Thursday, April 22, 2010


I plan on returning to my book four days from now. I've been away from doing it for about one month. There has been a church project and Pete's death to deal with. But finally, ahead, I see the beginning of free time. It has been very costly to me not to write. I feel like a loser without something driving me. Something personal and obsessive to focus on. Oh, I'm proud of the work I've done for my church, and I'm proud of being a good daughter to my mother, and I'm even proud of the little work I've done on this blog, but I have to get back to working on an independent project. To work on something that is much bigger than me. A project that I can pin all my hopes and dreams of the future on. Right now this is the dream of publishing a book. My thirties were dedicated to painting and drawing. My forties I have decided are dedicated to writing.

Do I really think this book is marvelous? Not yet. Perhaps never.

Do I believe in my talent? No. Not even with academic people in the past grading my papers with terms like "brilliant" and "creative genius". They gave me little moments of glory, but I fear that my illness is stronger than talent and will obscure talent. I fear that past estimations of my talent were only temporary moments of success. A success that could not be sustained. A few times I fell into a literary groove and out did myself. Surpassed myself and received praise. But mostly my power of mind is paltry. My prose is ordinary.

So why do I write when I have such little self confidence?

I like to exercise my brain. Writing is a challenge. It is sometimes fun, but more often, it is simply work. I need work. I need to go to sleep every night knowing that I have tried my very best that day at doing something. When someone asks me, "What do you do?" I usually say that I am an artist, but that my oil paintings do not sell, so I have started trying to write a book. Very simply the truth. If my oil paintings sold I would continue painting them. And in my fifties, if I have not managed to publish a book after ten years of writing I may go back to painting. That decade of life is not yet determined. I may have to choose which talent has advanced the most, painting or writing, or at least, which talent I gain the most from personally.

I expect my entire life to be a failure. It feels a little bit like buying lottery tickets. You buy the ticket for a dollar and you dream of the millions that you would receive if you win. But you know too that the chances of winning are very slim. So you expect to lose. But the dream is powerful. You exist in a happy state of unknowing, but hoping.

I hope, that after ten years of writing I will be a good writer. I know that after ten years of painting I can put together a good painting. I also know from experience that likely nobody will buy the painting. Of course there are people in my family who have said, "But Karen, have you even tried to sell?" Yes and no. Two art dealers, one in Connecticut and one in Vermont, were excited enough about my work to take me on as clients. But from their stable of regular collectors, nobody bought my work. Collectors have good eyes. They know what is good, better and best. Naturally they want for themselves only the best. I might be good and better but I'm not best. Funny how I should want this distinction. It must come from having a father who was amongst the best in his field of expertise.

At some point, in my childhood experience of Sunday school, I started to believe in a God that knew everything. Someone who was interested in always walking by my side. The eternal companion. And I started to believe that everything I did and thought was shared by my companion, the ultimate friend. My private thoughts are an open book to someone. My every impulse is seen and acknowledged by someone. My every effort is appreciated by someone. So I can say that my life will be a grand failure, but I do believe that there is one person, (well, he is not even a person, say, a force), that does not consider me a failure. God doesn't pay me money for what I do, and he does not place a hand on my shoulder and encourage me or whisper words of fame in my ear. He is a silent, holy ghost. All I get from him is a sense that I am being watched. And I feel that in his eyes I will never be a failure. It is not a feast of encouragement, but it is something.

The way I feel now, I would not kill myself for being a failure. There have been many times when I could not say that. There have been many times when I felt so rotten about myself, and my slender talents, with so little to show for them, that I thought I deserved to die. I don't feel that I deserve to die. What life I have left in me will be dedicated to furthering my slender talents. I will work on until I die of natural causes, or at least, at a time decided by my God and not by myself. I wish to live and create. That is a bold statement coming from someone who feels so much poverty of creative talent.

