"Anthem" by Leonard Cohen

"The birds they sang at the break of day
Start again, I heard them say
Don't dwell on what has passed away
or what has yet to be...

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in"

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Garth 1967

Originally uploaded by musicmuse_ca
He was 15 years old, and in his first mental institution in upstate NY. That summer of 1967, he had run away from home to San Francisco for the "Summer of Love" in Haight Ashbury. When he returned to NYC in the Fall, he was so psychotic that my parents had him committed to an all-boys institution just outside of NYC.

This place, like all the other places he was put into from this point on did nothing to help him, and a lot to hurt him and make things worse.

When he was admitted, they got into a power struggle with him over his hair, and made him cut it. It was all downhill from there. They completely ignored his budding drug addiction, and had all of us do mandatory family therapy.

It was awful. My parents were separated, and fighting over money and everything else. Blaming each other for the condition Garth was in. We all rode up to the facility for the family sessions together (mom, dad, me and my other brother). The worst was coming home, when Mom would go into a rage for anything we said during the session. And Dad would just sit there seething and fighting with mom. Needless to say, we didn't last long in family therapy, because we children soon learned it wasn't worth it to say anything.

My brother Garth was a terror, dangerous and violent. The only respite I got from him was when he would run away, or was locked up someplace. He terrorized me all my life until he disappeared forever in 1981. But he was mentally ill, and deserved better from those who were supposed to care for him

As did I.

I wrote this poem a few years later, when Garth was institutionalized at Bellevue Hospital in NYC

"Brother at Bellevue" by Beth K

Pale, thin and grey,
frightened hands tremble
at voices who speak of betrayal.
With slipper, bare foot, pajamas and bathrobe
he wanders and stares
stares and wanders
stares and eats
stares and sleeps
Eyes water, chapped face,
hair dishevelled, body shakes
looking bleakly, blankly

Drugged days
make him tired
tired of life
tired of boredom
tired of green walls surrounding him
Reading comics, watching T.V
cot to lie on, cigarettes to smoke,
he smokes and dreams
dreams and smokes
dreams and schemes
dreams and screams.

Afternoon visits bring money and m&m's
Trembling fingers touch his eyebrow
A mother fights her tears
trying to talk of days
not years...


ania said...

found the picture of you and garth by chance on the blog somewhere... thought it's from the movie maybe. sad story anyway, very sorry... but the saddest thing for me is that maybe he wasn't mentally ill... weren't you thinking he was simply possesed somewhow? unfortunatelly the whole story of your poor family is so sick-toxic-twisted and that lets me think of it... huge pity, maube he could has been alive and healthy now... love to you & i'll pray for garh wherever he is now.

Anonymous said...

I fell under the spell of your story tonight. Starting out on flikr and Christmas past, I found you. Looking out of that punch bowl, frightened. I followed the paths through your family set and wound up here. I have gone back and studied the faces after I had read the stories looking for anything that might have signaled what was going to happen...to you, to Garth, your Mom. I look at my children and I worry every day how my mistakes will effect them as they grow older. How my failures will hurt them.....shape them. Then I see you. Sweet round cheeks, smiling on the outside, quiet and lonely on the inside. As a mother I now realize how hard it was for my Mom...how hard it is period. I understand why women self medicate themselves to be able to cope with the demands. Never realizing the innocent little eyes watching us and the little minds soaking it all in. I know that God is big enough to fix the wrongs and cover the pain of the future. I just so hope that you have found a peace, be it from religion or friendships and loved ones you can now count on. Life is hard.....being a mother is hard...living with an alcoholic is miserable. Break the chain and start anew. Write your own story...page 1....my new beginning...it will be better than It was before. Bless you.

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