The Way It Was Chapter 21
The news was not good. After the very first visit to the psychiatrist, the doctor diagnosed Frances as schizophrenic. Everyone else seemed to agree. Everyone except for Frances. Frances refused to believe anything was wrong, and insisted on a second, then a third opinion. Ultimately they all came to the same conclusion. Still she refused to believe.
The fact that the illness was incurable left them all in a tough situation; there was nothing the doctors could do except send her home with a prescription and a list of some cautions and things to watch for. Along with instructions on what to do should the problem escalate. Frank was angry, he had been hoping for more. Having a wife with an incurable disease was unthinkable, for any number of reasons. The appointments with all the doctors were a complete waste as far as he was concerned, a fiasco. What good did it do to find out what she had if it couldn't be fixed, if she was never going to get any better? He seriously doubted the damn pills would do any good, either.
For Rose and Joseph, one of the hardest things they had to do was tell Frances' two young sons, ten year old Frank and seven year old Bobby, about their mother's incurable illness. They didn't want to scare the boys, but they wanted to prepare them. But no matter how much they tried, they could never really prepare them for what was to come.
The next afternoon, while Frank stayed with Frances, Joseph and Rose picked the boys up and took them to the park. Both immediately started to run off and play when Joseph stopped them.
"Frankie! Bobby! Whoa, get back here!" The boys pulled up short, and turned back to Grampa.
"What, Grampa?" Frankie asked. Grampa had bought each of them a little boat, and they were anxious to put them in the little stream, especially Bobby, who'd never had a real wooden little boat before.
"We need to talk to you," Grampa explained. "Then you can play for awhile, if you want."
"But Grampa—" Bobby started.
"Bobby," Grampa said sternly, "now." Reluctantly the boys came back to their grandparents, frowning a bit.
Grampa and Gramma were sitting on a bench, and each pulled one of the boys onto their lap. The boys waited expectantly. Grampa took a deep breath, and started.
"Frankie… Bobby, we have to tell you something about your mother." He paused. "You know how your mom has been acting kind of…funny lately?"
"Yeah," Frankie said, waiting for more.
"Mommy hits me sometimes," Bobby offered. "For not doing nothin!" Rose hugged him a little tighter, feeling horrible for her little grandson. "And she scares me alla time."
"She does," Frankie agreed, "me, too. And sometimes she says really crazy stuff."
It was all Rose could do not to cry. "Boys, your mother can't help it. She's sick…"
"She's not coughing or nothin," Bobby said, a puzzled look on his face.
"It's not that kind of sickness, honey," Gramma said, and even Frankie looked confused.
"What kind is it, Gramma?" he asked.
"It's like… when your mind or your brain is sick. It's called Schizophrenia."
"Huh?" the boys said together. It was hard just to say the word, let alone understand it.
"Schi—Schiz—" Bobby tried .
"Schizophrenia," Grampa repeated the word, enunciating it. "Your momma's brain is very sick. It makes her do and say… crazy things." Joseph hated using that word, but he had to make them understand. "She can't help it. Her brain isn't working right."
"When will she get better?" Frankie asked.
"I don't think she ever will. This is a sickness that the doctors don't know how to fix. She may very well be like this for the rest of her life."
Tears sprung to Bobby's eyes. "Is Mommy gonna die?"
"No, baby, your momma's not gonna die," Rose said. "Just her brain isn't going to work right any more."
Gramma and Grampa assured the boys that they would do everything in their power to help them through this. If things ever got too bad, they were to call them. Despite this, the most horrible feeling of dread came over Bobby, and the tears overflowed.
"Quit being a baby!" Frankie said angrily.
"Frankie, it's okay," Grampa said soothingly. "Your brother just doesn't understand."
"Or maybe he does," Rose offered. "Maybe he's really the only one who does."
Frances never believed she had a problem, she saw no reason to take the pills she was given. And she made no secret of it, defiantly throwing her pills in the trash or down the drain, in front of everyone.
Frank was pissed, not only was it a big waste of money having her go to the doctor for something that couldn't even be cured, she was wasting the pills he was spending good money on, money that could be put to much better use. Like at the track. At the track there was at least the chance of a return on his investment. When she would throw the pills away, he would storm out angrily; sometimes he'd be gone overnight and well into the next day, leaving the boys at the mercy of their sick mother. And not caring. As long as they were in the care of their mother, no one could come back and say the kids were abandoned or neglected. The fact that they were worse off being alone with their mother than actually being alone by themselves was something that Frank either didn't realize, or chose to ignore.
