As we drove along, George spoke occasionally, wondering out loud about his situation….his life…his future…his circumstances…
It was awkward for me…as most of us sat there and did not respond…it bothered me so much that I chose to respond in ways I thought might give George some motivation or hope.
“God loves you, George.”
“You can do this, George.”
“We are doing this because we want you to know that Jesus loves you just like he loves us.”
All these things I believe, but I wondered how convincing I sounded to George…he seemed to be teetering back and forth on his decision to come with us.
Then George started telling jokes. Blonde jokes. When I was younger, I might have taken offense…in my later years (yeah, I am getting “mature” :D) but now I see this as a form of relating to another human being. When I was a child I would have never considered this an acceptable reason for tolerating blonde jokes….my how I’ve grown…
George’s ponderings turned religious in nature. He spoke of his mother and how she went to church every day. This to me, said Catholic, and it was confirmed when he told us his mother used to wear crocheted hats to church and that one day she showed up and everyone was wearing crocheted hats. At first everyone was all “Awwww!!” and “So sweet!” and then George told the “punch line” again we all chuckled. I asked George if his mom lived in Dallas but I don’t know if he heard me or ignored me.
Interludes of uncomfortable silence were broken up by George telling us how the military taught him how to kill, but left him without retraining when his duty was over. I asked George what he did in the military…he replied with some official sounding lethal title. What I know about the military could pretty much be summed up in a few paragraphs. I tried to figure when George might have been in the military – my mental math, trying to figure out what years, which military events he might have been a part of was not working, especially since I have no idea how old George is. So I ask. He is 52. More mental math…FAIL. So I ask, “Where did you serve?” He replied Germany, but I was stumped ….were we involved in a war, at a time when George would have been eligible for the military, when he would be required to use his “training to kill” skills? Two words: Rabbit Hole. So I moved on. It was quite a long ride to Green Oaks…but we were getting there, and George was with us…and that is all that mattered.
Finally we arrived at Green Oaks and the van rounded the corner to the emergency intake entrance. George asked where we were, our driver reminded him of our destination. We pulled into the parking space and my mom personality kicked in. Someone said, “Someone should go in with him.” Spoke up while trying to open the van door from the back seat.
“I will.” I had NO idea what to expect and thankfully 2 other women said they would come as well. We got out, opened the door for George and he carefully got out of the van (moving slow because, remember? He was run over by a car last year). Sweet George got out and immediately gave each of us a hug. He thought we were dropping him and leaving. We assured him we would stay with him and help him get admitted; this seemed to please him. Moving slowly, we made our way to the sliding glass doors.
Directly inside was the intake desk, behind glass with a 1/2” tall slit at the bottom of the window to pass papers through. I looked at the slit wondering how they could get even a clipboard through it. There was an attendant at the desk and a Dallas Police officer sitting beside her behind the glass.
“I am with OurCalling,” I said it like they would instantly recognize the organization…they did not, or at least they did not indicate recognition. “We have brought George here, he wants to detox.” The woman behind the glass rattled off the documentation requirements so quickly my brain couldn’t retain it. Also, I couldn’t hear her from behind the glass, so I asked her to repeat. I was amazed to find that indeed, they had special flat clipped clip boards that actually fit through the tiny slot in the glass.
She had indicated on the forms with X’s what information needed to be completed, so I joined George on the sofa…..he giggled, “We’ll sit on the love seat.” Emphasis on the word “love” …goof. I started filling out the paper work asking George for specifics, his birthday and Social Security number. Then George had to sign his name, George H. Miller, which he did in a large scrawl…partly because of the alcohol, but also, as I would learn later, because he couldn’t see. This triggered another mental rabbit hole for me. I wear trifocals…TRI, people, three separate areas of vision. I cannot imagine not being able to see to read on top of being homeless and alcoholic…why had this possibility not ever occurred to me?
I know there are places that take old eyeglasses for the poor…so my middle class mind wondered why didn’t George have some of those glasses? Don’t the donations go directly to the homeless? We give, usually clothes, our cast offs…and we don’t think about the delivery and distribution systems involved in getting these items in to the hands of those who need them. I mentally thanked OurCalling for this moment of mental clarity.
Paper work competed and returned, we sat and waited. I asked George if he knew any more jokes. He chuckled and seemed tired of me….”yeah…lots.” The subject of George being in prison came up…I forget how; I asked him why he had been in prison. He said he used to break into houses and steal things…that he had gotten away with it a lot until he got married, but that after that, he seemed to get caught a lot. He gave me a smile. I asked him if he had any kids. “Yes, “he replied, “two. One works in an office and one is an architect.” I mentally wondered if his kids even know if George is alive…much less living on the streets. My own father gave up contact with my sister and I about a year after my parents divorced. He lived in the same town…probably less than 10 miles away, but chose not to maintain a relationship with his two daughters who were in 2nd and 3rd grade. Too bad for him….he missed out. But this is George’s story.
Hayley came over to encourage George. She asked him if he remembered Tammy. That Tammy had been through the Homeward Bound program (first step is the check-in at Green Oaks) and that she was doing well and so could he. George got immediately agitated. “I can’t be around Tammy!” This surprised Hayley, “Why, George?” George went on to explain that while he had provided a room (under a bridge in his makeshift home) and that there was no hanky panky (my words) that took place between them, that he felt that she was a bad influence in the substance abuse self control area (also my words). Hayley assured him he would not have to see her if he didn’t want to. She would be done with the program before he even got to Homeward Bound and besides, there are men’s dorms on one side and women’s on the other. George calmed down and apologized. He said he meant no ill will against Tammy; he just couldn’t be around her.
Hayley went to go sit back down and George turned to me and said, “You know all about me; I know nothing about you.” “Fair enough,” I said, “I have 3…” I started to tell George about my daughters and the intake nurse came into the room and called his name. Hailey, Jennifer and I all stood with George and the nurse indicated that only one person could accompany George. I had completed paperwork and had come this far…no stopping now….so we went back together.
Part Three …tomorrow, I PROMISE!!!