The night after Dr. Roberts had told me Larry’s plane crashed and he was killed, I sat alone in my room at The Menninger Clinic. I’d spent the afternoon calling Mother and speaking with a colonel in Washington about Memorial Services. In the past, when my family members had died, people came to our house to give their condolences. I was at The Clinic with no family and feeling quite alone.
Earlier in the afternoon another patient, Emily, had stopped by to invite me to travel with her on her space ship, away from the horrible news. She was unusually lucid and understood the gravity of my situation.
I screamed at her that her spaceship wasn’t real. Still, a part of my soul wanted to go away with her, away from the reality of losing Larry.
Shortly after Emily left, Penny, a young mother married to a famous performer knocked on my door and came on in. She held up her new record album by James Taylor, Sweet Baby James. “Tyra, I’m so sorry about Larry. Look, I have a new record album. Come down to the patient lounge, we’re all there. Don’t be alone. Come be with us.”
When I entered the patient lounge almost everyone was there; George, Skylar, Cassandra, almost all of the patients in my “Weller than Well” group. I moved to my appointed chair.
Penny had said, “Come be with us.”
That night, even T, my blonde pigtailed nine- year old self and secret confidant showed up. I saw her, as she sat on the piano bench, her bare feet dangling – invisible to everyone in the room but me.
I felt surrounded by family.
T understood that too. She must have realized this was our time, our time to mourn losing Daddy and Larry, the most important men in our lives. After a conversation heard by just the two of us, T tiptoed across the room unseen by the group and crawled into my lap.
When James Taylor’s Fire and Rain began to play and he sang about sweet dreams and flying machines, George jumped up to take the record off the hi-fi. “Get it off,” he said, “this is not good music.”
That night T looked up into my eyes reminding me of our baby Laura. Daddy is dead. Larry is dead, we both acknowledged. I had never been able to accept my Daddy’s death. At that moment, we crossed a divide into the reality of our losses. It was a recognition and a painful acceptance; pivotal in my recovery.
I will never forget that wonderful group of friends. I think of them often and am grateful for their love and support. They had the courage to reach out to me although they suffered immeasurably with their own demons.
Over the years when people hear my story, several often say, “Tyra, you’re weren’t like those people. You were just depressed.” My response is, “They were my people. I had the credentials to be at The Clinic and they were pivotal in my recovery.” I loved them. I will never forget them.