Desperately Seeking PerspectivePosted: April 22, 2012
Tuesday morning, my iPhone woke me at 5 am. Not the alarm clock app, but an actual caller, Catherina, Jerri’s case worker. She was calling from North Carolina and didn’t realize, of course, that I was in San Francisco on business. “I’m about to go into a meeting with Housing for New Hope,” she said. “Looks like they want to evict Jerri.”
“Based on what, Catherina?”
“Well, I won’t have all the details until after the meeting but she’s leaving the external door to the building propped open with the mat, not cleaning her apartment, and apparently Brian found her sleeping on the floor of her apartment one day, practically unconscious, and he had a terrible time getting her up and into bed.”
I’ve already had a conversation with Brian about the door mat and he knows all the residents are doing it. And since when can you get evicted from sleeping on your apartment floor? And if Jerri was sleeping so soundly that Brian couldn’t get her up, how did he get in the apartment? Master key? It’s like one big perpetual game of Bullshit.
Here’s what no one is saying. Housing for New Hope suspects recreational drugs. That’s against their covenants and reason for eviction. The mat in the door is to allow a dealer to enter. The unkempt apartment and heavy sleeping is because she’s wasted.
And they could be right. It’s true Jerri looks terrible and continues to lose weight. When using, addicts often don’t eat or take care of themselves. But the same can be said for people experiencing a psychotic break or even a debilitating illness like cancer. And that’s Jerri’s claim. Something is terribly wrong with her and she feels really sick all the time.
At 11 am, same day, Jerri called fuming mad as if I was in on some conspiracy. Why would I possibly want her to be homeless? What could possibly be in that for me? You know, some days I don’t need anyone to drive me crazy because, thank you very much, I can walk there from here.
Jerri says she can’t keep her apartment clean because she feels bad. She doesn’t know what’s wrong but thinks its probably her liver. But she won’t go to the hospital because she has a doctor’s appointment next week. Catherina thinks she won’t go to the hospital because they’ll find drugs in her system. Honestly, I don’t know what to think. I spent two hours on the phone trying to get Jerri to see other people’s perspective and how based on appearances, it’s easy to jump to the “drug use” conclusion. If she’s really that sick (and she’s been saying this for about a month now), why not try to move the doctor’s appointment up? Or go to the ER? Jerri refuses to do either.
Today, Jerri called around 3 pm. She’d just gotten up and has no food in the house. We’d planned to do a grocery run but she just didn’t feel like it. Could I drive over a chicken sandwich and a large Sprite? She didn’t feel like walking to the shelter to eat. I didn’t particularly want to get out either. I’ve still got jet lag and the weather is nasty. And this is the third time this month, she’s asked me to deliver food. (Once I said yes and the other time, no, for those of you keeping score.)
Stan asked why I was even considering it. That’s the crux of the matter. Why am I? Trophy daughters are known enablers; I don’t want to be one. I want Jerri to make better choices like always having some food in the house and I realize when she doesn’t experience consequences of bad choices, she has no incentive to make better ones. But then I think about my close friends. If one of them called with the same request I’d do it in a heartbeat. Why? Because I love them. Because they wouldn’t ask unless they really needed help. Maybe I should just have “sucker” tattooed on my forehead. All I know is, if I was really, really sick, I’d want someone to bring me a meal. Curse you, Empathy!
So I’d like some external perspective here. In a situation like this, how do you decide when to give and when to set boundaries?
As a sidebar, I saw the movie Blue Like Jazz this week and at one point the main character, Don, says (and I paraphrase), “In the past, I’d always used the what-would-Jesus-do method to figure things out. Just what would Jesus do if his mother had an affair with his Youth Pastor? I couldn’t even imagine . . .” If you happen to know WWJD in my situation, I’m all ears. Because frankly, I can’t even imagine.