I kept flying throughout the 90s and continued following Dr. Lebensohn's advice for good living.
ecause of my seniority at United, I had plenty of time to pursue things that interested me - everything except cooking, a realm that belonged solely to my mother. I painted off and on each week, started taking flute lessons, signed up for creative writing classes at the community college, began Tai-Chi, drove mother on visits and errands, and continued to attend church and meditate. My dance card was full and demanding even as my mental confusion had pretty much dissipated. Things seemed pretty good.
My years of therapy and drugs was finally paying off. The ongoing meetings with Dr. Lebensohn, his continued prescription of a medication that worked well despite miserable side effects (problems with balance, dry mouth that kept me awake at night, sun sensitivity, etc.) and my own emerging desire to stay alive allowed me to move from the need to keep busy throughout the day to a long term process of figuring out how I might live a life worth living even if short. Because I was sure I would die before age 66 (my thinking was still a little compulsive), I was highly motivated to pursue things that interested me.
People I knew in the 90s were getting sick and dying. Strokes, heart disease, horrible cancers, and disabling diabetes seemed everywhere: among my friends and family, in my local peer group around town, and even with those much younger. Although my mother was in her eighties and active, the longevity for schizophrenics was far less than than the norm. I was willing to face the fact that I might not be around very long. But one year turned into the next and, remarkably, I found myself caught up in adventures and pursuits that challenged my brain and helped me puzzle together a sense of purpose over the years.
In a period of a little over ten years, I began writing a book, volunteered to assist the troops of Desert Storm and Desert Shield, traveled to Peru to learn about Inca history and spirituality, embarked on a missionary trip to Haiti just before and during the earthquake, and was baptized in the Jordan River in Israel. My chance baptism was the highlight of my life.
In 1998, Dr. Lebensohn retired from his practice at age 89. I was devastated but quickly moved on to another doctor he had waiting in the wings, Dr. Goldstein.
In 2001, my flight was stranded in Germany during the aftermath of September 11th. I watched myself maintaining a degree of calm as people in the airport, the hotel and along the streets of Frankfurt responded erratically to fear and loss of control. I remember thinking how strange it seemed that I was mentally fine - processing the situation, accepting that being in control wasn't in my ball park - while the sane people round me were drinking a lot, worrying incessantly and seemed to be going crazy because the situation had turned things upside down. By this time in my life, upside down was normal functioning for me.
In 2003, I retired from United, worn out from long trips and no longer inspired by travel, speed and first class styles and attitudes.
At the age of 90, my mother was forced to move to a local nursing home. Falls, osteoporosis and a list of other degenerative diseases hit her hard over a period of a few years. Because both of my doctors encouraged me to continue to live with another person - to help ground me and keep me in touch with reality - I moved in with my brother Russell. My mother's house, the house of my youth, was now falling apart and uninhabitable.
To be continued ...