Wishing to Remember

I see the journey, the path I have taken like the wake of a great ship.

I make posts on facebook that people don’t seem to get, maybe its because they don’t really read them or more likely I poorly communicate what is on my mind. So the other day I post something and it began with my fears, which is naturally what most people focused on. I am not a delicate flower. My emotions can be fragile but my mama taught me to be tough. I am afraid of getting out in the world with a blind man’s cane. I am not afraid of getting lost. I am not afraid of falling. If I fall I will pick myself up. If I get lost, well I will figure out something. I will have to go through mobility and orientation training at Lighthouse for the Blind and I am sure it will be helpful. I have to do this to qualify for a guide dog which is my ultimate goal. The source of my post was another post from an acquaintance that I saw. She is on a cruise and she thought it would be cool to take a picture of a stranger without his permission I am sure and the fact that this poor man was wearing what looks like condoms on his big toes. She posted it to entertain others, so they could comment on what a freak and what a joke he was.  It was mean to me. It should be mean to everyone. We have become like eternal high school students making fun of others we feel are beneath us. It saddens me and the reason I posted what I did was this knowledge that in walking around someone will take my picture and post it on facebook so their friends can make fun and make themselves feel a bit better about themselves. I know there is kindness left in the world. I have a few, a very few people in my life who are so kind it makes me cry. Sadly though I have too few of these people in my life. People either want something in return or they simply don’t want to do a kindness for a person with limitations that might really appreciate their help. We don’t have a problem buying someone’s coffee at Starbucks and then posting what good people we are for paying it forward but guess what; the people buying coffee at Starbucks don’t need their coffee bought for them. If you want to do something kind, then do something kind for someone who really needs it, but that’s not how our world works.

In the late 1980’s I went to work for a free standing psychiatric hospital called Willow Creek. I had actually applied there a few times when it was just an adolescent hospital. As an adolescent hospital it had two giant units, one for females and on for males. The units were identical, with a giant pit dug out of the middle. When the hospital started treating adults they took one unit and re-configured it. That was the adult unit. It was a mess to work in, too many nook and crannies for things to happen which you could not see, The other unit was changed in that they boarded up the put and made it co-ed. Depending on need they switched adolescents and adults around. I was hired to work the adult unit. I was seriously burned out and looking for something. I was listening to a lot of music and already in love with the music coming out of Seattle way before this music hit and took over the airwaves. I spent money getting my hands on anything and everything. I had nothing holding me back and what I wanted was to pick up and  leave for Seattle but I didn’t and it is one of the few regrets I have.

By that time HIV was on everyone’s mind. I had already lost friends and by the late 80’s everyone knew it was no longer just a Gay problem but one that was killing heterosexuals as well, and IV drug users. The fears were completely irrational. People thought and acted as if you could catch it from anything, public toilet seats, breathing  and many other irrational things. What we knew and didn’t know about this horrible disease could fill volumes.  So in this environment of fear we admitted a man to our adult unit suffering from AIDS related psychosis and he frightened everyone from patients to staff. There were nurses who quit and a big staff meeting where we were taught about AIDS. I was scared like everyone else. Our patient was a young man in his late 20’s or early 30’s. He was wealthy and was a big player in the Dallas Gay rights movement. I cannot watch the movie Dallas Buyers Club without thinking about him. There were two big issues with this young man. One he was psychotic and flamboyant. He would say anything and everything and it was all outrageous. The second was actually more problematic. HIV is a virus that impacts your immune system. People with AIDS get all sorts of things their body would normally fight off.  This poor man had warts all over his arms. Naturally all of the other patients thought the were weeping and trailing virus everywhere. We did what we could to alleviate the fears and made sure that we wiped down counter tops frequently and we used a different blood pressure cuff for him than we did everyone else. It was actually quite sad. I was scared to death of him. He had a way of striking out at your vulnerabilities which I think was linked to his psychosis.

He did improve a lot in a short time. As a social worker I hated that he upset me so much that I was afraid of him. It was not his homosexuality because I had grown up with many gay friends who had protected me, loved me for who I was and many of these I knew had died from this horrible disease.  He used to stay up late at night and one night when I was working night shift I talked to my charge nurse about what I wanted to do and she agreed to watch the unit.

