Freudian Slips: The Chronicles of Riddance

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Location: Irony, New Jersey, United States

Life takes us many places. It's a box of chocolates and a Hansel and Gretal trail of candy wrappers. I have filmed as an actor in The Happening, Invincible, The Lovely Bones, The Bounty Hunter, The Greek American, Bazookas, Limitless, TV's Its Always Sunny in Philly, Outlaw, New York, The Warrior, The Nail, Game Change, Cold Case, & commercial work includes The Philadelphia Eagles, Septa, Coors, Turbo Tax & Carnival Cruises. Freudian Slips spotlights irony in short story format.

May 15, 2005

The Chronicles of Riddance

In her fourteen years, Gwen has never been confused with an apostle. In actuality, she has never been confused with anyone other than herself at 5'8" 225 pounds with autism, psychotic features, and aggression. She tussles in unpredictable fashion over trivial matters like the bus is late, I don't like peanut butter any more, or why did it snow. Gwen is a triple threat of mixed martial arts using her fists, feet, and iron jaws. The world is her punching bag and I am her social worker. Pock-marked with impressions of her fist, her bedroom walls are autographs of anger. Bedroom walls are defenseless targets when you run out of live sparring partners.
The father is the sole caregiver because the doting mother made the honest mistake of dying first. Things have gone downhill ever since. The father is ill-equipped to care for even a goldfish on a continuum. Gwen has been to the local crisis unit a number of times. Adult Protective Services has an inch thick file on the home, a must read for anyone interested in a social work degree. Home health aides and behavior interventionists have come and gone through a drafty turnstile. I got her under the care of one of the best psychiatrist in the field of developmental disabilities in America but medicine can only do so much. A pound of pixie dust and an exorcism couldn't correct the underlying problem - one old man cannot tame a cyclone. For me, convincing the father to let go has always been the real battle in counseling gone awry.

The father makes an unannounced visit to my office. Chronicling my social work memoirs begets surprises and this is a visit I will never forget. On the phone at the time, I motion for him to sit down. Instead, he whispers that he will meet me outside. He always preferred a lit cigarette when braving serious conversation. I always prefer fresh air when talking about anything. When I find him sitting at a picnic table, his wrinkled face looks as though he had been crying. A wrinkled handheld tissue confirms the emotion.
I ask, "What is the matter?"
The father replies, "I have been thinking about your offer to put my daughter in an institution."
"You mean the offer you declined?"
"Yeah, that offer."
"That's a done deal. It is deadpan. I followed it up with a certified letter asking you to reconsider but you still refused?"
"Yeah, well, I got to thinking, ...uhm...you can take her now."
"What do you mean I can take your daughter now?" I said flabbergasted.
"Please, I am begging you. Take her right now."
"Like this minute?"
"Right now, Joe. I'm done. I'm spent." The tissue arrives on the scene and he begins to whimper. I sit down beside him and pat his back. He only cries harder. I get up.
I explain, "I don't have a paddy wagon out back that I can go round her up. It's not like that. It doesn't work that way. I have to check to see if my agency's placement offer is still tender. I can't speak for the funding or if the bed is still available. Why don't you tell me what has changed your mind?"
"She has been giving me hell. Maybe it is a sign from the Lord above."
I wanted to keep the separation of church and State. "Where is Gwen now?"
The father apprises, "I kept her home from school."
"Why?"
"Showing her colors, misbehaving."
"What is Gwen doing now, right this minute?"
"I can't be certain but she's probably tearing up the joint. She donkey kicked the aquarium glass. I got shards of glass, bleeding fish, and water all over the parlor. She was throwing knick-knacks against the dining room wall when I left. I had to get out of there, man."
"Back up. You two live alone." I rationalize. "Who is watching her, quelling the disturbance?"
"Nobody....she is home by her lonesome."
"Oh my God. Jesus, that's not good." I moan in the return of church and State. "You got to get home. If she is out of control, call the police."
"It's okay. Her psychiatrist told me so. He said whenever Gwen acts out, take a walk."
"This isn't taking a walk. This is deserting a handicapped child. You gave me permission to sit in on the psychiatric sessions with your daughter. The psychiatrist recommended a cooling off period. The doc never approved walking to the car, taking off, and driving ten miles to see the social worker."
"Don't worry, I locked the front door."

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12 Comments:

Blogger PaxRomano said...

Ah, the joys of social work: it's got it all, the mundane paperwork, the red tape, and then there are the moments of high opera...don't worry, Joe. Haven't you heard they are going to reconfigure everything? Maybe Gwen can go to the "crisis case manager".


sigh...

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I usually call it a "parenting burn out".Even if I am supposed to take in charge of the sons I often take care of the parents first.chi

2:12 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

Pax,
Maybe the system already switched and I haven't been told that I am the crisis case manager.

Chi,
Then I have failed on both ends.

4:25 PM  
Blogger Lost said...

That poor poor man. I realize that you are probably frustrated with trying to deal with both of them but I can sympathize with him not wanting to give up or feeling like he's failed by having to have his daughter institutionalized. It's just a sad sad story for all involved. I hope you can actually find a bed for her and help them both. I couldn't do your job.

6:44 AM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

Lost,
Some days I have my own doubts whether I can do my job.

9:11 AM  
Blogger Bigandmean said...

A good read Joe. I've added you to my favorites list.

By the way, do you recommend any Italian restaurants in the philly area?

10:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joe, don't be too hard on you.I think we can't force a client to do what "we" think is good for them. He looked for you! that's a good job, Joe.I hope everything is going to be all right for them and for you. chi

4:21 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

Bigandmean,
Welcome aboard the ship of irony.
As far as Italian fare goes, we eat too much of it at home to eat that cuisine out. If you read 3-15-05 posting The Familiar Stranger it is about eating out Italian in Philly. I can't remember the name of the south philly restaurant though.

Chi,
You can lead a horse to water but you can never tell when thirst takes over.

7:38 PM  
Blogger the Contrary Goddess said...

I am like, yeah, I can understand every single player in this little game o' life. I love the stories. Thanks.

10:01 AM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

Contrary,
it could only be worse with nightmares....

4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

joe, this is some of your best writing yet, maybe because the topic is so near and dear to my heart, love the other social worker in the family

1:52 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

Jim,
Thanks bro for checking out the website.

7:23 PM  

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