The Lucky One

During the 8 months I was on my OMG-it’s-cancer blog sabbatical, a lot happened. I mean, a LOT. Not just with me, but also with Jerri and the rest of the family. I need to catch you up. But where to begin?

Hmm, let’s see. I could tell you about Jerri’s eviction and frantic search for new housing. Housing for New Hope, the organization managing Jerri’s apartment complex didn’t call it eviction, of course. They called it “helping Jerri to achieve her goals.” In all fairness, Jerri did want to move to a safer part of town but I don’t know. She was told she had to vacate the premises by October 1. She was given 8 weeks to find a new place and that’s not much time when you’re unemployed with bad credit and no deposit saved. Not to mention your income is only $700 a month and there’s a waiting list for all subsidized housing in the city. That reeks of eviction to me. Just stinks to high heaven. Plus your sister, who would normally help you is recovering from a thyroidectomy and treatment, which Hap, the apartment manager knew. It’s as if someone was purposely taking advantage of my incapacitation and inability to advocate for her.

I could tell you how Jerri found an apartment all on her own–a brand new apartment in an elderly gentleman’s home with a separate entrance in a good part of town with utilities included for $600 a month. Her new landlord interviewed several prospective tenants then called Jerri to say he really wanted her to take the apartment. I could tell you how she teared up when she told me. “He really wants me. Nobody ever really wants me!”

I could tell you about dumpster diving for a microwave that works just fine except for the LCD panel. Dumpster-diving. I can check that off my bucket list.

I could tell you about Jerri’s job search, because let’s face it, no one can live on $100 a month after paying for housing. I could tell you how “felony friendly” companies like Walmart and Sears hired her and then took back their offers when her background check included a 21 year old felony charge. A charge, BTW, that our parents filed. I could tell you how she persisted and again, all on her own, found a part-time position doing in-store promotion for a new dog food.

Those are all great stories filled with indignation, wonder, potentially useful insights, and tossed with just the right amount of snarkiness. But perhaps I’ll leave those for another day. What I find I most want to tell you about is this, a recent conversation with my sister. She was in her new apartment which is virtually unfurnished, sitting on an air mattress, which aside from one chair is the only place to sit other than the floor, and she looked around at the dumpster microwave in her tiny kitchen, her ancient TV on a bookcase (another dumpster find), and said, “You know, I’m lucky.”

I looked around too, and said, “How’s that, Jerri?”

Her eyes lighted. “You probably don’t think so because you’ve got a nice house and a good job making good money. You drive a Lexis and can pretty much afford whatever you want. But for a person like me, I’m really lucky.

“Just look at all I have!” She swept the room with her hand. “I’ve got a nice, safe apartment with heat and air conditioning. A lot of people like me don’t have that. They live in a ratty boarding house, or a group home, or they go to a shelter at night or sleep in box on the street.

She got up and took the 2 steps required to reach her tiny kitchen and threw open the refrigerator door. “I’ve got a refrigerator full of food.” (Her case worker had taken her to a food bank that week.) “Just look at how much food I’ve got! I can eat for weeks and weeks. A lot of people like me don’t have enough to eat.

She motioned to her coat closet. “I’ve got a coat and plenty of clothes and shoes.” (She buys everything at the Durham Rescue Mission store or Good Will.) “A lot of people like me don’t have clothes like I do.

She sat back down on the air mattress and looked up at me. “I’ve got you and Catherina (her case worker and friend). A lot of people like me don’t have anyone. They’re all alone. But I’m not. I’ve got you.

“When you think about all I have, I’ve got so much more than a lot of people. I’m just, you know, really lucky. For someone like me.”

You know, when I embarked on this grand adventure of helping my sister recover from bipolar, I never expected to be the one who gained anything from the experience. Life is just full of surprises.


16 Comments on “The Lucky One”

  1. So glad to hear that she can be grateful and content. Aren’t we all trying to master learning to be content in all things? I know I am. Does Jerri give lessons?!?!

    You probably don’t remember, but I am the one with the 44 year old brother with schizophrenia who wouldn’t take meds. He was diagnosed in early 2013 and the entire year was hell – my parents had to hospitalize him four times, all involuntarily. My parents were not laying down the law with him, and they weren’t getting any help, despite my begging them too. He also hit my mom once and nearly assaulted her another time. She ran and got into her car just in time and he banged on her hood and door in a rage.

    I finally lost it around October because I just couldn’t take it anymore. He was completely ruling our lives and keeping us in 24hr crisis mode. I found a social worker who knows Sz, and told my parents we were going to see her to strategize. It worked. She made a huge impact with them and helped them do the necessary emotional work to finally got to a place at the end of 2013 where Dad could say “it’s your job to go to appts and take the meds, and if you don’t, we will evict you.” He lives in a home my parents own.

    Thank God he heard them and is complying. He’s a lot better now, still ill, but it’s like night and day. He was psychotic for all of 2013 and at his worst was calling my parents 30 times a day and destroying the house. Now he is conversational and he even asked my mom to teach him how to cook some meals!!! You don’t know how crazy that is for him to say that. So we are so grateful and praying this lasts.

    • Anon- thanks so much for sharing this. Good for you for saying enough is enough and having the courage to seek out help. Because of you, it sounds like your whole family has made huge progress. That’s awesome!

      You know I’ve been thinking a lot about recovery – how people with mental illness can recover. For the longest time I didn’t believe it but now I do. Seeing how far Jerri has come, how could I not? What I’m discovering though is recovery doesn’t happen in a vacuum. In our case, recovery didn’t start with Jerri. It started with me. It was as if someone in our family had to change before Jerri could start healing. The one who changed was me. And all I really did is decide to take off the family spectacles and see Jerri as a human without all the family labels. It was a small thing but it rocked the world as we knew it. Does that make any sense?

      Looks like you are finding your way too. Couldn’t be happier for you.

  2. Laura says:

    Knowing you’re appreciated makes all the frustration worth it. 🙂

  3. First, I am so happy you are back and on the mend! What a journey you have been on… I will pray for your continued healing. I really missed your blog and you and your sister! Once again our stories are parallel. My sister’s program…the clubhouse ran out of funding and closed. I feverishly looked for something else for her to “do”. But after several failed attempts of trying to hook her up with volunteer opportunites I discovered that she had enough with helping all of us…taking my mom and other relatives to appointments…watching her niece etc. After a few years of her being on the list for her own subsidized apartment, (I like you do…took on the case manager role and we/she found a nice apartment) moved in her stuff that was in storage (lots and lots of clothes from shopping) and she’s now met with her case manager and may work with the city’s literacy program to help others learn to read. So for now…we are okay…I wish you lived closer because we have lots of stuff she could have….Also…somehow in the transition of all of her things…she is missing a microwave…LOL…

  4. VIvian Ryan says:

    You two are such an inspiration and your blog reminds me that there are many more important things in life besides work. Jerri’s attitude is over the top and it is largely due to your dedication and love for her. I know it hasn’t been easy for either one of you, but, oh, it’s so worth every ounce of blood, sweat and tears that you have invested.
    I hope you are in good health.

  5. Linda says:

    I am so glad you told us of Jerri’s positive attitude. Does she still have the houseplants i gave her last year? – LWS

  6. Denise Anderson says:

    [Hmm, my comment I tried to post couldn’t be posted, for whatever reason.]

  7. (Not That) Joan says:

    So glad you are both doing well.

  8. Rose says:

    She is fortunate; and so are you. Sending love to you both.

  9. Jan K. Smith says:

    You might have labeled that “10 Lessons I learned from my sister”. Glad Jerri is safe – and happy!

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