And so I knocked on his door and he invited me in. I talked to him for hours. I have never laughed so much and cried and enjoyed another human being as much as I did that night. I was honest with him and he taught me a lot about HIV and we talked about death, He knew some people I knew and we shared some stories. After that we always talked a little bit every time I was there. I think he was the warmest, kindest person I ever met.  Right before he was discharged a girl on the unit who was barely an adult was diagnosed with HIV. She was an IV drug user and she knew before she ever got her results that she was positive but seeing them, confronting it all was devastating.  For a few days she was very suicidal. So this man one night when she was walking the floor stopped her and talked to her, talked to her all night. He had her laughing and crying and without him I know she would have probably killed herself. He spent most of his remaining time with us locked in conversation with her, doing more good than any medication or any therapist.

When he was discharged it was amazing to see how many people wanted to say goodbye to him, He had touched everyone there and while there were a few that were still afraid of any contact with him I stepped up and hugged his neck and thanked him.  He died only a few weeks later. His family was so appreciative of what we had done that they wrote a beautiful card to the staff thanking them and sent us a ton of food most of it very expensive stuff that was all over the hospital. I think of him so much and yet it upsets me each time because I don’t remember his name. Of all the many bad things I have done in my life it seems the worst that I forgot this beautiful soul’s name. At one time I had his obituary but somewhere in my life’s journey I lost this. I will not search for his name, I will not search obituaries. I should have remembered it, I owed it to him to remember and I failed. Oh I know he would not hold it against me. He would laugh at me, make a comment that would get right to the heart of the matter and then he would hug me and it would all wash away.

I wish it could be that easy. Rest peacefully gentle soul. You did far more for me than I ever did for you.

Carol

I see the journey, the path I have taken like the wake of a great ship.

I have glaucoma along with all of the retina issues. It is not a typical glaucoma that is heredity or just something that I got as I grew older. Nope, my glaucoma is caused by the Silicon oil bubbles in my eye. The bubble in my left eye is actually the second one. Unlike gas bubbles which the body absorbs oil has to be removed only its impossible to get it all. It hides in every nook and cranny. Then it congeals and thickens and does what oil does blocking the normal passages the eye uses to process fluids. You have to have fluid to wash the eye and keep it moist,  Eye drops control it but in my case the oil blocked everything and despite being on every drop and a pill called acetacolazine which made my extremities feel like they were vibrating my pressure built to dangerous levels. I was referred to Southwest Medical Center where they performed a cool laser procedure I had to be put under for that kills the tissue that creates the fluid. It is a dicey procedure because they can’t kill it all.  In my case it worked and the pressure in my eye has been much more manageable.  It is the only procedure I have had that actually was painful though.

In boxing they like to create lists of who the best pound for pound boxer is so you can measure a heavyweight against a welterweight. You also see it in football where analysts like to say the best pound for pound hitter in football is blah blah blah.  Carol was the strongest person pound for pound that I have ever met. She was small for her age of nine years old, wiry, athletic, reckless and strong fueled by a burning rage that seemed to never really quench.  She was a better athlete than most of the boys. I had very few interactions with her at first and then for some reason we just connected . Most of my interactions with her were outside where all the kids mixed and she always wanted to do what my bigger boys were doing so she was with my group a lot. She reminded me of a childhood friend I ha in that she was better at sports than most boys.

Carol was full of personality. She could be charming in her own way, not taking crap from anyone. It got her in a lot of trouble. Once she felt wronged she went off in a rage that could include violence against another child or a group leader or Diane the supervisor and you ever really knew what might set her off. It was the mission of the staff and administration to get better control of her. When I first started she was being restrained multiple times during the week and sometimes as many as three or four times in a day. Carol had a lot of bad days. Sometimes what we did was not magic or rocket science. It did not take a genius to figure out what was the source of all the rage.  By the time she was eight Carol had most of the bones in her body broken some of them twice by a mother who was unequipped to being a parent and took corporal punishment  to extremes. The fractures included multiple facial fractures. Her orbital sockets had been fractured and her nose fractured at least twice.  Both of her arms had been broken and she had spiral fractures of both legs. All Carol wanted was her mother to love her and the fact that her mother couldn’t really love her and abused her horribly created a rage fueled hellion. I started to be called to the girls unit more and more to help restrain her. The fact that Carol really liked me distressed her to no end and we used this connection to get her to start working on her rage issues in other ways. Se certainly improved.

