Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Out of the hospital, into my brothers care.

This is from the early parts of my journal that I was reading to refresh my memory as I prepare a response to Larry.

January 8, 2002- I am released from the hospital to my brother. The hospital records indicate that I was to be released to a rehabilitation facility but because I had no insurance and no arrangements could be made for a scholarship bed, my brother was the only one found who would accept me. It says that my brother agreed to pick me up and take me to St. Louis where he would continue to observe me and to arrange for me to be entered into a rehabilitation program. We had talked of this possibility and I told him “Larry, you can’t afford to take me on”. He reassured me that he was making good money and it would be no problem. I told him I had contacted Salvation Army and others to get a place to stay while I went to rehab.

1/8/02- Larry picks me up from Oklahoma medical center. I don’t understand him. He buys a 12 pack of beer for the drive to St Louis which makes me nervous. I ask him to take me to the junk yard where my car is at and he tells me he doesn’t have time or room. I try to explain that everything I valued was in the car, ranging from clothes, tools, but mostly personal things that cannot be replaced such as pictures and my records like birth certificates. It is to no avail as he drives on expressing his frustration in many little ways. He brings up the ivory chess set that my dad had given me, which was also in the car. He tells me it was supposed to go to him and that dad had no right to give it to me. He asks me to look for signs along the highway and gets mad when I explain that my glasses were apparently lost or broken in the wreck and without them I cannot read the highway signs or even the biggest billboards. I am confused yet grateful to be out of the hospital. I have much fear not knowing what will become of me and still trying to understand what had happened to my life. There were enough bits and pieces of memory to leave me with a bleak view of that recent past. I ruminated on these thoughts as I looked out the window at the blurry unfocused images sweeping past me on this journey into the an uncertain, equally unfocused future.

When we arrive in St. Louis he places me in the cheapest hotel he could find. It smelled of vomit and was constantly used by prostitutes and drug dealers. The police would make 3 to 5 arrests a week out of there. Larry would give me $20.00 a week to eat on and then would get livid when I would run out in 4 days. I wanted to find work because I like to carry my own weight and wasn’t comfortable being a burden to my brother. He also encouraged me to find work and then discovered that he had to pay extra for me to use the hotel phone to call for jobs. This also upset him.

The fact that at this time my voice was so blurred that few people could even understand me on the phone did not faze him. He just told me I would have to learn to talk better. His attitude seemed to be that I would just get better in a short period of time. He was insistent that I needed a haircut because he did not like long hair. That was fine with me because I did not have the strength to lift my arm high enough to comb my hair. I just had the barber cut it all down to about 1/8 of an inch so I would not have to comb it.

On occasion Larry would take me out to eat which I greatly appreciated. Then he brought over his Hibachi grill and went to the grocery store to get food so I could eat within his budget. I found it to be a great pleasure to cook my food. This had always been one of my pastimes and I used to enjoy cooking for my family and friends. He would sometimes pick me up and have me work at his job sites to “help pay my way”. I enjoyed just going anywhere but my lack of strength and confusion were a constant source of irritation for him, which he never hesitated to express. Because the cost of the hotel was around $200.00 a week I convinced him we should find cheaper accommodations for me. He promised me, in response to my worries, that he would take care of me for at least 6 months and I would have nothing to worry about.

Ahh, Home sweet home. I know the sheets and blanket are nasty but that's all I could find in this junk filled apartment.

The accommodations found were in a rough part of the city. Anxious to get out of the hotel I told Larry the neighborhood wouldn’t be a problem. Of course I have brain damage. I had a bed and electricity, and heat (Nice to have in February. That was turned off because the landlord had a gambling problem and had failed to pay the gas bill. I lived on the second floor, above the guy Larry paid rent to. It turns out that he did not even have authority to rent out the place, but was a caretaker for the owner, who was in a nursing home.

