The Thinker

A Neighbor in Hell, Part Three

I have written three entries (here, here and here) about a neighbor down the street and her personal hell. I haven’t written about her situation since March. I wish I could report that she is at least ascending into a higher level of Dante’s Hell, but that is not the case. Things have gone from really, really bad to even worse. After last night I feel I simply must write about it again, hopefully to purge it from my system. I hope no one in the neighborhood reads this weblog because it will be pretty obvious who I am writing about.

When last we left C and her daughter B, B was in and out of psychiatric institutions and making sporadic efforts to return to her middle school. After months of work C managed to get her daughter admitted to a full time mental health facility and boarding school for emotionally disturbed children near Leesburg, Virginia. She detailed this whole journey for us a few months back when we invited her over for dinner. Needless to say everyone in the approval process went out of their way to keep this child, who desperately needed help, from getting it. C’s husband D has been unemployed for over a year so they are living off her income but apparently it was too much for her to get public mental health services, even though of course they were exhausting savings and 401-K’s right and left. Keeping up their house payments seemed increasingly doubtful. Anyhow, B finally got admitted and has been in this institution for more than six months now. It is only recently that she has been allowed to come home for a few hours for very well chaperoned visits. How much longer she will stay in this institution is unknown, but thank goodness she is getting full time psychiatric care at last. B is making progress.

Little details about B’s life keep leaking out from time to time. As you may recall C’s husband D is a drunk. I should not have been surprised to learn that B had been hitting Daddy’s hooch. I never had a clue, but I’ve heard that alcoholics are really good at hiding their habit. B told our daughter Rosie that she recently had been clean and sober for a whole year. This is also good news. I hope she can always be that way. This makes me wonder what other bad stuff she had been getting into. We have heard rumors that she had been using marijuana, but now I’m wondering if she got to harder stuff. Perhaps I will find out in time.

No, the real problem is no longer B but husband D. Since his unemployment it has been all downhill. To start off with, he’s had knee surgery to correct some major problems. Apparently he had a lot of pain from it and he’s been on pain killers. Somehow, and I doubt it was something given to him in the hospital, he found a doctor to write him prescriptions for Oxycontin. So he’s been mainlining Oxycontin, along with of course continuing to drink almost all the time. The doctor, we learned, had no idea he was also an alcoholic, although how he could miss it we don’t understand. The rest of us could tell he was a drunk from a hundred paces.

D of course remains in denial about his drinking. C eventually figured out that she had to get him out of the house. He and his drinking gave B opportunities for her steady and disastrous decline. Apparently if two people are married one can’t force the other to get out of the house and he wasn’t leaving. He had no place to go and no money to live anywhere anyhow. He lived off C’s salary. That left C with few alternatives. One was to find an apartment and move there with her son E. The other was to find D an apartment and convince him to move there.

She eventually succeeded in the latter and found him an apartment with a six month lease a few miles away. (Naturally, she has to pay his rent.) Of course D didn’t seem to like the new situation and petitioned to get back in to the house. And C, for reasons I don’t understand, didn’t bother to change the locks.

So a few weeks ago B came home for a supervised visit and there was her drunk father, who she should not see. C talks him into going into the basement, but it isn’t long before reputedly he is cussing up a blue streak at her daughter and blaming her for all of his problems. But there is more. For weeks the man is growing more and more psychotic. He’s had my wife come over to check his computer because he believes that agents are breaking into his computer. Later, it’s not just agents; it’s none other than al Qaeda itself! Yes, Osama bin Laden apparently is targeting D’s computer! Terri, of course, finds nothing wrong with his computer. She should know; she does this stuff for a living but D is not convinced.

We go as a family to see a movie and were to run Rosie by B’s house for a brief visit afterwards before B had to go back to the institution. Rosie and my wife Terri knock on their door. No one answers, but B should not have left yet and the light is on in her bedroom. My wife calls from their driveway using her cell phone. D picks up the phone and goes into a rambling and high pitched dialog about people trying to get him and then the phone goes dead. She tries again; the phone is picked up but there is no answer.

She comes back to our house and we call the police. They come by and ask us questions. We try to reach B’s institution to find out if she arrived back there early. They can’t tell us. We try to reach C but don’t have her cell phone number. Eventually the police go to his house and knock on the door. We don’t know what happened but a little while later an ambulance quietly goes down our street and silently exits some time later.

Much later in the evening we get a call from C. Thankfully B was safe and C had taken her back earlier than we expected. But there is no one at home, the police won’t tell us what happened and C has no idea where her husband is. Later in the week we learn that D was taken to Fairfax Hospital. Apparently he had a massive infection in his knees. He’s been in the hospital since that time. Two weeks of intravenous antibiotics seem to have finally brought the infection under control. We learn that the infection was very advanced and that D was actually pretty close to death. My wife’s concern and our calling the police may well have saved his life!

Now apparently D is close to being released from the hospital. Why we’re not sure, because he still thinks al Qaeda is out to get him. But of course he wants to return home, not go back to his apartment. C, of course, does not want him home. D says there is no bed in his apartment. C decides she will move the futon into his apartment so he can’t use that excuse. I volunteer to help her.

So last night we struggle to get the thing into her minivan and I, and her son E (who is in fourth grade) go to his apartment to deliver it. C brings cleaning supplies with her because the management is upset about the condition of the place.

We enter but can barely get in the door because of all the crap all over the place. I have never seen such a god-awful mess, and believe me I’ve seen a few. I can only begin to describe it. Furniture is tipped over. Birdseed is all over the place. The refrigerator is open and unplugged. The burners on the stove have been removed. The washing machine and dryer have been pulled out. Aluminum foil is strung out everywhere and taped across walls (to confuse al Qaeda apparently). I find a whole mess of pills in the pantry of unknown type and lots of alcohol swabs in the bathroom. How long had he been in the apartment? Only two weeks! Oh. My. God.

We eventually clear a path so we can bring in the futon and we furiously begin picking up crap, vacuuming, sweeping and cleaning counters and floors. Eventually though I have to leave C to finish, but I take her son E back to our place, help him with his homework and let him zone out on video games. C keeps cleaning and doesn’t come by until nearly 11 PM. She had no choice. She has to get the management to get the heat back on tomorrow in case D comes home, and they won’t do it until the place is cleaned.

D has family in New Mexico who sound like they can be arm twisted to let him “come home”. C is hoping that will happen soon. Then perhaps she can get that divorce and reorder her life. Her daughter B would be more than enough of a problem for any parent. Just managing her, if she can get rid of hubby, will be an enormous relief.

We’ll see. I hope this is their nadir as a family, but so far every time I think things can’t possibly get worse they do. To whatever God or gods are out their directing their fate: enough! No one deserves his level of hell. It’s time for this family to heal and move on.


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