Today, I went and found my brother, Mark. He was lying on the sidewalk at a busy entrance to a shopping center. Cars were whizzing by. Another man was sitting there with him and, as I approached them, I could see that Mark was giving him money and asking him to count it. I was immediately suspicious. I asked my daughter to remain in the car.
I walked up quickly and called Mark’s name as I always holler his name before approaching him so not to startle him. I waited until he recognized my voice before I began conversation. Mark pulled another dollar bill from his pocket and asked me what denomination it was. I was concerned that maybe he was buying street drugs. No, that wasn’t it. Here sat another homeless person who had talked my blind brother into giving him all his money to buy a gold pocket watch. He laid out $14.00 which was all that he had. Unless that watch could verbally tell time, what on earth would a blind, gravely disabled man need with a pocket watch?
Good thing I had brought him food, water, and clothing. Mark was shirtless, but had a very heavy coat on. Today, the temperature is supposed to reach 98 degrees. I begged him to take off the coat. He refused saying the coat would be stolen. He was extremely sunburned already. The wounds on his face and around his empty eye sockets were still badly infected from two different beatings several weeks ago when he was robbed. Today, all he had with him was a small blanket. His clothing was disintegrating as he wore the same pair of pants all through the winter and spring. He didn’t have a cane to guide him. He has had 11 different canes this past year.
I sat down next to Mark and, within seconds, it was obvious that he was delusional. He grabbed my hands and slapped them down, hard, on his leg that has a metal rod from crotch to ankle. He held both my hands down with his hands. His hands looked like leather and were cracked and bleeding. Regardless, he continued to hold my hands tightly. His entire body was trembling. He said, “We have to go back and erase each year that has passed since June 21, 1987 (the date of his motorcycle accident). Rewind and erase.”
I was shocked that he still knew that date. Yes, it was Father’s Day, but he still remembered the actual date. He proceeded to say each year backwards to 1987. With each year, he said, “Rewind & Erase!” He shook, violently, until he reached 1987. Then he grabbed and hugged me and said,” Now, don’t you feel better?”
I told him, “Yes, and I hope you do too.” He began to argue with the voices in his head, screaming that the police were implanting and growing people inside of people and controlling them. I tried to calm him and get him to eat the food I had brought him. He would take a bite, chew tiny bites, and then spit it out.
He brought up my twin. Mark doesn’t always comprehend what I tell him, but I continue to tell him the truth. CJ, my twin sister, had gotten bad news about a medical diagnosis. I shared her condition with him. He began yelling at the voices he hears and blaming those voices for all the pain and suffering of those he loves. The intent of his body language was to beat himself up. I hugged him, and once again reminded him that I love him — as I do on every visit. He didn’t want to let go and held on tight for a while. As I was saying goodby, he began crying. He said, “Someone disconnected me from my mother. They’re cutting out pieces of me.”
I slowly walked away, feeling sick to my stomach. If only I could “rewind and erase” all the horrible memories, delusions, pain, and suffering he’s had for the last three decades. Yes, Mark, I would feel better.
Linda adds: Every letter/email I’ve sent out has also been sent to the County Board of Supervisors. I’ve sent out over 1200 emails and my twin, CJ, has sent as many. Each time, we copy agencies and politicians. We’ve saturated them. We’ve sent out thousands of private messages all over the state, and made thousands of posts and comments in over 100 social media groups all over California. CJ authored the petition for AB1971* and we collected 56,000 signatures that went to the full assembly and senate. I’ve made 30 speeches speaking at public meetings. I’ve testified twice at the capitol in support of AB1971.* I’ve gone to the capitol and told my brother's story to support several other bills. There have been 12 news articles and TV interviews. Mark’s story has been published in three national blogs and used at medical conferences. We’ve friended, and are in contact with, several well-known national mental health advocates — Ron Powers, Teresa Pasquini, Leslie Carpenter, Dede Moon Ranahan, and DJ Jaffe to name a few. The Board of Supervisors are ground zero. They are aware of all that we’ve done. They stay silent and do not converse with our family. The next project we are working on is a documentary. I have many, many videos of my visits on the streets with Mark. We will make the videos available to politicians and to the public. They are undeniable. When they are shown, Solano County should hang its head in shame.
Note: Solano County has declared Mark to be competent.
*AB1971. This bill would, until January 1, 2024, expand the definition of “gravely disabled” for these purposes, as implemented in the County of Los Angeles, to also include a condition in which a person, as a result of a mental health disorder, is unable to provide for his or her basic personal needs for medical treatment, if the failure to receive medical treatment, as defined, results in a deteriorating physical condition that a medical professional, in his or her best medical judgment, attests in writing, will more likely than not, lead to death within 6 months, as specified.
See Linda’s story, “I’m Past Anger. I’m in Complete Despair.” June 6, 2019, in the archives.