Home > Books & Reading, Quotes > Sharp edges of the past

Sharp edges of the past

From Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz:

Penny has painful memories of her mother slipping into delusion, first believing John Kennedy was her lover, then claiming she was being hunted by the FBI. Her mother was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic when Penny was a child. Today Penny’s mother lives on the streets of Seattle where she adamantly refuses help from anyone, including Penny.

Penny once told me that no matter how gingerly she put the puzzle of her past together, she was always cut by the sharp edges: the fact that her mother was stoned while giving birth, the enticing but deceptive delusions presented to her as a child, and the breakup, not only of her mother from her father, but her mother from all reality. When I talk to Penny about driving up to Seattle to meet her mother, she tells me that I wouldn’t enjoy the experience, that her mother will hate me.

“She hates everybody, Don. She thinks people are out to get her. If I call her on the phone in the shelter, she will come to the phone and hang it up. She doesn’t answer my letters. She probably doesn’t even open them.”

“But she was normal at one time, right?” I once asked.

“Yes, she was beautiful and fun. I loved my mom, Don, and I still do. But I hate that her mind has been taken. I hate that I can’t have normal interaction with her.”

Penny is not alone in her sentiments; I felt the same way about my father before he died.

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