Some of the windows on the third floor were broken out and there was a flock of pigeons that lived up there. Sometimes they would crawl through holes in the floor and come to visit me. One morning I woke up with a sparrow sitting on my arm. It took me 2 days to get it to fly out of a window. Eventually it got so weak or tame because I would feed it that I coaxed it onto my hand and placed my hand out of the window, shaking it to encourage the bird to fly. Then I had to hastily close the window because it kept trying to fly back inside. Often times I had to clean the bird droppings that leaked through the floor upstairs, out of the bathtub to take a bath in cold water.

Here's my kitchen

To cook Larry got me a hot plate and an old toaster oven because the only thing in the kitchen were a sink and some old dishes and items left by previous tenants, some of whom were indigent street people.

Still being trying to find a job, especially with Larry’s increasing “Encouragement”, I took whatever I could. The two I found were another part of the education that I suspect will take a long time. I was fired from both. The first one was a telemarketing scam that promised to help people to repair their credit by having them purchase a credit card for $250.00 with the catch that they could only purchase items from a catalog supplied by the scammers. After 4 or 5 weeks I was fired and only received pay that was equivalent to minimum wage. The company, Credit Plus, kept all the commissions that I earned.

The second job was for a modeling agency that encouraged youths to come in with their parents and after hyping them up with the dream of riches and fame would talk them into signing up for classes that would each them how to be models. The manager was seldom there and seemed to be more interested in partying than running his operation. I asked him after 4 weeks when I was going to be paid. This was just before the company changed names and locations to avoid legal trouble. I was fired. Of course I never received a single paycheck.

The security lock on the back door. Yes, it's the 2x4 because the door had been kicked in so otherwise it swings open with the breeze.

I would sometimes walk because I knew it was good for my health but the neighborhood was full of gang bangers who would yell at passing cars to sell crack, and sometimes fight with others for business. I was jumped and robbed twice when I said that I didn’t do drugs.

Larry had purchased a car from one of his friends to help me get work. The first night it was parked in front of the place I was staying on Chippewa St. the window was smashed and the stereo was stolen. Of course Larry had never properly registered the car, gotten insurance, or even gotten plates so when I reported the theft to the police they had some questions about that. I kept driving it anyway because I cherished the ability to travel, desired to keep Larry satisfied by continuing to look for work, and desperately craved social contact which I got one day a week at church.

After awhile people got to know me because I would wood carve in front of the house and talk to passersby about my coma and new outlook on life. There came a point where I was no longer harassed and felt safer on the street. I would help some of the people in the neighborhood by giving them rides to the grocery store or fixing their cars. Then I walked to a nearby hospital because I was feeling ill, had fallen down the stairs, and seemed to be more lost and paranoid than usual.

When the hospital learned of my condition and the severity of my injuries from the accident, I was sent to a medical clinic that was in walking distance from my house. There the doctor got the social worker involved when they learned of my living conditions and medical and mental state. I was signed up for food stamps, Medicaid, and sent to a variety of specialist, which fortunately included the Brain Injury Center, who did more for me than anyone.

My brother is still a mystery to me. He had only paid the first months rent and given Gary, the “landlord” $60.00 twice since then. Gary became more insistent for money probably due to his gambling addiction. With nothing forth coming he started eviction proceedings. Larry became upset when he discovered that I had applied for food stamps and government assistance telling me, as he often did, that I was stupid. I continued going to church at Southside Assembly. It would be interesting to talk to those who knew me then and get their perspective of me. I suspect that I did not open up to many and, due to my shame and embarrassment, I am sure that I hid my condition and living situation from most. I did start seeing a registered therapist named Kathy Mager who learned more about me than anyone. She did tell me that, by my refusing to ask for help, I was robbing others of blessings they would receive by helping me.
By this time I was going to the Brain Injury Center on a regular basis. They did wonders for me by just teaching me basics like writing things down so I could remember and identifying areas of need and making sure the appropriate professionals or procedures were in place and making sure I made it to my other appointments. After kind of wandering around lost I greatly enjoyed knowing there were those who understood what I was experiencing and gave me the hope that I could once again have a life. Recognizing that I was very depressed they started to get me hooked up with a mental health clinic.

1 comment:

skm said...

Bob, this is good, really, really good. I hope you know that already.