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The Working Title Is…Lessons of the Journey

I can’t remember the last time I was more excited about an invitation. 

It’s been years since I’ve experienced live theatre. And I’ve never received a handwritten invite to a production before!

So, yes, I’ve been counting down the days until Chicago’s St. Andrew Elementary Second Grade production of Arthur’s Christmas. I’m on pins and needles anticipating the directorial debut of my favorite thespian, Clare Parks.

At some point, I thought to myself, “Might be fun to take the train!”  And it was, until just outside of the Battle Creek station when we came to a screeching halt.

It’s actually left me quite nostalgic. In August 2003, Pat and I surprised our girls with a train trip to Chicago, and somewhere between the Royal Oak and Detroit stations, the major northeast blackout happened, leaving us trapped on the train for more than 12 hours.

So no big whoop that this has been my view for the past three hours.

At least the club car is attached.  We didn’t even have that for the first five hours in 2003! I remember feeling very anxious back then…we were unsure of the cause of the blackout, and the events of September 11th were still a very recent memory.

I don’t know what word describes how I’m feeling right now.

Across the aisle from me are an adult woman and her physically disabled father.  She hasn’t stopped yelling at him since the train stopped. [Edited transcript] “This always happens when I ride with you! I should have never said yes to this trip.”

Now, don’t get me wrong…I’m a huge fan of a well-placed expletive, but the way this woman is speaking to her father has the entire train car cringing.  She is unrelenting in profane complaints and double negatives. 

Her single act of kindness came when her dad asked her to reach down his computer.  He pulled up some website that showed real-time passenger and freight train activity. He tried to point out the trouble spot, but she quickly and decisively shut him up.

Not long after, I got caught staring in his direction. We shared a smile behind masks and he said, “I like to track the trains.”  As his daughter was (NO LIE) busy brushing her hair in the seat next to him, I said, “My brother is a huge train fan too, I get it.”  As he started to point out what was on his screen, the conductor came on the loudspeaker to explain the reason for the delay was a police situation on the tracks just outside of Kalamazoo. Minutes later when walking through our car, the conductor told my train-loving neighbor that this was the third suicide in the last ten days along this route.

I’ve already painted a horrible, albeit accurate, picture of his daughter so I will refrain from sharing her disgusting comments that followed.

Equal to my love of a well place curse word is my love of a good fight…one of words, mind you, and I am gearing up to put this bitch in her place.

My head is spinning and my internal voice has finally drowned out hers. But as my planned oratory assault reaches epic, launch-ready levels, deep emotion renders me mute.

I would give anything to be trapped on a train with my Dad. 

I would give anything to travel back in time…anxious and snackless…to be trapped on a train with my tiny girls who fell asleep in our laps while Pat and I held hands. 

I would give anything to hold Pat’s hand.

Three suicides in ten days along this one train route?  My God.

I would give anything to miraculously intervene in those troubled lives and help each person find the words to ask for help.

I would give anything to comfort the family members whose hearts are broken and who will face the horror of an empty chair this Christmas.

I would give anything to bring peace—of mind, heart, soul and spirit—to friend and stranger alike.

We started moving a bit ago. As my neighbors stood up to disembark at Battle Creek, I stood too. Toe to toe, I stared right into that woman’s eyes and said in a whimper, “Hope your day gets better.”  And in the true spirit of the season she said, “Jesus Christ, I need a f*in cigarette.”

The lesson of this journey has me counting my blessings, cherishing life, and praying for peace in the hearts of all. 

Yes, all.  Even the foul-mouth, grammatically deficient, wickedly unsanitary, public transportation-dissing, heartbreakingly paternal-alienating monsters of our world. Clearly, they are struggling with something too. 

May peace and joy surround everyone this Christmas.

kmp

xoxo

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family, hope, Inspiration, mental health, Uncategorized

Quarantine Lessons From A-Z in 500 Words or Less: Letter B

The Working Title Is…B is for Brian

Note:  I share this with my brother’s input and full approval.

Ever since we can remember, our parents celebrated the gift of adoption that led my brother and me into their loving arms.

Along the way, my mom shared what little detail she had about our births.  They played in my head like an ABC Afterschool Special – especially Brian’s, as his birth mother had (cue hushed voice) “some issues” that made her unable to care for him.  This was never a shock to me since Brian also had “some issues” for as long as I could remember.

As I consider lessons learned—and yet to be learned—from quarantine, Brian may be a shining example of one of the most important.

It’s imperative that “some issues” shake the whisper and come quickly into full voice.  Mental health must be discussed as openly and honestly as physical health. That is not an indictment of my parents, simply indicative of the times in which they lived.  And the times, well, they better be a-changin’.

Sandro Galea, MD, from Boston University School of Public Health, recently wrote[1] “We must recognize the pandemic that will quickly follow — of mental and behavioral illness.”  Adding, “In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, it appears likely that there will be substantial increases in anxiety, depression, substance use, loneliness, and domestic violence.”

My parents were incredibly attentive to my brother’s needs and sought care at every turn, especially after a diagnosis of schizophrenia and manic depression in 1980. However, Brian was a victim of time and circumstance enduring many hospitalizations until almost four decades later when a physician looked at the entirety of his condition and determined Brian had been misdiagnosed his entire life.  Three years ago, another physician armed with patience and pharmacology skills, helped Brian take his first steps into life with Aspberger’s and anxiety.  In doing so, he changed Brian’s life.  And mine.

We must heed Dr. Galea’s warning and practice self-care and advocate for the mental health of those we love and those on the margins of society.  It’s time to shake the whispered tones.  No one questions why a diabetic pancreas needs insulin. Why should treating the mind be any different?

Brian is now thriving in a job he loves.  He is filled with pride over working on the frontlines with a premier grocery store and co-workers who look out for one another.

Conversely, I have been quarantine-binge watching Peaky Blinders, so when I saw Brian at work sweeping up all the gloves customers have so cavalierly tossed all over the parking lot, my blood boiled. Lost in reverie, I reached for the imaginary razor blades hidden in my hat and looked to start pouring gasoline all over the offenders’ cars.

“What are we going to do about this?”  I squealed.  Brian, looked quizzically at me and calmly replied, “Well, I’m going to do my job and pick them up.”

Yes, yes, indeed.  A much better solution.

It’s time to take the blinders off and take care of one another.  Now, more than ever.

kmp

[1] https://www.physiciansweekly.com/covid-19-be-ready-for-the-coming-mental-health-pandemic-2/

 

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