Life With My Mother’s Mental Illness

There were times when I would come home to find my mother sulking around the house without any apparent cause. The first time I noticed it would involve her shouting and saying to me with tears in her eyes,  “That Chinese girl is disrespecting me!”  Giving her the benefit of the doubt, I went to get Pug to come and apologise to her when I would observe how she’d hug the teenager and confess that in reality the girl had not even spoken to her.  On other occasions,  I would come home and find out that my mother had moved us all to a new apartment somewhere in the neighborhood without telling me anything beforehand.

Things would go from bad to worse, if this were possible, with her unpredictable behavior.  She would “clear up” periodically, enough to come out with my aunt to see us marching in one of my many parades and create trouble for me by snitching on my classmates who had tried to fall out of the formation and escape somewhere to just have fun.

Then, there was the commissary book incident.  One sunny day we were home alone and I asked my mother for permission to use her Canal Zone Silver commissary book to buy myself a shirt.  I really needed refurbishing and all I wanted was a new shirt.   She gave her consent, so I picked up the coupon book and rushed off to see what the Silver commissary nearby had to offer.

I found nothing really worthwhile at the commissary since the Canal administration had been gradually closing down commissaries during this period.  Other than cooking fuel like kerosene, salad oil, and other basics for the Canal Zone communities, there was nothing much available.  In fact, they appeared to be in the process of closing down completely.  So, I wound up not buying anything and I rushed home to return the official looking coupon book to my mother.  I met up with my mother’s fury, however, as she had found where I had stashed a bottle of Whiskey that I had been saving for a party at the beach at La Playita.

Turns out that my real mistake was to have asked her for the commissary book in the first place which she received as a form of child support for my baby brother Victor. I must not have been thinking straight at this time either, because instead of just leaving the room when I saw her going into this terrible fit of anger,  I stayed around  hoping she would calm down.

I turned my back on her thinking this would diffuse her rage.  I was looking to go take a shower after coming home in my dirty work clothes.  But, suddenly, she started pelting me with any and all available dishes and glassware that were in the house.

Instinctively, I dodged them all watching them as they flew past me, breaking violently against the wall behind me.  My sense of self-preservation told me not to open my mouth or try to detain her physically because she would develop enormous strength when she’d go into these rages and she was quite capable of really hurting me!

I had been noticing her for some time now that she had been having a hard time with her emotions, just like when I was a little kid.  But, this time I was trapped! As she kept throwing things I remained busy praying and  hoping she would not find a knife.  Finally, it appeared that she could not find anything more to throw at me, so I went and made the serious mistake of trying to get out of the house.

That was when I felt a killer blow to the back of my head that sent me to my knees and on to the floor as I passed out.  When finally I came to I was alone in the house and wet from head to toe.  Promptly I thanked God to be alive,  not having suffered a serious injury.   I got up from the floor, changed my clothes and hurried out of the apartment leaving the building still trying to gather my senses.

I walked and walked until I ended up at my girl friend China’s house. I found her standing at the foot of the stairs speaking with her grandmother, whom I had met a short time before. They, in turn, said, “Your mother was here cursing our family out loud for all the neighbors to hear.”  I then immediately told them the whole story of my ordeal with my mother and how she had attacked me.

Before I could think of finding shelter somewhere else for the night, Miss Ethel Levy, Pug’s grandmother said to me, “Don’t go back in that house again, Son!  I am going to ask Albert, my son, to help you find a place to stay.”

This story continues.

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