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Josh


Near the end of January, 2006, something life-changing happened to Josh.  I was at school late that night, having just returned from a basketball game on the road.  

Sheila called me, saying something strange was going on with Josh.  He had gone to school for basketball practice earlier that day, and was found sleeping outside of the gym.  This was while he should have been inside with the team, practicing.

One of the coaches approached Josh and asked if he was okay.  Josh said he was tired, so the coach told him to take the day off, and get some rest.

I returned home from our game at about 10 o'clock that night.  Josh had already gone to bed.  Then at about three in the morning, I started hearing strange sounds coming from his bedroom, which was right next to mine.  We had moved from the apartment into a proper house a couple of weeks before that, and so we had separate rooms. 

I went to have a look.  Josh was sleep walking.  He would wake up, walk around a bit and quote a few rap songs, and then fall down and go back to sleep.  He did this several times, until we all started to get concerned.  By that time, Jared and Sheila were both up as well.  They should have been able to see that something was seriously wrong, but they seemed more in denial than anything.

Jared started yelling at Josh, telling him to "stop playing".  He ordered Josh to be quiet and go back to sleep.  I told Jared I didn’t think Josh was playing, and that we needed to get him to a doctor.  After trying a few more times to shout Josh into “straightening up”, Jared and Sheila agreed.  We took Josh to Kaiser Permanente Harbor City, to have him checked out.

It was about a twenty-minute drive from our house to the hospital.  We had to carry Josh into the emergency room, as he couldn’t stand for more than a few seconds at a time without help from someone else.  He kept quoting lyrics from different rappers, and then returning to sleep.  At first we thought he was suffering from sleep deprivation.  

Tests showed that it wasn't sleep deprivation, and it wasn't drugs; so we were left to search for a third explanation.  The staff at Kaiser moved Joshua to another hospital for further treatment, but he left after a week.  They wanted to keep him there longer, but once again, Sheila baulked and made what I would think was a bad decision to bring him home before they had located the problem.

Because of Josh's medical crisis, I put my plan to do a trial week with the Jesus Christians in February on hold.  I felt maybe God was telling me to stick around, to be with Josh in his time of need.  But, as usual, I was still double-minded.  Could it also be possible that God was testing me to see if I would leave despite problems at home?  In the end, I figured it was best not to rush such a big decision until I was sure, and so I decided to wait.  This was in February.

I was at school, on lunch break, when I heard the news a few days later.  Josh had swung an axe at John and hit him in the head, before running off.  This was less than a week after he had been released from the hospital, and it was imperative that he keep taking his medication, lest he fall into a relapse.  His meds were still at home when he took off.

When I got home that night, Sheila gave me her version of what had happened.  There were holes in her story, which made me think she was hiding important details.  It just didn’t add up.

She had taken Josh to the park with John, to shoot some hoops.   It would provide him with a needed break in his routine, and serve as a form of recreation.  While playing, Josh and John had become embroiled in a heated exchange over who was better at basketball.  At one point they nearly came to blows.  Sheila intervened and said it was time to leave and go home.

Sheila drove, with Josh in the back, and John in the front passenger seat.  The details got fuzzy after that point, but it seems Josh started saying something disrespectful towards Sheila.  Sheila told Josh to stop, but he persisted anyway.  So Sheila sent John into the backseat, to “get Josh under control”.  That was the biggest hole in her story.  Disrespect for Sheila was a serious misdemeanor in our family, and it was like she had decided to use John to beat Josh into submission.  But she did not want to come right out and say that.

“Getting Josh under control” soon turned into a full-on fight.  John had the upper hand until suddenly Josh jumped out of the car and sprinted into the middle of the road.  John was stunned, unsure of what to do.

Sheila told John to follow Josh, and bring him back to the car.  Josh was still mentally unstable at this point.  Roaming the streets by himself could prove disastrous for himself and others, Sheila said.

John followed Sheila’s orders.  He raced after Josh, determined not to let him get away.  Josh, who really should have been in a mental hospital, felt that he was under attack, and it is not clear in my mind how much he may have actually been under attack.

He led John on a wild goose-chase: around the park, down the block, and into the backyard of one of the neighboring houses.  By this time Josh had run out of places to hide.  Cornered in the yard with no way to escape, he made a stupid decision that would land him in juvenile detention, on his way to a mental hospital.  Josh spotted a large axe lying on the ground.  He picked it up, and swung it at John’s forehead.  “Splat!”  Fortunately, John's skull was not broken, but blood gushed everywhere.

That is when Josh fled the scene. 

John went to nearby St. Mary’s Medical Center, to get stitches placed in his forehead.  And that’s where Sheila’s version of the story ended.  Josh had, according to her, totally imagined that he was under attack.

I was flabbergasted.   It sounded like a scene from a horror movie, way too crazy for our happy little family.  I couldn’t believe that my own siblings were behaving in such a way.  What was happening to us?

As soon as Sheila ended her story, I hit the streets in search of my younger brother.  Our goal was to find him before he harmed someone else, or himself.  He urgently needed medication.

