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Banging out the blues

Saturday night. Following a year of dealing with cancer, treatments, surgeries, one major, and some few complications brought about by both the chemo and one surgery, an annoying blood clot brought on by the chemo and causing me to carry around a filter in my vena cava, leaving out the small stroke, something called a sixth nerve palsy, leaving out also a woman who dropped down, then passed through in a tornadic fashion, a half year into recovery and I'm finally getting the writing urge back. Here, then, is a field note banged out.

Late in '97, November, my daughter, only child, age 20, was diagnosed with schizophrenia. More specifically, paranoid schizophrenia. Her case would prove serious, serious enough so that she was institutionalized until I think it was 2001. Might have been 2002. After that, and thanks in large measure to the anti-psychotic medication, she has been stable enough to live on her own. even if unable to work or socialize. At first she lived in a kind of half-way house with 24/7 residential supervision. But eventually she was able to live on her own, in her own apartment, on full disability, in a place provided by the local public housing authority. This is in Harrisonburg VA, heart of the Shenandoah valley. As best as anyone can tell J is comfortable and not in mental anguish. At first, and for several years, she fought the medication. In the hospital she became adept at taking the pills, rolling them under her tongue, spitting them out as soon as she was out of the attendant's sight. Her reasoning was simple and symmetrically perfect. Her doctors were keeping her institutionalized at the order of the CIA because she was a security threat. But something clicked in her brain. Might have been the anti-depressants. Or maybe she got that, medicated, the turmoil was not so pronounced, halucinations abated. She acquiesced. As of this writing J keeps safe and comfortable.

Next to nothing is known about the disease beyond its symptoms. The best anyone has been able to tell me is that it is a result of neuron "misfiring," which is how one of her doctors described it for me, saying he was an amateur race car driver. Another metaphor I've come across describes the disease's effects as a de-orchestration of the brain. It's known that the disease can be contracted in the uterus. Historical incidence graphed out, there is a sharp spike in the graph involving people born 9 months after the great 1918 Spanish Influenza epidemic. Another spike involves children born and conceived in the WW2 German concentration camps. I've also read one British study linking schizophrenia to marijuana use. It seems that a fractionally very small number of marijuana users contract the disease, especially if in their adolescence. But the nature of the disease is profoundly not understood. Also noted that J was born 2 months premature, not fully developed. Her hand so tiny that when in the hospital I put my finger in it she couldn't wrap her fingers around my one. Frame so slight her neck hollow was a huge V shape. 3 pounds, 3 ounces born at 3:33 AM. There is still no cure. Medical treatment used only to allay the symptoms, the halucinations mostly, the paranoia, and the sensation of dis-ease, a violent streak solely directed at her mother. As a sidenote it always weighs on me that my daughter too much wanted to be like her one time pot smoking, old hippie of a dad. I never smoked with her, didn't much talk about the old days. But I wouldn't have had to. J always has been an intuitive.

But for one major trauma involving her step-father who, up until J was 15, had been a stand-up kind of guy, her childhood was darn near idyllic. I was her crazy old dad she could come to no matter what. Her mother had pretty much been her best friend, if not confidant. Other children sought her out. Grown-ups enjoyed her company tremendously. She kept active. Studied with pleasure, not out of a sense of dread or duty. She hiked. For a long while she volunteered serving homeless folk in a soup line at a cafe. She enjoyed making herself the foil of her own jokes, always with a giggle. Dogs and cats loved her proximity. In high school she took college level physics and geometry. Graduated number one in her class. Intended to become a marine biologist. Steeped herself in environmental studies. Following graduation she received two scholarship offers and early admittance to TESC. After high school she came to live with me in WA State, there to establish residency for college. Then the unraveling maybe two years after her arrival. She got involved in one communal situation after another, followed the music festival circuit interstatially. Smoked grass heavily. Most incredible of all she hitch-hiked transcontinentally, from West to East coast, half-way, from Missouri I think, by herself. I !@#$ blew a gasket when she told me about this last, after the fact of course. She had promised she wouldn't do that, hitch-hike alone. I only once spanked J when she was a child, early on swore that off forever. But had I been in the same room with her the night I learned of her hitch hiking, damn right I would have given her 18 year old girl body a whooping she could not forget. No qualms. Here again, however, the curse. J wanting to be just like her daddy.

