The last time my dad went missing, I found him in jail. In North Carolina. I’m in Florida. At that time, he was living on his own in the streets of some little town I can’t remember the name of at the moment. He’d long since lost his companion of eleven years, his trusted dog, Blackie, and he’d recently lost an old friend of his, Jack, whom Dad had moved in with after our relationship fell apart back in 2007.
Why did it fall apart? Simple. Dad had taken up drinking again, and I would have nothing to do with him when he drank. He’d been on the wagon for nearly a decade when a new neighbor he’d become close with started inviting dad over for dinner, during which his wife would serve wine. That’s all it took.
Within weeks, Dad went from being a pleasant old man with a lot of heath issues and a dog to a belligerent fool bent on getting a hold of his money, to which I held the purse strings, and drinking himself into oblivion.
That didn’t turn out well.
By 2010, Dad was back in Florida. It took about a year or so before he was back to just being an old man with a lot of health issues. Fast-forward to 2018, and we have a visit from his last living friend in the world, Big Jim, during which dad started drinking again.
Jim wound up cutting his visit short, and Dad was left heartbroken and determined to visit North during the summer. I didn’t know if that would be a good idea, but I acquiesed. He left for the month of July to spend two weeks in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to visit my brother and his family and then end his vacation with two weeks in Wisconsin visiting Big Jim.
From the moment I dropped Dad off at the airport, he started drinking. He didn’t stop the entire time he was gone. He stopped taking his medication. He started acting erratically.
When he arrived home, he was still drunk from his trip. Since he had money left over from the trip, he sweet-talked nieghbors into taking him to the store to buy some type of grocery item only to walk out with alcohol and cigars. Both of which are contraindicated with his medications. Within two weeks of being home, he had a heart attack. That was the last part of August. He was critical for a couple weeks, then released into a rehab facility by September. He loved it there. I started the process of getting him on Medicaid so he could stay there, but got talked into discharging him by the end of October.
I never should have done that.
At some point after his heart attack, Dad must have had a stroke, because his behavior was just too much. He started walking the two miles down to Deerwood Village shopping center every day. He’d seek out the company of homeless people, sponge cigarettes and booze from them, and then badger me for money. He’d make up stories that he would need something from the store and would need five dollars. Rather than give him the money, I always just bought whatever it was he said he needed.
Then, he just got mean–and strange. He wanted his money, at least twenty dollars a week. I reluctantly agreed to the amount and started mailing him money every week. Every couple weeks, I would take groceries over, and would be appalled by the state of his apartment. The once new carpet was nearly ruined. He’d picked out the slats of one of his blinds and its skeleton hung in the door window like a little string ladder to nowhere. He started cutting up his throw rugs and taping them down all over his apartment. And he wouldn’t keep them in the same place, he’d pluck them up and move them around. He constantly moved around his furniture. He started dumpster-diving nearly ever day and would bring in junk and collect stuffed animals. He started stealing bikes. Expensive bikes. He jammed a shopping cart out onto his screened-in porch and piled loads of junk in and around it.
The worst part of it was that he would invite his homeless friends to stay with him. They would come at all hours of the night and bang on the door, yelling at my nearly deaf father to wake up and let them in. They’d have raucous parties on the weekends, and sometimes during the week. Neighbors started complaining. I started getting calls from the aparment complex’s office about my dad and his friends as though I could do something about it. Finally, the apartment manager let me know that Dad was going to be evicted if he didn’t stop bringing those people home with him.
Then something happened. One Thursday night or early Friday morning five weeks ago, one of the homeless people staying with Dad couldn’t wake him up. The guy called 911 and the ambulance hauled Dad off to the hospital. (Not the nearest one four miles away, but the farthest one about 20 miles away.) I found out that Dad was in the hospital from a voicemail. Someone from Baptist hospital downtown left me a message that he “thought” he had to talk to me about my dad. The next five voicemail messages I got were condolence calls as the homeless guy who called the paramedics called other homeless people who knew Dad and told everyone that he was dead.
I called the hospital immediately, and six hours later, I got a call back saying that they had two John Does. One was alive. One was dead. I was asked to come identify which was my dad, if either.
