Today I was busy having a wonderful time getting ready for the holidays - trimming the tree, getting cards out, and in between checking my Facebook account. I've know for awhile that a wonderful friend that I have made through the USA Film Festival has been dealing for years with her brother's mental illness, and she even shared some videos that he sent her that are chilling. Her brother is a diagnosed schizophrenic, but refuses to take his medication. Sandra is a film maker and teaches film at Yale, and she had decided to do a documentary on all of the insanity that has gone on with her brother.
Then a few weeks ago her mother died suddenly, and not only was she dealing with trying to put her mother's affairs in order and plan a memorial -her brother started threatening everyone and the memorial service.
Here in Sandra's own words are her account of what she has had to deal with this holiday season. We HAVE to do something about the mentally ill to not only protect all of the innocent people around them, but to protect them from themselves.
I'm hoping that by sharing Sandra's story with everyone we know somehow we can start the new year with some positive changes.
We have met the enemy -- and he is us. Philosopher Pogo.
In some ways December 21, 2012, was the end of the world as we want it to be. We are a broken society and a broken community. We should be utterly ashamed of ourselves and the way in which we claim to take care of one another. Please pass my story on to as many people as you can, because knowledge is power and an agent for change.
The accidental death of my 71 year-old mother on December 10th has been a shock to her family and friends. But dealing with my mentally ill brother in the wake of her death -- and for that matter every day for the last three years-- has been excruciating and almost impossible. As sad as I am about my mother, I am relieved that she is no longer having to deal with this insidious disease, the havoc it is causing my family and the inevitable pain to my brother. The screwed up "system" is throwing obstacles to care in our way at every turn... and who created that system? We did. We are a society of extremists. From institutionalization and lobotomies to ignoring the problem, even as it sucker punches us in the face, it is more comfortable (and much more expensive, I might add) to blindly cling to the extreme edges. Look at the result of the system that is erring, not on the side of caution, but stupidity. The Colorado movie theater shooter was mentally ill – the family unable to get care after repeated attempts. The Connecticut shooting; the shooter was mentally ill. The same is true for the Clackamas Towne Center shooting. And if I had not had a plan A, B, and C in place for my mother’s Celebration of Life on December 17, the 325 people in attendance could have been just another news headline. I am appalled at our collective grief over these recent shootings when in fact we did nothing to prevent them. I have had no time to mourn my mother because everyday I am fighting a system; trying to protect family and friends from my brother so that they can safely grieve Dolores.
I do believe, statistically, the mentally ill have a greater chance of being a victim than the perpetrator of a crime, so why, then, is this happening? Because it is a progressive disease we let fester too long. I believe that if we had we had a system in place to help these individuals when signs first began instead of having to wait until imminent danger, a lot more people would be alive today. It is easier to say that a person has a right to be mentally ill and it is not our problem. Civil Rights, however, assumes full mental faculties but the cost of that assumption is far more than any society, than any community, than any parent should have to pay. If a person broke his leg and was withering in the streets, he would be taken to the hospital, even against his will. And yet, a broken leg is not life threatening. Why does one have to be a danger to himself or others when it comes to the mentally ill? Perhaps it is so that we can look the other way when this ugly disease emerges.
My mother died from massive brain injuries from falling off a ladder while retrieving Christmas decoration on December 6, 2012. I consulted with psychologists about informing my paranoid schizophrenic brother in the safest and most compassionate manner. He refused to believe that his mother was on life support in the trauma ICU. He thought it was a plot to entrap him since both of my parents had restraining orders against him since March of 2012 for Elder Abuse. There was a proviso in the order that would allow for a supervised visit if both parties agreed. After much consultation with the hospital we came up with a plan where he would be escorted by two male cousins to the hospital. He refused those conditions and provided his own. According to Duanne, judge who signed the order should rip it up and personally escort him to the hospital. He could not be accommodated and our mother died on December 10, 2012 at 9:23pm.
Again, he was notified of the death through family members but would not believe it until he saw the published obituary. When it was published and he saw that the Celebration of Life was to be held on December 17, my birthday, he thought it was a ruse for me to hold a party. Then the threatening emails began from him to me began. Emails that said: “I have played the matrix game of b.s. with my blood sister Sandra Luckow who is the character daughter of Satan and all his demons, fallen angels=aliens. Soon I will say ‘Checkmate,’ bitch.”
