I went into the waiting room and had a good cry. My wife's sister held me tight and she said, "It's all right. We don't understand, but we love ya and we'll see you through it and it will all be all right. Clay, you're a good person. We don't always agree, but you're a good person."
She had come on my side enough to minister to me. The sisters went back home with the two girls and left me with the boys. The doctor said, "Make your arrangements to care for your family for several weeks, several months, maybe forever because this is a very serious case."
I believe that it really would have been easier to take my wife to her grave than to leave her at that hospital. If that had been the case, I would have had no choice; it would have been a decision that was finally made. But the unknown and the wondering and the whys of reality were very difficult.
I remember thinking this as I sat by myself for a few minutes afterward. The house was quiet and the boys and I got together and had a talk. I remember Derrick and Rodney saying, "Don't worry, Dad, we'll make it. Everything will be all right."
I called the pastor of the church because I knew it would spread throughout the neighborhood very rapidly. I told him what had happened and he said, "I was afraid it would come to this" He made some effort to tell me how he had warned me. I just made the conversation as short as I could, tried not to be rude, and got off the phone.
Catherine's sisters agreed to keep Kam, and Penni, as long as necessary. I am sure that when they finally arrived in Denton it was a chance for the whole family to come by and examine Penni's new foot. They knew about the healing, so I have no doubt that they questioned everything. Whenever the Lord has done something, it will stand up to questioning. If the Lord has moved in my life and I have been healed or delivered or set free of something, I can bear the brunt of the questions because when His glory is manifested, it will stand the test.
The boys and I tried to start putting things together a little bit in order that we could just live. They saw the predicament that I was in and they were very good. I would go over each night to visit Catherine and they would stay home and do dishes and fold laundry. I would come home from work and we would all pitch in and start cleaning and try to keep things as near up to par as we could. I just felt like this was necessary. The Lord was good even in times like this, because I didn't have the physical strength to face people at work or anywhere.
I was a metalsmith and, as I recall, an expert welder. As it happened, I was the only welder around and there was a big project at work that required my skills. For the first several days, they put me back in a welding booth to do some work. It was an opportunity for me to be by myself and hide my face behind the welding helmet and cry inside. God just allowed that as a hideaway for me for a while.
As the word passed through the church, a dish garden came to my house on behalf of Catherine's illness and was left on our steps. The doorbell rang and no one was there when I answered it, just the dish garden. I supposed it came from the ladies of the church. We kept it around for quite a while, or pieces of it, as a reminder to pray for them.
We had a few friends that kept calling. Of course, Bobby and Peggy came over each day to check on me and she pitched in and helped prepare food and so forth. But I was numb, I couldn't pray, I couldn't read my Bible. There was just a numbness inside. There's no other way to explain it. I just kept going step by step. I tried not to ask "why?", I tried not to ask "when?", I just tried to keep the things that I had to do, done, and somehow or another I would sleep. It was almost like I would turn everything off and I'd finally go to bed and sleep.
The only thing I could do was watch the 700 Club. They called me and said brother Pat wanted to see me. He pulled me into an office and we sat and talked for about forty minutes and cried together and prayed together. He gave me a ray of confidence, of hope, and said, "God will not allow these things to end up in this situation, He's a Deliverer."
Though I was still numb inside, I kept hearing this from a man who I respected. "God is a Deliverer and He will not allow things to remain in this state." Pat was a very precious friend.
On the 700 Club each night, if I had not called in to give a report, Pat would ask, "By the way, have any of you counselors heard from the brother whose wife is in the psychiatric hospital?" If there was no report he'd say, Brother, if you're listening, give us a call. We want to know how she's doing." So I would call and he would read it back over the air. This was encouraging. He said, "I want you people to fast and pray for this sister."
I remember one night Pat came on strong against pastors who were mistreating their people who were filled with the Holy Spirit and believed in the Full Gospel. He poured it out heavy-real heavy. By realizing that there were some people on my side, it didn't change me within, but it gave me a ray of hope. I continued to just hold on.
I would go over to the hospital to visit Catherine and, of course, they wouldn't let me in to see her. The first few trips I could hardly find anyone who knew she was there. I would go over and tell them I was there to see Catherine Parker and they would say, "Who?" I'd say "Susan Catherine Parker." So the lady would go back and say, "Yeah, she's here." And I'd say, "Well, may I see her?" And she'd say, "No, you can't see her. She still in solitary."
"What's the report?" I would ask.
"Well, no change," would be her response.
