The Fragile Mind
The last thing Mother screamed at us as we left the house for school that morning was “you kids are driving me crazy.” She slammed the door behind us, and that door would never fully open again.
It was May of 1951. My older brother, Benny, and I had often heard her say those words, but today they sounded especially shrill, ominous and frightening. Something in her manner scared us, something very strange that we had not heard before. Tears were streaming from my eyes. I glanced back at Benny as I stepped up to the bus and noticed he was wiping away his tears, trying to hide the fact that he too was crying.
We were only elementary students. I was in the fourth grade and Benny was not much older, but we recognized that something was very wrong. We had no clue, however, that our lives would be forever and irrevocably altered by the day’s events. Sure enough, as we got off the school bus that afternoon, even though we were more than a block from home, the sound of mother shrieking and screaming at the top of her lungs was unmistakable. We began running home as fast as we could. My chest felt the tight grip of fear, my heart was pounding, and my mind was racing faster than my little legs were carrying me.
We fearfully opened the back door and saw Mother sliding down the basement stairs on her bottom, laughing hysterically. She began screaming again as she ran back upstairs to slide down once more, up and down again and again, lost in her own twisted funhouse where everything was madly hilarious.
Our young minds were desperately trying to make sense of her bizarre behavior. Terror captured our hearts, and tears flooded our eyes. We looked on helplessly, captivated by the scene but unable to stop her.
“We really did drive her crazy!” Benny sobbed, looking straight into my eyes as he spoke the exact words that I was thinking. We both felt traumatized and shocked, and stood there paralyzed, unable to process what was happening. Benny was the first to regain his senses. He suddenly sprang into action, grabbing Mother’s arm, trying to pull her into the kitchen when her frantic cycle brought her back to the top of the stairs. Very firmly, Mother shoved him away and quickly slid down the stairs again.
“She could really hurt her back doing this,” Benny shouted over her screams. “Somehow we need to get her upstairs and to stop this.”
We began pleading, begging her to come with us, but she didn’t even look our way. Her eyes were glazed and unfocused. She didn’t respond to us. In fact, we doubted that she even recognized us.
“I’ll go call Aunt Lilly at work and tell her what’s happening,” I told Benny. We didn’t know of any way to contact Daddy at Firestone where he worked.
“Stay here and try to protect her from hurting herself,” I called back as I ran toward the phone.
“How do you expect me to do that?” Benny cried.
“Just try,” I sobbed. “I’ll be right back.”
Somehow I found Aunt Lilly’s phone number and dialed it, my shaking hand fumbling with the dial, my eyes pouring out tears. When Aunt Lilly answered she could hear Mother’s frantic screaming and laughing in the background, along with me sobbing into the phone.
“Sister! Listen to me!” Aunt Lilly said. I tried to control my sobs as she continued. “Try to keep your mother safe. I will call Uncle Emmitt and we will get there as soon as possible.”
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Genre – Memoir
Rating – PG13
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