wo years ago, next week, I was sitting on a lawn chair on my deck reading Mark Vonnegut’s Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So and had an observation of myself from afar. I had the thought that someone peering over the fence could think I was mentally ill. Mark Vonnegut is a highly educated (BA, Swarthmore College – MD Harvard Medical School) and accomplished man who suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder
The sun was bearing down making the deck surface temperature in the low or middle 80s, and I was dressed in jeans, sweatshirt, wool socks, and a wide-brim hat. My thought was that one would more likely expect to see someone catching the post rainy season rays bear-chested in swimming shorts. Who wears layers of clothing on the deck on one of the first sunny, over 70°, days of the year?
Well, I was in my 8th day of recovery from very invasive intestinal surgery. I’d purposely and progressively reduced my Norco (hydrocodone/acetaminophen) intake from 2 tablets every 4 hours to ½ tablet every five hours. But, I still didn’t want to fall asleep and get overexposed to the sun. Can you imagine sunburn on and around of a row of ten staples on your abdomen?
Back to what I gleaned from the book. Mental illness has nothing to do with intelligence, and intelligence has nothing to do with morality. Thus (or perhaps not thus), morality has nothing to do with mental illness, etc., etc.
So, after reading the book, and re-reading some parts, I have a somewhat different perspective when I see someone by outward appearance homeless or acting strangely (harmful and illegal behavior excluded). I now wonder if the poorly dressed man in a city portico has an engineering degree or if bag lady was a pediatrician.
Now two years after that day, I contemplate sitting on the deck in shorts. Yikes! Who’d want to look over the fence and see my 82-year-old sagging ______ (fill in the blank). These two years post cancer, I’ve been dressing to keep the sun from contributing to another round even if my tests have shown zero markers since the surgery.
As I check the sprinklers in preparation for the predicted hot, dry summer, I try to remember my thoughts (or at least some of them) from that time. Perhaps the Norco had control at the time and my thoughts were just one of its side effects mixed with another – delusions paired with drowsiness.
Did I really read Vonnegut’s book? I did, but it probably took me twice as long as it would under a normal state of being.
I do remember thinking about my garden which the year before produced what you see here.
There will be no garden this year because (need to think of an excuse to put here). Last year the garden was as if I’d made an attempt to grow something in dust bowl impacted North Dakota soil. The weather wasn’t bad the year of my surgery, but I’d not been able to put down every other year steer manure compost my clay dominant soil requires.
As many of you probably suspect, my having gone through the cancer sequence, but without radiation or chemo, gave me a sense of urgency to finish Nescient Decoy
and Echoes of Nam
. It’s time to admit that I did.
By my randomness, would you suspect I had nothing to do today? Well, there was the repairing of a broken sprinkler head.