Five minutes into the search, and I ran into one of Josh’s basketball teammates.  He hadn’t seen Josh for days, and had no idea where he might be.  I eventually learned that Josh had been spotted a few hours earlier at the music store outside of Long Beach Poly.  But that too was a dead end.

A few hours later, we received a phone call.  It was the Long Beach Police Department.  They had found Josh.  It seems that Josh had called them to report John, and to have John arrested for assaulting him.  The cops went to where Josh was, to investigate, and Josh confessed to having cracked John in the head with an axe.  No doubt because of his psychological state, the police believed that Josh was the one who needed to be arrested, and not John.  Because Josh, at sixteen, was still a minor, the cops took him to juvenile hall rather than to jail.

We were horrified to hear the news.  Josh, like myself, was a young man with a bright future, destined to graduate from high school with honors and go on to attend a prestigious university.  How on earth had he managed to get himself locked up instead?  And had it all sprung from the fact that he said something "disrespectful" to Sheila?

I met John at the McDonald’s in Long Beach on Pacific Coast Highway the next day.  He told me that Josh had been “trippin’”, and had gone crazy.  John was sporting several stitches in his forehead from where Josh had gashed him with the axe.

It was all a bit surreal for me.  Less than two weeks earlier, Josh had suffered some sort of a mental breakdown, completely out of the blue, and without warning.  Now, just a few days later, he had been in and out of the hospital, attacked John with an axe, and landed himself in juvenile hall.  Was my life turning into some kind of script for an action movie?

I told no one at school about what had happened with Josh.  It was too complicated, and too sensitive.  I decided to keep it to myself.  I did, however, write to the Jesus Christians.  I shared the drama with Jeremy, and explained that I was postponing my previous plans to come out for a trial week.  Jeremy was in Phoenix at the time, with Reinhard, and we had earlier arranged for me to come out via the Greyhound for a visit.  But I had now decided to put that off, as there was too much going on in my life at the time to add another variable to the equation.

In March, our high school basketball team (without my help) won the division four conference championship, and that meant that the spring track season was just around the corner.  Most people had already committed to the college or university of their choice, but I still had not.  Pressure was rising for me in that department. 

Josh was moved out of juvenile hall, and into a youth mental hospital in Watts.  His first day in juve, he started screaming and hollering inside his cell to the point where the authorities had to be called in.  They shifted him to the mental facility the next day.

I would drive after school every day to visit Josh.  He had been diagnosed with a cross between bi-polar disorder, and schizophrenia, which was really neither of the two.  They prescribed lithium, and a few other drugs, as medication.

Josh's behavior inside the hospital was definitely weird.  I tried to read the Bible to him, and he accused me of throwing glass in his eyes.  He refused to eat the hospital food, saying it had been poisoned.  Clearly, something wasn't right.

Sheila and Jared were turning the pressure up to get me to commit to a university.  I had, by now, been offered scholarships to all of their favorites: USC, UCLA, Stanford, and UC Berkeley.  They wanted me to make a choice.  My days of being able to stall were coming to an end.

Track season had also started by this time; I was back in the mix despite my knees not yet being fully recovered.  Compared to my pre-injury expectations, my times were horrible.  I hovered around eleven seconds for the 100 meter dash, whereas the top runners in the state were doing around 10.5 for the same distance.  Still, it was good enough to land me a spot on the 4x100 meter relay team.  I ran first leg.

March buzzed by like a bee, and soon it was April.  In addition to the university pressure, I was now being confronted by another pressure – the senior prom.  The big dance was only a month away and I didn’t have a date.  I had not asked anyone, because I had originally planned to leave high school to join the Jesus Christians in February.  But those plans changed after Josh had his breakdown.  Now I needed to find a date in a hurry.

Josh was released from the hospital in early April.  Sheila, as usual, had pushed to get him out early, filing to be his care-giver, and agreeing to administer the proper medications to him.  She, however, had other plans for Josh upon release, which she did not share with the hospital staff.  She planned to take him off one of his meds, lithium, as an expression of “faith” in God’s miraculous healing power.  I thought it was a bad idea, considering the circumstances.

Josh had, however, recovered fairly well by that point.  And when he was back home with us in Long Beach, he seemed to be returning to his normal self without the lithium.  Sheila appeared to have wrought a miracle once again.  Josh wanted to go back to high school, and play football.  He thought he might have better luck with that, than he did with basketball.

Not long before spring break was to start near the end of April, I went on an official visit to the University of Southern California (USC).  Students considering enrolment there could spend the day and stay overnight on campus, to get a better idea of what life was like at the uni.

I enjoyed my visit.  Jared and Sheila strongly wanted me to enrol there, partly because it was only a thirty minute drive from home.  But there were other reasons, as well.  USC was famous for its alumni job networking.  Now that my chances of going on to play with the NBA weren’t looking so good due to knee injuries, they needed assurance that I would get some other high paying, respectable job in a few years.  

Click here to read Part 12 of Joe's Story
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