“Wyatt”

One of the best-known, and certainly longest-running, series in the history of this blog was my 130 part series of 20th anniversaries of events between deciding to move to the Twin CIties in 1985, and my oldest child’s birth in 1991. The series took (doy) six years to write.

One of the characters that popped up was a roommate I had at the time. I gave him a pseudonym (as I did with a couple of the people that were, er, on the “colorful” side) – “Wyatt“. He had a thing for the ladies, was addicted to pretty much everything to which one could be addicted (and dealt in some of it vocationally), He gave off certain signs of mental illness, although I was pretty bad at noticing that kind of thing back then. Our roomate situation ended one night in 1988, when he shot up the house we rented in what I had ascribed to a cocaine-fueled frenzy.

I’ve neither talked with nor heard from “Wyatt” for over 30 years. I will confess, I googled him about ten years ago, and found from a few news stories – a break-in at a liquor store, a trial and sentence – that showed that his habits were keeping him in just as much trouble as they did when I knew him.

I also knew he had a father – a fairly wealthy man, a former Navy frogman who had done well in, I believe, real estate or insurance or something like that – and a mother. And I knew his family loved him, and spent a lot of money and, I suspect, a lot more effort and emotional energy, trying to get him on the right track – including sending him to treatment in Minnesota, which of course led him across my path in 1987.

And when I became a parent, his story – the whole family’s story, really – terrified me; it was possible, no matter how you loved your children, for the unreasoning, cackling spectre of mental illness and its sidekick, addiction, to take that kid from you no matter what you did and how hard you clung to the hope you could do something about it.

A bit of curious googling over the weekend brought it all back.

“Wyatt” had a real name. And he died in 2010 – ironically, not long after his departure from the series. Tragically, but not in the least bit surprisingly, he died of mixing drugs and booze.

And I’m going to admit – while my “Wyatt” tales in “Twenty Years Ago Today” were true down to the last comma and semicolon, they painted as one-dimensional a picture of him as one might expect someone who, twenty years later, was still kicking himself for letting that kind of dysfunction into his life, and the consequences it brought.

The article – featuring his parents, who have stayed involved in trying to help the mentally ill over the years – brings a human aspect to “Wyatt” – Wyeth – that I wasn’t ready to acknowledge when I wrote the series, over a decade ago.

My very belated condolences to everyone involved.

6 thoughts on ““Wyatt”

  1. One of the larger unreported stories of the past 30 years is how much we’ve reduced the ability of the mentally ill to access help. I blame much of it on the idiot hippie progressives who believe that homelessness is “a lifestyle choice” rather than the result of mental illness, with the tacit support of budget cutting conservatives who’d rather spend less on something with dubious prospects of a “cure”.

    As someone who tends libertarian, I think you ought to let people go to hell in their own way, but for someone who’s mentally ill and can’t make a free and informed choice allowing them to go to hell in this way is just plain cruelty.

  2. Hey, I know that story! Without getting into details because [[cyber stalker]] I’ll tell you that I have a family member that suffered from both those problems until the mental illness part disabled him before the liquor could kill him.

    He lives with us now, and at times…sigh…its a tough row to hoe, let me tell you. But family is forever.

  3. Nerd, i hear what you’re saying, but trust me; you wouldn’t let somebody you mildly disliked go to a government mental facility, much less someone you cared about.

    As bad as the crazy, street sh1tting bum problem has gotten, cutting the budgets of mental hospitals was a kindness.

    And I don’t expect, or want others to pick up the tab for my family’s issues, either; it’s our business to deal with. But I wouldn’t mind some income tax credits to offset some of the expenses, ’cause it’s my damn money in the first place.

    Personally, I like the idea of reservations for free-range mental cases. Fence off a few acres, drop in some tents and deliver food and booze once a day. That would keep them off the streets and be a hell of a lot cheaper than the millions that go to leftist NGO’s.

  4. “Personally, I like the idea of reservations for free-range mental cases [without families to take care of them].

  5. Nerd, i hear what you’re saying, but trust me; you wouldn’t let somebody you mildly disliked go to a government mental facility, much less someone you cared about.

    These days? No. I’ve seen what passes for treatment centers these days when friend’s kid wound up being committed.

    The old days, maybe. I had a someone who might have been a friend who descended into the need to be hospitalized growing up and he wound up in a place for the criminally insane juveniles (nearly knifed his mom to death). No, it wasn’t Hazelden by any stretch of imagination, but at the time nothing was like Hazelden is these days. It was stuck in the 60s cinderblock ethos, but the treatment actually was pretty good according those who would know (my father, the psych prof). He actually benefited quite a bit from the place, becoming, if not normal, at least someone who could function in society. That was one of the places that shut down later, and much of the reason was that the place was stark and Spartan as they spent the money on stuff that mattered, not amenities.

    He lives with us now, and at times…sigh…its a tough row to hoe, let me tell you. But family is forever.

    Now ask how I know about how Hazelden is…

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