“You sure want to go out with a bang… huh?”
“I told you the freight train would smack you and your mind will implode like the twin towers…” “I gave Rita the green light to mow everyone down who got in my way after we researched what lies you told everybody…”
Armed with these statement in writing, I called Project Respond, thinking that since the two shootings I could get him put on a psychiatric hold for 72 hours and protect the 325 people who were expected to attend the Celebration of Life. Although they saw caused to investigate, they called me back after a brief visit with him and said that he did not meet the criteria for involuntary hold and when they questioned him, he said that he had no intention of harming anyone. Besides, he did not have a history of violent behavior – only a tasering in April, a pending eviction from the halfway house he is staying at for harrassment, and an arrest on November 4th for passing a bad check.
I was incensed – this was our chance to be to do the right thing. We did need another Town Center or Sandy Hook when we had every chance to prevent it? The Crisis center just kept repeating, “He does not meet the criteria. Is there anything else we can do for you?” I told them I hoped they would be unable to sleep at night, particularly if anything happened. I considered canceling the memorial, because it was a chance I simply could not take. I had had a belly full of death and “unfortunate” circumstances in the previous week. Then with the help of Tina at the Milwaukie Center, two armed guards were hired for the evening, the event patrolled by the Milwaukie police, and there was at least one person at the ceremony with a license to carry a concealed weapon. Fortunately, it went off without any problems. In retrospect of the Celebration, I have in my head gone over the my conversations with Project Respond and I hear the frustration of their jobs and the limitations placed upon them even through they acted in the most professional and valiant manner. I was chastising the wrong people, which is why I am writing now. We are to blame for the policies we have championed in a short-sighted manner to make our lives seemingly more “pleasant.”
However, the next day, my father AND deceased mother received notice from Clackamas County Courthouse that Duanne was contesting the restraining orders and my parents were expected to show up in 2 days for a hearing. This seemed outrageous. I had been trying to get a court date for 8 months to remove the squatter from his property as the Limited Conservator (which is admittedly complicated because of my brother’s support of the squatter Rita Cagliostro and her eight year-old daughter), and yet he can get one in just two days. It was my understanding that once he was served, which had been in April 2012, he would have 30 days to contest the order. He did not do so. I called the courthouse and tried to explain that there was no way he should be given hearing. The clerk sounded like a monotone recording – either have Maria Dolores and Gerald Luckow to show up in court or the restraining orders could be forfeited.
(As an important aside, and a cautionary tale – My brother elicited the help of a woman who is also mentally ill and thinks herself an expert in the law to file the papers and “represent” him. She is crafty, but very confused and utterly belligerent. In the State of Oregon, if a person, even if invited, stays longer in your home than seven days, they have a claim of residency. The only way to get them to leave is through an eviction process. However in most of these cases, an eviction process cannot be enacted because the “squatter” does not have a contract of which she breached. It is costing me about $10,000 in court fees to get this person removed. She is growing cannabis on the property, but has a license to grow and, again, in the State of Oregon, unlike other states, there are no restrictions in having one’s child exposed to it. These two have filed complaints at every agency that allows them to do so.)
I prepared my father who is suffering from dementia, the loss of his wife of fifty years, and the confusion of losing his son to schizophrenia for the hearing at 10:30 am on December 20, 2012. We arrived at the courthouse with everyone else who had been granted a hearing and there sat my brother and Rita. He had gained quite a bit of weight since I last saw him in March and was somewhat disheveled. He had his briefcase full of the mountain documents that have been produced by courts and lawyers since this ordeal began. He did not acknowledge us verbally, but gave us both a stare that can only be interpreted as hate.
In the courtroom with about 30 other people, the judge roll-called the cases and the parties present. Even though I had told the court of my mother’s passing, they still called out there name and I had to say that she was unable to attend due to her death 10 days previous. It gave me pleasure to see the faces of the judge and clerk go white. There were six cases to be heard, which added to my stress because I needed to take my father to the doctor that was going to give us the results of his extensive memory test to assist me in placing him in appropriate care. We had tried for months to get this appointment. I had no intention allowing the chaos caused by my brother to be the reason for him missing it. Mercifully, the judge thought the Luckow case should be heard by another judge in private and immediately. We changed courtrooms, further confusing and distressing my father.
