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A Box Full of Letters

Updated on June 19, 2013

To: My "Freebird"

Dearest sis,

It’s late in the night-in fact, it is the early morning and I am still restless and sitting in a ocean of emotions that range from nervous anxiety to life-altering fear. All I can think about is a way to change your mind. The window in front of me is seemingly flicked to a depressing channel of a parking lot being increasingly obstructed by a cold white blanket of snow. It’s as if the world wasn’t “cable ready” and I’m stuck with having to watch only the first ten feet beyond the pane and observe the tide of vehicles that leave with the morning and then come back in the late afternoon. Though I am comfortably cozy, wrapped in the finest of artificial fleece with my legs coiled under me, the lukewarm chocolate-y water is just packing on winter calories; it isn’t helping me cope with the decision that you’ve made.

I took some time to think about our talk on the phone. I’ve reflected on the prospects of your future and couldn’t help but get myself depressed. Discouraged enough to watch the gray and snowy channel outside my window. Concerned enough to where I couldn’t find a joy in flicking a switch and getting lost in the worlds of digital zombie apocalypse, brought to be by an Xbox. There is no way for me to shake this repeating worry about you. I’ve cleaned my room already, the carpet is free of our late night fast food runs and wine party stains from when we used to wreck this place and not have a care in the world. We’ve grown and now we must care since the party ended when we drifted apart. When I had touched off my phone I wanted to take a step back in technology and make a brief text of why your idea was a stupid one, but a mere 150 character limit just won’t do. So I uncoiled myself from my lazy leather throne and perch myself here to write you my concerns.

You told me you were satisfied with sticking around our old hometown. The intention behind that was innocuous and flew past me quick enough for me to not notice. Though the moment I realized what you said, it struck me and flashed fond memories of our history before my eyes as if I was about to collide in traffic. I remembered the long nights of study when you came to me- your big bro’- with your geometry homework and your eyes were welling with tears of frustration and fear. The mountains you would climb just to ace a social studies exam. It wasn’t always so tough though, as you had worked happily on masterpieces in order to win the respect of harshly cruel critics in your high school art class. Do you remember the plaster spires that branched off appendages to form white figures resembling something human? I can, as I can also remember the adornments of blue and golden ribbons as you won the further respects of the good-ole-boy folks in the county fair. Think about it, our little town that lays claim to only a few stoplights and a library full of nothing but old bibles finally saw art beyond “dogs playing poker”. So what happened?

The local grocery store gave you a renewal on your service and awarded you an extra George Washington-baseball-card-per-hour so that you can slave away and count cans another year longer. Perhaps they even gave you extra responsibility, like gathering the shopping carts and getting them stuck in the snow. Maybe they’ll reward with the honor of shoveling this slippery white fuzz for a tip. The idea of working and getting your dues for it is noble. However, I can remember someone different before you opted to wrap herself in an apron and fill up shelves. The apron has your name embroidered on its front, but Larry’s Foodland isn’t stitched onto you.

Whatever happened to Arizona?

Since those hardship years when you kept your nose to the grindstone of a book and had your aspirations of higher learning in the sunny Southwest. I still have the brochures from ASU, the seat of learning you dreamed of attending; they’re still inside our bookshelf. We would even pretend we lived in the sunny Southwest when our 3 month summer dissolved the white mountains of depression from the winter season and we would enjoy the dry hiking trails. Occasionally we would be overcome from heat and we would find a lake to quench our thirsts or enjoy the challenge of catching fish. Arizona is far from us, but there is more for you there. There is no depression channel in the A.Z.

You wanted to attend an institution that would give you the wings to see the world without going against your beliefs and having to go to the corner of Murburry and Simon street to be sent to the armed forces. You wanted to believe in a world that is free from war through art and intellect. When you told me you were frightened about being away from home, all I could fear was you staying here. Our town crafts the finest of values like Jack Vallant, the sheriff everyone knows and calls to jump their car. We have community here as well only doctor in our town that also treats pet injuries. But those days are disappearing and we’re not siblings that run amuck. The local preacher cannot be trusted and the human/animal doctor has retired permanently... in a grave.

Look at me, I am old. You were my greatest surprise when I was 15 and my run as an adult has left me a tree. My roots are settled and I can handle the economic draught this podunk town has coming. You’ve never been a tree, and there is so much that you can still experience. You are your favorite song: A freebird. My condition of over being an overexamined, sad man has transformed me into something that cannot see the snowmen in the window television; I can only find the static of the snowfall and watch the light-up eyes dance behind the flakes of cars coming and going.

