Viola avenue, p.14

Viola Avenue, page 14

 part  #9 of  Rose Hill Series

 

Viola Avenue
 


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  “Scott took them all out last month,” Claire said. “Did he hurt her?”

  “Just scared her to death, I think,” Bonnie said. “But he will hurt her next time, maybe worse. Something has got to be done about this, and done today. You two have been shilly-shallying around and meanwhile he’s getting more violent.”

  “I’m so sorry, Claire,” Ian said. “I gotta get out of here.”

  He stood up and made for the back door.

  “That’s right, go on home and jump back in your bottle,” Bonnie hissed at him, but he ignored her. “Leave me to clean up the mess you made.”

  The door closed behind him and Claire slumped into a chair.

  “I shouldn’t have waited,” Claire said. “Doc gave us a referral to a place in Morgantown where we can have him assessed and get him placed in a residential facility.”

  “You call him or I’ll call him,” Bonnie said. “You two have waited too long.”

  “It’s not easy to think about putting him somewhere, you know,” Claire said. “He’s still my dad.”

  “You watch your tone with me, young lady,” Bonnie said. “You think I don’t understand? You think I haven’t had to face putting my own husband someplace to dry out?”

  “I’m sorry,” Claire said. “But how are we going to get him to go? He’s like a two-hundred-pound toddler.”

  “You let other people help, that’s how,” Bonnie said. “Now, call Doc and ask him to call that place and tell them you’re bringing him in. I’ll get some of his clothes together and get your Uncle Curtis to bring the station wagon. Between Scott and Curtis we should be able to convince him to go.”

  “Will you stay with Mom?”

  “I’m not planning on going anywhere,” Bonnie said. “Go call Doc now.”

  Claire called Doc, whose secretary conferenced them both into a call with the Riverview Center. Doc introduced himself, and asked to be connected to someone in admitting.

  The admissions coordinator asked Claire some questions about her father.

  “It’s an emergency,” Claire told the coordinator. “He’s become violent toward my mother.”

  It felt to Claire as if she had just turned down a road going someplace from where it would be impossible to return.

  After the appointment was made, Claire was able to talk to her mother, who was barely able to talk in return. Claire was able to ascertain that she was physically okay, and that she agreed that Ian must go.

  “Aunt Delia,” Maggie said, “let’s go for a walk while they get him ready. It might be easier for him if you’re not here.”

  When Claire’s mother stood up, supported by Maggie, her father made a move to get up out of his chair, and Scott had to restrain him.

  “She’s leaving me!” Ian cried. “Don’t leave me, Delia, I promise I’ll be good!”

  Delia wavered, but Maggie had a firm grip on her.

  “Come on,” Maggie said.

  “They’re just going for a walk,” Scott told Ian. “Let her go.”

  “She’s going to meet Doc,” Ian said. “She’s going to meet her lover.”

  “No, she’s not,” Scott said. “Do you trust me, Ian?”

  “She’s got you all fooled,” Ian cried. “She’s making a fool of us all.”

  Maggie took Delia out the back door and Claire stood, helpless, in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room. Luckily, her Aunt Bonnie came down the hallway and took charge.

  “Scott, Ian will need to use the bathroom and get cleaned up before you go,” she said. “Claire, call your Uncle Curtis and tell him to bring the station wagon around. Then you both need to eat something, because it may be a while before you have a chance to again.”

  Claire was so relieved to have someone else in charge that she hurried to do her Aunt Bonnie’s bidding.

  An hour later, Claire was riding up front in her uncle’s station wagon while Scott sat with her father in the back seat. It had taken both of the men to coax him into the car while Claire trembled and called out encouraging words.

  She was still trembling. She couldn’t seem to get warm.

  Her Uncle Curtis now looked twenty years older, his mouth sunk down in the folds of his face, his forehead creased in wrinkles, his eyes drooping beneath heavy lids. He occasionally looked at her with sympathy and sadness, but the tears in his eyes were for his older brother, who alternately cried and complained from the back seat.

  “You’re taking me to jail,” he accused them. “You’re throwing me away.”

  Scott tried to soothe him as best he could, but Ian was having none of it.

  “Please,” he said to Scott. “Please don’t let them send me away.”

  “Claire and Delia want you to be safe,” Scott told him. “You’re not well, Ian, and you need to be looked after by a doctor.”

  Claire was going through the thick file folder in her lap to make sure she had all the papers she needed to admit him to the mental health facility: power of attorneys, both medical and financial; formal attestation from Doc Machalvie that Ian was mentally incompetent to make decisions for himself; the guardian court appointment signed by Judge Fineman; her father’s Veterans Administration identification, his Medicare card, his birth certificate, driver’s license, and a copy of his medical records.

  When they arrived at Riverview, Claire was impressed by the manicured grounds and brick façade of the medical center, but the tall chain link fence around the whole thing gave her a sick feeling in her stomach. They had to be admitted by a guard to get through a gate and drive onto the property. The guard directed Curtis where to go.

  Curtis pulled up in front of the entrance and Claire got out, carrying her father’s file and overnight bag. Curtis and Scott then spent fifteen minutes trying to convince Ian to get out of the car and sit down in a wheelchair accompanied by a large man in green scrubs.

