I need to know where I got it so I can return it
Which one of my family members suffered from depression? Why am I asking you? Because no one in my family ever talks about it or has talked about it to me, and it’s possible, although not probable, they’ve talked about it with you.
I suspect it may have been my paternal grandmother. She was perfect, mind you. Never a more perfect person has walked this earth, the Jesus she so admired included. She cooked, she cleaned, she sang, she loved. She did all of these things even as her own mother couldn’t be bothered after 10 children to come up with a name for her, and so my grandmother was named Arthur by a cousin who at the time of my grandmother’s birth was dating a boy named Arthur. A boy too insignificant for my grandmother’s cousin to marry, but good enough, I suppose to have his 1922 girlfriend’s aunt name a baby after him.
Unless she was being teased in good nature, no one ever called my grandmother this name she hated. She went by her middle name Vernelle, Arthur V if you wanted to watch her roll her eyes with a little smile as she stood near the piano to sing a gospel hymn just for you. And Jesus. You and Jesus.
For sure, Vernelle had a nearly uncontrollable anxiety disorder. She drove her own car to work until she retired and drove her own car to church (my grandfather stayed after services to “count the money”) until Alzheimer’s took over. My grandparents lived on a small Texas island, racially segregated until the 1970s, and I don’t think my grandmother ever drove across the causeway onto the mainland. Not once in the 60 years since they’d moved from the countryside to that island did she dare. My grandfather did all the shopping for the household, both grocery and clothing and, until recently, I figured he was being chivalrous (he loved suits and finding her shoes to match). I see now she and I likely shared the whole big store phobia thing, and he was working it out for her.
My cousins and I all have our hilarious stories about that disorder preventing us from making a move somewhere or another while in her care. We never knew she had any type of condition (except the medical anomaly of perfection) but thinking back on it: once we all started driving, before nightfall, she made us each choose if we were going to spend the night at her house or get on the causeway back to Houston. She couldn’t imagine driving at night and she wouldn’t let us—adult grandchildren with children of our own—do it either. And that time my cousin Ralph and I happened to be visiting at the same time. I was 22 and Ralph was 25, and we were a little bored once Wheel of Fortune ended and here we were on this island with nothing to do and Ralph suggested he and I go bowling.
The panic on my grandmother’s face. She intuitively knew she couldn’t say no to two grown children, but she knew her husband could. She stalled until my grandfather called and casually mentioned how their two grandchildren were planning to leave for the bowling alley (and maybe do some crack and kill a few prosties one never knows) and when she hung up the phone, the woman I have always loved more than life itself looked me straight in the eye. Your grandfather said no.
And who could blame him? Would you want to come home after a day of meetings to your wife, already testy after being named after a random boy only two people had ever met 72 years ago, filing a missing person’s report for two twenty-somethings who were six blocks away sharing a pitcher of root beer and comparing short stories? At 7:00 p.m.
My father, my grandmother’s youngest child, might suffer a little from depression. He and I are most alike of anyone else related to me, and he is very much like his mother: compassionate, worrisome, handing out money to the needy like it replenishes itself. Not wanting too many details about potential horrors that may panic him such as my son’s progress in private viola lessons or my teen daughter having a boyfriend. But my father is such a doer and my grandmother was, too. Errands, cleaning, church activities, school activities—my dad was the president of the PTA at a school his children never attended because that school needed a PTA president—all the things that make me crawl back under my covers every morning. Maybe they are better at fighting it than I am.