The lovely novelty of youth is that you look ahead of yourself and see the potential for success. You are excited by a bright future. The sadness of my middle age is that I have been tested enough by life to realize that success does not come easily or even, at all. I suppose that the fairy tale of old age is that you forget about success and create for the sake of creating. I am trying to make friends with Obscurity and Isolation. In perverse moments I even wonder if these are the natural conditions under which I flourish. Am I now, living the best years of my life and yet do not recognize it? There is so much sweet freedom in being a nobody. Anonymity may be a gift. You are the secret behind the closed door. You are the treasure locked in a trunk in the attic. Nobody bothers you, you are sleeping beauty. What is the fortune in being small and powerless? In America everyone wants to be large and rich and famous. No, not everyone. Some settle nicely into the small lot fate has allocated them.

I know two people whose mental illness is so severe that they cannot read a book. I can read a book and enjoy it. Thus I am rich and blessed with big mental powers.

This morning I watched a homeless black woman paw through her belongings in a shopping cart and talk to herself. I said to myself, "There, but for the Grace of God, go I".

I cry poverty of mind, and failure as my common condition, but I know, that there are others whose state is worse than my own.

I have blessings that beg for my attention. But I think that it is in my personality to always be wanting more. Thus a writing project that takes several years is good for the person who always wants more because it keeps them occupied, never satisfied. Knowing me, if I were satisfied, it would take as long as an evening out celebrating with a pizza and a glass of wine, and then I would be back again, wanting more. I put a mountain in front of me and say "climb it". Once it is climbed I put another mountain in front of me and say "climb this one next". Never do I rest, but, perhaps, for several hours celebrating with a pizza.

I am glad my tastes are so ordinary. I'm so ignorant that I don't even know the difference between a fine wine and a cheap wine.

Its best not to become spoiled and have too many of your wishes granted when you know it is in your nature to always want more.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


My husband needs underwear. Can't ever get him to wear boxers or briefs - he goes with nothing under his pants. Don't quite understand the need to be free. He keeps a spare pair of pants in a drawer at the office. Just in case his pants tear or a zipper breaks. Decency is kept in place by just one thin piece of cloth, and honestly, he doesn't want his co-workers to see anything. He isn't an exhibitionist. His sister, a doctor of psychology, thinks that he is being anti-social by going without underwear. I have no theories, other than that it must feel good.

Lately he has been complaining about sweating under his arms. He rides his bicycle to work and he arrives drenched in sweat. He does his normal work and the sweat continues through-out the day. He thinks that he is going through male menopause.

When he was a teen and his hormones were going crazy he had trouble with sweating. What helped him then was wearing a tee shirt under his button down dress shirt. It was extra fabric, but the extra layer of cotton kept the sweat from breaking through to the outside.

Now that he is 50 he thinks that his hormones are going through another re-adjustment. Thus the excess sweating. I suggested Lupus or Lymphoma or Leukemia or some other blood disease that he might be secretly dying from, but he dismissed this doom saying. He feels fine and he isn't under excess stress at work. The sweat is hormonal.

So last Saturday we bought him white cotton undershirts from Wal-Mart. They came five to a package, and the test is this week. If they work then next Friday or Saturday we will be buying more cotton undershirts.

After Wal-Mart we went to J.C. Penny's. The plan there was to buy a slip for me. I have a dress that is cut too low in the front. The dress is a black and white pattern and a black slip would cover the excess cleavage without compromising the style of the dress. According to my husband there is no such thing as excess cleavage and the dress is fine without a slip. So I said I would wear it slip free when we go out for dinner or to the mall, but in polite company, like Church or to run errands, I would feel more comfortable with a bit of lace covering my cleavage.

At J.C. Penny they had one slip in a size way too large and alas, this slip had no lace decorating it. What they did have were lace panties on sale. Now I never owned something so pretty to cover my bottom with. And since I've lost weight, most of my panties puff out all over. What I've always bought have been full coverage - no bikinis, just cotton granny panties. I have been recently depressed by how ugly and ratty my underwear is. I change at night quickly and privately, I have nothing spectacular to parade around in front of my husband's eyes.

