I set the alarm and wake up early. I drink coffee before I get dressed. Within the hour, I’m in my car and on the road to look for Him. First, I drive to the park by the river where homeless people sleep on the covered stage. The public bathroom next to it, a cinder block building with prison-style, metal toilet bowls, is unlocked twenty-four/seven, a blessing when nature calls.
If he’s not there, I drive back across the bridge over the river and head to the Soup Opera, a philanthropic venture that serves a hot meal at noon every day to hungry people from all walks of life. The hungry people often hang around behind the building before and after the meal. On certain weekdays, you can do laundry at the Soup Opera or take a shower. It’s staffed primarily by community volunteers.
If he’s not there, I cruise on down the street to check the bus station and the bowling alley parking lot. There’s a trail in the woods behind the bowling alley that leads to a homeless camp by the river. I’ve never seen the camp, but I’ve seen pictures of it on fb: a tent, a clothesline strung low between trees, always someone smoking a cigarette.
I skip driving past the Union Mission because I don’t think he’s there. He only goes there when he commits to being sober. He doesn’t go there often or lightly. The Mission requires that all residents show up sober every night at five p.m. and check in for the evening. You can’t check in drunk. You can’t leave once you’re a resident, unless you want to leave for thirty days, which is a long time when it’s freezing or during a heat wave. When he checks into the Mission, he knows he must stay sober.
I get up early in the morning because he needs mental health services to improve the quality of his life. The local clinic, Valley Mental Health, welcomes returning clients from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays. Walking in for an appointment is mandatory. I’ve been trying to get Him to walk in for three weeks in a row.
When I happen to see Him, he promises he’ll go to Valley Mental Health with me. He promises to text his whereabouts on Wednesday mornings and/or Friday mornings, either on his phone if it’s charged or on a friend’s phone.
I issue ultimatums to Him. I threaten not to buy his cigarettes if he won’t go to Valley Mental Health. I threaten not to buy him essentials like razors, deodorant, clean socks. I only buy what he needs; I don’t give him cash. He says that doesn’t matter because he doesn’t need my money to get drunk. The other alcoholics walk around with gallons of vodka they’re willing to share.
I want Him to check in with me every day. Sometimes I’m busy at work and can’t answer the phone. That seems to be when he calls most often.
I’ve been bargaining with him for eighteen years, since he was fifteen and discovered alcohol. My relationships with other family members have suffered for it. I have enabled, bailed out, hired attorneys, paid for rehab, bought cars, phones, gaming consoles; I’ve claimed him as a tax dependent since he’s never earned more than $4,000 a year.
I am trying new things. The bottom line is changing. I will get up early and do my best to facilitate the first steps toward a different life. All I need is for Him to show up.