Sunday, October 16, 2016

Mending Fences

In my novel Jamie’s Children, Niall Logan’s bipolar disorder disrupts his life and affects the people who love him and want to help him in any way they can. The disease is difficult to diagnose, and in many cases ─ as in Niall’s ─ the patient resists seeking help for numerous reasons.

Niall’s sister Laura has been his best friend as well as his loving older sibling from their earliest years, and she does everything she can for him. As often happens with this disease, though, he lashes out at her and then doesn’t see her for months. When he is finally receiving treatment, she goes to visit him at the clinic where he is finally receiving treatment.

Here’s an excerpt from early in the book:


     She hadn’t seen her brother in months and wasn’t sure what to expect. He smiled when he walked in. She went to him and put her arms around him. He was too thin and he looked pale to her, and she didn’t like the smudgy circles she saw under his eyes.
     “Hey, Roger,” she said, using his middle name. It was their private joke: both had been given their maternal grandparents’ first names as their middle names.
     “How’s it goin’, Ruth?” He stepped back and grinned at her, and she saw in his eyes a glimmer that told her he was there; he’d leveled off.
     They sat together on a sofa. He sighed and relaxed. “This had to happen. I’ve been crazy for way too long.”
     “I should have done more to help you,” she said.
     “Nobody could help me until I acknowledged I was sick.” He took her hand. “You tried plenty. You tried pretty much everything you could.” He smiled wryly. “I didn’t want to hear any of it. I liked being crazy when I was up.”
     “Yes, you did. Mom says that’s the way this disease … what’s the word she uses? … ‘presents’ itself.”
     “Yeah. Mania. It’s beautiful, Laura. The problem is, sooner or later you crash, and you don’t even want to be here anymore.” She saw the haunted look in his eyes.
     “You can smoke if you want.”
     “I would, but lithium makes cigarettes taste like shit.” He gave a short laugh. “I’m told it’s going to take my body a while to adjust to the drug. Not a whole lot of fun.”
     “I’m sure.”
     He ran his fingers through his hair. “Here’s my goal, big sister. I want to come and hear you play Brahms with the Sinfonia. I want to be out of here before that concert.”
      She was touched. “I can’t imagine playing it without you being there.”
    There was an easy, comfortable silence between them. “I’m sorry,” he said finally. “I’m sorry for everything I’ve put you through. Put all the people I love through. I wish it had never happened.”
    “You’re sick, Niall. You didn’t do any of it on purpose, we all know that.”
    “Well, I could have reached out for help sooner.”
    Laura was thoughtful. “You know what I believe?  Things happen when they’re meant to happen.”
   “Well, that’s new.” He looked closely at her. “Sounds like something Dad would say. There’s a little bit of the mystic about him – comes from being part Irish, maybe?”
     Niall’s eyes shone as he added, “He came to see me yesterday. Flew all the way from Milan right in the middle of his run of Aida just to spend a couple of hours with me.”
     “I would expect nothing less from him. I can tell it meant a lot to you, though.”
     “It sure did. Just like it means a lot that you’re here now.” He grinned at her again. “Has it ‘happened’ that a man has come into your life recently?”
     She punched him lightly on the arm, but felt color rise in her face. “Now what makes you ask that?”
     “You look extremely pretty tonight. New dress? New hair style? What?”
     “Both. But I did them for me, not for … anyone else.”
     Now he was teasing. “C’mon, tell. You know you tell me everything. Who is this guy?”
     “It’s just a friendship, Niall. He’s the pianist I’m working with now.” She knew she was blushing.
     “How old is he?” It didn’t surprise her that he would ask. As a teenager, she’d had crushes on older men more than once and thought herself hopelessly in love. Then she went through a period of several years when she swore off men, period. She was too busy perfecting her violin technique to bother with them.
     “Actually, you’ll be very surprised to hear that he’s two years younger than you.”
     “He’s twenty-three? Holy shit. Laura the cradle-robber. I can’t believe it.” He laughed heartily.
     “He’s a lot more mature than you are. In fact, he’s more mature than I am. He’s … well, he’s really something.” She dropped all pretense and warmed to the subject. “His name is Leon Weiss, and he completed his master’s last year at Juilliard. He’s teaching there now and is a fine collaborative pianist.” She took both Niall’s hands.
     “I’m not here to talk about me, Roger. I know I’m not allowed to stay long. Is there anything you need? Anything I can bring you? I’m sure Bonnie and Mom see you whenever they can, but if you need anything at all, or just want to talk, will you call me? It’s really not a bad train ride.”
     He grinned. “I’d like to hear more about Leon the Wise. It’s great you finally have an age-appropriate man in your life, Ruth.” She punched him again, this time on the shoulder.
     “I’d say the lithium is a good thing. You’re acting like the snotty little brother you always were.”
     A nurse approached them and said to Laura, “I’m sorry, Miss Logan. Niall needs to be back in his room in just a few minutes, but I can tell your visit has been good for him. Please come back when you can.”
     She walked away and Laura said, “She seems nice.”
     “She’s okay. A little firm sometimes, but she’s no Nurse Ratched.”
      Laura’s eyebrows went up. “Niall … are things okay here?”
     He laughed again. “Just kidding. This is no ‘Cuckoo’s Nest,’ honey. Good folks run this operation. They really care about us crazies.”
   They stood and embraced. Laura found herself close to tears. She wanted to spend more time with him. “I wish I could stay longer. I should have been here sooner.”
     “Stop it, Laura. You’ve always been my life line. You’ve bailed me out so many times over the past few years. Mom and Bonnie needed to get me in here, and Mom knew just who to call.”
     He hugged her again. “Tell that guy Leon he’d better treat you right.”
     She laughed and wiped her eyes. “I’ll give him the message. I’ll be back this weekend.”
     “I’d like that.” He put his hands on her shoulders and looked at her levelly. “I’m going to be okay, sis. Finally. I’m going to get better.”
    “I know you will,” she replied. She walked away and turned back to wave, leaving a piece of her heart with him. He looked very young and a little lost.
     Be well, Niall. Please, be well.

Jamie's Children is available on Amazon, paperback and e-book. Please visit my website at for links to all my books.

cover by Tristan Flanagan