Andy and I went to the hospital, and I asked to see the live John Doe first, which turned out to be Dad. Apparently, from what a doctor told me, Dad was unresponsive when they brought him in. And even though he was a DNR (do not resusitate), they resusitated him at least twice. For three days, he was unresponsive, then on the fourth day, he started responding. By the fifth day, they removed the respirator from him. By the sixth day, they gave him some therapy. By the seventh day, he was discharged.
Now, because I never went down to visit Dad, he got his panties in a bunch and told the doctors and nurses not to talk to me even though I had given them my power of attorney, his living will, and his HIPAA release stating that I was his healthcare surrogate. I had also informed his doctor, the nurse, and the social worker that dad was in the first stages of dementia and that he couldn’t make decisions on his own. I also let it be known that when he was discharged, he needed to be discharged into a rehab facility, preferably the one I had picked out for him before this heart attack or whatever, because he was going to be evicted that Wednesday from his apartment. Regardless, the entire time he was in the hospital, even though I called several times a day every day, I got no information on his condition. No doctor called me. I only got told when he was going to be discharged.
When I got the call that he was going to be discharged, I reiterated to the social worker that he needed to go to a rehab facility, that we’d already had a 3008 form filled out by his primary care doctor to that effect. I had no intention of picking him up. We had quite a back-and-forth and finally the social worker said one of the nurses suggested Dad go to this respite care facility he knew of. They would take him for seven days and would help me find a place to put Dad, so I gave the okay to transport him there.
Naturally, the respite care facility did not help me find a place to put Dad. Instead, I had to call Blue Cross & Blue Shield to get a directory of facilities and called them all myself. I found two that were interested, but they couldn’t make up their minds in time, so the respite care facility owner suggested a managed care place up on West 33rd Street downtown Jacksonville. Not the best area in the world, but my back was up against it, so I relented and gave the okay for him to be transported there. Before he was moved, I spoke with the owner of the facility, Yashica T., and explained where dad was coming from, that I was in the process of getting him moved into a nursing home because he was in the first stages of dementia and an alcoholic who’d relapased. I also let her know that he needed to be supervised, that he would wander if he got bored.
Apparently, all my warnings fell on deaf ears, because 10 days later, some of the guys dad was living with helped him get on a bus (he’d never been on a bus before) so he could find his girlfriend (he doesn’t have a girlfriend). Somehow, he got lost, because I got a call from Yashica letting me know what had happened, that they were searching for him and that they’d called the police to help find him. The police found him in a ditch. It had been heavily raining all day, so we think he simply fell in the ditch and couldn’t get himself back up.
That night, I was told Dad had to leave the facility. He needed supervision (which I told the owner up front), and that they couldn’t handle him. I had no place to put him, so Yashica suggested a managed care facility over in Lake City (the other side of the state from me). I okay’d the move. That was a week ago Sunday. A week ago Monday, Dad had sweet-talked the owner, Shenay F., into taking him down to the local VyStar Credit Union so he could access his money. For whatever reason, Dad okay’d Shenay to be put on his account. I found out about this a week ago Thursday when I went to the credit union to have some statements printed out. I got to the service desk, gave the member service person Dad’s member number and he looked at the account, looked at me, and said, “And you’re Shenay?”
I spent the next couple of hours working with VyStar to see if there was any way I could remove Dad’s name from that account that was now joint with my power of attorney. I couldn’t. I called General Motors Pension Benefits to alert them to the possiblity of Dad’s redirecting his direct deposit into a different account. They couldn’t do anything to stop him. I didn’t even bother with Social Security. I knew I needed to have guardianship to stop his redirecting those funds.
Yesterday, I received a notice from Social Security that they would not be paying Dad’s May benefits next month. Today, I went down to Social Security to find out why. They couldn’t tell me, because I’d been removed as payee. Again.
I came home and got online to change the address on Dad’s accounts to reflect his Lake City address. Tomorrow, I’m going to pack up his mail, his bills, his pills that came to my house, and I’ll forward them to Lake City. I’m done playing this game. If Dad wants to be on his own, he can be on his own. I can’t afford to pay an attorney five grand to become Dad’s guardian again. To tell the truth, I don’t think I want to even try. I’m tired. I have my own health issues, and I’m trying to make a living.
The next time Dad does a disappearing act and gets tossed from this place where he is, I will not be around to help him out. As of now, he’s a John Doe to me. A John Doe dad.