Carol wanted to go back with her mother. She wanted her mother to love her so much that she was willing to endure any amount of abuse. It was tragic and sad and getting her to understand that that door was closed forever was a challenge for Carol’s therapist.  Carol was willing to be adopted though and she got it in her head that she was going to be adopted by me. This became a big fantasy for her so much so that the therapist, administrator and Diane all met with me to discuss it. It sort of surprised me when they asked if it was something I might consider, a slow plan of home visits, lots of joint counseling and then foster placement. I wanted the best for Carol and we connected. I was shocked that they asked me and I gave it some thought. Ultimately though I was twenty three years old and unequipped to be the kind of parental support she needed. I was also engaged and my fiancé had worked on the girls unit previously so the decision included Andrea. I give Andrea credit she and I talked about it for a long time but we decided that it would be way too stressful on everyone to attempt it.

Carol and I met with her therapist and it was discussed at length until she understood. Seeing those big eyes well up with tears was heartbreaking and from that point I began looking for  a way to leave because I was becoming too close to too many and working there was taking an enormous toll on me.  I have never regretted making that decision. Andrea and I had a lot of problems and we were doomed before we could really get started. She is the most beautiful woman I was ever with and adding a child full of rage would have made everyone miserable. It was also the right decision for Carol because she needed someone who would be there, who could be there.  I am guessing her life if she still lives is still one of rage and loss and longing. One thing I have learned is that the amount of damage one person can do to another is endless.

Jesse the Superhero

I see the journey, the path I have taken like the wake of a great ship.

By far the most frustrating thing I deal with on a daily basis is wanting things. I am not good at asking for things mostly because of what happens when I do. Not being able to drive is killing me. The average person gets up goes to work, comes home and does whatever it is they do; watch television, go to happy hour make dinner or workout. They don’t think about how these things get done. I don’t have the luxury of being able to come home from work, look at my kitchen and then decide I want to go out. I am stuck here so if I get an urge to go get tacos, or a blizzard from dairy queen I cannot hop in my car and go. I can’t drive. Maybe I should that way I can get into an accident and maybe it will all end. I won’t because I would only end up hurting someone else. God is not done punishing me for being born. Sometimes I will post what I want on facebook hoping that one of the six hundred so called friends will say dude I got you. I will help, Instead what I get are crickets chirping and a knowledge that not a single person cares at all about me. I also get a million suggestions. Want banana pudding? Go to such and such place because they have the best , Or they suggest doordash, eat24 or uber delivery because hey I have a money tree, all disabled people do. It is incredibly frustrating knowing that not a single person will do something for me. I go stir crazy wanting out and occasionally someone will say hey what is a good day to take you to lunch or get you out for a drink and they back out or never follow up. That is what is slowly driving me to despondency, just that want to have a single person give a damn about me but I know that will never happen. It hurts though and no matter how indifferent I try to be it hurts when i am ignored or when I am rejected, You would think I would be used to it but I it still hurts. And then I remember…

Jesse was a superhero.

Right after Joe and I reached an understanding and my group became stable two things happened in succession that gave me Jesse. There had been discussion that I would get Jesse because we had an influx of younger boys and I had an open bed. Jesse was eleven but he was a young eleven, small framed and still more interested in small boy things that my four boys. The first thing that happened was I got very sick with the flu that knocked me out of commission for about a week. It would take me another two to start feeling well. I lost some weight and I was always tired. Not long after I came back the second event occurred. Pat was the group leader of the next group down from me.  Pat always acted like everything was on her and that she was the only one who knew anything. She had worked there awhile. It was Pat who played Kenny G every night.  We noticed the changes pretty quickly. She started showing up to work a little more slovenly and it was clear that she was not taking care of herself. Then one day she came in and started acting pretty bizarrely, rambling saying some strange things. It would have been alarming anyway but she was responsible for five boys who were already emotionally disturbed. The supervisor Diane took her to the office and called her family and Pat never came back. We re-structured the units the next day and I got Jesse.

Jesse was a superhero.

