For three days all went well. Then the old familiar pattern of drinking returned. Liza found half-empty whiskey bottles under the bread in the bread box, under the corner of the mattress, tucked behind the cushion of the easy chair, and behind the side rafters in the garage. One night after closing the café, Clyde picked up the large meat knife, ran his fingers over the blade and with a mean gleam in his eyes lunged at her. "You can’t do it!" Liza yelled, and stood her ground. Clyde dropped the knife onto the table and backed out the door. Liza sat on the back step a long while that night, pondering her marriage.
He took most of the money from the café register and spent it in the taverns in the towns surrounding Wellsville, or bought whiskey to bring home. Liza knew how mean the whiskey made him – the few nights they spent together now were nightmares. He was never satiated, she could do no more than acquiesce, but she felt so reviled and dishonored. Liza could see no solution, ‘He can’t keep on living this way, and neither can I.’ She became frantic and confused. ‘I’ll put warfarin in his coffee, a little at a time. Maybe it will make him sick, maybe in time it will kill him…’ Liza took the can off the top shelf and spooned a little poison into his coffee. Clyde took a few sips, and then fell back on the bed, dead drunk. "I’m going mad!" Liza wailed, and pounded her fists against her head.
From page 154 of "Signs Along The Way"...
"Gas lighting" is an insidious ploy used by drug-damaged souls to gain control over those closest to them - by making their target think they've gone crazy. Whether intentional or just an ingrained personality trait of an addict, the relationship damage is severe and lasting. Gaslighters are usually not aware (or don't care) that they are the problem, and Gaslightees are often the caretakers, so they are not accustomed to ask for, or even recognize, that they desperately need help in dealing with their addict.
It took several decades for Grandma Layton to contour draw her way out of that crazy rabbit hole, and she didn't go that journey alone. Her parents tried their best to help, and eventually her children did what they could, going as far as committing their mother to electric shock therapy. Grandma finally took her mental health matters into her own hands, and went to counseling. Her sister Carolyn opened the door to healing when she suggested art classes, and Grandma jumped in with both feet - and, as they say, the rest is Herstory!
Mental health counselors are there and waiting for those who will seek them out. When loved ones are seeing changes in your behavior and personality and begging you to get help - get it. The only way out of that deep dark hole is by asking for assistance, you cannot go it alone, especially if the cause of the destruction is alcohol or drug related.
Elizabeth Layton's drawing is: MY CRACK BABY - A BIT OF TRASH IN THE GUTTER
November 6, 1989
“A dog raises its leg against this street-corner fire hydrant. Part of his puddle trickled down on to the baby. A nerd on the curb relieves himself directly into the baby’s mouth. The baby lies in a gutter strewn with crack paraphernalia, beer cans, whiskey bottles, cigarette stubs, marijuana stubs, and a dead body whose hand has relinquished a blood-covered knife. Passersby on the sidewalk walk over the police’s chalk outline of a dead body, and amidst more guns, liquor bottles and paraphernalia. Not many rainbows here, but on the storefronts are signs - People Who Care, Foster Grandparents, NA, AA, and Drug and Alcohol Treatment Centers.”
The Future is Weightless
So, tomorrow afternoon, I took out My Dietary and on the second page I wrote, and I will continue to write:
Tuesday May 3 - 3:30:12 p.m. Went to Doctor. Weight 191 and 3/4 pounds. He gave me a diet to follow, 800 calories a day. I will start on it at supper and afterwards I’ll take the vitamins he gave me. This is going to be fun.
Wednesday May 4 - 300 calories a.m. I put it down that way, instead of 7:32:45 a.m. because when I’m on a diet, my time is very important. It isn’t past, the future is weightless. There is only an eternal present. And it is counted in calories, not in hours, minutes, and seconds. Instead of 24 hours in a day there are 800 calories. Hours between meals are fatuous and vacuous, there is nothing in them. The day becomes divided into three parts. Only the moments at breakfast, when I can have 300 calories; luncheon when I am allowed only 100 calories; and dinnertime, when I’m done again with Duke Humphrey, and I feast upon, but do not fatten upon, some 400 calories, actually matter.
This is the second day of my diet. Already there is a gnawing in the pit of my stomach. I await the next meal with great anticipation, although I know that the realization will not satisfy me. Even the rehash will not satiate. Just as my breakfast and thinking about it afterwards left me down in the mouth. Can I make it till lunch? I am swallowed up by self-pity.
