Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chapter Eighteen: I run into James Dean, former movie actor, sitting on a bench in the city's theater district

I left the LeGrand Hotel where I had lived around seventeen years among the aging and disabled.  It was a government housing complex which had also become known for the number of chronically mentally ill who had been able to find homes there.  I had to be certified as mentally ill in my fifties since it was too hard for medicaid doctors to diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome which I appeared to have rather than any serious mental illness.  I was far too good a novel writer and playwright I thought to be nuts, although it could be argued that all writers are insane. 
At the time I was in need of being certified I had collapsed and had hardly been able to walk around for months.  I had gone from walking as high as five miles a day to barely being able to walk across the street.  I still had my car, fortunately, as it had not been stolen from me yet. The doctor who first treated me said I had tested positive for mono but not too a high degree.  He had warned me, however, that mono was treacherous and not to overdo, but after a year he lost all patience with my claims that I still was not well and said he would certify me as temporarily disabled one more time in order to qualify for welfare benefits since my job benefits had run out.  But only if I would see a psychiatrist as I should have long since recovered from mono!
No! I had been talking to a number of people who said they had had great difficulty recovering from mono, some of whom were scared to death of it, since they had gotten it a second and even a third time when most doctors thought it was only possible to have it once.  Maybe I had chronic mono, but I could not find any doctor who believed that was possible.
Finally, after still not recovering and needing to be certified more times as disabled, I finally agreed to go to a psychiatrist on the chance that he might certify me as chronically mentally ill so I could qualify for federal disability benefits.  
I had been told I would be in the street pushing a grocery cart if I did not not qualify for help after my last kid graduated from high school.
I thought well, I could tell my life story and I thought I could make a case for mental illness if I had to.  Since I had nearly died in a mental hospital.  That very rarely happened, so I must have been extremely mentally ill.  I had not even realized that mental illness could kill.  
I accepted the fact that I became extremely mentally ill while I was in the psych ward.  In fact, I was so ill, that the doctors let me go home, thinking I needed to go to another kind of hospital if I was going to die on them.  Dying of mental illness was so rare they just were not prepared to care for someone mortally crazy.  My room mate died the second night I was in the psych ward, and that quite upset the staff, but she had cancer, and had transferred to the psych ward to see if she could find someone to talk to.  She seemed to have an idea that psychiatrists offered talking services in the mental wards,  but complained to me all one day that nobody would talk to her, they were all too busy, and she was going to die without the help she needed.
I thought it was reasonable to want to find someone to talk to before you died, about death, you know, how to accept it and so on, and that if they weren't offering these services in hospitals they should have done.
I just was not up to the electric shock therapy they were treating all the mentally ill with in those days. I had already had a bad enough bout of chronic fatigue I thought I was going to die, so I was afraid that electric shock therapy would be the worst possible treatment from someone suffering from it.  Of course most doctors would tell you they didn't believe in CFS, especially in those days, and mental patients were always trying to get out of shock treatments.  Most of them hated it.  So they were just going to go ahead and schedule me for a few anyway, despite my objections.
My parents signed the papers.  They were all set to go, but the very thought of shock treatment threw me into such a severe bout of chronic fatigue it nearly killed me. I had planned my funeral during the last severe bout I had.  What did they expect?
I made a believer out of them.  They scheduled me for release in about ten days, requiring no treatment what so ever, just to make sure I recovered from what happened when they started talking about giving me shock treatment. They acted responsibly. They studied me but covered any possibility of a lawsuit just in case by requiring me to sign a paper I had entered the psych ward voluntarily, which as a matter of fact, could not have been further from the truth.  I figured if they required me to sign such a paper they were confused, too, about what was really wrong with me.  I took pity on them and signed the paper before they changed their minds about letting me go.
So there was no question I had something seriously wrong with me, which could just as well be called chronic mental illness as chronic fatigue syndrome.  There was no known test that could clearly detect what had come to be known as CFS, and psychiatrists had to make educated guesses about who was really mentally ill and who wasn't.
I didn't mind being certified as mentally ill if it would keep me off the streets, homeless, pushing a cart, because I was too weak to work.
I was walking in downtown Phoenix, Arizona thinking about all this when I noticed I had come to the big downtown theater complex.  I could tell it was the theater building by the life size sculptures of dancers placed around the grounds. A man was sitting on one of the outside benches I thought I recognized.  When he called me by my nickname, "Shadow!" I was positive I knew him.
When I got up close I saw that the man was James Dean, still very handsome but about my age, who had died in that awful car crash years ago when he was only 22 and was mourned world wide because he was thought to be at the top of his game as a young actor, sure to have a great career in the movies.