One of Jesse’s superpowers was his amazing sweet soul. If you don’t think that is much of a superpower you are wrong.  I was Jesse’s group leader. I knew when he had a bad day, when he could not sleep at night because I received reports. As a group leader I was responsible for everything to do with Jesse including what happened on the weekend.  Jesse was a chatterbox. He trusted everyone and he always greeted me and anyone else with a big hug and a smile and chattering away at you one hundred miles an hour.  The two aides assigned to the evening staff loved him and he was always hugging on them and they him.  Even the rare circumstances where he had to receive some sort of consequence he took it with a smile and was never upset or angry with anyone long. I have seen a lot ad I know that is a rare gift, to have the gentlest and sweetest of souls.

Jesse was a superhero.

All of my kids were athletes and Jesse was no different. Where Jesse was different is that he did not like to participate in big group sports. Jesse was content to play with one or two kids quietly in the dirt doing something. Jesse was incredibly strong though and he had a unique gift that he displayed from time to time. It should have gotten him in trouble but this was Jesse always smiling even when you were correcting him. When walking down the hall Jesse would launch himself, one two three and climb a wall usually in the corner of a room and then hold himself at the ceiling. He did this n front of me and Diane once and we both casually said hop down Jesse. It was an amazing thing to do. He also could run up a wall. I only saw this once and it was over before I could even get to him. Someone threw a Frisbee up on the roof of the building and in a flash Jesse ran up the wall retrieved the Frisbee and hopped down from the roof. He was smiling so big all I could do was tell him not to do that again. Naturally the kids called him spiderman which was appropriate and they were always egging him on to do it but Jesse knew that if he did it all the time we would shut him down and so he did not take advantage of his gift. I admired him so for being able to do it. He would give you that little smile and then bam up the wall.

Jesse was a superhero.

One thing I have learned in this life, is that nothing is ever fair. Some people go through life feeling the hand of God on their shoulder. They know they are blessed beyond measure and others are cursed and nothing we can ever do will alleviate the incredible sin we have committed of being born. I will never understand the evil that one human being can do to another. I will never understand why some of us are so rejected by others. All of the kids at the home where I worked had been abused emotionally and physically. Many were abandoned. Many were placed in foster care only to be abused again.  All of the boys in my group had scars, some physical a lot emotional.  Jesse was my kid who would come out into the hall and sleep by you. He would awake in the middle of the night and sit up in bed and he needed music to play at night, something to soothe the fears that were always with him. I have seen kids used as human ashtrays and I once worked with CPS on a toddler that was hit so hard with a belt buckle that it had to be treated as a burn and for the rest of that child’s life the imprint of that buckle will be visible on the skin.  I have never in my life seen as many scars as Jesse carried. Like most boys after bath and before bed Jesse would walk around without a shirt. His back was scarred with hundred of tiny cigarette burn scars where someone had put out cigarettes on him multiple times. There was no where on his back that was not littered with these scars, hundreds from his shoulders all the way to his butt some one or many some ones had used him in that way. From his feet to the bottom of his calves above his Achilles tendon he was one bug scar from where his mother made him stand in a pot of boiling water. I cannot imagine the pain he suffered and lived through an I often asked if he was hurting. He would smile at you and then hug you. Tell me now having a sweet soul is not a  superpower. I do not know what happened to Jesse but I sure hope that he never lost that sweet soul that ability to smile. I hope he found peace at night when the demons came. I hope he is still climbing walls.

Jesse was a superhero. Jesse was my superhero.

 

 

Joe

I see the journey the path I have taken like the wake of a great ship.

I drift to the left. This is not a political statement, Heck I do a lot more than drift left politically. I am left, no drift needed. No I drift left when walking and even while swimming. I do not understand why but I have to compensate for this drift all of the time. Perhaps its because the bubble in my left eye is larger or heavier because I can see the heavy outline of it almost all of the time. I have a little more swelling over there, as its been poked and prodded more than the right. I am on a special drop to  minimize the inflammation. I have a walkway from my front door to the street and it is slightly downhill and there are bushes to either side of me. Almost every time I walk down I nearly fall over the left set of hedges. Compensating for this will sometimes get me dizzy. I swim four times a week but in the lane I drift left and have to always adjust every single lap. I drift left.

