General Non-Fiction posted April 23, 2023 Chapters:  ...11 12 -13- 14... 

This work has reached the exceptional level
Tommy just wants to be free to live and love

A chapter in the book Angels Unaware

Free Air

by forestport12

Tommy overcomes a violent past for a path in Texas through the military and a ministry. But when his freedom is taken, he must count on unseen angels to redirect his life.

The Texas sun was hard to avoid with curtainless windows. It bored through my eyelids in the morning and brought me back to the reality of living in a locked ward. With each passing day I was a slug stuck in a dorm-like atmosphere where other crazies had access enough from the same room. They could easily smother me with a pillow while I was medicated and made to sleep. I was living a real life, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." In some ways, it seemed the blinding daybreak saved me.

My life was not my own. The military owned me. I had mistakenly thought our drill instructor in basic training was exaggerating when he said, "You maggots belong to us. You are now citizens of the military with a different set of rules and rights."

With cocktail of drugs in my veins, I continued in a slothful fogginess. I had plenty of self-appointed advisors from the orderlies to the crazy folk. One in particular mentioned I should call a lawyer because I may have threatened President Carter. Someone in the hospital should have warned me that all my ramblings can and would be used against me. Despite the medicine dulling my brain, fear surged inside me. One guy told me I was lucky to be in the mental ward and not the slammer. I should have been grateful.

Honestly those who worked there seemed to care about their job. But I was still careful not to get on anyone's bad side. The days went by like the soap operas on television filled with absurd drama and nothing of consequence. The one bright moment came when word got out at my barracks and friends at church were notified. It took a few days, but soon visitors found me. First, my pastor came and reported back to others that I was a confused young man in need of prayer. Then John Truxal came, the kind of guy whose personality lit up the room. He made sure to let me know he had my back.

My friends, my church family had not forsaken me. They thought it was all a big mistake. They prayed and fought for me. I had an army of believers helping me to fight my battles.

What about Mary? I worried how she would feel. I feared what her father would think of me. But they all showed up. The Blakely family streamed in through that buzzing door. Mary's father, Jimmy, this little leathery redneck man made it clear that he held nothing against me. It was then that I had to hold back a dam of tears, because for the first time I knew what it meant to have a family and friends with unconditional love.

The visitor room was simply a large area where patients mingled with loved ones and visitors. Mary sat down next to me and despite the medication and my often mile-wide stare, she pressed herself against me and wrapped her arm around my bicep. She looked frustrated just like when I wore those aviator sunglasses, and she couldn't see my eyes. They knew it wasn't the real me. Was it the medicine? Was it the psychotic break? Looking back, it was probably both! She desperately wanted to find me, the real person who was lost in his own mind. She loved me. She really loved me, a crazy person.

As the days turned into weeks, I couldn't take the revolving days of breathing the dull air and looking at the white walls and halls. One day on a whim I took an incredible risk. I waited near the locked door, as other less dangerous patients were going out on a day pass. I bolted and shoved one of the girls out of the way. I took to the elevator just before an orderly could grab me. I dodged them all down to the first floor. I ran toward the lobby front door and bolted outside into the free air. I breathed a big sigh too.

I sat down on a concrete circle with a fountain in the middle and scanned my freedom. I let the moment sink deep within. Then an orderly who I often engaged with called out to me and put his hand on my shoulder. "I had to talk them out of calling the MP's. I told them you would be down here. I told them that all you wanted to do was breathe some fresh air."

I had to admit it. He read me like the daily news.

"You ready to come back up with me now, Tommy?"


I didn't know it then, but I do now, that he was like an angel, a messenger who saved me from a far worse consequence. As it turned out, based on his promise to retrieve me, I didn't have go to a padded room or face a longer sentence.

After a few months I got my diagnosis. Borderline Paranoid Schizophrenic. They determined I would receive a medical discharge. It also meant it was an honorable discharge. The catch was, I would be committed to a VA hospital. I chose to go home back to Syracuse New York. They thought that would be a good idea, a comfort zone, and a bridge to getting back out into the world.

Mary wasn't far from my tortured mind. I'd have to admit that I wasn't capable of accepting or giving love as comfortably as she could. Leaving Texas meant that I would be thousands of miles away in another hospital. The way I was raised I had a difficult time accepting and holding on to love which further tested whether we would see each other again.

They called them medivac flights. They doped me up and sent me on this military plane and I would land on some base in another state strapped to a gurney then rolled into a bed. I was so out of it; I could have been in another country and not have known. The next day I was taken back up in the air. Finally, we landed at Rome AFB just outside Syracuse. From there an ambulance took and deposited me to the mental wing of the Syracuse VA hospital. But I was home-free, sort of.

This time I had a private room, but next to my room was someone who I was told had radiation poisoning from exposure while in the military. He could barely put a sentence together and shook uncontrollably. He shuffled around in circles, as his soul wanted to depart. I remember crying out to God in the night, praying to be forgiven for my selfish attitudes and taking my young life for granted.

The next day, another angel was delivered in the form of a VA chaplain. He seemed to understand me before I spoke more than two words across the bow of his office. He was young wiry man with kind blue eyes. "I bet you just want to go home and start a new chapter in your life."

At that time, I didn't not think it possible. I thought leaving the hospital for good was still a fantasy or a dream. I thought for sure they would keep me there indefinitely. I perked up from my chair. "I sure do. I just want to go home for a while."

"And I bet I can reassure the doctors you really are no danger to yourself and others."

"No sir. I'm harmless."

"I think the best medicine might just be your freedom and family. From one Christian to another, I think you have so much to give in this life."

It was like he understood my recent trials. He knew a had some sort of break. I hadn't chosen to have a breakdown. I had a ministry, a girlfriend, and a good job in the military. He was someone who understood me-another angel/messenger who showed up at a crossroad in my life.

Amazingly, the next day I was discharged! This time the doors opened to me through the first-floor hospital lobby where I didn't have to look over my shoulder. I breathed free air! I was no longer locked in a hospital and no longer owned by the military. And I could taste the freedom. But like a paroled person who was used to being told what to do every day, I was a lost in a surreal and strange new world. I walked out under the sunshine and tall buildings where a waiting taxi took me to my father's house in the country.

They doctors insisted I take the prescribed medicine. They warned me that schizophrenia was nothing to trifle with. A few days later, I threw away the medicine. I never went back to the doctors or hospital. I never looked back until I started writing my story. Miracle? The experts will tell you there's no cure, only manageable expectations with medication and clean living.

I reunited with my father but felt almost ashamed that in some ways I failed to make it in the military like he did. I recalled my first night or two, allowing the hypnotic sounds of the trains clickety clack on the railroad tracks behind our house to lull me asleep. One night I dreamed about Mary, my first love, not knowing if I would see her outside my sleep. One night I saw her hanging on to the yellow rose I gave her, doing her best to keep it alive.

I was such a fool. I once told her that if the rose should die our love could not be saved. Just writing this brought tears to my eyes. I hadn't understood how cruel those words were to someone that was in love with me. I learned later that she'd done everything she could to keep that rose alive.

There was a day when the rose died, but our love would survive. I Corinthians 13:7 "Love bears all thing, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

God speed our love...

Within my paperwork from the hospital diagnosis it stated that I exhibited five differing personalities. Many years have come and gone, and then my youngest son who was almost twenty, the same age as me been exhibiting strange behavior. When my wife and I first noticed something wasn't right with his mind was when he sat on the couch and told us, "Sometimes I don't know if I'm dreaming or if what's happening is real." Soon his life would dive into a tailspin, not unlike my own experiences.
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