"Shadow, how good to see you!"  He got up and shook my hand vigorously.  "Come over here and sit down.  I have so much to tell you now that you have finally arrived in the hereafter."
Years before, for quite a long time after he died, James Dean had communicated with me, as such spirits often do with talented mediums after enduring a shocking early demise.  They can get through to them when all others have stopped thinking about them. James Dean just wasn't done with people on earth yet.  He needed to keep talking to somebody for a while.  He needed me as much as I needed him.
I told James at the time that I thought I had such an affinity to him because I had been forced to live a shadow life ever since my near death experiences.  I really did not feel I was ever going to be able to live a normal, healthy, vigorous life again.  I would do what I could do, but it was though I was wearing hobbles.  I was so limited.  But of course I was not nearly as limited as he was now.  He was dead.
Not very long before James was killed I had a dream about him, me, and Marlon Brando.  I dreamed that we had some kind of partnership that worked after a fashion, only somebody was under the ice.  So I was not really that surprised when James was killed.  I was writing letters to Marlon Brando at the time, trying to interest him in some of the plays I was writing.  I had written him a leading role in one of my first full length plays, but I had a premonition that I would not be able to communicate with him except in the spirit either.  Too many playwrights and screen writers wanted to reach the great Marlon Brando.  He could not have possibly responded to them all.  There just weren't enough talented actors to go around.
I wrote down the communications I got from James Dean for a number of years, but eventually I threw them away.  I wrote down communications because writing them gave them more substance, for a while anyway.
It had been a long time since I had communicated with James on a regular basis, but one memorable night he had even come in a dream and taken me to a large theater he said was in the hereafter somewhere.  He told me one of his plays was being produced and he wanted me to see it.  I recall sitting and watching it, and thinking it was very complex, very satisfying, and after it was over I remember him bringing me back.
Now here we were meeting in the spirit outside a large theater complex in Phoenix.
"This is like the theater you saw when I brought you to see my play," said James, laughing, reading my mind as spirits are so fond of doing, "but in an alternate universe.  You know that the major players from the theater world are all moving into the hereafter. And some of us have been waiting for you to arrive.  I told you when you got to the hereafter I would be the first one to produce one of your plays, to thank you for all the hours and days and years you spent talking to me when I passed."
I could not help but stare. He said, "Don't you believe me?  What play would you most like me to produce?"
"I don't know," I stuttered.  "Let me think. 'Daughters of the Shadow Men'?"
"'Daughters of the Shadow Men' it will be!" declared James.  "I like that play.  I have studied it.  I think it has great substance."
"I would probably want to go over it again," I said, "to see if I want to change anything if it is to be produced in the hereafter.  You know there are scenes in there of spirits intermingling with the living. I will want to check and see if they are accurate!"
"I know," laughed James. "That play is very modern and up to date for the hereafter audiences.  It reflects how comfortable you are with the dead who you do not think of as dead at all."
"I have not seen my father since I arrived here."
"You have not seen him?" questioned James.  "You are not comfortable seeing him?"
"I don't know how comfortable he is going to be with the way I have written about him.  I don't know if I have gotten him down accurately."
James laughed. "Do you want me to go with you to see your father?  I would be glad to accompany you if it would help.  I would like to tell him I would be honored to produce "Daughters of the Shadow Men."
Tears rolled down my cheeks, "I thought my father was a shadow man.  I don't know if he is reconciled to what I perceived about him."
"In your play you are saying the daughters of shadow men are shadow women.  They can never really come out of the shadows until their fathers can."
"They can't," I said.  "They are almost as crippled as their fathers by the lies and secrets."
"You are now on the big stage," said James.  "You lived your life in the shadows.  That life is over.  Now we are going to help you come out from obscurity into the sunlight. I swore I would do that for you.  But I know how much fear you still have."
"I am afraid my father is in the Camp of the Resisters trying to obliterate himself."
"Well, I don't think you are going to find out where he is," said James, 'unless you have the courage to look for him and face however you find him."
"I think you are right," I said.
I stood up and James moved close to me and gave me a warm hug. "If you need me I will go with you, but if you would rather go alone, I will wait for you to contact me."
"Goodbye, James, for now.  I think I need to go find where he is by myself, when I am ready.  I have dreaded seeing him again.  But I know I must."
James nodded and I walked away slowly.  I looked out toward the sunset.  I thought I could see in the distance what my sister Deanna was always saying she saw in her dreams, our father riding his horse, coming to take people home, into the sunset.  She always saw him as a benevolent figure.  I was looking now for the man on a horse riding into the sunset taking people home.  She knew he would come for her, when she passed.
He had not come for me. He had not known whether I wanted him to come.  Whether I trusted him.  I was looking now for the man on the horse.  I had trusted the man on the horse taking his cattle home.

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