Losing Love in the Trilling Season

Oh, the pleasure that awaits tonight. I close up the house early. It is time. I can hear them.

I open my bedroom window a crack. It’s still in the forties here in Rhode Island. I silence the phone. Climb into the ancient four-poster bed and close my eyes.

The show begins as soon as it’s dark. But the real show kicks off at 10:30 p.m.

The music is clear, high-pitched, and stereophonic. A stuttering trill, rising a level in pitch. This one lasts about 10 seconds. Another starts as the first one ebbs.

Pureeeek. Pureeeek. Pureeeek.

A new call rises one level, then another, and then a third final high trill, lasting 30 seconds. Male ego trying to outdo his brother.

The female Gray Tree Frogs answer the male’s mating siren with high-pitched chirps, like they’re sitting at a bar, checking them out. “No, no, no. Chirp, chirp, chirp. Not interested in that guy, all puffed up and showing off like a peacock.” That’s what the chirps mean. “Not interested in mating with you.”

The males are insistent and tenacious, their trills echoing across the New England pond.

I breathe to the trills, trying to shut out what’s going on in the next room.

I must have dozed. It’s 2 a.m. and the outside floodlights are on, lighting up my bedroom — and our neighbors’ bedrooms. I hear the freezer door open and then the angry whir of the blender.

My husband’s manic state and paranoid hallucinations are raging. He has not slept in 20 hours. I hear him drop his iPad on the floor.

I get up from bed, turn off the outside lights, and go to him in the kitchen where he is binge eating foods that are going to exacerbate constipation that goes with the mania and the psych drugs.

“You should go to bed now. Remember our agreement? No activities after dark?’

“I’m fine. Leave me alone. I get up in the middle of the night all the time. “

“But remember what happened last week when you got manic and paranoid like this?”

“You’re the one making me like this. Go to bed and leave me alone.”

I lay down and try to turn off my worrying monkey brain by focusing on my beloved tree frogs.

They start singing and mating the last week of March, without fail. For the last 30 years, late March and April have been my happiest nights. The tiny two-inch tree frogs sing a joyful song of love, rebirth, and possibilities. They are my positivity song right up there with Monty Python’s “Look on the Bright Side of Life.”

When the tree frogs burst on the scene in March I bundle up and sit on the back steps, trying to figure out how many males are calling. I get so lost in the music that I lose count.

Tonight, I’m counting, a tactic to manage my escalating anxiety.

At 3:30 am. my husband is yelling, dishing out ice cream and making drinks for all the people he sees in the house. Then I hear him go out into the garage.

“Please, I’m begging you to stop. Please, let’s get you settled into bed.”

“See what she’s doing to me,” he says to all the imaginary people he sees. He rocks from one foot to the other, wielding a drill as his dyskinetic arms flail around.

“Put the drill away. We can put the new door handles on in the morning.”

“I can do this. Why are they looking at me that way? They’re outside, too. That’s why we need the lights on. I’m telling you; this house is possessed with people trying to get me to do crazy things.”

I take away the drill and go back to bed. Please, God, just a couple of hours of sleep.

My beloved peepers are calling it a night by 4:30. The birds take their place on the pond’s musical stage, chirping happily. A new day. Moist soil. Worms galore.

It’s no use. I get up again and make coffee while he wheels his Rollator around and around the house. Kitchen. Livingroom. Dining room. Bedroom. Bathroom. Back to the kitchen. All the while talking and yelling at the invisible people chasing him.

At 7 a.m. the pond is quiet and still. The rising sun lights up the still-bare treetops with a blazing yellow-orange light.

I email the neurologist. My husband has been awake for 28 hours.

“Give him more Seroquel. It may make him very sleepy, but we need to get the hallucinations under control.”

That was six hours ago. He’s still going.

Julie, who helps us on Wednesdays, is worried. She’s never experienced his stubborn belligerence, only the kind, appreciative version of my husband.

“He’s been in the bathroom for an hour and won’t let me in. Can you go in and check on him? What’s going to happen?”

“Maybe you should bring him to the psych ER,” says the neurologist.

No, a psych visit will result in hospitalization and worse symptoms. There is no cure for this. I give him more meds.

How much longer until he crashes? Urinating himself. Falling. Crying, telling me he wants to die. Begging me not to put him in “a home.”

“I’ll try harder to be better,” he will weep. He will remember nothing of the psychotic episode. This is the pattern.

Oh, my poor dear husband whose trilling seduced me. No peep, peep, peep rejection from me.

I don’t know what else will happen today.

I do know the tree frogs will sing to me again tonight. Their trills will be hopeful, their constancy reassuring.

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Lois Kelly

Lois Kelly

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Writer/artist, co-founder of “Rebels at Work.” Most happy in the wilder-ness of people, ideas and nature.