So after one day of training I inherited a group of boys. There were five beds in each room and four of mine were filled. I had the oldest boys all age eleven or twelve, They were amazing. That is not to say they did not cause me some grief especially those first few weeks. I had to get help from aides to help manage them because they decided that I was the reason their previous group leader had left, abandoned them. They were sad, and angry and I became the target.  The leader of my little group of merry makers was a boy named Joe. Joe was the smallest of my kids. He was tough and he never seemed to realize how long to test someone. He had multiple failed adoptions, failed foster home placements and of course he had been badly abused by a drug using mother. This was pretty typical of all of the kids that were there. Joe was smart and boy could he find your buttons and push them. Joe decided that I was only there for the money. If he knew how little I got paid he might have laughed at this little inside joke but he turned all of the kids away from me, even the ones that were not in my group. He created disruption in every activity and even something so simple as going to meals or evening showers became giant headaches. After two weeks the supervisor began meeting with me before shift to plot strategy. It seemed a twelve year old had me on the run.

My supervisor was only a year or two older than me. She was the coolest chick I ever met and her birthday was a day before mine. Her name was Diane and it was her opinion that I needed to push Joe into making a mistake that would warrant restraining him. He needed to know that I was in charge and he needed to know that I would not hurt him even when I needed to control him. With his abuse history I thought it was a risky strategy and Joe was also incredibly smart to act out but not to the point where he was not in control. We had to occasionally restrain kids, and we did so safely going through a lot of training. I had gone through instructor training and I later became the instructor there and at other Catholic Charities facilities that dealt with potentially aggressive situations. I did not want to restrain Joe. Another two weeks would go by before things came to a head.

Normally my shift started right after school. The aides brought the kids back from the classroom area which was about two hundred yards, maybe less from the main hallway where the kids lived. I was there early one day and I went with the aides who were short to get the kids and bring them back. Joe had had a very bad day and the aides let me know before we ever got to the classroom. When Joe saw me it was like a bull seeing red. I asked him what was going on and he stormed ahead of the rest of the kids shoving a girl to the ground in the process. Joe had made a big mistake. I caught him and took him down, right in front of the administrator’s office where a meeting was being held that included Diane. I safely took Joe to the grass and had him in a position where he could scream, holler kick and thrash but he was not leaving my grip. I was comfortable,  It was a perfect position but I was acutely aware of the eyes watching me. An aide stood by in case I needed help but a few minutes later Diane came out and asked if I needed anything and I said no. I apologized for being outside the admin’s office but Diane said not to worry they had seen everything and were in agreement. It was law that I had to let Joe go after fifteen minutes but Joe was not ready. He had a lot inside of him so after fifteen I let him go and he tried to kick me so down he went again. After ten minutes Joe started to cry and at that point I knew the worst was over. We started to talk and I asked if he was ok. He said he was and I slowly started to ease up. It became a moment where we went from restraint to gently stroking his back to him crying on me while I held him. We finally went inside and I acted as if everything was normal which it actually became.  Joe never gave me any more trouble. He became close to me and we had a lot of talks in the evening. I would make up stories and tell them at bedtime usually making them laugh uncontrollably instead of going to sleep. I loved that group of boys.

I moved on to another job within Catholic Charities but I still worked at the home, either in a relief supervisor mode or just helping out. I made sure that Joe and the other boys did not do to the next group leader what they did to me. I slowly though started working there less and less and then Diane let me know that Joe had been adopted by a family in Michigan. Joe wanted me there the night before he left so I showed up for him. We stayed up sitting in the hallway talking until midnight, him holding my hand and being so scared that they would not love him. I comforted him, listened to him and gave him a little advice not to challenge them like he could do, to give them a chance and realize that everyone was going to have to adjust.  He finally went to bed hugging me before he went. It was the last time I saw him. I can still feel his hand in mine.

I wish I could tell you that it was a happy ending. Happy endings rarely happen for some of us though no matter how hard we try. I am sure Joe was as challenging to his new adoptive parents as he had bee to me. Joe expected everyone to hurt him and reject him even though all he wanted was for someone to love him. Sound familiar? Any wonder why these kids pulled me to them like moths to a flame?  I heard that the adoption failed about a month later. I was pretty angry with those adoptive parents. How do you adopt a kid with that many problems and then expect that it is just going to be easy? How do you compound years of abuse with abandonment after only a month. I don’t know where Joe went afterwards as we never got the story. I think about him from time to time. Joe would be in his early forties, hard to believe.

Joe was tough and smart with an incredible sweet side and he went though more in his first twelve years than anyone should ever have to go through. I gained his confidence by caring about him. I still care about him, still think about him.

The Saddest Place on Earth

I see the journey, the path I have taken like the wake of a great ship.