  “You want me to call for help?” he asked Claire at one point.

  “No,” Claire said. “They can do this.”

  When Ian was finally seated in the wheelchair, her Uncle Curtis took the car to park. The look on his face broke Claire’s heart.

  “I’m just seeing the doctor,” Ian told the attendant. “I’m not staying.”

  While Claire checked him in at the admissions desk, Scott stood next to her father and continued to reassure him. They were all blatantly lying to him now, telling him if the doctor said he could come home they’d take him home. Claire and Scott had exchanged looks the first time this was said, and had silently agreed on this complicity.

  After check-in, they went through several locked doors for which the attendant used a code. Every time one opened, a loud buzzer went off, and every time it made Claire flinch. They went down a long hallway with a linoleum floor so shiny it looked wet. Their footsteps echoed and the rubber tires of the wheelchair made a squelching sound.

  It wasn’t until they went through the fifth locked door that they could hear the other patients. Claire’s eyes widened as her stomach clenched. Scott grabbed her hand and squeezed it.

  “Here we go,” the attendant said.

  The large room seemed like a combination cafeteria and lounge. There were many large tables surrounded by chairs, and many patients sat in them, some eating and some just staring into space. There was also a lounge area with vinyl sofas and chairs facing a large flat screen television, on which a soap opera was playing. Some of the patients were closely attended by workers. Some just seemed to be wandering around.

  Most of the patients were wearing sweatpants and sweatshirts but some had on hospital gowns over soft pants. Most wore slippers. The attendants all wore scrubs.

  It was loud. There was a woman wandering around calling out, “I want to go home!” Another was rocking back and forth in a chair keening, “help me, help me, help me.” Everyone who was talking seemed to be talking loudly. Some were asleep.

  Claire shook her head.

  “I can’t leave him here,” she whispered to Scott.


  Scott squeezed her hand.

  “It will be okay,” he said.

  “Who are all these crazy people?” Ian asked.

  “They are patients,” the attendant said.

  “Well, I feel sorry for them,” Ian said. “Look at all the poor crazy people, Claire. It’s sad, isn’t it?”

  A nurse came up to them with a clipboard, introduced herself, and asked them to follow her. She took them to an office, where they were greeted by a small woman in a lab coat.

  “I’m Dr. Nell,” she said. She shook Ian’s hand when he was introduced and invited Claire and Scott to sit down. The attendant left, closing the door behind him, and Claire and Scott sat down on either side of Ian’s wheelchair. Claire had given the admitting clerk all of her father’s paperwork to copy, and it looked as if Dr. Nell had been going through it.

  “I don’t see your name anywhere in here,” she said to Scott. “Ms. Fitzpatrick, do you give me permission to speak about your father’s medical condition in front of Mr. Gordon?”

  “I do,” Claire said.

  Claire’s father was swinging his head back and forth as he did when he was agitated.

  “I give permission, too,” he said. “Scott’s a good friend to me. Like a son.”

  Claire had to look away from Scott, who had tears in his eyes.

  The assessment took about an hour. Ian couldn’t pass any of the memory tests. He told the doctor he was forty years old, had two living children who were both still in school, and that he had to be back to Rose Hill by two o’clock to drive the school bus.

  Scott wheeled Ian back out into the common area so that Doctor Nell could talk to Claire alone. Claire told her about his recent behavior, his hallucinations, delusions, about the recent incident where he struck her mother, and how he had terrorized her that morning.

  “I’d like to admit him today,” Dr. Nell said. “We need to do some medical tests, try some different medications, and attempt to get him on a more even keel. Then, if and when he’s stabilized, you will need to decide whether to take him home or get him a permanent placement.”

  “I didn’t think we had the option of taking him home,” Claire said. “I thought this was it.”

  “If we can manage his behavior with medication so that he isn’t a danger to anyone, you could possibly take him home in a week or two.”

  “You’ll have to give me a minute,” Claire said. “The whole way here I was trying to accept that it was time for him to be admitted somewhere. I never imagined we could take him home.”

  “Some dementia patients are able to be managed medically for a while, but there is no cure for this,” Dr. Nell said. “Sometimes I need to say this to families, so forgive me if you’ve already realized it: your father is not going to get better; in all probability he will rapidly worsen, and soon will have to live in full-time care. We may be able to give him a few more weeks or months at home, but he will be back.”

  Claire thought about her mother, who had aged so rapidly over the past six months. She thought about her crying at night when she didn’t think Claire could hear. She thought about how she had looked this morning: defeated, worn out, broken down.

  “I want him to be placed somewhere now,” Claire said. “If we take him home, I’m afraid I’ll lose my mom, too.”

  And then Claire cried.

  Chapter Nine

  On Wednesday morning, Hannah promised Sammy a Moonshine Slershy if he got dressed without a fight. She only used this bribe when it was really important that Sammy cooperate. A Moonshine Slershy, as sold by a local convenience store, was made up of three parts sugar to one part crushed ice, with blue food-coloring and some other dubious “flavoring” added. Drinking one made him impossible to deal with for an hour afterwards, so Hannah was surprised they hadn’t yet been classified as a controlled substance.