From page 192 of "Signs Along the Way".
I hear you, Grandma - I can't remember the last time I wasn't worried about calorie intake... and don't EVEN want to think how hard it would be to stick to only 800! My Fitness Pal allows a generous 1220 calories for the whole day, but I can't for the life of me stay under that amount. Keeping track of intake/calories burned is a whole lot easier now than it was when Grandma Layton was dieting, there are all kinds of apps, devices, and of course you can always google how many calories are in that malted milkshake...
It's true, growing old is not for the weak of willpower. Gray streaks in my long locks don't concern me, and I have sadly accepted my sagging and crepe paper-thin skin - even my old-lady elbows and knees. But my lack of self-control and expanding waistline is an issue I have decided to tackle head-on, fearlessly, the same way Grandma Layton responded to society's misconceptions and ignorance of the aging process through her art. Will I draw myself naked on a scale? No. I will simply pull up my Big Girl jogging pants, suck it up, and seriously count calories. Right this minute: Tuesday May 23 - 300 calories p.m.
Rain, Rain, Go Away!
In July, the great flood of 1951 spread over the valleys of the Neosho, the Marias des Cygnes, the Kaw and the Missouri rivers. Nothing was sacred to the boiling waters, leaving only silt and wreckage in its wake. It filled the people with despair and discontent. In Clyde, it left not only these emotions, but also a desperate need for help. He found it in a whiskey bottle...
Excerpt from Signs Along The Way
We had only ten days without rain in the entire month of May, and people are getting a little testy. Critters too - the dogs actually want to go out in the pen, and the chickens are literally cooped-up! I can pop a D vitamin to make me feel a little sunnier, but that doesn't change the depressing atmosphere. But we hear that relief is right around the corner, so we will keep on keeping on...
Grandma Layton suffered from bouts of depression for much of her life - deep despair that could not be brightened by a sunny day or a vitamin dose. Thirteen electroshock treatments didn't work, neither did drug therapy or a divorce from her alcoholic husband.
Signs Along the Way, a biography/memoir about Elizabeth "Grandma" Layton, tells of her journey from discontent to joy. Maybe it will encourage others as well. Carla
P.S. The sun just came out!
3 Clicks to Horrific
Grandma Layton was an insatiable reader and prolific note-writer. Which both helped and hindered our efforts at putting together her biography, "Signs Along the Way" - with literally thousands of slips of papers, backs of envelopes, napkins, old receipts, etc. to go through, it's a miracle we ever finished the book! Many were simply lists of words, or simple phrases she hoped to use in a short story, or perhaps to help develop a character. Other papers were filled to the brim with notable quotes, news of the day, something she had read or wanted to know more about. Say, for instance, she found an especially beautiful flower, nestled in a crevice by the side of a dirt road deep in the heart of Franklin County. And it was pale blue, with little flecks of purple, and touches of white. Grandma would have to know its name, because that's just how she was. The resulting search could possibly take days, even weeks, reading through flower books, magazines, encyclopedias - and probably calling friends and neighbors if necessary. While retyping one of Grandma Layton's short stories, I came across "Henry's Flivver", and thought it was misspelled, because I'd never heard of such a thing. In about ten seconds I discovered that it was a car - one of the first Fords - without leaving my chair... I began to imagine how much time that would have saved Grandma, how much she would have learned on top of everything she already knew, and how intriguing she would find that journey.
I forgot about the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon (yes, I had to look that up). I have found that an innocent internet search can go from pleasant to horrific in as few as three clicks of the mouse. Watching Dressage videos, the Dancing Mare in particular, is one of my favorite computer entertainment pastimes. Well, I wanted to see more. Three clicks later I was into the middle of a rodeo video that I wish I could unsee. After three or four such excursions, I have learned to stay on topic. I'm too old, and have seen enough tragedy and cruelty to know that it exists, and that I can't save or change the entire world, just do my best in my small part of it.
Grandma Layton's life and art work dispels the myths and misconceptions of mental illness and old age, and she did it all the old-fashioned way - without the internet! — Carla
If an inquisitive somebody were to demand a DNA analysis be done on the 3 sisters, he may not be surprised to find those twisted strands are coated with a healthy dose of printer's ink, given our pedigree and the many literary contributions from our maternal ancestors: