Something bad

Excerpt from the chapter "Spoon with Me."

In late March, Jeremy came home looking very serious.

He’d been using the pay-by-the-minute cell phone Aunt Patti had bought me for Christmas. I’d used the phone when I was homeless in the spring and early summer, then stashed it in a drawer when I moved into my new house. When Jeremy moved in, broke and displaced, I passed the phone along to him.

Now, he waved the phone at me.

“Aim, I got a message on your phone today. It’s about Dave. I think you better listen,” he said.

“A message from Dave?” I was surprised. It had been almost two months since I’d heard from him.

“No, you better listen. It’s not from Dave; it’s about Dave. I think it’s his cousin,” Jeremy explained.

“His cousin? Kathy? Oh, she’s trouble. She parties hard, not a good influence on him.”

Why would she call me? How’d she get that number? I wondered.

Aim! Listen. I think something bad happened. Listen to the message,” Jeremy insisted.

“Something bad?” I said bitterly. My interest was piqued, but I also felt annoyed. “Why is she calling me?”

I was trying to be detached. I didn’t want to get dragged into Dave’s family drama. I divorced Dave for a reason. I knew something bad was happening with him, or a series of bad somethings. I’d tried and tried to stand by or help, but since the divorce, I was resolved to move forward.

Jeremy held out the phone. I stared at him, frustrated.

“She says Dave is in the hospital,” Jeremy sighed and pushed the phone closer.

Bam! The word “hospital” slapped me. The feelings I was trying to ignore—my concern, my love, my loss—came flooding back.

“What?! Hospital? Is he hurt? Is he OK?” I grabbed the phone from Jeremy.

The message was brief: “Amelia, this is Dave’s cousin, Kathy. I thought you should know Dave is in the hospital. He’s not doing good. Give me a call.”

I called the number Kathy had left. It wasn’t in service. I hung up and called Dave’s dad. No answer. I called Dave’s brother. No answer. I called his mother.

“I didn’t know if you would want to be bothered,” Beverly sighed. She sounded exhausted, defeated. “He’s been there for a while; they admitted him on the eleventh. You can go visit him. Or call him. He’s been asking about you: ‘his wife.’”

Dave had been taken to Samaritan Hospital Psychiatric Ward after being picked up by the police from the Walmart parking lot near his mother’s house. He’d been living out of his car for weeks. He’d run out of places to stay.

Like me, his other friends had become frustrated and exasperated by his crazy behavior. Like the boys in Portland, his local friends had given him ultimatums about getting help. When he refused, we all turned away from him.

Dave’s brother returned my call later that day. He explained how, over the previous months, he’d watched Dave’s sanity crumble.

“He was walking around here naked. He’d play guitar or babble while I was trying to work. When I was on business calls, he’d make crazy bird noises!” Rick explained. “He was driving me insane.”

Rick told me Dave had been drinking a lot. He’d drink liquor and act belligerent. The family had yelling matches, and after one such episode Dave left for good.

The state police had called Rick more than once after Dave had left his family’s house. Dave was driving around and loitering in the upper middle class suburb where he grew up. The police told Rick that Dave was a nuisance.

Finally, Rick got a call that Dave had been sleeping in his car in the Walmart parking lot down the road from the family’s house. The police told Rick they would take Dave to jail unless Rick had him admitted to a psych ward.

Hearing the police suggested Dave needed psychological treatment was both validating and terrifying. As with Lucie’s diagnosis, I felt relieved that I wasn’t just being a pushy, over-concerned wife. I still doubted my judgment. I again felt shock and disbelief over hearing something was really, certifiably wrong with Dave.

For years, I’d urged Dave to seek professional help and receive treatment if he needed it. Yet a big part of me wanted there to be nothing wrong. I wanted everything that was happening to be Dave’s choice. That way, he could choose his way back to sanity, and to me.