Friday, August 18, 2006

Bob comes home -- Part V

In the last chapter of the Bob saga, Bob arrived in Chicago and had his initial assessment at the Haymarket Center. We left him going home with The Curmudgeon on Thursday evening, to resort in the Curmudgeon’s basement, at least until the following Monday.

Bob wasn’t in Betty’s basement. This was good.

He was in my basement instead. This was unacceptable.

He didn’t talk much, at first; we were certain he had to be exhausted from recent events and he in fact retired early on Thursday evening. When he was awake he watched TV. A lot of TV. When he was rested, he asked odd questions at strange times. And he loomed out of nowhere, when he was least expected.

We took him with us Saturday to Middle Son’s game – Middle Son pitched a complete game win in a Summer league playoff game. That was good. Bob was fascinated by a baby bunny that was running in and out of a large section of drainage pipe left laying on the ground. That was unsettling. But most of his questions about the game were perfectly OK – at least they would have been, if, for example, he had just landed from England or some other place where the game is not commonly played.

Then we went to Youngest Son’s all star game. This was a fiasco. I got pressed into service coaching at third because the father who was supposed to be there had an argument with the manager and left the park. This left Long Suffering Spouse to entertain Bob by herself. And the Bluejay Park All Stars lost again, badly.

Bob decided against going with us to Youngest Son’s next game on Sunday. Oldest Son and Middle Son stayed with him – and they all watched TV together.

Bob had two pair of pants with him. One he wore. LSS washed the other for him – and gave him needle and thread so he could repair the torn pockets. He told us the rest of his stuff was in storage with friends at his old apartment building. Each unit had its own storage area, and he was using space belonging to another, presumably rent-paying tenant. He would send for his stuff when he got situated. In fact, a couple of those guys back at the old building were over the road truckers; he might even be able to get one of them to bring him his stuff for free.

Betty stayed in touch from her vacation hideaway. She’d talked to Angel again; she’d asked Angel about Bob’s storage arrangements. Angel, Betty told me, was appalled. “They’re all drug addicts over there,” Angel told Betty. “If they haven’t already sold his stuff, they will soon.”

The kids didn’t know what to make of Uncle Bob. He was polite. A little scary-looking. But clearly sober. Middle Son asked me about it. “Dad, he just says he’s made some bad business decisions; that’s all.” So I told Middle Son about the storage arrangements – he’d heard Bob’s version already; I filled him in on Angel’s perceptions. “When all his stuff turns up missing,” I asked Middle Son, “is that just another bad business decision? Or is something else going on?”

Middle Son didn’t answer the question directly. “Dad,” he said, “Bob told me that it’s very strange in Texas: You can know someone for years and they all of a sudden turn into drug addicts.”

Betty agreed to return from her vacation a day early so she could join us for the Monday trip to Haymarket. LSS put Bob on the train Monday morning; I met Bob in the subway. We walked to my office, where Betty was waiting. I hadn’t warned Bob that Betty was coming. Then we walked together to Haymarket.

We made small talk on the way over; Bob and Betty talked some about Betty’s vacation. Just outside the entrance, though, I pulled Bob aside. Bob, I told him, this is your last chance today. You don’t have to tell me – ever – about what’s happened to you. I don’t need to know. But the person we’re seeing today can help you if you want to be helped. Don’t sugar-coat it. Tell the whole truth. And don’t tell the doctor you’re going to move in with Betty. That’s not been decided. Not by a long shot.

Betty jumped in. I have kids to take care of, she said, and a crazy ex-husband in the basement already. When I extended that invitation to you, that was a long time ago. (Betty told me that she’d made the offer a year ago or more, when Bob first confided in her about his mounting financial problems. Bob just sort of seized on the old offer the night he called Betty and asked to come home.) “Bill wasn’t in the house when I said you could live with us,” Betty told Bob. “And you can’t live with us until I’m certain that you’re alright. And I’m not at all certain.”

Maybe that’s not a conventional pep talk. But we wanted to cut through the mists in his mind.

And it worked. Sort of. Bob was apparently far more candid with the psychologist than he had been with the initial assessor. Among other things, the doctor recommended in-patient alcohol rehabilitation treatment.

This didn’t happen; whether it may happen eventually is not in my control. The intake manager ultimately explained that Bob’s different stories suggested two different levels of care. Haymarket, with its mixed public and charitable funding, has to choose the lower indicated level of care. Otherwise they might be accused of mishandling their funds – and their future funding would be reduced, possibly even jeopardized entirely. I understand why this must be so, and even why it makes sense from a policy standpoint.

But that still left us with Bob, watching cartoons and sleeping in the basement. I needed my basement back, too: Older Daughter was coming to move some of her stuff out (oddly enough, she did find work in Indianapolis) and we needed some place for her boyfriend to stay. So Bob went off to Betty’s – where he wanted to be all along. Watching cartoons and in Betty’s basement.

Betty was supposed to go out of town again, this time to a wedding. Her ex-husband agreed to watch Bob, though, and I thought it was working out. While we worked on Plan B. Whatever that might be.

Betty called me, though, first thing Monday morning.

“We have to get Bob out of here today.”

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