The weeks that followed seemed to drag on. Cassidy’s dad and brother were not speaking to each other and they were not communicating all that much with her either. Cassidy felt she was all alone.
She did visit her mom at least once a week. Sometimes her mom would be very talkative speaking about the past and all the good times they had had together. She was even talking lovingly about her husband as well. Then there were other times that she didn’t talk much; she stared into space. Cassidy longed for the day her mom would come home and be herself, even the drinking mom would be better than no mom at all.
Going into the third week of her hospital stay Dad wanted to talk to Cassidy and Pete. At first Pete just wanted to run out the door but when Dad said it was about mom, Pete agreed to stay.
Peter Sr. told his children that their mom would be coming home the following Monday but before that the counselor at the hospital wanted to see the children to prepare them. Pete got on the defensive and said he didn’t need to be prepared.
Peter Sr. responded, “Pete for God’s sake I am trying here, I am really trying.” Pete did not want to hear anymore.
The date was set for Monday June 20, 2013 and Helen Hollister was coming home exactly one week later. Cassidy asked her dad what would they be talking about at the appointment and dad responded it was best she wait to find out. He said, “there have been far too many secrets in this house and it is time to stop. I want my family back.”
The Hollisters presented themselves as a family for the first time in years. For years it was as if the family members were living separate lives.
The therapist, Mr. Debell commenced the meeting by saying, “My name is Joe Debell. I have been working with your father since your mom was taken to the hospital. Your dad told me that he has trouble communicating with your mom and each of you. I thought it would be a good idea to get some things out in the open before your mom comes home. After she is home, your father and mother have agreed to see me for counseling.
I understand you father hasn’t told you the diagnosis for your mom’s condition. Your mom has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. That horrible night when Cassidy found her she had a psychotic episode but she may have had other ones that you may not have understood and therefore not noticed. She was having one the night before. Cassidy you were home when she had the episode but Pete as I understand it, you were sleeping at a friend’s house.”
Pete interrupted, “How can she have schizophrenia? It is just not true.”
Mr. Debell looked at Cassidy’s father to fill in the blanks.
The therapist Mr. Debell turned the floor over to Peter Sr., to address his son.
Peter Sr. replied, “I honestly did not know she had schizophrenia, I thought her bizarre behavior at times was due to her alcoholism, and as the years went by it got worse.”
“Pete replied, “We know all that tell us something new.”
Peter Sr., cleared his throat and continued. “We thought it best not to tell you children because we didn’t want to hurt you. Your grandfather, your mother’s father, also had schizophrenia, you may not even remember him because he died when Cassidy was two years old.”
Pete responded, “You told us he died in a car accident.”
Peter Sr, “That part is true, we just didn’t want to burden you with an illness that you would probably not understand. Hell I don’t even understand it.”
Mr. Debell interjected to explain a little about schizophrenia and also mentioned that it sometimes runs in the family. Then he beckoned Peter Sr. to continue.
Peter Sr., responded, “I honestly didn’t know your mom would succumb to the disease.”
Peter interjected, “Okay so we know now can we end this discussion here,” which was more of a demand rather than a question. He stood up ready to leave.
Mr. Debell motioned for him to sit down and continued, “I believe your father still has more to tell you. When we last met we discussed how it would be good to let go of all the secrets so the family can have a fresh start. If either of you would like to see me separately after this session I will be glad to see you. But for the purpose of this meeting we want to deal with as much as we can as a family.”
Mr. Debell surprised Cassidy when he said, “Before I give the platform back to your father I would like to hear from Cassidy. She has not had a chance to speak.”
Oh no, Cassidy thought to herself I don’t want to go through that again, I don’t, I don’t. Anyhow how could she concentrate on what was going on in the room when all she could remain focused on was Mr. Debell’s big nose. It was the biggest nose she had ever seen; just like that guy her father liked, some actor named Carl Malden or Mailon or something like that.
“Cassidy before the incident did you notice anything unusual about your mother. Your dad and brother noticed just the increase in heavy drinking, was it the same for you? It must have been so terrifying finding your mother like that. This is something even adults cannot deal with.”
Cassidy responded, “I’m okay I am just so happy mom is coming home.”
Mr. Debell, “Okay then did you notice something different about your mom, I understand it can be very hard for you to talk about but it is necessary for your healing.”
Cassidy, “Well, well (silence).”
