Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Enter the Two-Headed Black Dog and the Temple Temptress

1987 started with a familiar ritual, going to a car dealer to purchase a new car. In the news during several recent years was praise for Lee Iacocca, then CEO of Chrysler, for bringing the company back from the brink of disaster in 1983. For most of the ‘80’s decade there was praise for the “new Chrysler” and Iacocca became a media icon. Thus I fell for the constant and glorious Chrysler hubbub and I bought a Dodge Omni.
This was my first Chrysler product; it would be my last. We had nothing but headaches with that abominable thing. Like an unsettled volcano it kept overheating and be on the edge of eruption. I had it back to the dealer, Price Dodge along the Route 13 strip, a number of times, but although they swapped out the thermostat a time or two, and ran numerable tests, they couldn’t fix the problem. Anytime we got into slow moving traffic the heat rose beyond the red line as if the car were on the verge of a stroke. Once taking the kids to the shore I had to turn around on New Jersey Route 55 because the traffic was so bad I knew the car would boil over. Had to get on the open highway going back northwest to avoid disaster. That was a long trip wasted. It was a nightmare for the whole time I owned this dog.
The Omni wasn’t the only acting up. Lois’ behavior had become somewhat erratic.
It was not that there was anything which to the casual observer might appear strange. To most people Lois seemed perfectly normal, if a bit distant at times and sick more than usual. But over time unnoticed patterns clearly emerged. She suffered periods of depression, often very deep and dark. Of course, these did tend to be rather noticeable. Many people have depressions, something that Sir Winston Churchill referred to as a visit from the Black Dog, but at that time we didn’t realize this was a Two-Headed Black Dog.
(By the way, Churchill didn’t actually coin the term “Black Dog” as a trope for depression. Its use in that context goes back beyond Roman times.)


Move the colors.
But they stop and go,
Not red or green or yellow.
No, no, they flow where colors never go.
Some darker stolen painted skies
From haunted worlds
And go away and go away
How I wish they’d go away.

But the colors stay
And they have a weight
Because they’re not a shade;
They’re not a ghost, a specter or a Sigh of wispy hues at all.

Move the colors, make then change,
From dark and deep and deeper gray.

Make the colors
Give me back the sky
Of golden rays and lighter blues,
But be careful there if when they lift
That reality I fear within
Doesn’t fling the shattered palette
And blind me to the outside day.

“In the Colors”
By Larry Eugene Meredith
Published “Poetry Vortex”
Dallas Kirk Gantt, editor

She dismissed her bouts of depression as genetic. She claimed her mother suffered them as apparently her father had as well. Some people attributed her dark moods to the loss of our babies, but both the depressions and other patterns preceded these deaths. They began in her childhood. These occurred frequently enough that she discussed the problem with our family doctor and he prescribed an antidepressant. We would eventually learn that this was the wrong thing to do and only exacerbated the problem because what she had was Bipolar Disorder, but no one yet realized this.
Along with continuous attacks of depression, she also had migraines and occasional sleep problems.

She lay like old laundry in a dark room.
Tossed and unfolded upon the nearest rest,
Soaked with the pain and depths of gloom,
Throbbing colors and flashing lights.
Her head bloody split from fore to aft.
Her life all drained and seeped away.

“Don’t bother with the empty skin,
Just let me die, just let me lie.”

They roll on waves without warning,
Tsunamis, crushing currents, these migraines,
Which are assassins of the lowest form
Whose knives tear and stab and maim.
All her willingness to exist at all
Has left her useless, limp and drained.

“I cannot reach you with my love,
I’ve tried, I’m tired and I’ve strained.”

by Larry Eugene Meredith
Published “Poetry Vortex”
Dallas Kirk Gantt, Editor

The depressions and the migraines were certainly a disruption in our lives. But more frightening than these were the paranoia and fears that haunted her so often. She also could not perceive the positive around her. More and more everything became negative. It was robbing her from any joy.
Among her patterns was a compulsion to constantly change our curtains, rugs and wall hangings. Later an even more intrusive desire was repainting our rooms. These habits, if you can call them that, began early. The purchase of pictures began on our honeymoon. It wasn’t anything I saw as unusual. It was just her choice of souvenirs. When we got home she hung her purchases about the rooms. There was one, I believe bought in a shop at Sturbridge Village, that would eventually become a favorite of mine. It was of a young girl holding a rabbit. It was almost a premonition because years later after Laurel was born and became a little girl she reminded me of the girl in the painting.

Her purchases of paintings, curtain and rugs became excessive as decades passed, but I took little note in the early years. After all, I had my own obsessions, such as my growing library of books. I also began collecting coffee cups everywhere we went. These things were not exactly space savers and became a real burden when we moved.
All her years were punctuated by anxieties, panic attacks, delusions and negativity. Another pattern that emerged was her distrust of churches. She could not find a church where she was comfortable; being especially critical of the minister, who along the line always said something that stuck in her crawl. She was also convinced that our fellow parishioners were constantly judging us.

There was something else occurring, but I didn’t catch it right away. It was actually part of entering a manic stage. It was a period where she wasn’t depressed, but quite the opposite. It was nice to see her up, but what she was manic about eventually threatened to ruin us.

“Whether you have bipolar disorder or you know someone with it, you’ll want to be aware of the signs of mania -- the extreme highs that can lead to big risks with money, sex, and even safety.”

