Illustration by Mark H. Adams
When I finally got out of the hospital, they immediately stuck me in prison there near the coast of North Florida. They didn’t call it prison, but that’s what it was–it being the house I grew up in.
It was a two-story Tudor, set at the edge of town, and the only room I could get into was the guest room downstairs. My old room overlooking trees and quiet streets was filled with memories and light but the stairs were steep–there were 25 of them–so I ended up in that musty cell below, humid and dark. Towering oaks heavy with Spanish moss grew next to the windows, and the sun could never quite penetrate.
My father had died, my brothers and sisters had moved out, so my mother and I lived there alone. She told one sister that I probably would be a better person for what had happened to me–more sensitive, more understanding of the problems of others–and she was sure, she confided to another, that I would be completely cured. With enough persistence and exercise, I would outgrow my sickness just as I had outgrown puberty, pimples and mumps.
I was not then and am not now able to articulate what it was that made me want to get out of that house and away from that person who had created me. Starting at age 14, I had been independent, on my own. Now, five years later, in my new wheelchair, I was back under her roof.
Understand, she wasn’t unkind, this mother of mine. She was just confused by what had happened to me. In those days, the idea of grief therapy hadn’t been in