“Go on Cassidy it’s okay tell us how you feel, no one will blame you for anything you say here in this meeting.”
Cassidy, “Well it started the night before mom tried to kill herself. Dad and mom were having another fight. I knew mom was drinking heavily that day. I was up in my bed but I couldn’t sleep, I never can sleep when they fight like that.”
Peter Sr, was about to intercept and Mr. Debell motioned him to stop. He said, “Let her get it all out, I can see it is not easy for her to talk about, Cassidy please continue.”
Cassidy replied, “Well a funny thing happened I don’t mean funny haha, I mean funny like weird. I couldn’t hear everything said, because my parents were downstairs and I was upstairs in my bedroom, but I did hear Dad yelling, ‘I never want to hear the name Denise again,’ then there was silence and Dad stormed out of the house as usual.”
Mr. Debell, “Why did you find that name Denise weird do you know a Denise?”
Cassidy, “No I don’t know anybody named Denise.”
Mr. Debell, “Is there any other reason why the name was weird, did it disturb you in anyway?
Cassidy, “Well, well just that the next day before the accident I brought my friend home to study with me and mom asked who was with me and I said Julie Samuels and she went all berserk on me and started calling Julie Denise. Julie didn’t know what to do so she said she was going home and I was so mad at mom I decided to go with her. We were supposed to be studying for an exam but neither one of us felt like studying after that. We just played music and I came home.”
Mr. Debell asked, “Is that when you came home and found your mom in the bathtub?”
Mr. Debell, “Continue.”
Cassidy, ” I don’t have anything else to say.”
Mr. Debell, “Good work Cassidy it is good to get it out and talk about it. Perhaps in the future we can talk more about your feelings. Now Pete do you have anything to add, did you find anything different about your mom in the last few months.”
Pete, “Nope my sister pretty much covered it.”
“Pete have you ever heard the name Denise before?”
Pete, “Nope why should I?”
“Well then. before Mr. Hollister continues, a part of his story will be about you Pete and what happened when you lived in Point Ste. Charles. Is it alright if your father shares that story? We want this family to heal and not to have any more secrets. Cassidy was never told what happened would you mind if your dad told her so that he continue with what he believes happened to your mom?”
Pete, Okay I will allow it but not because of him.”
Mr. Debell, “Pete I feel you are quite angry with your father at this time, is that so?”
Pete, “Yeah that baa urr creep did it to her; it wasn’t schizophrenia it was him.”
Cassidy looked over at her Dad and she saw him wiping the tears from his eyes. It was the first time she ever saw her father cry.
Mr. Debell looked at her dad and said, “Before I let you speak I want to remind everyone that we are here to begin the healing process. Your father has made some mistakes for which he feels bad about.
“Pete you made the mistake when you were young but you have come a long way since then. You have grown up to be a fine young man. You don’t have a criminal record, you are in college, your grades are reasonably good and you have a part time job. Please let your father get what he has to say out in the open; I understand it has tortured him for years.
“Of course Cassidy you have gone through so much, you have experienced a horrendous situation that most adults could never handle. Furthermore, you were alone in the house when you found your mom in the bathtub. Yet, you handled yourself better than most adults. Both your parents love you very much. In fact they love and are proud of both their children.”
Mr. Debell then past the floor over to Peter Sr.
Peter Hollister wiped his eyes one more time and took a pause before he spoke.
“I tried loving you kids more than you can ever know. (slight pause) I mean I do love you two more than you will ever know. I love your mother as well. I know I haven’t always been a good dad but I tried. With the help of Mr. Debell I want to get better at doing it. I know I have made lots of mistakes.
“My biggest problem I know now is that I am not a good communicator. When I get worried I clam up and not say a word. Or I blew my cool. Neither way is the right way to deal with people.
“I know it is no excuse but I take after my dad in that way. Your grandpa Hollister never spoke to me unless he has something negative to say. I am afraid that I have picked up his habit. I never meant to be like him and this is one of the reasons I broke off all communications with him.
“You see even though I could not communicate with him I didn’t want to subject you guys to his malicious temper. The last time you saw him was when Pete was 8 years old and threw a rock at the neighbor’s window on the farm. Without consulting me or your mother he went out and grabbed Pete and shook him so bad I thought he was going to kill him. Then he picked up a rock and threw it at him. Luckily the rock never hit him but your mom started screaming and crying and I had words with him and we never spoke again..”
to be continued
Source: My own creation
Previously published in Bubblews