My world view is predicated primarily on logic, experience, and expedience. Yet, I know the power of emotions. I believe love can heal, can open our souls to everything good in life, and I believe that is a kind of magic. I believe hate can devour us from within. However, essentially, I am a “show me the double-blind study” kind of woman, with one or two illogical caveats. For instance, several times I’ve awakened from dreams and known one of my boys was in trouble when, indeed, that son was in crisis. I am California enough that I routinely say that a person has good, or bad, energy. So, yes, I have inconsistencies in my world view, but for the most part, I am a skeptic.
Jack, on the other hand, has always been drawn to the mystical. If you don’t believe me, read Boogie with Chesty. I wrote that story pretty much the exact way Jack told it to me.
Jack believes in ESP. On a fairly regular basis, from the corner of his eye, he spots a black figure he identifies as death. U.F.O.s and angels and demons are a part of his world. The man rarely meets a conspiracy theory he does not embrace. When we lived in Mexico he drove five hundred kilometers to see a witch doctor who he hoped would heal his pain. The old guy laid hands on Jack and told him he could not cure him, that he needed to forgive himself for past wrongs and move forward with his life. Jack was awestruck. I figured that was good advice for pretty much everyone on earth.
My point here is that one person’s Woo Woo Nutso Crazy is another’s Accepted Reality. There are indeed, more things in heaven and earth Horatio than are dreamt of in any of our philosophies. However (and you knew this however was coming, right?), there are limits to how far most of us will stretch the bounds of possibility before our ties to reality are severed.
One of the symptoms of Progressive Supranuclear Palsy can be a loss of the ability to discern imagination from reality, in some cases the patient experiences full-blown hallucinations. This is especially troublesome in Jack’s case because his reality has always been unique, a bit more open than my reality. You might remember that this is the man who was thrilled to be spearfishing when a shark had been sighted in the water, a man who thought hooking two giant mastiffs to leashes and moving with them to the country of Panama was a damn fine and reasonable idea, a man who, apparently, honestly believed that as long as he was truthful about it I’d be fine and dandy with him chasing younger women.
So, you understand my hesitation when the neurologist asks me if Jack is losing touch with reality.
Lately, though, Jack has begun to make decidedly odd comments. Lately, I am concerned that he may be dangling a little too much of himself off that cliff of sanity. Lately, I fear he may, indeed, be traveling not just in a world of his own creation, but one in which the tethers to reality have been loosed.
It started with a carousel. This was a few months ago. We were watching Jeopardy, me shouting out, mostly wrong, answers, when, in a clear voice Jack shouted, “I hope a tornado picks up one of those eucalyptus trees and smashes it into the thing!”
“What?” I jumped. Even the dog was startled by Jack’s vehemence.
“I hate that damn carousel?”
“What carousel?” Had Trebeck revealed a clue about wooden horses, or clowns, or merry-go-rounds?
It took me several minutes to figure it out. His train of thought had been triggered by an advertisement for a car dealer in town which does, indeed, have a carousel on its lot. And, in fact, across the highway from this dealer and on the bayside there is a row of old eucalyptus trees.
Once I caught on to what he was saying, I asked, “Why don’t you like that carousel?”
The dog got up and gave Jack kisses on his ear, wagged his giant fan tail. Jack was not appeased.
“I hate carousels!”
“No, you don’t.” Maybe I could reason him out of his agitation. “Remember when we were in Panama and we took that family we sort of adopted to the big mall. You paid for the kids to ride on those beautiful wooden horses with the flaring nostrils? Remember? The youngest boy insisted on riding the pig with wings?”
“I did that because I wanted those kids to die.”
I laughed somewhat hysterically. “That’s not true. You adored those little kids. Bought them all kinds of school supplies and toys. You enjoyed watching them riding that carousel.”
So, I let it go. But it bothered me.
A few days later, my son told me, “Hey, Mom, look, you have a turtle dove at your bird feeder.”
“Never seen one of them here.” I watched the bird strut and peck at the bird seed that had fallen to the ground. “You know, I think that’s actually a mourning dove.”
And, Josh and I were off on a five minute tangent as to whether it was morning dove or mourning dove, which, of course ended in a Google search.
A few days later, I was standing in the yard talking to my oldest son, Mica, when Jack came to the kitchen window and yelled, “Be careful! You’re going to step on the turtle.”
My son and I looked at each other.
“Turtle?” Mica looked around.
“Right there, by your mom’s feet.”
This too, took a while for me to decipher though I bet you’ve already figured it out. Earlier when Josh and I had been trying to identify the dove, all Jack heard was the word turtle and he conjured up a lovely little shelled creature.
Mica and I walked around the yard picking up this and that as Jack directed us, trying to convince him there was no turtle. I explained about the dove. He insisted, still insists, that he saw a turtle. Given his failing eyesight, and his bad hearing, it is completely understandable that Jack got confused about what was in the yard. What is disturbing, however, is that he refuses to accept the explanation I just gave you, and insists that a turtle does indeed live in our yard and that he sees it from time-to-time.
A week or so ago, he was having a good morning, woke up without pain, thought he had died. When I told him I was glad he was feeling so good, he informed me that his respite worker, Alonso, had cured him.
“He put some kind of herb in my bed. It was all tied together and looked like a two-headed goat.”
“And he sprinkled some other magic potion on my pillowcase.”
“Where is it? Show me?”
“What?” You see that, as a writer, I am quite articulate in my questioning.
“When the sun came up.”
“So, the herb thingie isn’t there now?”
He looked disgusted. “No. Of course not. It’s magic.”
When Alonso came to work, I asked him, in front of Jack, if he had put any herbs or magic spells on Jack or on his bed.
“Ahhh, no. The only magic I do is prayer.”
“Well,” Jack said, “Of course he said that. If he tells me what he asked for, the wish won’t come true.”
“What? Like a birthday wish?”
Jack shook his head. “Don’t be ridiculous. Birthday wishes come true only if you hold your mouth right when you blow out the candles.”
I’m pretty sure he was kidding about that last part.
But, I can’t be sure.
Then, a couple of days ago, Jack was in a lot of pain. “I wish the aliens would stop doing their experiments on me.”
Well, you see where this is going. Next he’s going to be telling me purple people eaters are harvesting his organs.