The Brilliance of Stars
Twenty years ago she snapped during Mass in a small southern town. I came home that Sunday morning and saw my father through our back door. His despair told me before his words did. Worry wore his face like a hostage when I asked where she was. He told me she had been forced out of a house of God where churchgoers labeled her crazy women and a sheriff had taken her away in his car.
Later my sisters and I rode in our family’s banana-pudding colored Pontiac 6000 LE to embrace her ill-fated recovery. It had been three weeks since she was involuntary committed. She sat upon a stiff sofa in a room of beige purgatory where she said nothing for a long minute before Dad told us she thought she was telepathic.
If I were to give my father a name based on an adjective, I would call him substantial. A man who watched his wife go from eccentric, to weird, to paranoid and delusional over the course of our childhood.
My mother claimed alien abduction when the miniseries V was out. She cautioned, "If you see a bright light at night, stay away. They’re here for me.” A few years later her bouts of alien abduction lead to hypochondria where she impacted our school attendance with her insistence that someone to stay home incase 911 had to be called. These fears were overruled by hallucinations that came after her favorite priest passed away in 1997.
Weeks before she tore out the carpet and placed it at the end of our driveway rolled tightly with a handwritten “for free” sign. The couch and armchairs followed. This left our living room to gain a twin bed for seating and cold gray concrete to become the floor her knees bore into as she prayed to the concave Phillips screen that fed her the Word of God by cable TV.
One night I turned off my ceiling fan and maneuvered into bed. A misreckoning came when my foot touched an object colder than I had felt before by toe, and I yanked off my covers and found a shotgun.
Dad said the gun wasn’t loaded when I woke him up, on a work night, and gave it back. He didn’t bother getting out of bed. I stomped downstairs where I had seen my mother minutes earlier with the blue light of television glowing upon her face.
I scolded her. “Mom. You left a gun in my bed and that’s not okay.”
Looking back, I am thankful for her response that night. I was given remnants of her coherence and regret as she cried and gave me an apology.
She recovered, briefly, and wrote an unpublished memoir about herself. It began, “I was born of a shooting star,” and I thought her brilliant.
Tonight my daughter asked me, “Is your mother’s sickness always being worried all the time?”
“Almost,” I said. “My mother has a sickness in the brain. Her brain thinks, or sees, or hears things that aren’t really there.”
We were riding down Ruddle Street coming home from Target on a Friday night.
“Is it like seeing a ghost?” My kid asked.
“Kind of. My mother saw angels and God though.”
I smiled aloud as I remembered. “One time my mother was talking to an angel in our kitchen and my sister came down and sat on the very step our mother was speaking to. I told my sister she had just sat on St. Michael, and we laughed and laughed.”
“Did your mother get upset? That you were laughing?”
“No, she didn’t even realize we were in the room. She was that sick.”
When my daughters and I arrived home it was a showy evening with all the familiar winter constellations. There are so few winter nights in the Pacific Northwest where the stars can be seen.
“Look at all those beautiful stars.” I told my kids. They looked. I thought, how little they know of the importance of seeing them.
About the author:
L.C. Stair is an emerging writer working on a collection of essays and short stories. She lives in paradise (the Pacific Northwest) with her husband, children, and Labrador.