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For a short time, I knew a couple who were deemed insane until you knew the full story of their lives. They had raised a couple of twin sons to age 16 and been proud of many achievements of the boys. Good students, good athletes and good citizens, the twins had brought great joy to them until disaster struck. In a swimming adventure, one of the twins was caught up in a current and about to go under when the other twin went to his rescue. Both of them drowned.

The parents and the small community were devastated, and the mother went into a depression and had to be placed in an institution for the insane. The husband tried desperately to console her but was unable to penetrate her withdrawal for almost a year.

By whim and though accident, he happened to buy her large stuffed boy doll. She took the doll tenderly and began a slow journey back to functional sanity. She seemed to achieve this by pretending that the doll was alive. The doll took on a real life to her and became a fan of certain television programs, picked up a fear of airplanes, got into some mischief and generally led the life of a normal child.

The loving husband joined his wife in this pretense, and finally came to accept much of the fantasy himself. The little community where they lived understood and accepted the fantasy as a harmless way of coping with grief, but when the couple moved to Florida, their odd behavior generated rejection and fear from neighbors who did not know their background.

When the husband saw his wife going back to her autism, he wisely came back to where he and his wife were accepted and cherished in the small community.

When life becomes too forlorn and desperate to endure, I suspect that many of us devise harmless coping mechanisms which are often viewed as insanity. Insanity which is hate driven is a threat to society but insanity which is an escape mechanism is mostly harmless. Being able to tell the difference is a struggle for the medical world and the courts.

Some people might contend that I am as mad as King Ludwig, but I prefer to think of myself as only a bit eccentric.

TOBY HIGHTOWER is a retired educator and former Hopkinsville High School teacher. His email address is tobyhigh@frontier.com. Write to him at 222 S. 25th St., Apartment 434, Terre Haute, IN. 47803.

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