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.

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