It is 6:00 AM and dark outside. Very quiet. A dog bark disturbs, momentarily the peaceful blanket that covers the houses on these blocks. If I recall correctly, that is what happens in this neighborhood at this hour. One dog barks and then another until the family of dogs in the neighborhood sings a morning chorus of sorts. It is music to my ears.
This is my 407th blog. All of the previous blogs, all 406 of them were written in Skid Row or somewhere in the Downtown area. I started writing in the Los Angeles Central Library and Little Tokyo Computer Labs. I uploaded all of my pictures at the Strive program computer lab. No other public facility would allow uploading. I was lucky.
This is the first time I have blogged outside of the Skid Row/Downtown neighborhood. I am sitting in the living room of my mother’s house. Yes, you heard correctly--my mother’s house. It was totally unexpected. But I have been here since the 30th of December.
I had just visited my mother on Sunday prior to New Year’s Day. I had not found the time to write since I posted ‘Freedom/Merry Christmas ‘. That was a special blog for me, simultaneously marking an end to a phase and the beginning of a new life, with a new perspective-- one that fills me with promise. I had been thinking of what Celia had said about how the sacrifices I was making would provide for an opportunity to sit with a comfortable and pleasing view of life. However I did not expect it to come so soon.
I was wondering how long I would have to endure visiting my home only every two weeks and talking out loud for a miracle to happen. Praying for divine intervention, some would say. Two minutes later, my cell phone rang. It was my sister. Two men had broken into my mother’s house. They searched for something but nothing was taken from the house. It did not surprise me. It was the holiday season and my mother lives in corner house. An easy in and out for those who knew an elderly lady lived there alone.
I knew my mother had a care taker. Whether or not she was home alone at night was the question that tormented me for two years. There was no way for me to know. Even after I visited my mother I dared not ask, knowing that if I found out, for sure, that she was alone at night there would be potential for conflict with my sister. Cost was an issue and my sister had been besieged and overwhelmed with so many repsonsibilites once I was no longer present. Responsibilities and challenges I did not have, or to the same degree. My mother has become increasingly more incapacitated during the time I have been gone.
“Walter, you are doing real well, real well”, my sister said. She was struggling to ask me something.
“What do you need? Anything, I will do it. Just tell me.” She paused as if trying to summon whatever was needed to ask me for help. “I want you to stay here tonight”. It was the most natural thing to ask me but I never saw it coming. I never knew what my sister had been thinking. “You have been doing so well, I was thinking about this anyway with the court date coming up. It was not just because of this incident. I feel you could start helping me take care of mom.”.
I work at night but I had not taken a day off since I started. I quickly made some arrangements and was given a two day paid leave. I sat the rest of the day in my room at the Courtland Hotel talking to a friend of mine as I couldn’t believe I was being asked to stay at home. Couldn’t believe I was going to take care of my mother. Couldn’t believe my sister was reaching out to me. I was in a state of wonderful shock. My life had been changing at a steady pace. Jerry Sullivan, the Publisher and Editor of the Garment and Citizen had asked me to join a team of writers of weekly community newspapers in a new online project titled LABeez. It is a new website, a project of hyper local ethnic journalism, managed by New America Media and financed by the Ford Foundation. I have been writing for them since August though the website debuted in December. I had also finished my court ordered classes just before Christmas Day. Finally on Christmas Day, I wrote the last check to my sister for the purchase of my mother’s old Honda. It was a Christmas gift to myself. I was making payments on it for a few months and finally I made my last one. It will take some work to get it going but it is mine.
At 5:00PM, I boarded a bus and headed towards my mother’s house. I have slept in this house ever since December 30th. It is amazing where my life was when I started this blog compared to where it is now. For two years, I spent every waking moment in Skid Row. Suddenly, I am not there anymore except during my work hours. I still have my room but I am transitioning out.
The experience of being in Skid Row helps me every day while helping my mother. She is getting weaker and struggles in many ways. But I am back. She does not have to be alone anymore. I pay someone to bring me home. I do not want to wait for a bus. Every moment home is a precious one. even asleep when I arrive, something tells me that she knows I am home. I promised that she will never have to be alone again.
Taking care of her was an adjustment. It is different being here for long periods compared to a few hour visit. Now I experience her in a different light. The reality of her condition hits me square in the heart as I see how she can no longer do things. I see how it took a toll on my sister the last couple of years.
