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One Mother's Experience on the Liberty Weekend

July 12, 1986

On Saturday, July 5, I visited my son in a locked facility for the mentally ill. He had a pass to go out for a few hours with me. I had a picnic lunch in the car trunk consisting of his favorite foods.

He was agitated and disagreeable. The food did not suit him. The little chores that needed attention, the wind, the sun--nothing was satisfactory to him.

I was hurting from a recent auto accident. I had on a cervical collar, and a firm girdle to relieve the pain, and it was very hot and uncomfortable. I thought I would never be able to handle the situation without serious consequences.

I decided to say very little, and say it softly--to "go with the flow." I turned up the air conditioning and said: "Let's take a short drive and then you decide what we should do."

After the brief, cool ride we stopped in a shaded spot in a park, and he ate most of the lunch. He would not go to a table or the lawn, but ate in the car. I remained at the trunk of the car, taking longer than necessary to handle the lunch, allowing him time to sit alone and savor his treats. He calmed down and wanted to ride more, and go to a shopping center and "see the people."

As we left, he leaned over and kissed me on the cheek and smiled. We continued our ride (always remaining close to his facility in case of emergency).

He talked and talked about people, places and things, amazing me with his precise memory for dates, names and events.

When we returned to his "home away from home" he looked at me. There was an expression of fright in his eyes. Parting is difficult, despite the uneasiness I imagine most people feel when living with or visiting a loved one with serious chronic, mental illness. I was desolate.

As I left, I turned the car radio up high, and wept, driving until the tears almost impaired my vision, resulting in a tongue lashing from me to me.

"Knock it off, Marjie--shut up--turn up the radio and listen to the news about The Lady's 100th Birthday!"

I thought for a moment of all the people from other lands we welcome to our country as permanent residents. Yet our own mentally ill are the lowest on the totem pole for services so desperately needed by them and their relatives.

The Pledge of Allegiance rang in my ears "--and justice for all!"



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