There had been periods when we took risks with sex and I thought how great to have a wife who is so open to experimentation. I did not know what I saw as a blessing was part of the curse of Bipolar Disorder. It is a very deceptive disease. Her sexual mania just fed into my own sexual desires and we were fortunate nothing particularly serious resulted from the behavior we indulged in. Of course we never viewed our behavior as being unusual or wrong in those days.
However, when her newest manic episodes finally drew my attention they eventually led to a diagnosis.

As I have stated, although I was beginning to notice certain patterns in her behavior, we still did not know she suffered not just from depression, but from Bipolar Disorder. Meanwhile, life was very busy. With Lois now working evenings into the night, I was cooking many of the meals for myself and the kids as well as looking to the kids needs during those hours between dinner and bedtime. My job was also growing more intense.
I was very happy in my work and part of this enjoyment of work was because it provided variety and it was growing in scope. By the end of 1986 I had developed and presented a plan for
Deposit Services and Data Preparation to include employee involvement in running the units. This was a modification of Quality Circles, a management technique developed in Japan utilizing the theories of Dr. W. Edwards Deming. This method of including employees in management planning was just beginning to pop up in the United States. I had published at Wilmington Trust a book called, Japanese Management Style: Its Relationship to Quality/Productivity Improvement. I had expanded on the idea of Quality Circles in my follow-up book, Tire Teams and Unicycles: Q/P Theory. Now I was working with a vendor out of Atlanta, Rich Toole, to develop a workable team effort acceptable to the management at Wilmington Trust. My title for this project was Action Concept Teams (ACT).
At the same time, I had begun a project on my own, a kind of secret endeavor pirate operation. I was creating a cost system for our divisions. Why a pirate operation, you may ask? It was because since I was a kid I had found it better to employ the “Field of Dreams” philosophy (well before that movie ever existed, I might add). If you build it, they will come or at least come around. If you announce you are building it they may come as well, but to tear it down before you even start. I wasted a lot of time on ideas that everyone else pooh-poohed because “that’s not the way we've always done it”
Lack of cost data was a pet peeve of mine almost from the day I was hired. Much of my presentation in selling a project required financial justification. A project could be cool, it could be sexy, it could be worth having, but it wouldn’t fly with senior management and ever gain their approval without a feasibility study with a good Cost Analysis showing a reasonable return on investment (ROI).
One of my greatest frustrations when I began as project Manager and had to do a Cost Analysis was no cost system existed. I was shocked, shocked, I say! I thought a bank would have its costs nailed down to the penny, nay, down to the mill. But they had no costing, nada. Every analysis I did had to be created out of the dirt, scratched from non-existent data. It was excruciating. No one knew their costs. I did have some knowledge of costing (by gosh I had studied costing at Widener garnering A’s and once upon a time I was Cost Accountant of Olson Brothers, egg-breakers extraordinaire).
I decided to build a cost system.
The growth of the PC, which I had kept pushing in management’s face and hearing the old “that’s not the way we've always done it” chant, now made this effort possible. I choose to build it using M/S Excel.
I immediately ran into a problem. Bank operations did not work the same as the breaker of eggs or a steel tubing manufacturer. The traditional raw-materials come in, get processed and a product dumps on the market just didn’t work. I had to invent a new approach. I found I would have to break every job down to its base elements and I called my system, Activity Based Costing. There would be a real irony in this a half-decade down the road. I, apparently, was ahead of the game.

At the end of 1986, due to the spread of my duties, I was given permission to hire an assistant.
I interviewed several candidates. I finally hired a young woman named Linda.
She certainly came with great credentials, and like me started her higher education majoring in Sociology. She did get her B.A. in the discipline, but she didn’t stop there. She had a M.T.S from Harvard. That is a Master of Theological Studies for the uninitiated in degree shorthand, like I was at the time. She also had a Master of Divinity from the Episcopal Divinity School at Cambridge and was currently working on her Doctorate in Organizational Communications and Psychology at the University of Delaware.
Her work experience was just as impressive. She had taught sociology and community organization at DelTech, been the Rector of St. Paul’s in Camden, Delaware for 7 years and recently been a member of the Mayor’s Task Force on Employment Opportunities for the City of Wilmington.
If anything, I probably should have been intimidated by her background, but it wasn’t her impressive background that led me to hire her. It was we were immediately simpatico. We were a lot alike. We spoke the same language.
Both of us had been through a number of courses where your communication style and personality type were tested. It was taught in the late eighties that you were made up of four general characteristics. You were a Conceptualizer, Analyzer, Activator or Socializer. Actually, you would contain some of each, but one or two would dominate and these would dictate your approach to how you dealt with the world. Linda and I were the perfect team for what we were going to do together. We both scored highest as Conceptualizers, which meant we could sit down and blue sky ideas outside the box and understand where each of us was coming from and going.
My second highest trait was Analyzer and her secondary attribute was Activator. This was great, because we would act as a counterweight to each other. We could both come up with ideas and plan, but her instinct was to immediately go run with the idea, while mine was to dig deeper into how it would work. I slowed down her over enthusiasm that could easily have run amuck, and she sped my getting lose in the weedy details forever and a day. I could keep us on track, she could go out and get the train moving.
We were going to get along closely; perhaps too closely. There was a nasty two-headed black dog attacking at home and a temptation in the making at work, something of a dangerous combination.

1 comment:

WARPed said...

My oldest sister is bipolar.

She and I once took a 7+ hour trip to visit Grandma, and my sister talked the *entire* time...I just nodded my head or murmured, "un-huh" as I drove.