Life With Charlie, Episode 1

in mental-health •  last year 

Before I Met Charlie

Before I met Charlie, I met my would-be husband. We'll call him Jeremy. Jeremy and I met through our pastor, "Don." Pastor Don had recruited me to plan an outdoor concert on the field behind our church. He encouraged me to reach out to Jeremy for help, as he was in the music business and would have plenty of recommendations for the bands and connections to get staging and other things we would need to put on a good show for our community.

Through planning the event together, we became quite close. Jeremy gave me a tour of his studio and we talked for hours. I found myself looking for any lame excuse to call him to 'follow up' on something about the concert.

Side note: I was NOT looking for love in any way, shape, or form when I met Jeremy. Quite the opposite. My engagement to another man had completely imploded and I just didn't think I'd fall in love any time soon. Not only that, but Jeremy is almost two decades older than I am.

Jeremy started to pay me a LOT of attention: bringing me pumpkin bread to church. Bringing me coffee. He invited me to a festival he was working at, along with a couple much younger (high school-ish) gals from the studio. I went along and had a great time. It was fun to see what goes on behind the scenes at a music festival.

The girls and I drove back home together and they proceeded to grill me about Jeremy and my feelings for him, since they'd spotted us hugging during some down time at the show. I thought they were nuts. Didn't he hug everyone? I thought he was just an affectionate kind of guy. I didn't look at him through any kind of "love lens" at all, probably in large part due to the huge age gap. Why would a guy his age be into someone like me (naive, I know).

At some point, he invited me over to his place for dinner. He was going to make fried chicken and mashed potatoes. He was convinced he could do a better job than my mom. Ha! Good luck, buddy. I got to his condo and briefly met Charlie. Charlie was quiet and reserved. He had an odd look about him, like something wasn't quite right. I think it was the way his face formed in something of a perma-smile, but he wasn't actually smiling.

I felt a little uneasy. Jeremy had introduced Charlie as his roommate. Later, when Charlie was in his bedroom, he asked, "Have I told you about Charlie?" The higher pitch of his voice told me he knew pretty well he hadn't told me about Charlie, but I let it slide and merely told him no.

He proceeded to tell me about how Charlie has a very mild form of Schizophrenia. How Charlie's mom had suffered from breast cancer and arranged for Charlie's care before she passed away. She had purchased the condo for him and hired Jeremy on as a live-in care taker. Jeremy made sure Charlie was fed and took his meds every day. He also reminded him to bathe and put on clean clothes.

I thought it was quite noble of Jeremy to do such a thing. I also recognized it as a win-win situation since Jeremy needed a place to live since he had been divorced just a year or so.

There you have it. That is the story behind the story behind many more stories to come. I have lots of stories about my experiences with Charlie. Laugh with me, cry with me, love me, or hate me. My goal is not to be mean or to minimize mental illness in any way, shape, or fashion. In some of the stories you will see how the "system" lets people like Charlie down. Maybe we can come up with ideas of ways to make it better...together.

I'm sure I'll take some side trips as I have other stories that don't involve Charlie. He lived apart from us for nearly a year.

I've been to hell and back and forth be honest, I think I'm still somewhere in between right now. Hopefully sharing these stories will have some therapeutic value to them.

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