|Life, Death, Madness - Page 8|
At age 50, Dom lived with his aging mother and had bounced in and out of group homes for 20 years. Years back, with his schizophrenia in remission, he'd developed crippling obsessive-compulsive disorder. He rarely dared to leave the house for fear he'd lose hours obsessively picking up bits of trash in neighbors' yards, risking trespass and scorn. His tormenting compulsion had recently flared up, and his mother had brought him in for inpatient treatment.
During my stint in the psych unit, I heard that Chopin piece often. The fractured etude floated through the hall to remind us—and perhaps Dominick himself—that he was more than his illness. He played, I imagined, to remember his life intact, a youth full of music lessons, school, and friends; a life on track until illness derailed him.
Dom and I would stroll the halls, speaking of local neighborhoods we both knew, his pleasure in music, and his struggle to get through each day. He was achingly polite, thanking me after each encounter, shaking my hand and apologizing for his perceived intrusion. At the same time, he seemed to hunger for conversation, for simple connection. He was one of my favorite patients. I was drawn to his honesty and gentleness, and nourished by the knowledge that a companionable walk up and down the hall might make his day.