Friday, July 22, 2011

The Protocol: A Death Down by the River Part III

“My day starts like two Mondays previous. A man walks into the office and wants to kill himself...Kevin was awakened by the garbage truck collecting the contents of the cardboard recycling bin in which he’d spent the night. He popped out to the shock of the garbage man before he made the news. He didn’t make the news a few days earlier when he tried to kill himself by lying down in holiday traffic. Minneapolis Police brought him to [the Med Center]; General Assistance Medical Care bought him a night of housing and healthcare - but he returned to homelessness the next day…fighting raccoons in the woods for his belongings the next night. He knows he can’t be groggy and defend himself…so forget the medicine for his mental health… Leviticus states you don’t put a stumbling block in front of the blind or insult the deaf. I’d like to add a third. You don’t ask a suffering homeless man to fight off raccoons and manage his health care from a sleeping bag alone in the woods.”
Monica Nilsson, St. Stephens Human Services, “Fighting Raccoons While Sedated”

In the next few months, Tommy would return to Danny's on several occasions. Danny would be polite, but tell him that he was not going to give him music lessons, and to stay away. Though not violent, Tommy's responses were antagonistic. Fearing another attack, Danny contacted Ghost, a friend of his in the Hell's Angels. Ghost had a talk with Tommy - no rough stuff, but the threat of rough stuff if Tommy kept harassing Danny.

Tommy persisted. It didn't help that he had a friend a few doors down from Danny, another musician who they both knew, so he was in the area a couple of times a week. Ghost never made good on his threat; Danny couldn't bring himself to actually be the cause of bodily harm to anyone, even after what Tommy had done. It would have violated his Protocol. But Danny remained fearful.

In September, Danny made a decision. He'd hire a "caregiver/protector". In addition to needing help regarding Tommy, Danny was diabetic and could use help with his meals and meds. He had recently been mentoring an acquaintance named Mark Hernandez, who he nicknamed Marky Mark. Hernandez was on general assistance and Danny had suggested enrolling in a program at a local city college where Hernandez could study and receive a certificate to get a job in water treatment. Hernandez took Danny's advice and now Danny offered him a job: for room and board, Hernandez would fix Danny's meals, make sure he took his med, and help protect him, especially, if necessary, from Tommy. He told Mark that Tommy shouldn't be a problem if he knew there was another person in the house. Hernandez accepted and immediately moved in with Danny. Of course, there was one thing Hernandez had to understand and always observe, and that was The Protocol: treat other people the way you want to be treated, even Tommy. After all, Tommy had a daughter, and no matter what he had done, it just wasn't right to hurt someone else, especially someone who was supposedly providing for his kids. And equally important: never, ever, harm or disparage the homeless. Thought Danny didn't have much actual contact with them, he knew there were quite a few who lived very near him and he often saw them; he was compassionate about them and didn't want to be responsible for any harm coming to them. Marky Mark understood, and said he'd follow the rules.

After Hernandez moved in, things seemed to settle down. Tommy was periodically seen in the neighborhood, but he rarely came around Danny's, and when he did, he was fairly quiet and not antagonistic. Hernandez made a bedroom out of Danny's front room; it was the only room not cluttered with music equipment and other items collected from 40 years of performing. He had enrolled in the water treatment program and was doing well in school. Marky Mark and Danny struck up quite a friendship and Hernandez did well as a caregiver. The new year rolled in and there was a feeling of optimism in the house.

To Be Continued

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