Mental illness knows no borders. It can and does touch anybody, regardless of educational, social or economic status. Recovery has nothing to do with pulling up one’s bootstraps. It is impossible to pull up your bootstraps when you feel like you are wearing cement boots. Mental illness is real, just as real as diabetes, HIV/AIDS, cancer and heart disease. We don’t beat up on those people. Nor should we burden the mentally ill.
I chose “Bones and Muscles” as the first science unit each year because it was fun and got children out of their desks. Students traced the outline of each other’s body, cut it out, and then drew and coloured all 206 bones. (If we needed help to remember the number of bones, it helped to know that the number was the same as Alex W. address.) Happy chatter filled the room as each child completed the project.
In the minds of his grandchildren, he was a “cool dude.” Nobody’s Grandfather measured up to theirs. He bore no resemblance to the soft-spoken, sweet, gentle grandfathers of storybooks. No, Gramp had found the fountain of excitement. He saw nothing wrong with an eight-year-old running a wood splitter, a ten-year-old operating a chainsaw, a five-year-old driving his ATV or an eleven-year-old using a shotgun. After all, they had to learn sometime. Why not now? His grandchildren: Jason and Darcy Roache; Cindy, Jonathan, and Tim Roache; Jeremy and Allison Clark; and Maria Roache could write a dilly of a book about Gramp.
On Thursday of that week, I took Mom grocery shopping. In 1976, Shelburne had three grocery stores. We had to make the rounds of all three to save a cent on a loaf of bread.
I had planned to drop Mom off and to go down to Roseway Hospital to visit a friend who had just given birth. But just as Mom entered IGA, I spotted Glenn in the store.
In a split second, I abandonned my friend who had just endured 72 hours of labour and a gazillion stitches to bring this little one into the world. AFTER ALL, in only nine months, she could have another baby, but I had limited opportunities to meet the man of my dreams.
Earlier in the day, I had walked to the bank and stopped at MacDoos for lunch. I had locked the front door but not the back door. Had someone crept in and hidden somewhere in the funeral home while I was out? Nervously, I checked the washrooms outside the office. They were empty. The lounge area was empty. The visitation and chapel had no source of running water. Neither did the casket display room. Caskets? Was an intruder hiding under the lid at the foot of a casket?
Not everyone feels warm and fuzzy about Shakespeare. He has been the cause of years of tears and failing grades. In contrast, his aficionados eat, live and breathe his works. They develop hunched backs from lifetimes spent in library carrels pouring over his musty writings.
Long before I was born, one of Mom’s cousins gave birth to a baby girl and named her Melda Madeline. However, the family chose to call her by her second name — Madeline. Mom always wished they had called her Melda. From that time forward, she decided that if she ever had a baby girl, she would name her Melda.
A few hours later, Mom waltzed into the house feeling like a brand new woman. She was walking on air after spending a refreshing evening with friends. And then she saw the mess I had made. Her heart sank and her eyes brimmed with tears. I had not washed a single dish. Every ingredient I had used still sat in a heap on the counter. The cupboard drawers were hanging half open. Mom’s neat and tidy kitchen had been trashed.
Jonathan, you were a treasured son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin and friend. You packed a lot of living into your nineteen years. You left us with wonderful memories that demonstrate just how special you were. In our minds, you are forever a vibrant, strong, handsome young man. One of these days, we’ll be seeing you, Nanny & Papa Townsend, Nanny & Grampy Roache, Aunt Ceinwen and many, many more. We will have a lot of catching up to do…
We made a marvelous first impression with the housekeeper — well, that’s a big fat lie. Just as I picked up a bottle of fire engine red nail polish, I lost my grip and watched in slow motion as it fell and shattered into a million pieces on the unforgiving ceramic tile floor. The room resembled a murder scene from your favourite crime show. My feet and legs were blood-spattered as if I had been stabbed a hundred times.