  “Where we going?” he asked, when she had him safely secured in the only child proof safety seat that had actually proved to be Sammy-proof.

  “You’re going to go play with some kids while Mama talks to a doctor.”

  “Mama sick?”

  “Nope.”

  “Daddy sick?”

  “Nope.”

  “Me not sick.”

  “Nope, you’re not sick. This is a special kind of doctor who makes sure I’m a good mama by asking you questions.”

  “You’s the best mama.”

  “Thanks, honey,” Hannah said. “You just answer all her questions with no fibbing and afterward we’ll go get your Slershy.”

  “Moonshine Slershy.”

  “That’s the one.”

  “Me wants a big one.”

  “That’s the only kind they make.”

  Hannah found a parking space at the Pine County Children’s Center and found that her hands were shaking as she unbuckled Sammy and lifted him out.

  “We’re in Pendleton now, so you know what that means,” she said.

  “Me no running away,” he said. “Me might get runned over by a truck.”

  “That’s right,” Hannah said. “You don’t leave this building without me.”

  Inside, Hannah signed in for their appointment. The woman behind the desk gave her forms to fill out, and while she did so, Sammy played with a learning toy that consisted of wooden shapes, with a hole in the middle of each one, that could be moved only on thick wires attached to a low table. Nearby, there was a little girl clinging to her mother, who was reading a magazine as they waited.

  “You wanna play with me?” Sammy asked the little girl. “Me nice.”

  The little girl was at first shy, but her mother encouraged her, so eventually she joined Sammy to play with the toy.

  “They don’t come off,” Sammy told her. “Me looked under the table but they stuck.”

  When Sammy’s name was called, Hannah told him to say good-bye to the little girl.

  “Me getting a Moonshine Slershy,” he told her.

  Hannah didn’t look to see what expression that information elicited from the mother.

  The receptionist took them to a playroom where several children were doing activities at low tables, an adult with a clipboard in attendance at each station. There was also a group play area where three toddlers were busy taking toys from each other and then crying about it.

  “Hi, Sammy,” a woman said as she approached them.

  Her ID, which hung on a tangled lanyard, was turned backwards.

  Hannah shook hands with her as the woman introduced herself as “Sally.”

  “Marjorie will take you to where the parents wait,” Sally told Hannah. “Sammy and I are going to play some games.”

  “Hannah’s a good mama,” Sammy said, and clung to Hannah’s hand.

  “I’m sure she is,” Sally said. “This won’t take very long.”

  “Mama will be right next door,” Hannah said.

  Sammy reluctantly let go and Hannah followed Marjorie to a viewing booth where the other mothers and fathers were waiting. Except for one, they were all looking at their phones. The exception was a very thin, gray-haired woman who was sitting up straight, her eyes riveted to one of the children. She seemed agitated, and at first Hannah thought she was talking to herself.

  Hannah loved weird people, so she sat down right next to her. The woman barely noted her presence before she went back to observing this specific child. What Hannah thought was her talking to herself was actually her answering the questions the clinician was asking the little boy. Only when he moved on to the free play area did she relax.

  She put her hand on Hannah’s arm and took a deep breath.

  “I think he did okay,” she said. “He got all the letters and numbers right, and he only missed one color.”

  “That’s good,” Hannah said, and inwardly admonished herself for not cramming with Sammy last night in preparation for the tests.

  “Is he your grandson?” Hannah asked.

  “Great-grandson,” the woman said. “His mother, my granddaughter, died of a h
eroin overdose three years ago.”

  “I’m so sorry,” Hannah said. “I know there’s a terrible problem with that in our state.”

  “Honey, I’ve lost my daughter, my son-in-law, and now my granddaughter to addiction,” she said, and then pointed to the little boy. “Remy was born addicted and premature.”

  “Are you raising him all on your own?”

  “I’m all he’s got left,” the woman said. “These tests are to make sure he doesn’t have brain damage. So far he’s passed with flying colors, but sometimes problems don’t show up until later.”

  “How do you do it?” Hannah asked her. “My son wears me out and I have a husband helping me.”

  “I just pray for the strength to live long enough to see him grow up healthy and clean,” the woman said. “Plus, I’ve got a good church family and they rallied ’round me. Otherwise, I couldn’t do it. He’s a good boy, too, sweet as can be. That makes a big difference.”

  The woman with the notebook who had been assessing her great-grandson came to get the woman from the viewing booth. Hannah wished her well.

  Sammy was sitting at a table with big plastic letters and numbers scattered about on it. Hannah sat forward and willed him to get everything right.

  Later on, Sally came to get Hannah and took her into a small office.

  “Okay,” Sally said, and turned back to the beginning of her notes.

  “Sammy has just turned four,” she said, “so we’ve taken that into account. He’s a charming, bright child; it was a pleasure to assess him. He’s exceptional in his understanding of abstract concepts such as time of day and directions. He told me his father taught him to tell the time of day by the location of the sun, and to find the direction south by drawing an imaginary line through the tips of the moon when it’s a smile, not a circle.”

 
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