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September 19 Friday

I guess, technically, it is really Saturday, as the time now reads 1:23 a.m. Dad just picked us up from Grandma’s, who we were supposed to spend the night with, but Dad said he couldn’t face coming home to the empty house alone. And it is empty because she’s gone.

My body is exhausted, but my mind won’t let me rest. I’m hoping if I write it down, sleep will come and maybe this will be a dream. I guess I should start with Thursday, the day Dad was scheduled to return.

What I can gather from Mom’s incoherent ramblings Thursday night and Dad’s fumbling words tonight, he called her around lunchtime to let her know he was needed for an extra day and wouldn’t be coming home till Friday night. When Jeremy and I got home from school on Thursday, Mom was in a frenzy. The house reeked of straight bleach and it was obvious Mom hadn’t showered or probably even brushed her teeth. This time she hadn’t contained her scrubbing to the bathroom. The kitchen countertops, the cabinets, the appliances and the floor all shined with her efforts. The food from the refrigerator was piled in the sink as she furiously worked on the shelves, slopping the water from the bucket onto the floor as her hand dipped in and out. In and out.

“He’s not coming home. He’s not coming home” was all she would say, over and over again.

I told Jeremy to go to his room, that I would handle it, but all I could do was sit on the floor and cry.

Maybe that was the best move because after about five minutes, I realized Mom has gone quiet and I don’t hear the sloshing water anymore. I looked up to see her actually looking at me, rather than through me. Crying herself she whispered, “Oh baby, I’m so sorry. What am I going to do?”

I helped her put away the cleaning supplies and then ordered dinner like everything was ok. She tried to make conversation during dinner and I couldn’t help that think maybe now she will see and get some help. Maybe now things will get better.

On Friday, I didn’t want to leave her alone, but she insisted everything was fine and I should go to school. After school, though, no one was home and there was a note from Dad telling us to pack an overnight bag, we were eating and staying with Grandma. He had taken Mom to the hospital. The note assured us everything was fine, she just wasn’t feeling well, and he’d call us later that night. All I could picture was Mom sanitizing the refrigerator and how surprised Dad must have been if he walked in on the same scene.

“She must have began the minute y’all left for school,” he started. “I caught an earlier flight home because my meeting finished early and I thought I would surprise her.”

The phone went quiet and I could see him collecting himself, fighting the mental images that have become so ingrained in my mind.

“Her hands, oh God, her hands were full of blood and the bleach must have been killing them, but she didn’t even flinch. She just kept on scrubbing.”

His voice caught and for a second I felt bad for him, then I became so very angry that I thought my grip would break the phone. Now you know how I feel, is what I wanted to scream at him. That’s for going away for days at a time, for leaving her alone, for leaving me alone to deal with this.

He said when she finally noticed he was there she didn’t say a word. She got up, went to their bedroom to get her coat and then stood by the door expectantly. Dad wrapped her hands in towels, quickly tried to clean up the blood on the floor and then took her to the emergency room. Now she’s in the mental wing for observation.

My mother is in a mental institution.

My dad asked me before we got off the phone, “Why didn’t you tell me?” and all I could think to say was, “Would you have even heard me?”

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