As an aside, I wanted to talk about my father-in-law (I might as well call him that, since Michael and I might as well be married) and something he did last week.
(This is kinda long. As usual. Skip it if you like.)
David might be best described as “prickly.” He’s the kind of person who doesn’t care what anyone thinks — not even his own nearest and dearest — and always says exactly what he thinks or believes, even if it causes offense. If a person — any person, including me or his wife or son — complains about his behavior, David suggests they should just leave if they don’t like it. He is also really tone-deaf when it comes to personal boundaries and often says and does inappropriate things — things that, basically, if it was anyone OTHER than David, would shock and horrify everyone. But because it’s David, nobody (including me) seems to care.
He doesn’t have a lot of friends and frankly, many times he acts like a total jerk. And he doesn’t care if people think that, and he won’t change his behavior just to comply with others’ expectations. He’s been like that for as long as I’ve known him, and from what I’ve heard, he’s been like that all his life.
Yet he’s actually one of the kindest and most genuine people I know, utterly without malice. Yes, his words and sometimes his actions can hurt people’s feelings, but that’s never his intention. He’s not at all selfish either. He regularly goes out of his way to help people out, and I know I can trust and depend on him. Once I called him at like 3:30 a.m. to ask for a ride — and it wasn’t really an emergency — and he was like, “Sure, I’ll be right over” and came and picked me up and delivered me to my destination without any comment on the timing, acting as if it was 3:30 p.m. and not a.m., as if he hadn’t been woken from a sound sleep. I really appreciate his bluntness because he’s one of the only people I know who almost never lies. Honesty is very important to me, because I have a hard time picking up on nonverbal social cues.
Anyway, something happened last week that I wanted to tell you guys about, something that demonstrates the true compassion David has underneath the “jerk” exterior.
Last Tuesday I went to see my family doctor in Ohio in the morning for post-concussion followup. I also had therapy at the mental health clinic in town scheduled for that afternoon. I decided to kill the in-between hours at Michael’s parents’ house. I can come over there unannounced, whether or not anyone’s home — I’ve got a key. David was at home when I arrived.
He asked me if I’d like to go to Wal-Mart with him and I agreed. We made purchases and while David was driving us home, he made an unexpected U-turn and parked. I asked him why he had done so and he said, “I want to find out what’s going on with those two people. Could you talk to them?” (David can’t walk without crutches and it’s a pain in the butt for him to get in and out of cars, so it made more sense for me to do it.)
They were on the sidewalk outside the town’s sketchiest hotel (there’s actually only two hotels, but trust me, this one is really sketchy), with what appeared to be all their worldly possessions piled on the ground around them. There was a gray-haired woman, maybe in her sixties, who was lying on the ground covered with a blanket, and another woman, who looked to be in her twenties or maybe early thirties, sitting in a wheelchair.
I asked what was going on, and the older woman explained that they’d been evicted from the hotel. It wasn’t for nonpayment of rent; in fact, they’d paid up in advance, but they’d been evicted anyway — I didn’t ask why — and the hotel refused to give their money back. The woman said they’d even contacted the police, but the police refused to intervene. She went on to explain that the woman in the wheelchair was her daughter, but the wheelchair was her own; she had only one leg.
I spoke to the daughter, and she told me she’d been diagnosed “mildly mentally retarded” and also had bipolar disorder. She also said she did not want to leave her mother. They were homeless and had no money and nowhere to go.
This I reported back to David. He sent me back to the women to ask what their names were, then I went back to the car and told him. There are no homeless shelters in this town, and the town itself is like a 45-minute drive from the nearest city big enough to have a shelter, but the local YMCA has a few rooms for destitute people. So David called them, got no answer, and left a message explaining the situation and asking them to help. He started making other calls, including to the mayor’s office.
I decided to make a few calls of my own and stepped out of the car so I could do it without being distracted by David. I went back to the two women and asked the daughter if she received services at the mental health clinic I go to. She said she had, but I’m not sure if she meant she had in the past or whether she was still a client/patient there. I called the clinic and asked to speak to their crisis person, and told her the situation. She said she didn’t think the clinic could help, but suggested a few other people to call.
I called a local nonprofit that provides services to mentally disabled children and young adults. The woman there suggested I contact the county’s board of human development (or something like that, I can’t really remember), and gave me their number. I called them. The director said he thought he might be able to help, and he asked where these two women were — still in the exact place we’d found them — and promised to send somebody out to at least talk to them. However, the man didn’t sound all that optimistic. In any case I think that if they could offer any help at all it would probably be for the daughter only, and she had said she didn’t want to leave her mother.
I called the pastor at the church my dad and sister go to, and he referred me straight back to the YMCA. I couldn’t think of anyone else, so I got back in the car. We’d been sitting there for like 45 or so minutes and I was supposed to go to my therapy session soon. David told me he’d struck out too, but he was going to keep trying after he dropped me off at the clinic. He asked me to tell the women about this, so I went to them and said, “We found someone who says they’ll send someone to go out here and talk to you. We have to go now, but we’ll keep trying.” The older woman started crying and then said thank you.
By the time David dropped me off I was crying too, feeling so bad for those two women and furious that, in one of the wealthiest nations on earth, two disabled people were sitting out on the street with no roof over their heads. I was so upset that the secretary asked me to sit not in the lobby but in a more private area. She gave me a tissue box and asked if there was anything she could do to help and if I would okay waiting for my therapist to come get me or did I want someone to sit with me. I told her I was okay to wait and explained about the two women. By the time my therapist came to get me around ten minutes later, I had regained my composure.
After my therapy, I went back to Michael’s parents’ house to get my stuff, and asked David, “Any luck?” He told me he’d finally found someone who promised they would go out and assist the two women. I was very glad, although still angry that they’d gotten into that situation to begin with.
I just wanted to let people know about this: a guy whom so many people think is an ass was on the phone for well over an hour, calling everyone he could think of, doing basically everything he could to get help for these two women who were complete strangers. I hadn’t even noticed either of them until he turned around and pulled over, and if I had, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to offer assistance to them.