I enjoy puzzles, even though I’m not very good at them.
I love putting together jigsaw puzzles with the kids -- even though they see the answers A LOT sooner than I do.
I love crossword puzzles -- as long as it's People Magazine and not the New York Times.
But the one puzzle that I've been playing the longest and will never be able to figure out is bipolar disorder.
As in my mom's bipolar disorder.
Over the years, my brother and I have definitely learned how to recognize an episode in the early stages, but no matter how hard we try or hold our breath, there’s nothing we can do to stop it.
I guess it must be like falling onto a train track and seeing the light coming your way.
The warnings signs have become clear as day, but the only thing you can do is put on a seat belt and get her some help.
When she calls at random hours on a very frequent basis with nothing to say, that’s warning #1.
When the ratio of her words to mine during a conversation is like 99:1, that’s warning #2.
Strike 3 is when she starts talking about stories from 50 years ago like it was yesterday.
Now I realize that some of you are saying, what’s so weird about that, my grandmother does that all the time.
That’s the problem -- trying to decide if my mom is acting like a typical 80-year old woman or a person with a behavioral condition?
My mom is the proud holder of both titles, but the question I'm facing right now is which business card is she is carrying.
Fortunately, actually unfortunately, we’ve been through these episodes so many times before that there’s only one correct answer.
Since she relocated to an assisted living facility about 15 minutes from my house about four months ago, my mom has been doing great.
So great, in fact that she and I have been doing a regular Tuesday lunch.
To be honest, it has become one of the high points of my week.
The meal is always filled with a full plate of support and during this time of unemployment, who doesn’t want a diet of that?
This week, she called me two days ago to make sure we were on for today.
Then she called me three times this morning to make sure that we were on for today.
Your honor, article 1 of evidence is a red flag.
Then, from the moment I picked her up, she was in full motion.
We spent about 90 minutes together, in which there is no way I said more than 19 words, literally.
Then there was the content of the conversation.
Now if you were there, eating with us for the first time, you would have found the dialogue to be incredibly fascinating.
My mother is a warm, loving person, who has lived an unbelievable life, full of triumph and tragedy.
The ultimate highs of a manic episode to the lowest-of-lows of a depressive one.
And those are the real stories.
The ones in her head must be even more incredible.
Today, when she started running through her greatest hits of 35 year-old stories, like it was The Who Reunion Tour, I knew we were in trouble.
My mom is an incredible person who has spent much of her eighty years living in hell, through NO fault of her own. The bottom line is she deserves better.
I hope more than anything that I am wrong this time.
I hope more than anything that the red flag is literally, just a red flag.
Unfortunately, I know where we are headed and it makes me very sad.