Hello. It is the thing people say when they answer the phone. It is a greeting when a person walks in a house, or in a room. I can’t imagine how many times in my life I have said hello, as a greeting and as a what the hell are you thinking attitude-y way. For some reason, the hello she said that morning made me sick to my stomach. It made me mad at myself that I hadn’t seen her since I sectioned her (for what? Number 102?) right after Christmas. And, if I am being completely honest, I still hadn’t recovered from that- the guilt was killing me. I can still hear her in my head asking me to get her Eggnog because she hadn’t had any all season, something that was usually a tradition for us. She was wearing these dingy clothes that I didn’t recognize, with a winter hat and these manly looking black winter gloves that were too big for her and she was high. I was driving her to a police station under the guise of one thing, knowing I was flat-out, full on, no arguing about it, lying to her about why we were going so I knew she wasn’t getting any Eggnog, or going to make it home to open Christmas presents, something else she asked about. On the way home from that episode, I saw one of her black gloves on the floor of the front passenger side. For some reason that glove still haunts me. Such a strange thing to think about it, but it feels like it’s a symbol of her life: half of it just discarded and left behind.
I made small talk for about a minute or two and then made an excuse to hang up. Once I pulled into the parking garage at work, I put the car in park, putting my head on the steering wheel to cry. I called AC. He reassured me that I would do the right thing. He told me that we would get through this. I don’t know what he thought the “right thing” was because I didn’t ask. I still don’t, if I am being truthful. I have never asked him. After a pep talk I walked into work. I couldn’t have been there for more than an hour before I decided, I couldn’t be there. I had to go to see her. Before I could call her to tell her she was no longer, what? My daughter? Part of our family? I had to see her. I had too. So, I left work, got in my car, and called AC. I must go to see her. He agreed and asked when, I told him I was going right that minute, but he said no, come pick me up first. It’s funny because I work 12 minutes from home, but I was annoyed I had to go back to get him, and in the end, I don’t know what would have happened if I went alone.
He drove. Smart thing number two he did that day. By the end of the day, the list was much, much longer. I sat in the car, a car that was driving in complete silence, immersed in thought. For days I had wanted to call my friends, any friend, to ask if I was doing the right thing but I just don’t do that. I don’t know why but I don’t. I almost called EJ but then I realized she was away for her wife’s birthday, and I almost called Lorrey but she was enjoying her grandkids and it felt like I would put a damper on her otherwise happy life. It feels like talking about this to anyone would be a burden. I could have called CA but then I fear that she worries about me, and Pam was traveling. You see how I can make excuses to just keep it to myself? To just carry it around like a suitcase full of bricks? So, that car ride was no different. Occasionally, AC would reach over to squeeze my hand, or rub my leg. He would throw out a few words of encouragement and say how great it is going to be to see her while I sat there wondering if I opened the door to jump while he was going 75 miles an hour, would I make it out the door to bounce along the highway to my death before he could grab me. That man has cat-like reflexes so the over/under was 50/50.
I waited until we were halfway there before I called her to let her know we were coming. I mean, I couldn’t just show up on her doorstep unannounced because she didn’t have one! To my supreme surprise she was excited we were coming. She started rambling about all the things we could do, and this place we could have lunch, and she had a doctor appointment so didn’t want to miss us so would we wait. I reassured her we still had over an hour before we would arrive, so she had plenty of time. She called three more times before we got into town to see if we wanted to go to this place, or if we could get her that, and of course, would I buy her cigarettes. As we got closer I started to brace myself for what I was going to see. She had been homeless for a long time now, so I had no idea what she would look like, or be like, or how I would react to either of those things. This is where the hard to describe thing begins. One might think it was the whole blog post worth of horribleness in the part one, but the truth is, that was nothing compared to what happened the rest of that day, and in the days to come.
As much as I am sure people would love the gory details, there are somethings I just can’t post publicly. Her entire addiction has been put on blast for all to read in the name of cathartics and education and she is fine with that. But, this was different. This is different. For me, it was shocking. It was alarming. My eyes saw someone who was in deplorable condition. The atrocity of her person frightened me, and saddened me, and made me morbidly curious. The sight of her was truly agnostically emotional, which seems impossible to achieve. Now, there may be people she was with in that time that thinks she looked fine, or didn’t see anything wrong with her, but those people didn’t know her before. Before addiction, before a long winter on the street, or before the last seven years. Those that met her that way was probably assuming she looked good for a drifter, but I felt differently.
We met her in a downtown area that was popular with homeless folks. There were several people hanging around with panhandling signs with various pleas for money and thanks for providing. One thing I learned about this area of Massachusetts is that they treat their homeless well. Now, well is sort of objective. They are still homeless but there are places a person can shower or cleanup and a homeless person will find a free meal every day of the week. In some cases, more than one. There is a restaurant that has two different counters for ordering. One is for regular paying customers with a full menu and one is for those with little to no money who can order a limited number of items including grilled cheese or other hot choices and pay what they can afford or nothing. And that was not uncommon there. In that way, I was sort of grateful she was out there. I could understand why she never made her way back this way. Being homeless on the North Shore would be nothing like being homeless out there, but that doesn’t mean it was a walk in the park. I mean…. Homeless is exactly that- without a home.
She wanted pizza or sandwiches at a specific restaurant so in we went. It was a quaint place and I would love to describe it more but I this post is getting long. Anyway, after we ordered the owner came over to our table, and without saying anything placed a handful of large band aids, some medical tape and a tube of bacitracin on the table top before walking away. Apparently JoDee had large open sores on the bottom of her feet that were making it very difficult for her to walk. The man knew this, and it wasn’t until later, much later, that I could even ask why, so he had been giving her some supplies. I asked to see them, my first mistake, and then I asked how she got them (when you have no home it is common to just walk around from spot to spot which causes feet to sweat and her shoes were too small hence large open sours that started out as blisters but kept growing), my second mistake, and I spent the rest of the meal watching her eat and listening to her and AC talk while I used every ounce of willpower I had not to run away or have a nervous breakdown. After they were done eating (I don’t think I even touched my pizza) I looked at her, really looked at her, and said how can we bring you home? It never works. But, and to this I should not have been surprised, AC had a plan.