There was a time when I didn't know anyone my age who'd died. I didn't know anyone who'd drank themselves to death or put a bullet in their own head. I didn't know anyone who'd been raped or been arrested for anything more troubling than vandalism.
All of that's changed over the last thirty years. I've known a few career alcoholics and suicide victims. I know a couple of women who've been raped. I've known people who've done time for selling drugs, getting into fights in bars and for stealing cars.
Now I know someone who's lost her mind.
I got home during the holidays, if only for less than a day to see my Mother, my sister Susan and her horde of daughters. A childhood friend who lost her father last summer, who may have been in the process of losing her husband for some time, was seeing signs and symbols from God.
I remember in the beginning, as Susan told me the story, I didn't think much of it. I am prone to some pretty odd ideas myself. I have a slightly quirky sense of synergy, where it will feel like I'm noticing something outside the usual -like a number of bicycles on a given day or a certain color. It's all trivial stuff. I've even felt on occasion like things were lining up, like luck, fate, karma or the great spaghetti monster was making things go my way. I pay attention to those occasional flashes of deja vu, but I don't live around any of it.
My friend, however, maybe was. She was seeing more out of the ordinary, connecting things together that didn't make any sense at all. She was taking it all very seriously.
According to my sister, our friend's family had her put in a hospital after she started talking about being followed. She was also using tin foil to block out something from coming through the front door.
While I was home visiting and Susan told me about the strange things going on over at the other house. She told me the only time our friend calmed down was when they talked about when we were all children living on our little block, riding bicycles and getting sunburns by the pool in someones backyard.
That seems so far to have to go to feel safe and sane again.