The mind is an amazingly resilient thing. As a means of protecting itself, it can take memories beyond accurate recall, or any recall for that matter. This is the way it is with my memory of how Micheal left the farm. I think I got a phone call from the farmer saying he had been arrested. I know something happened that made him no longer welcome. I don’t remember who went to get him or where he went, but I have no memory of him ever living in my home after that. The next memory I have of his life he is in Boy’s School, a now defunct institution and once last resort of the juvenile justice system. He was at the Boy’s School for a few months before he was transferred to a juvenile facility close to where the *least likely candidate lived. It was agreed that Micheal would live with him after his release from the juvenile facility.
The least likely candidate’s home was in a remote area, yet close to one of the bigger cities in Indiana. Micheal always loved the outdoors, with hunting and fishing two of his favorite activities. I was hopeful that he and his father could finally develop a healthy relationship in that environment. It seemed to me having his dad was a crucial element in setting his life right. Things went well initially. Micheal got a job. His dad taught him how to drive and helped him get his driver’s license. All reports seemed to indicate a change, except the relationship between father and son wasn’t improving. They functioned more as landlord/tenant than as family members. The stubborn and deeply suspicious nature they both share could not be overcome, and after little more than a year, his father threw him out. Micheal stayed in the city for a few weeks, but after his father’s home was burglarized and threats were exchanged, I went to get him.
He had turned eighteen during his time away from Richmond. His life now completely his own, there was no thought of him returning to live with me. He got a job at Shoney’s and tried sharing an apartment with a friend for a time, but no living arrangement lasted long. The job didn’t either. There was just too much drugging to do. He began a relationship with a young woman who had an infant son. She lived with her mother and sister. It wasn’t long before Micheal was staying with them. Soon after, I got a phone call from his girlfriend. She needed to talk to me. I agreed to meet her for coffee, but I already knew what the topic of conversation would be. I became a grandmother on April 25, 1998, when Micheal Brice Townsend II was born. I was almost forty, Micheal was nineteen, the same age I was when he was born, and my mother turned sixty on the very same day.
January 13, 2019
He’s asleep again. The hallucinations seem to have passed, but I’m concerned he will not agree to see a doctor. The infection in his leg is spreading and walking is becoming more painful. I allow him to sleep for a few more hours in hopes his mental state will improve and he will agree to let me take him to the hospital.
I knock lightly on the door mid-afternoon. He’s awake but drowsy, his forehead warm. There’s a fever starting. I impress upon him the importance of medical care for his infection. This won’t get better on its own. I’m surprised when he agrees to a trip to the emergency room. I figure this will be the best place for him to be if he starts hallucinating again. Perhaps they will admit him if he is delusional.
I’m surprised when he is reasonable and responds helpfully to the doctor as she examines him. He explains the small cut he received when his bicycle slid on the ice, causing him to wreck and fall on his knee. The doctor diagnoses cellulitis and prescribes antibiotics. She tells him to take the medication exactly as prescribed and to report back to the emergency room if the infection doesn’t respond to treatment in three days.
I think perhaps this time he will stay with me and rest, but it doesn’t surprise me he wants to be dropped off at a friend’s house. I drop him off, but I’m hopeful he will stay put given the amount of pain walking causes him. I don’t hear from him until after the three days pass. He sends me a text message that includes a picture of the infected leg. He drew a line around the edge of it at some point, and now it’s spread well beyond that, extending from his knee down the entirety of his leg, including his calf and half of his foot. The area is swollen twice normal size, leaving the skin taut and slightly dimpled. He doesn’t need to be persuaded a return to the emergency room is necessary.
When I pick him up at the friend’s house, he hobbles to the car on a homemade crutch. He has a narrow board cut to length with a rag-stuffed work glove taped to the end that fits under his arm. He tells me he needs to go by the girl’s garage so that he can drop off something that belongs to her. I already know she is angry with him and wants her phone back. She has been blowing my phone up, informing me that not only has he stolen from her, he has been physically abusive as well. The greatest insult, she tells me, is that he has been using her phone to hook up with other girls. Despite his misbehavior, in a voice message she declares, “Oh, GAWD! I love that man!
“Oh, GAWD!” I echo back.
I drive down her alley and stop at the garage. I honk, and moments later she comes out. Micheal rolls down the window and extends his arm out, phone in hand. I watch her walk to the car; her expression is one of unabashed contempt and pure rage. She grabs the phone with her left hand as her right fist enters the window. Bam! Bam! Bam! She hits Micheal three times, fast, right in the face. As she retreats Micheal begins to open the door to pursue her. I grab the shoulder of his coat and pull him back into the car.
“No, No! Don’t you do it! You shut that door!” I yell at him. He gets back in and before the door is completely closed my foot is on the gas, causing the tires to spew gravel and mud behind me as I drive away.
I am completely stunned at the audacity, the utter lack of respect, and, of course, the demonstration of gawd-awful love. I decide the incident warrants no discussion so I say nothing, but I determine within myself that absolutely nothing will persuade me to come near the girl again.
At the hospital this time, Micheal sees a different doctor. This one says that some IV antibiotics are in order. Micheal’s been out of prison less than three months and this is the second time he’s been admitted to the hospital. He doesn’t argue with the doctor. I can see that he is worried about the infection. He is concerned about losing his leg. Over the course of next day, they give him several bags of antibiotics, then try another round of a different drug when those have no impact. His worry increases. He asks the doctor if he will lose his leg. The doctor assures him he will not, but the infection doesn’t look to be getting any better. At least it doesn’t seem to be getting worse.
I do what I can to make him comfortable. I bring candy, a suspense novel, and some puzzle books to ward off boredom. On the third morning of his stay I knock on his door, then wait a few seconds for a response. When none comes, I figure he is sleeping so I draw the curtain aside and enter the darkened room. The swift movement of someone away from the bed startles me. I recognize the girl.
Apparently, my choice of reading material wasn’t enough to alleviate boredom. I murmur something about coming back later and quickly leave the room.
No sooner than I arrive home, Micheal calls me back. He’s been released. The doctor thinks the infection will not spread further and oral antibiotics will be sufficient treatment going forward. When I pick him up I flatly refuse to take him to the girl’s garage. He wants to go to a friend’s house, but he asks me to pick him up the next day. He has an appointment with his parole officer and a nurse to help him find an inpatient drug rehab. He says the months since his release from prison have been the worst of his life and there needs to be a change.
I hold back on being happy. This is welcome news but it could mean different things. He could genuinely want to stop using. He could want to manipulate his parole officer. He may want to impress me so I’ll keep helping him.
Time will tell.
*When I began writing this blog, I asked all persons mentioned for permission to use their name. All agreed except for Micheal’s biological father. Instead of using a pseudonym, I chose to not name him at all.