My mother, Dana Lynne Schahuber slinked into a Waffle House in Southern Missouri one March day, puffy-eyed and forlorn over a breakup with a guy named Tim. Comfort food, that’s what she needed. Clustered in the waiting area was the man who would become my dad. She smiled brilliantly, wiped her eyes, and hooked her arm around his. They shared a meal.
At twenty-two, my father stood nearly six foot and weighed a buck and a half. Considered scrawny from those who didn’t like him; lanky, if someone paid a compliment. An all-around athlete, he had the physique of someone who could run and not look back. He had a college education—the first in his family to go—and a job at the “telephone company.” What’s more, he was single and in the market for a young, beautiful bride. To top things off, he was building his first house, a ranch in a new part of town, with an old farm directly across the street amid the sweet smell of lumber.
Back home, in her family’s white and black one-story on the “good” side of town, my mother stretched out on the living room floor, her sewing machine humming, and her head whirling with ideas of marriage and happily-ever-after as she made lovely things for their life together.
How her mother, father, sister and brother must have rejoiced when Dad slipped a diamond and gold ring on her finger, grateful that someone was going to take her off their hands—this defiant, disturbingly beautiful young woman rife with demons and ghosts, migraines, and sinewy coils of imbalanced brains. How they must inhaled deep, foggy breaths, wedging the black puffs deep into their diaphragm while they waited for the bottom to fall out.
Gorgeous and hugely artistic, my mother’s talents crashed in waves of mania and the tides of depression. Restless and charming at best, manipulative at worst; oh how she could create, folding ideas into action; producing sweeping visions of landscapes on canvas, the perfected tailoring of a professional, and then later, home décor in the form of custom draperies.
The bottom did fall out. My mother’s bipolar disorder, perhaps partly responsible for her creativity, tormented her, trailing behind like a banner until she couldn’t bear it anymore. Her legacy, I believe, is living within each of us in the form of this glittering gem of ingenuity and originality.
Leslie Lindsay is a mother, wife, and writer living in Chicagoland.
Her mother committed suicide in June 2015 after a lengthy battle of bipolar disorder with psychotic features; she was an interior decorator. Leslie is at work on a memoir, aptly titled, MODEL HOME in which she chronicles her childhood with a mentally ill mother. Leslie is an award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012) and reviews books widely, welcoming bestselling and debut authors to her literary blog weekly, www.leslielindsay.com.