Friday, August 18, 2006

Bob comes home -- Part VI

We have come, at long last, to the end of the story of Bob’s homecoming, a story that began, innocently enough, with this entry. At the end of our most recent installment, Bob had finally made it to Betty’s basement. And Betty wanted Bob out.

Was Bob on a waiting list or not? And was Bob supposed to begin out-patient services or not? Betty made one more stab at Haymarket, this time at the Schaumburg location; I’d talked with the gentleman there on Thursday, a week to the day after Bob’s arrival. But he wasn’t in on the next day and neither was his downtown counterpart, the gray-haired lady with whom I’d first spoken the day Bob came to town.

Betty called me from Schaumburg; she put the counselor there on the phone. “You’re all riled up,” he told me, “and Betty’s all riled up. You want Bob to get all these services. But what is Bob doing?”

Bob was in Betty’s basement, Nirvana North so far as he was concerned. Watching TV.

And so a new plan was formed: We would find Bob a place to live; we’d get him some leads on jobs if we could; we had some leads on services from Haymarket. And then we’d let Bob go.

Bob could respond to this in one of two ways: He could fall of the wagon – in which case he’d be eligible for immediate treatment – in which case he would get help finding a job and work and maybe rebuild his life – or he could stay on the wagon and find a job and work and rebuild his life. That’s a win-win in anyone’s book.

I’d been talking to my friend Steve right along about Bob; when Sam’s problems flared up, as they did from time to time, Steve would call me. I hope I’ve been a good listener. Steve mentioned that another of his brothers, George, had a construction business; that the business was going well just now and that George might have need of a laborer for a new project. He offered to call. “Make full disclosure,” I pleaded – and Steve promised he would.

Steve called back a short time later: George was interested. Steve told me that George didn’t think Bob would last long – once he got money in his pocket again he’d probably give in to his inner demons – but he’d be willing to take the help for as long as it lasted. I took George’s number; I promised that Bob would call.

Then I got Bob a room. I won’t say where. Too much information might compromise Bob’s privacy – and he doesn’t need that. Suffice it to say that it’s not a bad place. I don’t travel much, but I’ve stayed in worse rooms. And it’s conveniently located; Betty and I can both get there without too much trouble. Public transportation is readily available. And I could afford the first week’s rent.

The morning that Bob’s room was confirmed I was with Middle Son at an immediate care center. Middle Son was not ill; he needed a sports physical for school. The lady behind the counter wanted to know if Middle Son had been there before. Sure, I told her, but probably not for some time – he probably wasn’t in the computer. So the lady pulled out a stack of paper... and then a funny look came across her face. “How old are you?” she asked Middle Son.

“18,” he said.

“Well, then you get to fill in all these papers. Here’s the history form, the registration form, the consent to treatment form, our privacy disclosure....” She piled the papers on Middle Son as she talked and his eyes grew wider and wider. He was the proverbial deer in the headlights. “Here’s a pen,” she said. “Welcome to adulthood.”

“I’ll be back,” I said.

A short time later, I was on the phone to Betty, advising that we’d not only got Bob a room, we’d got Bob a job too. She was thrilled. She put Bob on the phone.

“OK,” he said. He was not thrilled. And I wished I could have compared the look on his face at that moment with the look I’d just seen on Middle Son’s face when he was handed all those forms.

Later that afternoon, Betty brought Bob to the place where we’d rented the room. In the meantime I’d bought Bob a new cell phone, one of those pay-as-you-go models; I put a couple of hours on the phone to start him off. I told him it was a “housewarming gift.” But he was no longer even pretending to be polite. He was furious. Passive, still, but furious. I could feel it coming off him in waves as he produced his Texas ID for the desk clerk.

Don’t expect gratitude, Steve warned me. And I didn’t get any. But I think Bob was mollified, a little, by the price and quality of the room. He even called about the job. He grumbled that he could have had his pick of these sorts of jobs in Texas. We didn’t ask why he didn’t take any of them. The lying and deception and attempts at manipulation are all part of Bob’s condition. So is the misplaced anger. The most important thing is he’s shown up for the labor job two days in a row. And he’s applied for a night job, too, because there won’t be work every day for him with Steve’s brother.

It’s not over, of course. Bob is not “cured.” He’s mad. He’s angry at Betty. He’s angry at me for blowing him out of Betty’s basement. I tried to explain. “Bob,” I told him, “It’s not right for a 45 year old man to live in his sister’s basement.” “I like basements,” he replied, foreclosing further discussion along these lines.

And the mind is still cloudy. Before we left Bob’s room that first day, Betty and I both asked if he was fixed for funds. I’d hit up the ATM in anticipation of giving him a little ‘tide me over’ money. But he was fine, he said. Next day, he called and asked me to bring $20.

But Bob’s home now. He has a chance. If he stays sober because he wants to, because it’s easier for him to do now that he’s changed his surroundings, so much the better. If he stays sober because he doesn’t want to give Betty and me the satisfaction of being right about what he’s been doing lo these past many years, that’s fine too. If he stumbles – and he may – we now know where to get him help. And maybe some of our experience will be relevant for you, too.

We’ll let Bob leave center stage now. He and Betty will probably be back, but it’s time to let the spotlight move on.

But if you’re the praying sort, say a prayer for Bob. And Sam. And my colleague’s brother. And my neighbor’s brother. And for my other colleague’s late son. And for all the other men and women who still need to come home.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My father is an alcoholic. You and yours will be in my prayers.