So I wanted to buy some lace underwear but I did not know what size I am. I told my husband to wait for me and I would duck into the fitting room and try on two different sizes.

My husband said he would wander around the store. I looked around the store and saw that it was vast. I said, "I'll loose you, I'm only going to be a second."

My husband obstinately repeated that while I was in the fitting room he would wander around the store.

Honestly, I took his reluctance to do a simple thing like wait for me to be the second major rejection of the day.

Earlier that morning while he was on his computer I said, "can I show you the new dresses I bought?" - intending to change in the bedroom out of my pajamas and twirl around in dresses in front of him and his computer. But to my amazement, he shook his head and said no, he didn't want to see my new dresses. I was stunned by the rejection to my simple request. It had come, no doubt, because he felt that what he was doing on his computer could not be interrupted by the simple act of looking up from the screen. I left him, feeling cold contempt and hurt, and went into the bedroom to go on my computer. What to do? Fashion shows are supposed to be fun.

It took only several minutes and then he was in the bedroom with me apologizing for his narrow focus and "narcissism". His knee jerk reaction had been to reject any interference with his habitual morning creative time on the computer.

But what I hoped he realized was that I had been away for a week with my mother in Maine, and there were fences to be mended between us. Time apart did not apparently make the heart grow fonder. It made him feel more isolated to the point where he could be unthinkingly rude to me. We needed to do something that made us feel connected to one another. Gaining his approval or disapproval for what dresses I wore was just one link in a chain that made our marriage a joining of two minds.

So standing in J.C. Penny's with two different sized lace panties in my hand, I felt again the sting of rejection, the earlier apology forgotten, and I believed that what I faced was a man whose ties of affection were loose, to the point of being undone. His wish to roam, while I was in the dressing room, seemed to indicate that he felt no commitment to me. Thus I hissed, "I hate you".

My husband was, bless him, waiting by the lace pantie stand when I came out of the dressing room. And then, after the new underwear was purchased, while we were driving away from the store, he explained to me why it pained him, so very much, to wait for me while I was in the dressing room.

A man can walk though a lingerie department with his wife and the wife by his side gives him a purpose and reason for being there. Everyone looks at him and thinks, "husband being dragged shopping by the wife". But once the wife leaves his side he is a man alone, seemingly doing nothing other than contemplating the female underwear on sale. And if this were true, if he were a man alone looking at female underwear then he would be, according to my husband a "pervert". He was afraid, that while I was away in the changing room, people were looking at him and thinking "that man is a pervert". He was afraid that people were thinking he wanted to buy underwear for himself, or perhaps was getting aroused by being near the female lingerie.

We started to drive home in silence. I had of course had forgiven my husband for not wanting to wait for me once I knew his theory about "perverts". But after J.C. Penny's we had gone to a lamp store and quarreled again over a lamp. I thought we had found a lamp that would go perfectly with our other black and white lamp in the kitchen. But my husband said it cost too much. I said this is the place where we are going to live the rest of our lives, it is worth it to make an investment. My husband said, "Lets look at what Home Depot has" and we went and looked and saw something less elegant that was in beige, not white, and my husband said he could change the glass shade, but I thought this is just guess work, you might or might not find something that fits, we could be looking for a white glass shade to "fit" for the rest of our lives, - we should buy the sure thing.

So I was angry about not getting what I wanted, and my husband asked me what I was thinking. I told him I thought that he was nice to me about me showing him my dresses, and in general taking the day off to be with me instead of working on his computer, because he knew that if he wasn't nice then he wouldn't get any sex that evening. I said I didn't trust him or his motivations.

After saying this my husband was so insulted that he wished to pull the car to the side of the road and walk home. It was raining and we were many miles from home. So to prevent him from doing this I said, "I will just stop talking" and I did. We drove on in silence.