Before I go on, there was a time, a season, when she lived with me and my then lady friend on the side of a mountain. Whatcom Co. She helped me with the big chore of rustling wood in the forest. We worked together in perfect synch. We hiked a lot too. One day in late winter the neighbor's report was of a cougar sighting. Coming down in winter is their habit. J and I were hiking up the mountain side so heavily forested the tree fall was in great hatchwork. She kept going off tangentially. I kept calling her back. She got pissed at being checked but I didn't care. She finally kept close and soon I decided it time to return to the cabin. Big windows that cabin had and there it was. The only big cat I know of who hunts by day.

With the diagnosis I was back and forth between the coasts. At least for as long as I could afford it. I also got her back to WA for a visit. I had an escort service see her from plane to plane, from terminal to terminal, from seat to seat. The last visit was the hardest. This was in late '99. Two years into the illness. It was the hardest because I could no longer deny J's disease. Or reason my way around its severity. Driving from my brother's home in Olympia back to where I lived on the north shore of the Olympic Penninsula, in the car's darkness J told me her intell. That the CIA is working with her doctors to keep her institutionalized. My heart broke into little shards, never to be put back together. This last said in a surgically perfect lack of the maudelin.

Maybe I need to apologize. A story teller should always be in command of his narrative time line. Here I am not. I think it was then when I started drinking hard and kept at it for somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 years. Irish whiskey. Almost a fifth a day. I think by then, and maybe, my daughter was starting an upward walk out of her down-under world. Not me. Always a slow one I've been. A fifth of whiskey a day, working 2 jobs, 7 days a week. Working a physically hard job caretaking a fifty acre estate situated above the Elwha Valley. Working 8 months out of the year in charge of directing a gypsy moth survey, driving anywhere between 5 to 10 thousand miles every season, directing trappers, responding to catches, keeping in charge of the personnel matters for which I was responsible. Never missed a day, never went bad on an obligation, never let the mission down, never slacked off on the estate's maintenance. And never got drunk. After the fact, sure. I was clinically depressed. To which I say so !@#$ what? Had I not self-medicated, gone to a doctor, he/she would have put me on one modifying drug or another. What would have been the difference? I guess I'm supposed to say for the sake of symmetry that that period in my life is a blur. It is not. Every day deeply carved in memory. I wish I could have lost consciousness. I couldn't. Wish I could have stumbled into bed a dead man drunk. I didn't. The whiskey didn't even numb me. At most it took the edge off the pain. One thing I now know certainly about the clinically depressed. They can be the sneakiest sons of bitches, the best secret agents, the world has ever known. No friend, no family member, no co-worker, no intimate ever knew. In a way I was helped by not having an intimate. A year after the diagnosis I let go of the woman, having realized she had no intention of making a life together. My retreat into the green of the penninsula was complete. But had a professional in psychiatry interviewed me, I'm pretty sure I would have gotten an okay for active duty.
Might've been in '01. Think it was. I was working, doing some chore on the estate. That fifty acres might have been what saved my ass in the end. The green, the forest of doug fir, hemlock, maple, and alder, the seasons regulating my body, work hard enough to pinch my back. Can't remember when it came. Do remember what came, the resolution. I heard it clear: You got two people to live for now, you and J and there is no choice in the matter. That's what I heard. J understands. I know this because some months ago I was in her town. We visited, she took me into her apartment, her personal space and showed me her things, books mostly and the lunar calendars I give her every year. She did remarkably well keeping social, maybe the hardest, most exhausting task a schizophrenic can see to. I finally told her about the cancer crap, it having become past history. I hadn't told her while the treatment was in progress, news that would have hurt her, confused and worried her. A calculated risk maybe. But I figured my chances were good of surviving the surgery especially, what actually turned into a kind of close call. But when I told her about it all, for the first time in over a decade, over a decade, my sweet daughter who had once been full of hugs registered an emotion. Can't remember exactly what she said. Do remember this: she was not prepared to deal with a world in which I no longer lived. By the Goddess that was a huge admission for her, she so afraid of showing her feelings. But that is not right. More that she has been so afraid to feel.