Positioning, or as I say, the fine art of positioning is something every retina patient can tell you about.. Surgery to correct a retina tear or a detachment is called a vitrectomy, something I am sure I will describe in great detail at a later time. One part of a vitrectomy is the placement of a gas bubble in your eye. It is a dense heavy gas that is put in the eye to keep the retina flat and help it seal. You cannot see anything when it is there but the good news is that the body absorbs the gas, so as it leaves your body and rises you begin to see under the bubble. Except that your eye is a mirror so right is left, up is down and so on and so on.  As the gas rises you actually see out of the top of your vision. Depending on where the tear or detachment is located your doctor may require you to position to maximize the weight of the gas on the damaged area. This might mean that you position on your hands and knees with your head tilted down. It might mean you sit up at a forty five degree angle or that you lie on your side and then turn your head face down. I have done them all. If there was an Olympic sport I could captain the U.S. team. Prior to my last surgery I was positioning face down for almost twenty hours a day.

I left Westwood and began working PRN at a Catholic Charities home for children ages six to twelve.  It was essentially an orphanage. Now there are all sorts of sadness, and there are places all over the world that will break your heart, war torn places, dead and dying, starvation and poverty. I will not argue any of this with anyone. I stared working at this home in Fort Worth to help myself get out of college. I wanted to work less hours and chose when I worked so I took a job PRN or as needed. Most of the time when you do this you can work between thirty and forty hours. It would allow me to finally finish college. The home was divided into two wings, one for girls and one for boys and each were divided into  four or five rooms on a hallway. Girls were not allowed on the boy’s hall and vice versa but naturally they all played together. Each room had four or five boys grouped together by age.  I had one day of training and then the senior group leader who I was training with stopped coming to work and the PRN job I had wanted turned into a full time opportunity so I became the group leader of the oldest boys all around eleven or twelve.

I never saw a kid at this home that was not a victim of severe abuse. They had visible scars and emotionally they were battered wrecks. Even in the midst of joyous raucous play you would see pain creep across their face. They would sometimes look at you and even ask you if you were going to abandon them. My group of boys took it hard that their group leader left and they blamed me so for about a month I went through a lot of rough moments with them until they came around and realized I was on their side.  All of the kids there wee state kids so they received money from the state into an account and occasionally you got to take them out and they would buy things that they wanted or needed. There were some pretty awesome boom boxes in the place. No matter how much they had, it was never enough to make them forget where they had been and where they were at. Most had multiple failed adoptions and most had been abused not only by their parents but by the foster system that was created to protect them. It was the hardest place to leave at night when the shift was over ad every night at least one kid on the unit had a rough night and a group leader would stay until they finally fell asleep. Sometimes I would not makeit home until two in the morning.  You could never do enough, love enough or give enough and the sadness of the place was pervasive. Even after I moved on to other jobs I worked there as a relief supervisor.

Bedtime was the worst. Some nights went smoothly and they all went to bed and slept the sleep of innocents. But frequently the nights brought dreams, nightmares or just hopeless thoughts.  There were times when one of my kids would walk out into the hall and ask if anyone was ever going to love him or ask what he could do to make it all better so that he could be adopted. Naturally I fit right in. I had been asking those questions all of my life. In front of every door the group leaders would sit and chart and almost every night one or all of us had one of our kids out there with us sleeping or trying to next to us.  One of our group leaders would bring Kenny G’s Silhouette and play it and you could hear it playing, the sound carrying down both hallways boys and girls. I still can’t hear any song from that album and not go back, not be flooded with a million memories almost all of them sad. That group leader had a serious psychotic episode one day that scared a lot of us and left in an ambulance. She never returned, so I bought Kenny G and played it for her group every night.

It will always be the saddest place ever for me.

The Home Visit

I see the journey, the path I have taken like the wake of a great ship.

