Sunday, January 23, 2011

Marking time

I have to admit that I rarely have a moment when Gabriel's schizophrenia does not weigh on my mind. I suppose that's because, relatively speaking, its onset has been recent. I mean, I rarely think about my other kids' disabilities. Since they have been disabled from the day I first met them, indeed from the day I first heard about them, their cerebral palsy or spina bifida or dwarfism is just a given. Yes, occasionally I still think about what their lives would have been like if they hadn't had a disability, but I can set those thoughts aside. But with Gabriel's schizophrenia, it's different. I know that's because the disease has taken so much from him. The Gabriel I knew for 20 years---the impish, vivacious, charming child---is gone, and in his place is a moody, withdrawn stranger, without affect or motivation. Sometimes that stranger makes me uncomfortable, sometimes he gets on my nerves, sometimes I feel so sorry for him. And of course I feel guilty for feeling that way.

Most of the time the pain is a dull ache, but sometimes it pierces my heart. One of those piercing moments occurs almost every week. Most young adults mark time by referring to their age or what grade they were in when something happened. For example, "Boyz II Men was my favorite group when I was in 8th grade," or "Remember when I was 13 and we went to Padre Island?" But Gabriel marks time in a completely different way that breaks my heart. He'll say, "I remember that time we went to Burgers Lake, before the voices started."