Saturday, August 6, 2011


So much for starting "Shit I Found on the Sidewalk," today. One of the things I have tried to avoid is any type of social commentary regarding homelessness and the dis-advantaged. While I am not completely used to being homeless yet, I am no longer as terrified, humiliated, depressed and just plain sad over my circumstances. I am also afraid to leave here; I feel safe here. I have said little about how I ended up here at Happy Acres. My journey to this place includes timing, economics, bad choices and bad health. At one time, I had two very challenging careers concurrently. I worked for IBM and then Verizon as a support engineer, while free-lancing around the south-east as a violist/violinist, and I did this well for several years. I loved doing both things. 

Long story, short and succinct. After my mother died, my then-husband decided to return to school for his B.S. in Psychology. I was still traveling, playing and working at Verizon, feeling tired and depressed. Only child, no kids, no parents and an "I, I, Me, Me" husband. More weariness, depression, hubby gets a girlfriend while I am in the hospital for CHF and blood transfusions. I left him, divorced and was in the process of trying to buy a house in Tampa and working in Customer Support from home. By this time, I was effectively blind and could no longer drive. I still played in Opera Tampa and could teach from home. Upshot; I invested about 20k in this house on a lease-to-buy. The owners filed for Bankruptcy and I spent two years in court trying to assume ownership. The banks got the house; money trumps all else. Rented a little dive with cockroaches and was living with a "nice guy" who became abusive as finances tightened. Skip ahead eighteen months; in the hospital with severe malnutrition, blindness, cognitive disabilities. I had ulcer surgery in 1985 and have a malabsorption problem. It took several years to rear its ugly head. So, here I am, through my own stupid choices, but also from circumstances that were really beyond me. I have never NOT worked, until this past year, and it is, indeed, strange. 

I spent five weeks in Tampa General Hospital, and then, five weeks in Fletcher Physical Rehabilitation Center, learning to walk again. Then I was sent here to Happy Acres. Homeless Recovery of Hillsborough County paid my rent and my medical bills, which were and still are, astronomical. I have been going through intensive therapy for my right hand. Two knuckles were smashed when I fell just before I was taken by TPD to the Hospital. I hope to play my viola again; I think I will be able to do so; the thought of doing so makes me feel wonderful. I am not a drug addict, nor am I an alcoholic. I watched my father die of alcoholism and it is a terrible disease. One of our "housies" here, died less than two weeks ago of it. She was forty-eight and was nice to me. I will always have that haunting, niggling feeling that I should have stepped up and done or said something. But what?

Who would I have told? Her own mother couldn't make her stop, nor could her daughter. So, we all stood by and watched, knowing how it would end. To witness this is so diminishing; I feel and so do others here, that we are so helpless; we feel so much at the mercy of forces that we cannot see, and do not always understand. For some reason, the last stanza of Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach" resonates, as does the following:

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing."
— Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28)

Yes, there are people here who do nothing but sell and take pills, buy dope and drink, but about half of us here do not share those vices. We try to give our existences some meaning and structure. I have lots of plans; they're just more "non-scheduled" now. As J says, "This place will make you cuss, smoke or drink, if you didn't already." That's one of the reasons this blog is here in cyberspace.  Smoking and drinking are out; I already cuss, so I'm good to go.

Enough; I am so not interesting, as a sole topic of any type of writing. I do want to mention Lyn Griswold. She is responsible for me going down this path. I do use humor, sarcasm, irony and spite as tools to hide my fear and sadness. I will rarely admit to it, however. I wrote this in response to a comment Lyn made on FaceBook to another member, regarding homelessness. Lyn, thanks and I love you. I wish we still worked together.

Now, enough navel-gazing or introspection or mental masturbation or axe-grinding. Back to drivel.

Okay, I "saw" the eye doctor; I think I'm going to see if my Primary Care Physician will give me a referral to the witch doctor. That would be about as useful. I have not had a stroke; he told me my brain is "normal." (WTF??) I almost asked him when the Mother Ship was returning for him. I have housies who are on heavy, heavy meds, and they think I have something seriously wrong upstairs. I have "20/20 vision in each eye, but 20/40 collectively..." What? In all three of my eyes? Shouldn't that be 20/60? "Collectively?" Are you part of the Borg Collective? Are you sure you're looking at my charts and stuff?I STILL CAN'T WALK ACROSS THE FLOOR OR THE STREET WITHOUT FALLING DOWN! HOW IN THE HELL DO YOU PROPOSE TO FIX THIS?

"Oh, we'll take some measurements and RELEASE THE LEFT MUSCLES OF YOUR LEFT EYE!" (emphasis, mine) This is said with the insouciant emphasis of "let's just change your left sock." Lovely. So, he sticks some prisms over my eyes, mutters a few incantations and tells me to come back in a week. I think he wrote down his findings, but I couldn't swear to it. I was too busy contemplating the "fix":

I have told both Drs. Grimm that my BRAIN perceives two of everything, and has since 2003. Even though I show no evidence of stroke, I still have cognitive problems. Aphasia and short-term memory loss being the two other most noticeable changes, along with perceiving two of everything. It's like a carnival funhouse run on a shoestring.

Jesus. And no, Doctor Jekyll, I do NOT want to see my brain pictures. I don't want to look at my heart pictures Doctor Hippy, or my upper right gizzard pictures, Doctor Gassy. I don't want to see my veins or corollaries, or whatevers in my legs, Doctor Frankenstein. I know what all that goo looks like; I don't want to admire my own innards. Years ago, I had a doctor show me my brand-new patched up stomach pictures x-ray thingies, complete with staples!?!? I almost passed out. I'm not squeamish; I worked at the U of M hospital in Ann Arbor for five years, next to the ER Head Trauma unit and I saw gruesomeness up close. I just don't want to see my own gruesome. Call me a coward.

So, that's my muse for Saturday. People ask me all the time (okay, they never ask me) where I get my inspirations. I'm tempted to tell them I buy them at the Family Dollar store, but I mostly think up this shit in the shower. Next entry I promise, real pictures and Shit I Found on the Sidewalk. I know you can't wait. Peace.

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