Have you ever noticed that your vision does not stop working when you close your eyes. Have a few retina detachments and you will really start to notice this. With my eyes closed I can see the flashes, the lightning strikes like tiny electrical storms in my brain. My eyelids like yours are not blackout curtains, they allow light to enter your eye. Your eye picks this up and images flash off your retina. Flashes are indications that your retina is damaged, detached or torn. There is a difference. Veils indicate the same but tell you the location of where the problem is. If you see darkness creeping in then you have a problem. You can really see them when its dark. My next to last detachment was the worst. I had to schedule that surgery so I went a couple of days with instructions to position until the surgery because I still had a lot of gas bubble in my eye from a previous surgery. It was frightening to have half of my vision go while trying to keep it from happening. It is the most frightened I have ever been, I knew then that the end was inevitable. That first night following surgery I thought it had detached again because I could still see darkness like a veil over half of my vision. The next morning it was gone so I told my doctor about it and she said that when a detachment occurred the retina is separated from its blood supply which is why surgery needs to happen rather quickly. What I was seeing was the section of my retina that had been cut off from the blood supply and by morning the blood supply had been restored.Just a few weeks later I was legally blind.

The undergraduate school of social work requires students to complete two field placements that last a semester each. The graduate program also requires two however I was exempted from one because I had worked for years as a licensed social worker. My first field placement in undergraduate school was at a place called Westwood. It was a joint program between the Fort Worth ISD and Tarrant County MHMR. It was a residential treatment center housing eight emotionally disturbed boys from ages six to twelve.  There was a school in what used to be the garage of 3 bedroom house. We worked quietly trying to blend into the neighborhood. It was a great field placement and following my completion of the placement I started working there. Most of these kids already had a lot of strikes against them. They were all learning disabled, all very behind in school. We had a marvelous teacher who always got the kids either caught up or close to it. Many kids learned to read there. The emotional problems ran the gamut from hyperactivity to real psychosis. Many of the kids we worked with are doing well. Many are not. One kid later attempted to kill his family with a butcher knife in the Chicago area. One kid was so severely psychotic  he attacked a staff member with a pair of hedge clippers stolen from a neighbor’s yard. He was later committed. I had heard that one kid ended up on death row but I have never confirmed that or found him on the rolls of death row.

About half way through my placement we admitted an eight year old referred by child protective services. He was the victim and byproduct of a very incestuous family. His father was also his grandfather. Let that sink in. He had borderline intelligence and reportedly his mother was a bit worse off. The father/grandfather was jailed and CPS was very involved in the household. My supervisor Liz thought it would be a great learning experience for me to go with her on the home visit sine he mom had trouble getting to our facility, so essentially we went to her.  I went along to learn and for some protection. There is safety in numbers. At the time I played a lot of basketball and played all over Fort Worth so I knew a lot of peoples including he neighborhood where we were going. It was a strange neighborhood where you could be safe on one street and a block away be in a serious crime or drug area.

The family lived in a government assisted apartment complex. We parked in front and had to walk behind. I kept expecting someone to shout out “Bird” my nickname. For the longest time people thought that was my last name so many people called me that. We walked to the back of the complex where the apartment door was and as we rounded the corner I got a big whiff of urine. It was a strong smell. Liz knocked on the door and it was answered by a very large man, at least three hundred and fifty pounds. We introduced ourselves and he without saying a word moved aside and let us enter. He returned to a couch against the wall where another man who looked like his twin was sitting on the couch, It was a full size couch but the two of them made it look like a loveseat. Neither of the men ever said a work. They wee watching a small nineteen inch television that was sitting in the corner on a mall table, rabbit ears sticking up. They were watching cartoons. We asked for the mom of the kid in our facility and both men pointed down the hall. The entire apartment was dark. It must have been three bedrooms.  As we walked down the hall Liz called her name and she came out of one of the bedrooms. She looked as if we had awakened her but she smiled and then hugged Liz and motioned us into an empty room. Their were twin beds in the room and a small dresser. We sat on one bed and she sat on the other. The purpose of the visit was to get a history of the family. As I sat on the bed I noticed that the room was moving.  I got my bearings and I was focused on my social work values, not judging. In my life to date I have never seen that many cockroaches in one place including on television. They were everywhere and as we started talking to her I could see them crawling across her including in her hair. I spent the entire time we were there casually brushing them from my legs where they were crawling.  I was trying not to seem too obvious but they were crawling all over me. Liz made very short work of that visit and we retreated quickly. Liz said nothing although I did quite a bit of hopping on the way to the car. She drove across the street to a convenience store that had a deadly reputation. I suggested she go somewhere else but she said no one would mess with her at that moment. She returned with a box of black garbage bags. She put her purse in one of the bags and then put the bag in another bag and placed it in her trunk.

