My son, once again, has been evicted from yet another group home. Lake James was a great place for him, in that 98 percent of it’s residents suffered from mental illness, many were around Doug’s age, and most of them, because of their mental state, seemed accepting of Doug. All of the places prior to Lake James were ill-equipped to handle one with such a severe mental illness. The staff at Lake James took interest in learning more about paranoid schizophrenia through Doug, rather than just waiving him off and sending him to a corner. They talked with him, made notes about his behavior and his moods. They got to know him as a person with real needs and real feelings rather than just an annoyance to be dealt with.
Hmmm, an annoyance to be dealt with. Interesting choice of words. I myself, as Doug’s mother, often thought of Doug as just that…. an annoyance to be dealt with. The relief that entered my very being the day I finally found a living facility years ago that would accept him felt like my first drink of cool, cool water after an endless walk in a hot, dry desert. The relief I felt that day, years ago, was quickly replaced by the smothering guilt that I still carry today.
When I got the call from Lake James late one evening a few weeks ago, my first emotion was anger. I was so mad at Doug for losing control again. He attacked an elderly resident that had been taunting him and calling him names. I’ve told him over and over again, to just walk away from people like that and to ignore their hurtful words. Why won’t he listen to me?
Of course, my anger subsided as I answered my own question. He does listen to me, he just can’t control the pain and the rage. Just as I can’t know how much rage hurtful, taunting words stir up inside him. He was taunted and picked on, and bullied all of his childhood. Everyday of his life someone has made him feel bad about himself, if not a classmate, or a family member, or a complete stranger, then someone inside his head has told him how different and strange he is. I recall, with absolute clarity, his 2nd grade teacher saying to me, right in front of Doug, “He’s different from all the other children. What’s wrong with him?” If I can remember, and feel the pain of those words 26 years later, I can only imagine the emotions that memory stirs inside him.
So, my anger subsided as the girl from Lake James explained to me what happened and told me that they could either send him to another facility in the same town they are located, or to a place in Greensboro, N.C. She said they needed to know that evening because he needed to be out of there in the morning. As my mind raced concerning transportation (my car is on it’s last leg) she explained that the facility in town is not one that she would recommend. She said it housed a lot of criminals. She said the home in Greensboro is actually owned by the same people that own Lake James Lodge and is operated in much the same way and that even though it is further away she would suggest it rather than the nearby place. My mind still reeling from this bad news I was glad to hear a solution as to where he would go next, because there are not a lot of choices. He’s burned many bridges. She said they would be happy to drive him there in the morning as long as I give them the go ahead. I was so relieved to hear that they would take him there that of course I agreed to it.
I had almost said to her that I would just bring him home, because going down this road again of looking for a place for him was just to daunting a task. He has a pattern of getting himself kicked out of a facility so that hopefully his family will bring him back home. That’s all he’s wanted for such a long time…. just to come home again. My anger had turned to pity and empathy. Of course he wants to come home. Why wouldn’t he want to? This is where his entire life has been. This is where his Nanna and Pap coddled him and spoiled him, and made him feel really special. This is where the love was. This was the town where his only boyhood memories reside. This is where his only childhood friend lived. Why shouldn’t come home? As Nurse April explained the events that took place earlier in the evening that lead to Doug’s eviction, more answers to the questions in my heart began being answered . She spoke of the rage in Doug’s eyes. She told me that in trying to calm him down, he drew back his fist at her and his nostrils flared and eyes glazed over. As she spoke, clear memories of such nights came into my head. So many times when he’d go mad for no apparent reason and I wouldn’t be able to reign his anger in. So many holes punched in bedroom walls and doors. So many curse words screamed at the top of his lungs. So many visits from the police.
“Kill me! Go ahead and kill me you pigs! My fucking mother would love to see you shoot me. It’s what she wants. It’s what her husband wants. They all want me DEAD! Shoot me mother fuckers. I don’t give a shit!”
In the next instant he would be sobbing and begging me to forgive him. “Are you still my mom? I can’t lose you.”
Memories of the toll all the many altercations took on the family, particularly my younger children who were hiding in closets and crying fearfully came rushing to the surface of my brain with all to vivid images that I tried so long ago to bury.
“Yes April, Greensboro sounds fine. Let him know that I’ll give him time to get settled in there and call him tomorrow. April, thank you for everything you guys have done for him.””