When we got home my husband jumped out of the car and started to walk away in the rain. I wasn't sure why not trusting him was such a big deal, or why saying that wanting sex was his alterior motive should be such an insult, but apparently it was. My husband is probably old fashioned. Sex is never achieved, in his rule book, by deception. Or even, perhaps, seduction. That would be a form of manipulation. I am usually the one in the relationship who is first to say, bluntly, do you want to have sex? Perhaps my husband is shy. All I know for certain, is that in his head, he thinks himself honorable. A real white knight.

On my husband's walk through the rain he went to an antique and used furniture store. There he saw a used sofa that looked as good as new. He came home and told me about the sofa. In our kitchen is a sofa with ripped fabric. I've covered it with a blue blanket, but the blanket never looks neat. The blanket slips and the sofa looks sloppy.

The sofa my husband found was in mint condition. It was elegant, with wood trim, and the fabric was like brushed velvet. It was blue, like the old sofa. But I couldn't make up my mind. Then in the corner of that same store we found a sofa that was green that had some sun damage, the color was a little faded (but no rips and no stains) and it looked a little forlorn. But I sat in it and it felt more comfortable than the elegant blue one. Maybe in secret I feel more like a forlorn person than an elegant person. The price was reduced on the green sofa, because it had been in the shop for so long. So for $170 we got the forlorn sofa. The adventure of putting it on top of our car and securing it with electrical wire (we didn't have any rope) and hoping we could get it home without being stopped by the police was so dramatic that a temporary truce was declared between my husband and I.

The "new" sofa put into process the desire to clean my kitchen and make it beautiful. I put a hand made quilt over the back of my new sofa and it looks really pretty and inviting. I bought at the grocery store a large potted plant to put in the window behind the sofa. Today I have to do the dishes, and then, with a clean sink, change the water in the bamboo vase. The water grows scum in it and has to be changed once every several months. I don't know how much work I can get done before my energy gives out on me, but I will be working on the kitchen all day long. Last night my husband vacuumed the rugs. So it is starting to look sweet.

The fight we had in the car finished completely the next day with my husband allowing me to buy the original lamp I wanted for the kitchen. It is to be installed in the ceiling, over the stove. Right now there isn't much light to cook by. And my husband's eyes aren't so good. I don't know whether or not to ask my mother's permission to knock a small hole in the ceiling to install it. I suppose I ought to. I wish to simply go ahead, do it on the sly, and have her admire the finished job. That is what she would do. She rarely asks anyone's opinion, she just does what she wants. But she is my landlord, and owner of the building.

There is nothing that brightens your day like getting what you want. I pointed out to my husband that he is getting a computer that I object to, but that I have been silent about my objections once the project with his daughter got under way. I said that if I give a little, he needs to give a little. Also I pointed out that we got a sofa at a fantastic price, and as a sweetener, I promise not to buy any more dresses until next summer. All that money saved, can go into the lamp.

The happiest part about being mentally ill and in recovery is that you can have a wide variety of normal experiences. Both the good and bad are part of the machinery of day to day life. Everything that I have just written about, from underwear to arguments about sex and lamps are the stuff that I adore, - simple, humble, day to day living. As an adult, as a regular person, as a bonified member of the human race.

Now I'm going to go clean. And I'm grateful for the fact that I know I have it in me to clean. When you have a mental illness, any small accomplishment, is in fact, a big accomplishment.

Hope my husband is happy to come home and find the dishes done.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Fragile Mom

Talked to Mom last night on the phone. She sounded young. Not youthful and full of vigor, but vulnerable and without her usual armor. The loss of her companion of the last 16 years is going to be a hard blow. Now she has no parents, no siblings, and only her three children. I predict she is going to experience depression, loneliness and grief.

I will offer to move the sofa out of my "art room" and put in its place a twin bed. We have a twin bed in storage left over from when my husband's daughter lived with us. A bed for my mother would mean that she could visit with us all evening or day and not have to drive home at night. We could cook dinner together and go for walks. There is little else we have to offer her, we live very simple lives. At night, after dinner we frequently have the discussion, "shall we watch a movie or read a book?" We don't have regular television. It saves on the cable bill and is perhaps a healthier way to live.

