(Tommy Agnelli at age 4 or 5. . . 50 years or so before this conversation happened)
Thursday, May 3, 2012
5-01-12 Pictures of Tommy - a memoirist’s blog #2
(Disclaimer: My apologies to you who’ve been enjoying the survival job entries -- and I will return to it in June -- but right now, I’m focusing on my memoirist work which I’ll call, simply, “Pictures of Tommy” -- all about my psychotic brother and his legacy. It’s full of pathos, humor, and old family photos. If so inclined, please tell me what you think. . . )
Whenever the phone rang, we’d tense up. Was it him? Was it worse for the machine to answer? If the machine got it, we were screening calls, avoiding him; if we picked up, we were in for it anyway. Why not run for the proverbial hills? Sigh. Might as well just pick up, get it over with.
“Hello, this is Lauren.”
“Hullo, Laurie? It’s your brother, Tom.”
“Oh, hi Tom. What’s up?”
“You don’t sound like you want to talk to me.”
“Uh, no, um, it’s just that it’s been a long day and, um, never mind.”
“Oh.” He sounds disappointed.
“So, how are you, Tommy? I heard from Carrie that you were in the hospital again. Are you feeling better now?”
“Well, you know what it’s like, they lock you up and they think you’re crazy --” No exaggeration: he’d been hospitalized so many times we’d lost count, mostly for mental health reasons.
“Uh, um, yessss--“
“Are you calling me CRAZY?” My brother laughs.
“Tom, no, I’m not calling you crazy. I think you brought it up.”
“Well, you’d think that family would care about what happens to me. But I was in that hospital for FIVE days. Nobody called, nobody visited. And then Carrie came, and she was mad at me--”
“Tom, I’m sorry you went through that again. I was kind of wondering what happened--“
“You’re judging me.” Anger was creeping into his voice.
“No, that wasn’t what I was thinking, actually. I’m glad you called, I was worrying about you--“
“CUT THE CRAP! YOU DON’T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT ME!”
“Tommy, please, I just don’t call because you told me not to last time we talked. You said you were done with me, and I just wanted to do the right thing--“
“YOU NEVER GAVE A DAMN, YOU NEVER UNDERSTOOD ME, YOU CAN GO TO HELL!” Click.
That was a typical short call with my brother, Tom. The longer calls were a little better, but even harder to follow. Whatever was said by either of us came out distorted, like when little kids splash around in the water and it’s the first time they see their feet submerged underwater and it looks like someone else’s feet strangely disconnected from their bodies. It’s a weird, disorienting feeling. . .
While some say you’re never alone with a schizophrenic, you’re also never really there. My schizo-affective older brother, Tommy, brought out the escape artist in the whole family, or what was left of it.