I finally had a session with the caseworker that, I suppose, was the psychologist. He took down a history of the troubles that we'd had in our marriage, and the troubles Catherine had had as she was being raised as a child, and what might have brought this on. He asked me an awful lot of questions. I didn't get a chance to ask him any.
Finally I had a talk with the doctor who happened to be a very devout Methodist Christian. He had some understanding and I felt more at ease in his presence. He said to me,
"Except for what God can do, make your plans for your wife never to recover because it's one of the most serious cases I have ever seen that has come on without a history. Many times there will be a history and you will see it come and go, but there's no history of this in her family, no history of it in her life."
I said, "How long?" He would give me no estimate of how long she would be confined.
She was not in a coma, but she was totally unaware of reality; all of her talking was disconnected from reality. They had asked me for pictures of the family, so I took pictures of our kids. They did what passed for a brain scan in those days and they showed her those pictures among other pictures that they had. There was no reaction, no change, when she saw a picture of her own children. I found out later that she saw no difference between pictures of her own children and those of a stranger.
One night while I was there, a little nurse who heard me ask about Catherine asked, "Are you Mr. Parker? Come with me."
She called me back to her desk and she started telling me, "There is something different about your wife. I'm not supposed to tell you this, but I just have a feeling that she's going to be all right."
Whenever I would come there for a visit, she would always meet me, call me back, and give me a little briefing. All of this took place over a few nights, but it seemed like months.
One night sometime during the first week, I came back home from the hospital, laid across the bed, and cried out, "Lord, why?" I cried--not with tears, but with a total spiritual effort and said, "Lord-help me!" He heard my cry and spoke to me and gave me a clue as to when she would come out of this "coma" or whatever it was that she was in. And then He told me when she would come out of the hospital. It was so clear that I got up, turned the light on, and marked it on my calendar. As I recall, I marked a Tuesday.
The next time I went over, they said, "Your wife came to today; she called for some help and said she wanted to know where she was."
Catherine realized what was taking place around her. She related to me later that when she came to, it was like she had been asleep and woke up. Although she had been in the same little room now for five or six days, she said she did not recognize her surroundings. She thought she had been kidnapped and that I didn't know where she was.
The nurse said, "She knows where she is, she's answering questions,"
I said, "May I see her?" The doctor told me I could see her tomorrow.
Well tomorrow was her birthday, the very day the Lord said she would come back.
I asked if I could bring the boys.
On December 10, 1968, we went by the supermarket and got her a little cake and some cards. They gave us a room where we met and she just seemed to be so much herself. I thought, "Well, praise God, it's all over."
We talked and had a real good visit.
The next day I went back to see her knowing everything was going to be all right, but she did not remember our visit the day before. It went on this way for quite a while. I could see her, but she wouldn't remember my being there the day before. All she would know was just me at the time I was there.
In the middle of all of this, there was a flu epidemic taking place. First Rodney, then Derrick, and then I, came down with the flu. We had to call for some help, so my sisters came up and helped us a bit, and they went over to see Catherine. I look back now and see that the Lord was exposing so many people to what was taking place.
After the Lord told me when Catherine was going to get out of the hospital, it brought hope. but then I would go back day after day and see that she didn't remember, it brought discouragement, again. I don't remember if I said, "Lord, but You promised!"
There didn't seem to be enough improvement.
It was getting close to Christmas. Holiday cheer and our present situation seemed mutually exclusive. I couldn't think about Christmas trees, presents or anything like that. I was having enough trouble just getting Rod and myself to school on time.
One morning I just felt terrible. I couldn't think straight and I was an hour late to school. I think I should have stayed home because at the end of the day I was sick as a dog. I kept the nasty Hong Kong flu for two weeks and missed a lot of school days. My brother came down with it also, and poor Dad had his hands full. I remember one night after work around bedtime, he lost his temper over something simple and used words I had never heard him use before or since. It shocked both Rod and me. Dad apologized and we said our good nights. I could have sworn I heard him crying in his bedroom.
As the days went by, and Christmas was just a couple of days away, our Aunt Hazel, who had been nursing us through our sick days, left before she came down with the flu herself. We boys managed to put up a tree, hang a few decorations on it, including some very old antique glass balls.
Dad and I made a wooden model of the Apollo Eight Command Module and I hung it from a string that was tied to the top of the tree across the high peaked ceiling of our living room to the top of a closet where I had placed a globe of the moon. Each day as the mission got closer to the moon I moved the model to mark the occasion.