Yes, I clean up after her. Yes, I wash her linens, sometimes twice a day. She cannot control her bodily functions at times. She gets confused about the simplest of things. Those are the moments when I am glad I am here. Those are the moments when I am glad I experienced the University of Skid Row. The experience living in the shelter with mentally and physically challenged people and working in a building to serve them has served me and will serve me well. I will probably begin to learn more about how the experience has benefited me in more ways than I can imagine now that I have a different relationship with it. It has taught me a great deal. It walks with me every moment. Every person I met is in my heart.
It is interesting to get emails from New Downtown . I see the alerts when they come in. I can see the downtown skyline from my mother’s house and I smile inside. I know that within those mass of buildings people are communicating and making things happen. People are connecting and expressing themselves.
It will be interesting to write about downtown and my neighborhood, Leimert Park. How all of this will come together I do not know. I only know that I will attempt to use multimedia tools of sound slide shows, video, photos and text in a blend that brings stories to life.
How I do it, I do not know. When General Jeff told me I had graduated from the University of Skid Row I believe that that may have been the end of Scribeskidrow. But that may not be the case. Scribeskidrow is more than just what is going on in Skid Row. Indeed Scribeskidrow is about what is going on in America. As I have said for the thousandth time that Skid Row is a mirror of America. But Scribeskidrow is also journey about a man who found himself in a place where he did not want to be. It is about a man who is recovering from different mistakes made in life and is sharing his journey of freedom and clarity in his new life. I remember when Eric Richardson said to me, “Walter, people talk about recovery but nobody knows what the experience is like.” I sure didn’t. And I had no idea what the experience would be like. I know that the first 6 months of it was terrible. I did not plan on being in jail during the infant stage of my recovery. I planned on swimming and jogging on the USC campus. Of all places, I did not plan to embark on the sober journey languishing in jail dormitory. I never imagined the court ordering me to Skid Row. Each was challenging in different ways. Each put building blocks of strength in place.
So this is another step and I hope that the decision I made to talk about my recovery ,openly, will serve to help others realize that it can be done.
I am sure that I will share in this next phase experiences about what it is like to take care of my mother. There are many like me who will be faced with the challenge of taking care of one or both of their parents. All of this is interesting because I thought that I would leave LA once my court obligations were over--to get a fresh start. I thought I would just walk away from all of the past. But I realized that I do not have to leave to heal. Furthermore my mother and sister need me and I can now be the son and brother that I always wanted to be.
There will be challenges. It will be a process in learning how to deal with my mother and her needs will change and require adjustments every day. This is the first time I have talked to my sister this much in my adult life. Who would have figured? Two weeks ago I thought that she and I would never get beyond this schism. Last week I signed some life insurance papers naming her as the beneficiary in the event of my death. We will have challenges but we have a chance.
I think it is just as important for me to share my experiences now compared to when times were so uncertain. It is a new day with new perspectives. I would like some help of a new blog name. I will keep scribeskidrow as it will serve to talk about the issues of homelessness, drugs, mental illness etc. However, I would like a new blog to be about my life, after the storm, and what I see in Los Angele- videos about different parts of town.
It is funny because now I seek more balance in my life. I have the opportunity to reconnect and to connect. In the midst of this transition I had met some women and found that I had been out of the dating seen for so long. My social skills are rusty. But I can not obsess on it. I learned, during my stay on the Row, to let things go. I told you many times that on Skid Row people always say to stay focused. And I have been. But now with this new responsibility, I have gained a deeper level of understanding of what focus is and what that level requires. Basically priorities must be in place and the life's management system must be such that nothing impedes fluid progress in being, in thinking, in actualizing. So letting go was automatic. I will get better as I move forward in this new stage.
I did not think of the name Scribeskidrow. I never would have come up with it. It was the baby of a man who sat at the computer bank in the Transition House. It fit. I would like some help in coming up with a new name that embraces all of the changes in my life (2009-new life) (Adventure 2009) (life’s Rainbow).
Any ideas would be appreciated.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. The New Year has come in a big way for me and it has brought new challenges and opportunities. I do help that in this year I can maintain your interest with interesting stories. That is my aim. Be Safe.
Time to give my mother her medicine.
Happy New Year.