December 12, 2010
Rough and rushed. That’s how life feels right now. Since before Thanksgiving, dad has been my focus. Dad’s safety. Dad’s health. Dad’s finances. Dad’s living conditions.
Since I first heard from Moira, Dad’s probation officer, getting Dad to Florida has been my priority. At first, I only planned to have him down here long enough to get him evaluated by his doctor and get his social security money out of suspense. When I arrived in Sanford, North Carolina, I didn’t try to contact dad. I had too many things to do in too short a time.
Hate to admit it, but he would have just been in the way. I needed to meet Moira, the detectives I’d worked with when he was missing, and the bankers who first alerted me to his situation. I wanted to thank them. I wanted to have us each put a face to the phone and email conversations we had over the past several months. I have to admit, though, that I had an ulterior motive for wanting to see them all in person. I wanted them to see me, see that although my dad may look and sound like white trash, he wasn’t. I wasn’t. In my mind, if they saw me, heard me, they would understand that Dad always had competent help at hand. All he ever needed to do was reach out, but he never did.
My fault, that one. The day he told me he wanted to move to North Carolina, I told him that if he did, “Don’t call me when you get into trouble.” Other than when Blackie, his dog, was stolen, I rarely heard from him. When I did, he rambled, and I knew he was drinking. Many times, I didn’t take his calls. Just let them go to voicemail. If he called too often, I wouldn’t listen to my messages. I couldn’t. I just didn’t want to hear his overly long messages that told me nothing more than he wasn’t in his right mind when he called.
Should I have cut him off like that, taken away his lifeline? I think yes. His neediness and drama had taken a horrible toll on my life, my work, my health. His very presence stymied my creativity. I’m a writer. I’m an editor. Creativity is what gives me life in every sense of the word. Though I published, the work was no longer fun. Only when I hired help for him did I finally find fun in what I do. When I made the decision to bring him back here, I made the decision to temporarily take the fun out of my life again. I know the process this time, though. The downtime will be weeks instead of months.
Day One: Our first stop for him once we arrived in the Sunshine State was to see his doctor, (I’ll call him Dr. Brennan). Before we went to Social Security, we needed the doctor to sign on a medical form to testify that dad is unable to handle his finances. It took only moments for Dr. Brennan to say he’d seen enough. Dad didn’t stop talking the entire time we were in the office.
Then, it was time to go to the credit union to set up his accounts and get the proper paperwork started for the next day’s visit to Social Security.
After that, the grocery store for some staples he could have in his hotel room.
Day Two: The Social Security office visit was like stepping into hell. The place reeked of body odor, even though it was wintertime. People’d brought their children with them. Why would anyone do that? The wait in the SS office is going to be at least three hours if not longer, and there’s not a child on earth who can sit still, let alone be quiet, for that long. The place itself was bulletproof-glassed and security guarded up just enough to make me feel uneasy stepping inside. What kind of people do they service, anyway?
Once at the counter, the man behind the glass did his level best to make me out to be a child who was going to take advantage of the old man next to me. “Does your dad owe you any money?” He did, about $25,000, but I didn’t say that. “Will you be getting paid for taking care of your dad’s finance or anything else?” Uh, no. The man doesn’t make enough to pay me, let alone pay me back. I just found the little man’s attitude and tone to be offensive. He was, however, quick to get dad set up as we had already been to the credit union and had the account numbers at hand.
Day Three: Clothes shopping. The urine-soaked pants had to go, as did the ill-fitting shoes and women’s sweater and coat dad refused to take off. He did, I must say, find a pair of pants (not his size) laying beside the road that he actually thought I was going to let him wear. I guess that counts for something. The pants were new to him, after all.
Day Four: Forced shower. Threw out old clothes so he had to wear his new ones. Then, off to visit apartment complex after apartment complex after apartment complex. I wanted to try to get find him something he could afford with just his General Motors pension check so we could start saving his Social Security check once it started coming again.
With him just getting out of jail, and that jail stay being for passing bad checks, no one–at least on the good side of town–would touch him. In the end, I took him back to where he lived before, the complex right on the other side of my woods. Thankfully, the staff was the same. They all loved dad (who didn’t, right), and they let him come back. I, of course, had to sign for him…
We wound up putting dad in a two bedroom, second-storey (yes, that’s spelled correctly) apartment. Even though he had no furniture, only my air mattress and a couple camping chairs, dad was thrilled to move in immediately.
Now, all I had to do was start furnishing his life. He already said he’d like to get another dog. I could start on that Day Five.
It’s going to be a long rest-of-the-year.