As the weeks went by, Frances had, for the most part, stopped socializing with her friends, figuring they, too, were all against her in this plot to convince her she had this disease, that everyone wanted to see her committed. So she stayed in the house a lot, avoiding other people. She was making a few little discoveries, and finding out now that a lot of things that formerly served a useful purpose, like the radio, were actually instruments "they" used to communicate with her.
Bobby and Frankie had both grown wary of their mother. It was a terrible feeling for them, to be afraid of their own mother. Joseph and Rose took to sheltering them from the effects of their mother (and father), but they could only do so much. A few times when Frank was gone (which was often), Rose would come to stay with Frances while Joseph took the boys out. Although it didn't happen very often, it was something that Bobby had come to love.
Bobby awoke one morning to find Frankie already up and gone. Already he knew that meant a bad day, and that he'd have to be alone with Ma himself. He got up and quickly dressed, then went to the kitchen to fix some breakfast, climbing on the counter and pulling down a box of cereal—yay!--sugar frosted flakes, his favorite. Frankie liked them, too, and usually tried to hide them in the back of the cabinet, but Bobby was on to him. Then he got the milk and poured it over his cereal. Through necessity, at the tender age of seven (and actually well before that), Bobby was already self-sufficient, and had learned to take care of himself and his own needs. It was a means of survival.
He sat in his chair reading the back of the cereal box as he ate his cereal. There was supposed to be a toy in the box, but he was sure that was gone already. Even if Frankie didn't want the toy he'd take it, and hold it over his little brother to get something else he wanted from Bobby in exchange for the toy. But he looked anyway, on the slim chance that Frankie forgot or something, dumping all the cereal into a big bowl. Although he knew it would be gone, he was still disappointed.
Right at that moment, his mother came into the kitchen. "What the hell do you think you're doing? Besides making another mess for me to clean up!"
Bobby jumped, he hadn't heard her come in. "Nothin'."
"No? What do you call that?" She pointed to the big bowl of cereal, then slapped it off the table. It went crashing to the floor, breaking into pieces, and everything scattered all over.
"Now look what you've done!" she screamed.
"I didn't—" Bobby started, as Frances made a grab for him. He ducked out of the way, and stayed out of her reach, knowing he was okay as long as she couldn't get to him.
"I'll clean it up, Ma! I'm sorry!"
Frances narrowed her eyes at him, not believing him for a second. She looked for a way to cut him off, but Bobby was sharp, and evaded her, frustrating her even more. "You come here right now!"
Desperate now, Bobby said, "Ma, did you take your pill? They're right there." He pointed to the counter. Please take your pill, Ma! Please!
"What did you say?!" she screamed at him. Then she stopped; she knew. Bobby was in on the plot. He was one of "them."
Frances watched him, knowing Bobby was smart. Well, she was cagey, too, and nodded, pretending it was okay. When Bobby seemed to relax a little, she lunged again, and almost caught him, grabbing a part of his shirt. He twisted himself and somehow got away again. He knew she wasn't going to give up. So he maneuvered himself to the back door, then took off. Frances was furious, screaming after him.
Bobby ran all the way to the park, till he knew he was safe. He ran so fast and so far he ran out of breath. He stood there for a few minutes, breathing hard. Finally he was able to breathe again. "Damn!" he gasped, mimicking the words of his father and brother.
That feeling of dread came over him again. Everything was wrong. His mother, whom he dearly loved, would never, ever, get better. And his mommy would never be like the other mommies. Why did things always have to be different for him? For his family? He felt like crying again, but he didn't. He determined that he would never cry ever again. He was seven now, he had to be big. He thought of his mother and her pills, and her new illness. She needed to be taken care of, to make sure she took her pills all the time and with other things she needed.
Bobby had to take care of her.
The thought that someone should be taking care of him never entered his mind.
This story will be divided into three separate stories, the first obviously from before Bobby's birth until Frances was officially diagnosed with Schizophrenia. The second story will deal with life from that point until Bobby's father leaves, and the third will deal with the time directly after that.
Thank you so much for reading!