Change the name, but not the story…a continuation…….
Regular as clockwork, Joe knocks on the door. The slow, steady knock of someone who is desperate for an answer. It doesn’t matter that I’ve only just got in….
Something is on Joe’s mind, and he needs to know the answer there and then.
“When’s she coming?” he barks. No niceties, no attempt at any sort of conversation. Just a desperate need to know that ‘she’ is going to take him out for an hour or so. A brief respite from another day in purgatory. Time away from a place that is a constant reminder that he’s not the man he used to be.
Joe used to be as hard as nails. He was never big on words, but people respected him…or maybe they just feared him. He learned from his father at an early age that if he didn’t do what he was told, or got something wrong, then he was going to be treated harshly, and reprimanded. If he was lucky it would just be angry words, but as he got older it would be a beating. School of life stuff…if you couldn’t suck it up then you were weak. Strength and aggression were what made you a man…and so, like father, like son.
But before the trait jumped to the next generation, Joe had already begun his drinking career. The quickest analgesic for being on the receiving end of a good hiding…alcohol. Sometimes he drank to change the way he felt, but more often than not it was just to stop feeling. And as the boy became the man, Joe began to learn that drinking took away the fear. He learned that you could use it to create fear in others, and that if you were to combine it with your own strength and power you could usually get what you wanted.
Joe never learned the softer skills of reason and discussion. He didn’t think he had any real need for them. After all, he’d got himself a job in a travelling fairground by then, eventually running his own ride. All you needed was a bit of muscle to set it up, a bit of banter for the punters, and enough brawn to dish it out when it started to get out of hand in the pub.
The trouble was that years of brawling and drinking had started to take their toll on Joe’s mind. Alcohol related dementia began to slowly tear holes in his memory. You could tell because he was forgetting things now…and because he couldn’t retain anything for more than a few minutes at a time.
All he knows is that his support worker is coming to see him today, and she is late. It doesn’t matter that the timetable in his pocket clearly indicates that she isn’t due until the afternoon. In Joe’s mind she’s late…and what’s worse is that he thinks she’s letting him down and it’s making him angry.
And because he can no longer fight someone about it, and because deep down he knows that something isn’t right, the tears come. Inconsolable because he hates being in a home,because there is nowhere else that he can imagine going to and because he can no longer remember why he is crying.
Then the crying stops, and he apologises, only for the whole process to start again half an hour or so later as Joe once more wants a word.
And despite the frustration of having to cover the same ground with him, Joe needs that word and that reassurance. We owe it to him, to preserve his dignity, and his humanity.
Joe…more than just a drinker.