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Uncle Peter was not related to me, he was my father's friend. They studied together in a school in a coastal town in Kerala. Uncle Peter passed his High School Exams and I dont know what he did while my father went to college. At some point of time they joined the Royal Air Force together and after India's independence they were commissioned as officers in the Indian Air Force. Uncle Peter used to visit us. Whenever he came home I noticed that the layers of sterness would slowly peel off from my father and the room would echo with the sounds of happy laughter. Little did I know then that many years later he would offer me and my family his support, comfort and draw out the laughter from within all of us which seemed to have disappeared for a while when schizophrenia entered our lives.
I remember Uncle Peter most in the month of May. For it is in May that the laburnum trees are in full bloom everywhere. The dazzling golden flowers reflecting the sun's rays and moving gently with the summer wind can gladden the saddest of hearts.
Due to a trigger, two days ago, I watched the smile disappear from my daughter's face and her beautiful face slowly set into the familiar mask of deep sadness which seemed to rise like a coiled serpent from somewhere within. I watched helplessly feeling her pain but not being able to lessen it? Not knowing what to do I came out of the house and saw the brilliant-yellow laburnum flowers. My fears melted away and I remembered Uncle Peter.
How he stood by us when our families went into denial about the illness. The day my daughter was diagnosed he came home with dinner and coaxed us to eat while my daughter slept on her first dose of medication. How he talked to us everyday for the first month and told us to unleash our pain and anger with him and not to ever display it in front of my daughter. He urged me to pray and be strong for my daughter and my son. From a snivelling, bewildered mother, I slowly learnt to live with this illness. The p-docs at the Military Hospital did not have time for family counselling or therapy because they were swamped with people who were ill. And our families had drifted away so we were isolated.
It must not have been easy for a seventy four year old man to drive through the crowded roads for some distance and come home to comfort us. But he did and occasionally we would go to his place where he would order my daughter's favourite dishes from the nearby restaurant. He would talk about the past and make us laugh. Two years later, all of us went for a new year party and danced. We were so happy when he was given a special prize for being the 'oldest dancer on the floor' but he was so annoyed that the prize was a rocking chair. He wanted a ticket to a holiday ..somewhere. I remember the feeling of happiness washing over me and making a resolve that I would try that this illness never control our lives - we would learn to live with it.
Today I notice that my daughter is tired, but the sadness seems to have melted away.
I could go on and on about Uncle Peter but then Uncle Peter died four years ago in the month of May after a painful battle with cancer. That was after the first four years of ... living with schizophrenia when he was with us all the way.
I feel intense grief when I remember him but then the laburnum flowers at this time of the year reminds me of the sunshine he brought into our lives.
Posted by survivor at May 15, 2004 03:47 AM
Thank you for your comments
Dear Monica and Puzli. Thank you so much!