When I watch t.v. at my mother's home the emotions of the actors in the ads bothers me - it is so forced, artificial, and borderline hysterical. Most of the time also I hate to watch actors acting. Sitcoms or talk shows are rarely appreciated by me. I like "The Office" and "30 Rock" which I rent on DVD after the season is over. The television is mounted at the foot of our bed - there is no living room in our apartment. Four rooms. The large kitchen that fits a sofa and table in it, our tiny bedroom with the looming screen by our feet, a large art room, and a library. The apartment matches our interest in reading and creating.

I'm going to go spend a little time with my mother. She is planning already on taking me everywhere she goes. Every errand. But I hate going away from my husband. And he will suffer too. He will start drinking beer to feel less lonely. And every day the weather is nice he will take the dog on a long walk. She will also get a privilege only indulged in when I am away, - joining my husband on top of the bed. Last time I left for my mother's I returned home and found that the sheets were full of grit. It is what the dog drags in from the outside.

I love my mom but I dread the loss of my routine and my familiar surroundings. I think these things, along with my husband, help keep me grounded and sane. I'm not one to care for traveling or doing exciting new activities. We go to the same familiar places. We walk the same route. We have our little rituals; a shared spinach calzone on Thursday night, grocery shopping on Friday night and Church on Sunday.

The great French Flaubert, author of "Madame Bovary" wrote to a friend in 1876 and said, "Be well-ordered in your life, and as ordinary as a bourgeois, in order to be violent and original in your work." In other words, save the emotional drama for your artwork. Live life simply and keep your mind clean and clear for the times when you create. With creation you can experience wildness and uncivilized highs and lows that will exhaust. I do believe that when my life is well ordered and I am writing my book every day I experience two lives, separated and distinct. There is the inner life of creation and the outer life of everyday happenings. Occasionally an inner light will shine upon some everyday happening, and I will see or understand something profound in the world around me, but really, most insight about life is reserved for the characters of my book.

My therapist gave me his personal cell phone number to call in an emergency while I am away. He doesn't know but I would probably never call him. I dread asking anything personal of him. Not an ounce of his personal attention outside of the therapy visit in his office. He is not my friend, he is not my acquaintance, he is Other. I would consider it a grave weakness in character to call him in need. I like him a lot, I don't want to be a burden on him. He's like a gift you save until last to open at Christmas time. Someone special to talk to on Friday afternoon. A chocolate dessert. I even, don't really want to share my sickness with him. I tell him "What you see is the best of me". I'm usually well rested and in good spirits at all of our appointments. Of course I do share stories of my sickness with him, and perhaps he sees it in me. How I am sad that my sickness lessens me. I suppose that I would like to be my therapist's peer, something that is impossible. The shame of having this illness runs deep.

In the past I have called a therapist at a private phone number. It was humiliating while he whispered to me so that his children would not hear his conversation. That was when I was 18 years old. Another time I called a different therapist at her phone service (I was in my late twenties), said it was an emergency, and they patched me through to her private home. I can't remember why I would have called either therapist - it must have been because I was suicidal. And both times they talked me down, calmed me down. So it isn't really a bad idea to call your therapist when you are in need, except, I've grown so much in how I handle my illness I don't see the need. I can medicate myself or I have a husband to call, and of course, I can always drive to an emergency room. Probably I'm simply too proud to call my current therapist. I like him so much I don't want to be his patient - a paradox and an untruth. So I'll try, as much as I can, not to act like a patient. Calling him would be like admitting defeat.

Perhaps I am simply a coward. And I find it hard to believe that human kindness exists. When I see evidence of it, it always surprises me and warms my heart. But this is because I always live just a little removed from the existence of other human beings. It could be my illness. Schizophrenia is not known for making people feel closer to one another. Schizophrenia tends to create loners. But I think I have had the mark of an outsider on me from birth. I try hard to harmonize and go with the flow of my surroundings. I've grown adept over the years. I'm skilled at smiling and making small conversation. This is helpful in church situations. But in my heart, what I ignore and shove aside, is fear of the other person. Probably the only person that I completely trust is my husband. I use him to comfort me, he is like a soft baby's blanket. Beloved, frayed, clutched close. All those evenings when he is reading a book and I lay my head upon his stomach and close my eyes. This is what is the essence of being home means.

