. Once again weapons. Crayons and chalk are okay. Everything has to be dull, dull, dull.

One of the best things I like about visiting William is that he doesn't ask me anything about myself. He doesn't ask me about my job. Or my love life. I don't have to lie to him. And that really, is the best gift.