As we drove back to Westwood she said she hoped that the visit had not turned me against the profession. I said quite the contrary that it made me want to be a social worker more than ever. We talked about that visit. She was quite proud of me for not showing any reaction. She told my field instructor about it as well bragging on me. I took a long shower when I got home and I threw my clothes in the laundry.  I was twenty one years old. It was thirty three years ago and I can remember that visit like it was yesterday, and yes I can still feel those little bastards crawling all over me.

Kris

I see the journey, the path I have taken like the wake of a great ship.

I love routine, thriving with a schedule. I used to get up every morning at six, let the dogs out, feed them, take a shower, dress and out the door every morning at 6:26. Even on weekends I had trouble sleeping past seven as some internal alarm clock woke me up every morning to tell me to start the day. You see, we get used to routines. After my final surgery which took my vision to 20/200 everything changed. I have written before aabout running into things and I relized that this tended to happen when I took different routes in my house so I started some new routines and started to walk the same way every time. The epiodes of getting lost in my own houseor running into tables, walls and doors ceased. My knees thanked me. So the other night I was watching a series and I needed to change disks. I ejected one and got up to change it out and for some inexplicable reason lost my mind and forgot what I was ding or became distracted and thought I needed to check the front door to see if it was locked. I turned and took two steps and completely panicked. I did not know where I was so I stopped and reached out for something, anything that might be familiar. I had taken a different route and done it so suddenly that I was lost in my own home in darkness. I inched forward, one arm reaching out the other held over my head because I don’t want to hit my head. I have actually detached a retina before by hitting my head. I took a deep breath stopped the moment of panic an laughed at myself. I found the wall and re-oriented myself. Such is life.

Social work school was not an easy time for me. I thought I knew what I wanted to do with my life but quite honestly the profession scared me.  Stories of burnout and knowing I was entering a world where you see every bad thing, every horrible thing one human can do to another. I have seen abused children, abused elderly, tragic stories that have made me cry all night. People tend to think that social workers are a bunch of touchy feely people. Truth to tell I know very few social workers who are touchy feely. Most of us are hardened and we learn the art of remaining objective through the bad things like homicide detectives. If we really stop and think about what we are dealing with it would crush us. I worried about these things before I ever started working as a social worker. I know how sensitive I am.

I loved the students though, this strange clique of young people who wanted to change the world and thought that we would. I met Kris in my first social work class. She was a damned yankee and we hit it off famously. We did everything together. She was married and I met her husband who also was just an amazing person and if I was not hanging with Kris I might be found hanging with her husband Mitch.  Kris and I studied together, hung out after classes and bothered Mitch which seemed to be our favorite pastime. One day I asked Kris to skip class. I was burning the candle in about ten different places and I needed a break. Neither of us had much money but we scraped enough to buy two quarts of beer and went to a park and swung on the swings. We had so much fun we searched my car for loose change and bought another quart of beer which we shared.

For some crazy reason we decided that we needed more beer and the best place to get money was my house because my mom would happily fund us. So off we went. My mom never met one of my friends that she did not just love and Kris was no different. We spent some time hanging out with my mom and then were off again with twenty bucks in our pockets. We grabbed some beer and then decided that we would go to Mitch’s softball game. Mitch was surprised to see us an we were a bit drunk so naturally we started to heckle him. Not happy Mitch went to the concession stand and bought us two beers and told us to shut the fuck up. We laughed at him but drank the beer. I have a hundred stories about Krs.

I fell in love with her. Its not something I wanted but its something that I felt pretty strongly. If you have read my blog you know how I feel about God, about being un=chosen a loser and that I am his favorite target, I am the ant and He is the magnifying glass. I have learned to reject friends before they reject me, mostly to my own detriment. I have worked on this but at twenty two I was pretty bad at it. Kris got pregnant, and I not knowing what to do simply walked away. No the baby was not mine. We were not romantic as she was married. Kris never knew how I felt because I never told her nor did I tell her why I retreated. She stayed in contact with my mom who knew how I felt. Maybe she told her. I don’t know because I never asked. She did bring the baby to see my mom a couple of times. They were tow peas in a pod. If I had it to do over I would have sat down and had a conversation with her letting her know how I felt and that I did not want to do anything to cause she and Mitch any stress. I walked away though and never saw her again.

I think about her still, not all the time but sometimes something will remind me of her. I hope she is doing well,