As weeks passed, you slowly began returning to us in full attention. You became more cognitive and held longer conversations. The doctor said what you needed now is laughter. So we recounted stories from the past, to help you remember the good ol' days.
You grew up at the end of the dirt road, surrounded by cotton and pepper fields. Lawrence said as boys you played "Cowboys and Indians." Your weapons were slingshots. Your horses were get-a-ways, and when hiding in the woods, you covered their mouths with handkerchiefs to keep them from nickering at each other.
In the corn cob wars, Ben, "a little feller at that time," stood in the hay loft of that two-story old red barn. Johnny threw a corn cob and hit poor ol' Ben square between the eyes. Dizzy, he fell and landed in stacked hay rather than the wagon-beaten ground. He sprung his arm and had to keep it in a sling for two weeks.
They said at 8 years old, cowboys would bring wild horses and ponies to you because you knew how to break them. Given your small body, the horses couldn't rub you off against tree shafts or knock you off under the limbs. One horse even reared on its hind legs, purposefully falling back to squash you on the ground. So you threw yourself off, and after the horse squirmed and rolled and caught footing, you leaped "right onto his back, hung on like a wild Comanche" and proceeded to "wear him out with that switch, because you had to show him who's boss."
The Tennessee homes on the countryside were built so the kitchen laid apart from the house, separated by an open hall, to keep the heat out in the summer. That horse shot up onto your neighbor's porch, thundered through that hallway, and the Mrs. stepped out of the kitchen with a bin full of dirty dishwater, screamed, "Oh Lord!" and fell backwards, dumping the water on herself.
Horses would even dip down into ponds to get you off them. But your friends pelt them with rocks. When the horses burst out of the pond, you still rode them, whipping them to show them Man was their boss and they better mind. "James knew how to break horses," they said, laughing. Apparently, by the time you were 12, farmers and ranchers from Georgia to Texas were bringing their horses to you.
Then I heard you chuckle for the first time since you fell into your depression.
As a boy, you aspired to be an architect. But those dreams never were realized because you decided to get married, have children, and choose a minimum wage job at the paper. Little did anyone know, you would become senior editor and later buy that paper. All without a college education. You even gave lectures in journalism classes at Vanderbilt and Lipscomb universities.
The doctor said that you needed to find an artistic expression from your past. Photography? Painting? Drawing? You chose drawing. You drew the horses you loved as a child. And pastures, creeks, and streams, birds and squirrels.
Creating art uses both the emotional and the logical side of the brain. The two sides talk to each other. And that was a problem of yours. Remember? In depression, when the emotional side of the brain gets excited, it flares, heats up, and overpowers logic. This explains why people can explode, commit horrendous acts while irate, and feel remorse once the emotions settle.
But for you, fear clouded your logic. You saw enemies everywhere. Your mind even revisited your past and reinterpreted events, convincing yourself that an enemy pursued you. Fear prevailed and you sought reasons to justify your fear. You said you were just listening to your instincts, your gut feelings. But with the hormonal imbalances, those instincts and gut feelings were undependable.
Paranoia set in. You perceived reality through an alternate state. None of us could convince you otherwise. What's the point in being logical with an illogical mind? You sought to prove us wrong when we argued, to defend your perception of reality.
So we hushed to keep your anxiety levels down.
I prayed with you every night. And you kissed my cheek, something you haven't done since I was a child. And you've been thanking me daily for being here. You said something yesterday that disturbed me. That you didn't want to be a burden on the family. You apologized again today.
But let me ask you, if I was sick and in bed, or if the situation was reverse, would you feel I was a burden? No. Burdensome feelings would be the last thought in your head. You would be worried and concerned about me. So it is with myself and the rest of your loved ones.
Don't give up, Grandpa. Please don't give up. Keep getting out of bed and putting one foot in front of the other. Time will heal. As you once said to me, "The sun will shine again."
Part 4 of 4 coming soon
Make sure to check out The Mason Jar, a coming of age love story from the male perspective by James Russell Lingerfelt. The novel helps readers find healing after severed relationships. The novel would make a great Christmas gift for a loved one.
The Mason Jar movie is scheduled for pre-production in 2015 and will be directed in the same dramatic and romantic tones as The Notebook (2004) and Pride & Prejudice (2005). Follow him on Facebook or Twitter for updates.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Follow James Russell Lingerfelt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jrlingerfelt