Longleaf Stories

full circle in the hundred acre wood

I imagine there are lots of kids growing up in homes where at least one parent is borderline mentally ill.

I envied girls with “normal” families. They didn’t understand how serious the world is, how you could suddenly be left alone on what felt like an alien planet. How your mother would never smile again. How it became your responsibility to keep her on an even keel. This was our family’s secret and no one ever came to visit. I never told anyone when mother began to seal up the tiny spaces of light where the living room curtains came together. She used giant safety pins.

We never told anyone that mother thought evil strangers were living in our attic and spying on us through the light fixtures. My brothers and I never talked about our fear when she began falling down, slipping, eyes flickering, sometimes brutally striking the corner of a table to slow the fall, usually managing to stagger to the couch, body twitching, tongue out of control.

We were kids, bereft already. A damaged mother better than a dead one. How could we know she was lost to us already, locked in a grief dance with the spiders of organic brain disease spinning their webs, clogging the pathways of normal response?

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