I moved back in with my parents when their health started deteriorating. That sounds like something a loving daughter would do, right? Good, I won’t mention the unemployment, broken dreams and knife in the back that helped motivate the decision.
It was an adjustment for me because I had been out of the house for quite a while and Dad was in full manic mode when I did it. He was bi-polar, but different than the other bi-polar people I dealt with when I was in Law Enforcement. Dad’s moods lasted for months. For some bi-polar people the switch from happy to abysmal can take a minute, maybe two, and the switch back is just as fast. Some are even faster.
As a Deputy Sheriff it was part of my job to transport people, mostly females, to mental facilities when the need arose. One evening, I transported a woman an hour away from where I picked her up. Mind you, I was an armed Deputy Sheriff riding in the front seat in full uniform and fully equipped. She was behind the cage in back in handcuffs, a belly belt, and ankle chains and she still managed to scare the living crap out of me.
She was off her meds and her mood swings took ten seconds. They didn’t go from happy to sad, though. She went from depressed to demon possessed, pea-soup-spitting scary. At one point she was in the backseat crying. She had already freaked me out by getting the window to open when it should have been locked and had threatened the officers that helped me get her in the car. We’re driving down the highway and in a sweet, whiny voice behind me she said, “I’m such an angel.” Then without so much as a pause to inhale, she screamed, “Let me out of this F****** car you f****** b****!”
I drove the whole way with a can of pepper spray in my hand. In retrospect, it should have been the gun. Pepper spray doesn’t work on demons.
Dad’s moods were less dramatic. He couldn’t take the standard medicine issued for bi-polar disorder, so his meds took a while to regulate when he went from one extreme to the other. While the doctors were trying to find the right dosage, he spent a lot of time in bed when he was depressed, leaving the room only to use the bathroom. When he was manic, logic went out the window and he was up all hours of the day and everyone was his friend.
Dad owned a twenty-five year-old, gold and white, ’70 Chevy pick-up that we called Number One. We did this because we also owned a ’71, gold, Chevy pick-up that looked just like it, except it didn’t have white. The second truck was called…get this…Number Two.
One evening Dad returned from what ever ramblings he’d been doing and Number One quit as he pulled in the driveway and wouldn’t start again. Dad had been a professional mechanic and worked on big rigs and his own vehicles since he was old enough to hand wrenches to his brothers. So it made sense that he would be the one to fix it.
He worked on that truck for four days. At three in the morning, two days in, he was cranking it over and causing the starter to squeal. Let me repeat that. At three in the morning… If you have ever heard a starter squeal, you will understand. It’s a high pitched, unpleasant sound that will set your teeth on edge. It is also incredibly loud. He woke every dog and neighbor in a three block radius with that racket. In his head it was logical. In my head it was logical to want to murder him.
I yelled at him, mostly four letter words, and he quit. I think it took hours for the dogs to stop barking though.
Two days later and four days after realizing the truck wouldn’t start, he came in to tell us he had figured out what was wrong with it. It was out of gas.
The really horrifying part was, he’d been working on it for two days when I glanced out to see him kneeling on the fender with his head in the motor compartment. I remember saying to Mom, “I wonder if that thing’s got gas in it?” We exchanged a look, but didn’t mention it to him. Working on his truck kept him out of our hair and out of trouble.
Four days of no logic, to much confidence, and a tool box resulted in six months of work for my brother to make it run right again. I never let Dad work on my car after that. This was just one adjustment of many brought on by his disease.