After the new judge entered the new courtroom, she asked me if I was Maria Dolores. “No, I said, that was my mother who passed away 10 days ago.”
“Oh, I am sorry, she replied, “Then there is no need for this order.”
She asked my father to take a seat in front of the gallery, I asked the judge if I could join him due to his… “No you may not.” She snapped. My father looked lost. She then asked my brother why we were in the courtroom. He said he wanted the restraining order dismissed because I was under investigation by social security. She asked him who was investigation me. Duanne mentioned everyone from the CIA to the FBI, when the judge asked for specific names of investigators, he said, “Rita and I are doing on our own because no one else is doing anything.” She then began to read the charges on the restraining order of mental and verbal abuse of my father. Duanne responded with, “There is no proof. All that is a lie.” The judge continued by asking if he had yelled or swore at my father in the last 180 days.
I was thunderstruck. She was assuming that the restraining order had just been issued and Duanne was within his 30-days from being served to contest. I raised my hand like a schoolgirl and said, “Excuse me, your honor, I think I can clear up something here.” “No you will not; you will keep quiet until it is your turn to speak,” she fired back in her best Judge Judy imitation, “There is a process here, and we are going to follow it.” As I sat back, I saw Duanne and Rita guffaw at her reprimand. I thought, “fine, waste your time, waste my time, confuse my father further, and I am sure the taxpayers will be thrilled.” She bumbled through a series of questions to Duanne trying to make sense of this complicated situation of restraining orders, limited conservatorship of me over Duanne’s property, my mother’s now defunct conservatorship over my father, social security payees, etc. The judge asked him for any documentation he had about my authority to be his limited conservator. He handed the Judge an Order giving me permission to sell his property and ban him from being on said property (where Rita is now squatting). The judge glanced at it and asked my brother, “I see here that the judge’s name is circled in orange ink and there is a notation that reads, “You’re done, bitch! Any idea how who put that there?” A little game of cat and mouse ensued and then my brother said that he could not reveal who had written it even though he knew.
The judge had me take the stand and swore me in. She actually began to look at the restraining order for the first time and realized it was ordered in March of 2012. She said, “I think that I have just answered my own questions.” She dismissed me without having to say a word and then told Duanne that the order was issued in March and served to him in April. He had been entitled to contest the order within 30 days of being served and had not done so. Therefore, it was a mistake on the part of Clackamas County Courthouse to have given him this hearing in the first place. She was sorry for the mistake of the court. She asked Duanne if he had anything to say. He complained about the system and then told the judge, “This system is completely screwed up. And YOU are being watched.”
“Who is watching me? She asked.
“There are two invisible people watching you.”
(At this point, in a low voice, the clerk calls for an armed deputy to enter the courtroom.)
“Who are these invisible people?”
“Who is your creator?”
The deputy enters and takes a seat. The judge points out for the record that she called in a deputy, not to offend anyone, and not because anyone had done anything wrong or even inappropriate, but rather to prevent anything from happening. “We want to keep everyone safe,” she said. Now the court is concerned about safety! In the wake of Clackamas Town Center; in the wake of Sandy Hook; in the wake of what I had to do to hold my mother’s Celebration of Life, TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE.
We were told that Duanne and Rita would be detained while we left the courthouse. I took my father to his doctor’s appointment. Friends with whom I have shared this story suggest I go after the court by reporting this to the District Attorney’s office. I won’t. I need every ounce of energy for jumping through the myriad of hoops of this decrepit system to take care of what is left of my family. We, meaning you and me, our neighbors, our cities, our politicians are allowing mental illness to crush us by tying the hands of first-responders and doctors with procedure and policy because we are scared of reverting to the times of straight jackets and lobotomies. Do we think so little of ourselves? We are the wealthiest nation in the world and yet completely morally bankrupt and cowardly when it comes to dealing with the mentally ill. I wish I could wish you a happy holidays this season. I cannot.