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It is close to my son's 30th birthday. In most ways he is much younger than this, and in even more ways, he is older. Geoffrey is on disability. It sometimes seems as if the entire population of young men in California is receiving SSI or checks from the state, though usually, it seems, the money is for something like, "I, like, tweaked my back at work." In these cases, work amounts to a stint at construction just long enough to qualify for the aid or to build up a payable sum large enough to guarantee that the indignities of such work need not be suffered longer than a minimum percentage of the year. Geoffrey's disability, as some might know, is called schizophrenia, and it is its own full-time but unprofitable job. He has come a long distance in the past three years; a stranger might have an interaction, some kind of exchange with him for quite some time without assuming some mental illness or disorder is at play here. Both of those terms my son disallows and often objects to keenly.

I use the word "often" or "sometimes" or "depending on what day it is" when referring to him because his behavior, attitudes, beliefs, and state of health mentally or physically are anything but consistent. Consistency, I'm learning, is a huge component of what we call sanity. I will say that Geoff has become more consistent over three years rather than less. Some days I can see a time when he will be as eminently consistent, plodding, and predictable as the sanest of us. "Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds," said Emerson. It is also the earmark, by a kind of cracker-barrel consensus, of the sane mind.

When I mention that Geoffrey does not like the terms "illness" or "disorder," it is usually during phases when he thinks of the affliction (another word he would not likely embrace) as "a gift." I encourage him. Why not? A positive outlook of any kind should be preferable, no? And in fact, the same mechanism (or broken mechanism) that seems to disable him so profoundly with an inability to focus or that sparks brief fits of paranoia (more and more a thing of the past) seems also to enable him with flashes of very clear, even brilliant, insight. Geoffrey's job is, essentially, to puzzle out the workings of his own mind, and this often leads him to examine the workings of others'.

He is embroiled in a kind of free-for-all philosophy/theology/psychology course with absolute relevance to his daily life. In fact, he studies like a madman (exactly like it), dipping into volumes on psychocybernetics and brain theory, meditation, The Essential Kabbalah and the Bible, fantasy and science fiction novels with the same democratic enthusiasm for 30 to 40 pages. Then, unsatisfied, or fired again with a new theoretical line of pursuit, he will immerse himself in mathematics, secret societies, numismatics, and often magick. This last is spelled with a k, as he does, to distinguish the subject from parlor illusions (which he also delights in performing, never quite successfully though all the while assuming he has). The stakes in these diversions are high. He pins too much hope on things as diverse and unlikely as the Way of Jedi Masters and the magic of Criss Angel and a dalliance with neurolinguistics.

Recently, we lived together for nine months with some difficulty and ultimate failure on my part when I went back to drinking out of frustration and heartbreak. This beautiful and intelligent kid had truly and forever slipped his moorings. He is irrevocably mad as a hatter. Even down to the ridiculous straw cowboy hat he wears and odd facial hair configurations ("It's kind of a Klingon thing, you like it?). When he meets people, his obesity and disingenuous comments, such as, "Do you believe in mind over matter?" are met with the look he has come to know all too well and usually precedes a comment from myself or his mother such as, "Have you been taking your meds?" He is puzzled and frustrated at this. After all, he has seen professional magicians open their acts with just such a question, why should he be looked at any differently?

He now wants to move in with me again after a year of being on his own, enjoying his autonomy and proving he can manage his bills and the minutiae of daily life. His apartment has now taken on "bad vibes" after some cruelty he experienced at the hands of some friends he had allowed into his home and his life for indefinite periods of time. Friends who would otherwise have been homeless. I don't know if this reunion is possible, as much as I worry about him alone. Until his insight into his condition evolves past denial, I have no idea what can reasonably be expected. When recently he began pacing in circles, his eyes focused off somewhere into the Kabbalah or the world of Star Wars, and he began again, as he did years ago, speaking to his hands, his explanation was, "It had nothing to do with medication. I was just meditating too much and I hadn't been sleeping well." This to him is ironclad truth, based not in reason and so unswayable by reason.

In the meantime, I have no idea what to do. To do nothing for the moment seems best and is also necessary. Geoff at 30, me at 56, the looming possibility of my letting him down so completely again and going off the rails is untenable, but if it can be made to work...? Can a recurring nightmare be averted?

The nightmare: It is 2009 possibly, not too distant a future. It seems I am alive, having survived some hellacious alcoholic relapse, and I am living in an SRO (which could just as easily mean Standing Room Only as anything else) hotel room and sleeping beneath a single unshaded light bulb. I think there is a stuttering neon sign outside. I am drinking cheap vodka. My son is off somewhere: in some state institution until they dump him for insurance reasons or something, and he's probably out there on the streets tonight. I don't think they'd let him into St. Vinnie's; he probably couldn't get it together to show up every morning at 7 to hear if his name was called for a bed. Besides, once they saw how much he really needed a facility like theirs, he would be unofficially disqualified. You have to have some degree of manipulability, and Geoff would be a tough egg there.

No, he's probably on the streets, if he's still alive. Let's see, how long has it been since the eviction? Can't remember exactly but I'll start looking for him tomorrow, first thing. That's for sure. Yeah pretty sure, tomorrow.

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