Almost to the end of my field note. All I have with which to entertain folk are these stories about what I know, what I've come by somewhat gracelessly. See, here's the thing. J is my daughter. J is my only child. Both of which stats place us on someone's chart. But J is my soul-mate. I knew it the day she was born. She knew it too when she fiercely grabbed my huge finger in her tiny, tiny hand that dark morning. You don't choose your soul-mate. Has nothing to do with love or romance. Has everything to do with something you can't name, something !@#$ poets and !@#$ priests diminish by putting a name to. The name I give it is J. But that is my name for it only.

Here now is the poem my field note's arrow has been aiming for. Written in the height of my depression, written as if by an entymologist looking to pin his insect self on a Riker mount, written on the western most edge of America. I used to play that beautiful old Shenandoah song on my harmonica. Too close now.


"I hear you're living for nothing now.
I hope you're keeping some kind of record."
L. Cohen

The in-hand, navigational device
with LED display and backlight
gives these late night, lat/long coordinates:
North by
48 degrees, 05 minutes and
14.7 seconds.;
West 123 degrees, 33 minutes and
24.6 seconds.
Black is skyground, her bottomless belly.
Aldebaran, the mirrored, twin brother,
chases seven sisters, and the motion is fixed.
Constellated is the beauty he will never reach.
Between zenith and horizon, radially,
thirteen satellites lock this spot, what becomes
globally positioned and memory stored.
With still there being the fielded factor
of some thirty meters, the intended error,
what graciously gives to keep in thicket
and sky bear's foraging, wildered son.

And so the township, range, and section number:
T 30 North, R 7 West, and the
surrounding square mile, 15 of 36.
That midwife to the continental abstract
in 1785 Jefferson gave
as systematic baseline right where, just how
the Ohio River pours out from Pennsylvania,
what points the way to here.
Start there and walk into the red shift sun,
or from anywhere physics' walk into the red shift sun.
Meriwether Lewis did, the salmon man who
muscled his way up the wide Missouri,
what once was wild. Harnessed in tow now.

Seaplate tectonic is the local uplift.
(And science confusing with concept
what poets neuter, say to simplify: protean nature.)
For the fierce, furious undersurge,
always the geological mother zone,
the body quake touch where she parts her legs;
here to stand on watermount lifted, smeared against,
her toehold beneath the larger, contiguous plate.
Here, and the trembly border coming closest,
what is shaky, what tautly straddles the
lower landlap, tertiary in form-time, then
glacial drift dragged, erratic in rock.

Where the north Pacific insurges, is harsh,
where Cape Flattery keeps in stationing storms,
and three peaked Olympus leans large in winter,
and the Elwha valley's door opens to unkempt interior,
while the Port of Angeles, just another town,
is orbital, automatic, stays bound
between birth, age, death and grave;

here, right here.
Oh Shenandoah. You have betrayed me.
Far away, across rolling river, where
dark night catacomb keeps my best girl captive.


Last edited by Terreson, Aug/11/2013, 4:07 pm
Aug/10/2013, 11:01 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
GaryBFitzgerald Profile
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Re: Banging out the blues

“I knew it the day she was born. She knew it too when she fiercely grabbed my huge finger in her tiny, tiny hand that dark morning. You don't choose your soul-mate. Has nothing to do with love or romance. Has everything to do with something you can't name, something ****ing poets and ****ing priests diminish by putting a name to. The name I give it is J. But that is my name for it only.”

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
The named is the mother of ten thousand things.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.
These two spring from the same source but differ in name;
this appears as darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gate to all mystery.

Lao tzu – Tao Te Ching
Aug/11/2013, 7:27 pm Link to this post Send Email to GaryBFitzgerald   Send PM to GaryBFitzgerald
Terreson Profile
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Re: Banging out the blues

Yes, Gary. I too figure it runs something like that. Thanks.

Aug/11/2013, 7:44 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
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Re: Banging out the blues

I'm just saying, Tere, that you are absolutely correct. For most of the really important things in life there really are no words. This is the poet's curse.

Sometimes only a hug or a kiss or a tear will suffice.

Aug/11/2013, 8:08 pm Link to this post Send Email to GaryBFitzgerald   Send PM to GaryBFitzgerald

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