Christmas Eve came and my Mom was allowed a visit home. I am not sure she knew where she was, but we tried to make the best of it. I like to think it was a new beginning, for the Parker Family. I held on to that hope while I listened to Astronauts Landers, Lovell and Borman read from the book of Genesis.
"In the Beginning, God created the heaven and the earth...."
I said, "Lord, send her home in her right mind and I will do whatever I have to do to make sure this never happens again."
I guess I had been somewhat of a chauvinist as a husband "this is your job" and "that is mine" and so forth. I didn't think I was too hard-nosed about it but....
I needed to receive mercy. In order to receive mercy, I had to give it. I had to learn mercy, compassion, sympathy, patience and many other things.
The doctor had talked to me about what they were doing for her and then told me about other treatments they do for mental patients. He said, "We don't know how to effectively treat mental patients yet, we're just doing some ball-park guessing as to what we can do. We're going to try some shock treatments both electrical shock and insulin shock."
One day I went over there to visit and she came out with all of her get-well cards in her hand and she told me some things that had happened to her while she had been in the hospital a few days before. I saw that she had moved into a new state, that she was starting to stack up one day on top of the other. When that happened, they allowed her to come home.
I brought her home for a few hours one Sunday and when I did, it was like she had never been there before, because on the way over she kept saying, "What's the name of our street? What does our house look like?" and asking questions. As as soon as she saw our house, it snapped back into her memory again.
On one of the visits she said, "Let's get in the car and drive around to all of our friends' homes so I can see their houses and that way I can remember what they look like." We had a picture album of our church, so we sat down and she would read and look and say, "Oh, I remember, I know them!"
Once when I went over to visit her in the hospital, she and her roommate (who was about in the same state) were laughing and they said, "You know we can't even remember our children's names?" I took her pictures of the kids, and went over each one's name, and how old they were.
I showed her pictures of her sisters and told her who they were and which get-well cards were from which sister. The shock treatments would destroy her memory. It had to be fed back in. It's like a computer where someone has pushed the delete button and then you've got to put all the software back in. I believed we could do it together.
The doctor was encouraged and said to me one day, "She is responding 100% more than we expected, to these treatments, so you're going to be able to take her home."
He gave me a date. I don't recall if he said "a week from Saturday" or "next Saturday." I felt like she was ready to come home. Of course, I was anxious and I could see that she needed me and I needed her and the boys needed her. I felt like if we could just get back together again, that everything would be all right.
The day came when I was to go pick her up. I made some quick preparation and went over there to find that no one knew that she was supposed to be discharged from the hospital. The doctor had signed no papers, left no word, and he was out of town until late the following Monday night. This was the first time they had really let me down on things they had promised. I was so despondent. They wouldn't even let me see her that night. I came back home and had a tough weekend.
Early Tuesday morning I called and said, "Dr. Pyle, you promised me I could bring my wife home this past Saturday and I went over and..."
"No, no, I didn't...."
He gave me a date that was for the next Saturday.
"No, you told me last Saturday." I was getting a bit frustrated.
"No, it's next Saturday. Let me pull her chart."
He went and got her chart and said, "you're right...I did tell you last Saturday. I am so sorry. Why don't you come get her today?"
I was at work and as soon as he said that, I hung up the phone, went and told my boss, got off and headed home. I started straightening up the house a little bit and looked and realized that I hadn't turned my calendar. When I did, I noticed it was a Tuesday and there was a big red circle around today's date! So I knew that God was the Deliverer and He was working it out.
I got everything ready and went over after her. The traffic was heavy and I stopped at a stoplight. I looked over at the Bible lying on the seat and read Mark 19:2 where it says "Now go and tell your friends what great and mighty things the Lord hath done for you."
God is a Deliverer. When I look back and see all the things that we went through and then remember the moment when I looked at the calendar and saw the mark around the day, I knew Who was in charge and that He had made available to us the strength to go through the trials. And I know when He said, "Go and tell your friends what great and mighty things the Lord hath done for you." that he was talking to me.
It was good to have Mom, and soon after, my sisters back home. But it wouldn't be easy.
I spent many hours trying to figure it all out. I take that back. I have spent years trying to figure it all out. I believe that the loss of two parents, a bunch of stressful life changing moves and then this wonderful, inexplicable miracle and its aftermath was just too much for the mortal mind. But all is well that ends well isn't it?
That's it. Story Concluded. Why have I felt the need to write about these things? I don't know. Maybe I have thought about my own mortality a bit more after losing two close friends. And when one thinks about one's mortality, then memories come flooding back.
Or, like my Dad, it is just Mark 19:2 talking to me.