Visiting hours didn't start until nine, and my daughter had never been in this part of the country before. Country people get up early; so does an old warhorse like me. It was pretty much light when I woke up at 5, so I got dressed, made some coffee (or carburetor cleaner?) and went and banged on the door to her room and told her let's go see some nature.
I was amazed that this suggestion met with no resistance. My youngest really wanted to see her big brother. She didn't give a hoot about what type of shape he might be in, or whether he would ever even know she'd been there. She would know. And that was the only thing that counted.
Time to kill, so we went for a walk and looked at the Mountains. These are bigger hills than the ones closest to home; smaller than the ones an hour away. They're different in color and vegetation than either.
I'm a fan of mountains. Vast expanses of level land leave me feeling disoriented. It's like a lens with no focal point. The light has no direction, and the resulting sameness of it all overwhelms me.
It's much different than that here. Among the hills are lots of valleys with subtle differences. One valley features a great stand of trees, the next a stream, the next farmland with cattle grazing. All have the same features, but the emphasis changes from one open spot to the next. It reminds both of us of home in the best of ways. Then the alarm on my cell phone beeps, signaling it's time to go back and get ready for the point of this whole visit.
My son will be 24 at the end of August. When he was 22, he was, or seemed to be, the perfect specimen of the young male. He was cocky to a fault, competitive as a wolverine, and constantly horny. Would any one of us aging boys deny we were the same at that age? Then he met a little lady that got control of both his heads and took him for a ride. That ride broke him on many levels, but the primary breakage appears to be to his mind. It may also be the result of the three weeks he spent drinking a quart of liquor a day. That binge was in mourning for his lost love. Pick your poison; dealer's choice. Emotional or physiological, the root cause is not clear. But the attempted suicide happened.
It wasn't all that serious, physically speaking. It was a short stay in the hospital, and then came the mandatory two weeks observation in the psychiatric ward. During the observation phase he withdrew to the point that he stopped responding the way a "normal" human being responds to its surroundings.
The mandatory two weeks had not yet expired, and the law was clear about the next step. He was transferred to the county psychiatric facility. They started with the latest round of drugs to bring him out of his unresponsive state. It worked, in a way; he swung from mildly catatonic to berserk. They played with dosages and combinations until they had him sedated to their satisfaction. Then they simply made sure he didn't hurt himself in any way.
During this time his sister and I were 24/7 on the internet trying to find a place to help him. We were looking for a place that could deal with either root cause with a responsible combination of therapy and chemical rebalancing. We found one. He's been with them a long time now.
So we're at the front gate at 8:45 and in the waiting room by 8:50. My youngest is everywhere; at the magazines, at the nurse's station, Ricochet Rabbit moved slower. When 9 finally came, my son walked into the visiting area, hugged his sister, and stuck out his hand to me in a man-to-man gesture. He didn't flinch when I brushed it aside and threw my arms around him. Shake hands, hell.
I was frankly amazed by the changes. But when I looked into his eyes I noticed his smile never quite reaches them. He's holding onto something he needs to let go of. At least that was my thought, so I opened a conversation about things. Nothing specific, just some topics that would encourage him to participate. His sister joined in, and gradually we worked it around to his one true love. He looked at me and told me he was embarrassed to talk about it with me. Because he'd made such a huge mistake over a woman, and I could never make a mistake like that, and so on. I had to swallow a laugh, because I knew if I didn't he would think I was laughing at him. Where did he get such an absurd idea? I wouldn't do anything stupid over a woman? Saints preserve us.
This bubble had to be popped. So I suggested we all get drinks and find a comfortable spot, dear old Dad had a story to tell. And when we were comfortable, that's just what Dad did. All of it, straight out, with no editing for the younger crowd.
My youngest chimed in with her own admission of humanity. I knew the story, but it took her brother as much by surprise as learning his old man was just as stupid as any man born. And he started talking about his own "failure", not straight-on, all around the edges; but a start just the same. He was talking.
Suddenly it was lunchtime. He's been a dependable sort lately, so we could take our lunch outside. He didn't want to talk about his love anymore, and we didn't want to push too hard, so we talked about other things, and ate some really good institutional food.
Then we went for a walk with more aimless talk. It was so good to hear him speaking I would have talked about making bubbles in the bathtub if that's what it took to keep him going.
Time to leave came too soon. Another brother-sister hug. This time goodbye. When my turn came we skipped the whole handshake thing and went right to the hug. When he let go, I stepped back and looked in his eyes, and was delighted to see that I had fallen from perfect grace. Yes, son, I'm as human as you.
We finished our goodbyes and everyone waved and smiled. The smile didn't reach his eyes, but I thought that just maybe he looked a little less alone. Or was it just the hope that two people caring could make a difference?
I choose A.