Ten Spurs, Volume 6, 2012 Page: 25
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by Stella M. Chdvez
My earliest memory is of my mother on the telephone, crying. As she sobbed, I walked into my
parents' bedroom, opened a drawer in the cherry walnut dresser and pulled out a handkerchief. My
mom says I regularly took her handkerchiefs, sometimes heading straight for the dresser at the sound
of the telephone ringing. I was only three or four years old. I don't think I understood why Mom was
always crying. I just knew she was hurting.
On a cold, cloudy November afternoon in 1975, my parents made their most difficult decision as
parents: to have my 19-year-old sister, Silvia, committed to a state mental hospital. With the help of
their Catholic priest, my dad filled out the necessary paperwork, declaring her a threat to herself and
others. Police officers could then come to the house in Waxahachie, Texas, and take her away.
My oldest brother, Hector, was away at college and my other brother, Xavier, either in school or
hanging out with friends. Silvia was home dressed in a red bathrobe when police arrived and led her
away in handcuffs. My mom said she did not scream. Silvia was in shock.
"I cried," Mom recalls.
Silvia was not a criminal nor had she done anything to warrant an arrest. She just happened to be part
of a small percentage of people who suffer from paranoid schizophrenia. She heard voices and felt
someone was after her.
I don't remember anything about that day. That's probably a good thing.
But there are plenty of other things I do remember about Silvia and her illness, from her numerous
hospitalizations to her battles with the voices in her head. There are moments I wish I didn't
Silvia has always been the quiet, shy girl in the family. She might also have been the smartest. Mom
remembers Silvia getting better grades than me or my siblings. She was disciplined and focused. She
loved reading books and sewing dresses for her Barbie dolls. Her dream was to become a fashion
My mom was 43 when she found out she was pregnant with me. It was, she said, "a surprise." The last
child had been born 13 years before. Silvia was thrilled. She had always wanted a little sister.
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Getschow, George. Ten Spurs, Volume 6, 2012, periodical, 2012; Denton, Texas. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc287871/m1/27/: accessed April 1, 2023), University of North Texas Libraries, UNT Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Frank W. and Sue Mayborn School of Journalism.