10/25/07

The Unspeller

So back when I was a case manager, working with folks struggling with mental illness, I had a favorite client named Paul. I'm thinking of him because I got a couple of emails in response to applying to be a Psych. Assistant at Fairview Riverside. I started thinking, "oh, I could really get this job and then I'd be dealing with a lot of craziness again." The truth is, I like it. I've been working in the mental health system for most of the last seven years. Boy could I tell ya some stories. Some are too sad and too hard to think about. Others are seriously funny. But anyway, getting back to my friend Paul. He was about sixty-five at the time and the spittin' image of Yoda. Only his head wasn't quite as wide... but he was very short and super cute in an odd sort of way. His look was not the only odd thing about Paul. He showed up at Regions Hospital and that's where I met him. Turns out he'd been homeless most of his life and just had never gotten caught in the system. When I got him an apartment through the program I worked for, he had no idea how to live in it. He lined things up all over the floor in rows. He put ham and milk in the cupboard and cereal in the fridge. He opened the windows in the freezing winter and never locked the door. I love this guy. The quirkiest thing about Paul is that he carried around a notebook and wrote things as you said them to him. When we met, I said "Hi, I'm Heather." He wrote (VERY slowly and VERY carefully) HEATHER in his book. Then he sat quietly and repeated over and over "No H, no E, No A, No T, No H, No E, No R." I didn't know what to do. I had been unspelled! I didn't know if he was trying to erase me or what. I soon learned that Paul did this with EVERYTHING anyone said to him. He unspelled it. "Paul, you need to lock your door." He would respond, "How do you spell that?" It takes a long time to spell that but we would do it right there standing in the hall. Then after it was spelled out in the notebook, we'd stand there a while longer while Paul unspelled it. No L, no O, no C, no K.... and so it went. He never did lock the door. Yeah, it was hard to wait during this process sometimes. But how do you get upset with Yoda?
I hope I get the job, find good childcare, and meet more people like Paul.

4 clicked right here to comment:

Kelly and Kyle Vlach said...

I hope that you get the job too! You have the gift of patience--that I am certain of! Did any of your clients ever think snow was just bigs flying around...or was that your former roomate...? Hmmm...

Sabrina said...

Oh I love that story about Paul! I used to work with adults with DD for a long time. I had this one client named Kelly, He was quirky like your paul. He kinda looked like yoda too! Maybe they were brothers? I loved him dearly, and he was also a ward of the state and I always thought about adopting him!! He collected (horded) pop can tabs, and everyday if he didn't burp, fart or act rudely in general, he would earn a pop tab! I had a whole desk drawer full of pop tabs! I miss him!
Did you notice i add my beloved Cadbury Egg to my last meal list? I can't beleive I forgot it! You have your peeps and i have my cadbury egg! Love it!

C said...

What was the one word he didn't believe anyone could spell right? I remember sitting in his apt. and going over and over and over the word... arg! now for the life of me, I can't remember what it was... go figure!

It's funny, this time of year, I start to miss Gorgeous. Usually when I am peeling large amount of potatoes. ;)

xox, crock

Tiffany said...

I remember Paul. His story and actions always made me wonder what peace he was giving himself by unspelling. I hope you get the job and help even more people like Paul.

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