It is vital for me to urge you this: get out of town. Make your calls and arrange your living in the sunny Southwest. I can sell my car and make due on my own using the public dole of this podunk town. I screwed up myself by not going when the moment was vital for me. And have you not noticed the dwindling populace of where we live? Who will go to the grocery store and pay your wages when all we have is a shady minister and a sheriff that refuses to jail him? Take the money from my Toyota and build your new nest in the sunny Southwest and be a freebird again.

Oh, Brother! How art thou?

From the offices of Dr. Ronald Swindon, Psychiatrics Supervisor of Riverwalk Clinic of Mental Health.

West Capital, Michigan

January 12, 2013

Dear Mary-Louise,

Your older brother, Bob Cooper, arrived to us during a gloomy and almost shut-down winter a week ago. He had arrived via taxi and explained that he was without a car due to selling it on Craigslist. Enclosed with this letter the check from the money he had acquired selling his vehicle. As his physician it’s not my place to handle financial affairs of my patients, but he was very specific to me that I was to enclose to you not only this letter of his condition but also the funds. I am bending the rules of my hippocratic oath to serve my patients the best way possible to assure positive outcome of their mental health. Return correspondence is recommend to confirm you received both this letter and the funds. That being said, where shall I begin?

Let’s start with your brother’s predicament. He’s not from the city where this facility is located and getting a ride here from Berried Wood to West Capital, Michigan must have been expensive. Needless to say your brother is desperate to get well. He only brought with him the check, his laptop, an Xbox with a few games and some clothes. He has requested that no one in his family is to be informed of his conditions, his progress or otherwise with the exception of you- he was very specific and informed me that it was vital that he keep in contact with you. He is worried that you may act irrationally and attempt to come and try to pick him up and I will tell you as a professional that this is a fragile time and your brother will need to focus on recovery. That being said, he is physically healthy, but undeniably mentally ill.

It might go without saying, but Bob is suffering from a severe and dangerously manic case of clinical depression. Our staff has forbid him from being around sharp objects and chemicals aside from medication. Though he is stable now there was the issue of cuts across his left wrist that had scabbed over, and he explained he had done this to himself after writing a letter to you (if you’ve any information on this attempt for him to take his life, Email me asap). While we are concerned for these wounds, I can say from my experience that the lines cut are lead perpendicular from the wrist, as opposed to the more effective means where the truly suicidal cut parallel to the veins. This is where the old saying “down the road, not across” comes from. He has been prescribed the appropriate antibiotics and is healing. Along with his wrists, there was also the cuts on his right hand that he had gotten after smashing a glass pipe he had used to smoke methamphetamine; we’re treating him for this as well through traditional detox. He has refused any and all psychiatric drugs.

In short, this was a cry for help. He has voiced the concern that he’ll never be a success in life and our guidance counselors have taken to the task of giving him a treatment plan that will hopefully give him new “wings”. I use “wings” in a quote taken from him, as he keeps saying he wants to be a “freebird” and has been heard not only referring to you, his sister, as a “freebird” but also singing the Lynyrd Skynyrd song of the same name- in his room... while crying... very loudly. He has also voiced to us concerns that he fears for you and wants you to move out of the town you’re from and attend college in Arizona. This isn’t my place to recommend what you do with your life, but this is what he is saying. His past experiences, losing his factory job along with his home, and living a life on the public dole has deteriorated his mental health and slipped him into this depression. Let me be the first to to bend my HIPPA policy rules and inform you that this is not a new case and is something seen quite frequently from smaller towns that experience hardships or rough economies.

Bob is an interesting case and I wouldn’t take this much time to write to any family members about a patient if he was not. He is an articulate speaker and a gentleman. He is also very proud and will not allow us to give him any mental health meds, as he would rather be treated through either a faith-based program or one-on-one counseling. Your brother seems to enjoy sitting in the rec room of the facility and draw landscapes of the view outside the window; he insists that you are the better artist. He also seems to have an almost messianic obsession with the music of Lynyrd Skynyrd music; he has told me it reminds him of you and it brings him to tears when he talks about it with his coaches.

And so, despite all the negative, it’s my professional opinion that your brother will recover and be well very soon. He has told me that you should have no reason to worry and should continue to Arizona as planned. He is in good hands, better spirits, and his medicaid will cover 3 months of his stay here. And based on my experience, this is adequate time. I will call or E-mail you, should anything else go wrong or his condition worsens. Regardless, he advises you to not visit him until further notice. He tells me to tell you that he loves you very much and also to “fly away”- whatever that means.

Thank you for your time

Dr. Swindon


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    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 

      5 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      Wow, I don't know what to say except please go to school as planned. It would be best.


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