I was on the second floor in the “nest” and teenagers were on the fourth. We delighted in hearing on the intercom a code kid or something like that when someone on the fourth floor would try to escape or would cause consternation for the employees in one manner or another. It was like we were cheering for them.
I need to tell you that I made some lifelong friends in the place, including “Sarge” Charles, “Pops” Fred, Marie the “hippie,” “Bizarre” Ann and a young gay man named Joe. Yes, we had both men and women on my ward.
It was supposed to be 55 and up, but we occasionally got someone younger, including Joe, who was in his mid-20s. The following five people bonded with me the most.
“Sarge” or Charles, age 65, joined me in the intake room for more than an hour of my first hours there. He told me he wanted to cut his throat with his military knife. After becoming friends, we told each other what our first impressions were of each other, and mine of him was that of a serial killer with “squinty” eyes; and he told me I looked like a “scared cat in a frying pan.”
He was a 20-years military veteran who had been denied veterans benefits because he was in a California unit or some such thing that I never understood. He had been identified as low intelligence when 7 years old and spent his first years in a low-intelligence school program. They eventually found out he had dyslexia, and he became super intelligent on his own without much schooling.
He was a sniper in the military and worked on early NASA programs, helping to invent many of the technical items used three decades ago. He was admitted in a homeless condition as his girlfriend of many years told him to not come back. He cried with me when I left, which surprised me immensely as I would never guess this man could shed a tear. I do hope they help him to find a home after his years of service. We plan to stay in touch after he is released.
“Pops” was almost 90 years old but really sharp mentally, and, although he walked with a walker, he otherwise seemed healthy despite weighing less than 100 pounds. He and I got royal treatment because we both were on walkers. He had totally bruised arms much like my own mother from blood thinners. He was my roommate for my last night and I thought to myself, “This man will snore me out of the room tonight,” but not so — I never heard a peep from him except for a few “toots.” The nurse who shined a flashlight in our faces every 15 minutes all night had to watch him extra long to make sure he was still alive.
Before “Pops,” I had a roommate who coughed continuously all during the night — and not just here and there but with a lapse of perhaps 10 seconds until the next long, continuous eruption. Needless to say, I got little sleep. I much preferred “Pops.”
“Bizarre” Ann, early 70s, was super intelligent and the fight-starter in the group. Her cheeks appeared to have been cut horizontally and then sewed up with baling wire. She could be as sweet as honey, and then blow up over others’ ideas or language.
I tried immediately to make a friend of her. Once, when I sat in a rocker with her decorated pillow in it in the group room, I was warned that when Ann came in, she would rip me a new one. When Ann did arrive, she sat across the room without complaint. When I got up to go to the bathroom, I said to her, “I am sorry if I sat in your chair.” She replied, “It is not my chair” with a curt response. Later, I sought her out to explain that I meant “the chair you prefer,” and the matter was finished.
She left the day before I did, and I went over and told her how much I enjoyed being around her, and we embraced. She told me I was a true friend, and I agreed with her.
Marie the “Hippie” joined us the third day and, although being 72, she was a bundle of energy. She was extremely intelligent and would quote many ancient philosophers in making her point. She, Sarge and I had many fun conversations, even though Marie is much more progressive than I and Sarge much more conservative. We were like three children in a household who would have secret meetings to overthrow the parents.
Lastly, I would like to tell you about Joe, a late “coming out” gay man in his mid 20s who was there for thinking of taking his life. He was too young to be in our group and this was because they needed to find him a bed on floor three with a mixed population.
I saw him sitting alone with one hand grasping the other and a super-worried expression on his face. He had not met any of the others and was being somewhat passed over. I sat down next to him and welcomed him to our group and asked his name.
He told me his story of rejection and supposed redemption only to be rejected again. I told him his situation was not his fault and that things would get better for him. He told me he felt really isolated and thanked me for coming over and talking to him.
He spent one night in our ward and, when being moved the next day, he came up to me and, with tears in his eyes, expressed the most heartfelt appreciation I have ever received. That was our moment passing each other in life, and I hope he finds some happiness during his.
Before you think I got special treatment because I needed a walker, it was much needed as my “shaky legs” were working overtime. I would get my meal platter carried for me by the nursing aides, and to be honest, otherwise, the meal would have been on the floor every time.
So, the final day, I signed a multitude of paperwork after waiting hours on the ward, called my ride and, when I found him to be close, asked to go down to the waiting room. My friend, Terrell Blake, picked me up after getting lost, and we headed home at rush hour.
Just an incidental note on my aging personality. Terrell Blake and I stopped to get a meal in Mesa on the way home and decided to stop at a Chinese fast food restaurant. I went through the line first, and when I told the young lady behind the counter what I wanted, she said, “What?” I repeated my order to her and she just looked at me.
I turned to Terrell and asked if he spoke the language. At that point, an older worker took her place and told her to go out and mop. I got my meal and went to the condiment stand only to find it was out of forks. I returned to the register and told the young man and returned to my table. After three or four minutes with no fork, I returned and told Terrell to ask the new young man behind the register for forks, which he did. Terrell joined me at the table, but still no forks.
At that point, I pulled a “Frank Ward,” which only a few people will know the meaning of. I screamed out to bring some damn forks out, and we got two forks. Unfortunately, they were brought out by the same young girl I first encountered. Terrell and I both guessed what she could have done to them before we got them. We ate and headed home.
I want to express all the appreciation I can to my friends who wrote me on Facebook, and family and friends who helped me during this situation. If anyone would like to know more about a psychiatric hospital experience, give me a call.