And that is why it is going to be so difficult to spend a mere few days away from him.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Pete the Medicine Man

Pete has died. He was my mother's companion for 16 years. The love of her life she says.

Pete was an American Indian and a Medicine man. He was very important to his tribe. He trained no one to follow him. He has fixed medicine twice for me. The first time I didn't really believe and it didn't work. The second time, ten years later, I believed, and it worked for a while. He gave me medicine to treat sadness and suicidal thoughts. He fixed medicine quite a lot for my mother. She always deeply believed.

I've watched Pete fix medicine in the kitchen. He would sit at the kitchen table with a plastic bucket in front of him. In the bucket was water and herbs and leaves. He would take a straw, chant softly, and blow bubbles into the water. The air bubbles carried his chanted prayers into the water. Then he would set the bucket aside with a particular piece of colored, cotton cloth covering it. The sickness was to be absorbed by the cloth, that was thrown away later, and by the money or presents that was given to him. Some of the presents were fancy hand beaded things, moccasins or clothing or jewelry, that my mother keeps on display in a special cabinet. I bet a museum would love to get their hands on those Indian handicrafts.

Originally the sickness was to be absorbed by an animal and the medicine man was given a chicken. Money replaced the chicken, and I think that some of the presents Pete received were given in thanks for healing, I don't know exactly if all of them were intended to absorb the illness of the patient. Strictly speaking the medicine man was never supposed to "sell" his medicine, it was simply asked for and then freely given. The consequence to the medicine man for selling his medicine was death. Money became part of the asking process not to profit Pete, but to be the material that the sickness went into. If there was nothing given to the medicine man to receive the sickness, then the sickness would have gone directly into the medicine man. I payed Pete $75 for my medicine and my mother made a gift of a red piece of cotton cloth. Pete thought red was my color.

Eventually the water filled with organic parts that was in the plastic bucket was poured into a glass jar and could be transported and used. The way you used this now holy water is you stood in your shower or bathtub, naked. You poured part of the water over your head and turned in a specific direction, east to west or west to east. You turned in a complete circle. You spread the wetness over as much of your whole body as possible. Then the next day you did it again until all of the water was used up.

I can tell you that standing naked at room temperature, and then pouring room temperature water over your head causes a shock. It is like taking a cold shower. But I also wonder if temperature wasn't the only cause of the shock to your mind. Perhaps it was the medicine.

There were restrictions after you used the medicine over what you could eat. You could never eat turkey (Pete and mom always had chicken on Thanksgiving) or the innards of an animal. That meant for me no sausage or peperoni on my pizza. And you couldn't eat steak that was attached to a bone. If you ate any of these foods the illness would return.

My mother told me a story about the use of Pete's medicine that troubles me. I guess it is a story of desperate person in a desperate situation. My mother is apparently determined not to be a victim and to get her way. At any price. My mother, in telling me this story, wanted to illustrate the variety and potency of Pete's medicine. But what I heard was a whisper of ugly things, that I try my best to avoid.

I've always known that I had it in me to kill another person, but of course I have never been put in a situation to do so. And I know that I can wish death upon another person, even, a person I love. I have a savage side, a hidden dark side to me. It comes out in my drawings especially, where there are scenes of violence. At one of my art shows the gallery owner was so disturbed by the subtle violence in my art that she put out a sign that my show was not appropriate for young children. But happily most of my life I've struggled to be a good person. The only things I've crushed or broken in anger are at worst, a cell phone that I threw against a brick wall and a work of art from Spain that I attacked with a fork. Savagery and death and violence are confined to my art, they do not define the type of person I am. When I have been hit, three times in my life, I never hit back. But the blackness that I sense that I have in me I get from my parents. I am the offspring of people with a dark side. Oh my family is the ultimate in civilized. They are all good, upstanding citizens. Nice, friendly people who love each other a lot. But every now and then cracks appear and I see nothing less then the will to destroy.

So this is the story my mother told me.

Pete and my mother were living in a large mansion. The mansion has three stories, a carriage house over a separate garage, and many rooms. Pete and my mom used for themselves the mansion's kitchen, library (as a bedroom) and grand living room with its attached dining room. Every one of the other rooms, eleven in all, could be rented out to tenants.

Because they lived where they also conducted business, they were careful about who they rented rooms to. The roomers could not have guests or cook food in their rooms. The roomers had to be a type of lonesome person, and a quiet, private person. Everyone had to be respectful of everyone else. When I was a child, and my grandparents owned this mansion, I remember the rule that you could not speak in the hallways. Literally, renters could not greet other renters in the hallway. I remember whispering a lot. My mother once said, in a spirit of jest, that you had to be a zombie to want to rent a room and live there.

My mother is very, very careful who she rents a room to because if there is a problem with a roomer, because of the extensive legal rights of the renter, it can easily take up to six months to evict a roomer. And of course, during the entire eviction process, they are living for free and potentially can cause mischief.

My mother told me that she had a roomer who had not paid his rent for a long time. In the rooming house rent is paid from week to week. She asked Pete (who was a big Indian man, tall and heavy) to knock on this renter's door and ask him to come down to the kitchen to speak with her. After Pete knocked, and delivered my mother's message, the renter called the police. When the police arrived to the rooming house the renter said that Pete had forced his way into his room and was harassing him. A lie, but a sign too that the renter was not going to be evicted without a nasty fight.

That the police were called angered my mother greatly. She felt that the rooming house was her house, the place where she lived, and she felt that the calling of the police was a great threat to her personally. This renter was not just a business loss, he was a bad man and an evil man. She asked Pete if Pete could fix medicine to get the man to leave. Pete said yes, but that he might be leaving "feet first". This medicine could cause death. My mother told Pete to go ahead and fix the medicine anyway. Whatever Pete put together, it was physical, and he hid it in the renter's room while the renter was out. Then Pete told my mom to stay out of the renter's room while the medicine worked.

It had been my habit for my mother to go through all the renter's rooms while they were out and empty their garbage cans. This little act of kindness by the owner of the rooming house has been established by my grandparents for a reason. Many a time my grandmother found flat irons or curling irons left on or lights left on, which she turned off so that there would not be a fire or an increase in the electric bill. Once, while picking up the garbage, my grandmother found the owner of the room dead in bed. It was a convenience for the renter not to empty their own garbage but it also served the purpose of letting the owner of the business know exactly what was going on in the rooms from day to day. But while the medicine worked, my mother left this renter's garbage can alone.

Almost immediately after the medicine was fixed the the renter returned to the rooming house after having been badly beaten. My mom saw him and his face was black and blue from bruises and he was missing front teeth. The next thing that happened is that he started to lose strength. His body grew weaker and it became more and more difficult for him to walk the stairs up to the floor his room was on. Eventually he was so physically weak that he could not climb the stair case, and he called social services. People came and moved his things out. He was gone. A little while later my mother saw him about town, walking down the street, strong and spry. So evidently the damage done, besides the missing teeth, was not permanent. After he left the the rooming house the ill effect of Pete's medicine stopped.

If I were in my mother's position I don't know if I could ask for such medicine to be used. It was like she asked Pete to aim a loaded pistol at this man's body. But if I had a loaded pistol in a night stand drawer, and there was an intruder at night that my husband shot, would I feel great grief at his death? Or if I shot him, instead of my husband, would my grief be any different? I would prefer to shoot, with the possibility of killing, than be beaten, robbed, or raped. Somehow I am afraid that this does not make me a very good Christian. I don't know, in my heart, how sacred I hold life to be.

It is my feverish wish, that as I grow older, I hold life as more and more sacred. This is the only antidote I can think of that might quench the violence in the dark side of my mind.