Thursday, February 12, 2004

Night before last brought a late call from Dorian in distress ...

Drove in at almost midnight to pick her up (complete with her family of two precious cats in carriers) and tucked her into the futon beside my bed -- for the night. These calls usually involve her sometimes live-in, alcoholic, and paranoid-schizophrenic lover who is either moving in or moving out -- depending upon whatever is shifting his body at the moment.

This "living in the community" feature of dealing with the mentally handicapped has a definite down side. When she was much younger, the State was, too. The Lanterman act made it possible to move many patients out of institutions into communities because -- through several Regional Centers scattered throughout California -- services were provided to enable each to live up to his or her potential (whatever that might be) within the general population. A valiant goal. Through a series of successive budget shortfalls and an ever-increasing population, those services have been drastically cut and we now have barely-functioning mentally deficient souls struggling out there with less and less to support them. It's really tragic. Many living under bridges and on warm grates throughout the country are those without family members to fill in the gaps for them. They fall through the cracks and often die from neglect, heartbreak and total confusion. As parents and siblings die off, they're left without advocates.

Dorian's young man is one such. He was born to parents who abandoned him, and was later adopted by another pair who did likewise after much abuse. He is clever, ego-maniacal, and domineering. I have to continually remind myself that he is impaired and not simply pathologically narcissistic. Staff cutbacks have provided a situation that supports his alcoholism and aggravates an already compromised life. And, my daughter adores him. He controls her every move and overrides my influence with her. That's new for me. She and I have always had a fine relationship that evolved intentionally and over many years from "mom" to "best friend." That's all but shattered, except that I can still count upon her honesty when things get really rough. Otherwise, she is so protective of him that I fear that she is being silently abused and shields him from criticism when she can.

I'd picked up the "Sea Biscuit" and "Whale Rider" DVDs on Tuesday, and we climbed into bed and watched them late into the night (both terrific!). Dropped her off at NIAD for her art class yesterday. She was obviously depressed and non-productive. She'd worked on a block print but had trashed it as not worthy of her effort. She a fine judge of when she's done well or failed at whatever she's working on.

Yesterday I drove her back to her apartment in Oakland in the early evening -- her therapist was coming at seven -- so she stayed there overnight. She called early this morning to check on just how her cats had fared without her. Kyle was apparently still gone.

Today I have lunch with a former co-worker (friend), a meeting with the National Park Service folks at 4:30 and dinner tonight at Marilyn's about the Barbara Alexander School. Dorian has Amy (her teacher) this afternoon from 2 until 4:30 so will be occupied fairly well. Tomorrow morning I will pick her up for another day at NIAD. Saturday morning there is basketball practice for Special Olympics -- I'll drive her in to Oakland for that. Then we'll spend the weekend together, hopefully.

That is, if Kyle allows it.

...and I find myself wondering just how long I'll be able to fill in the gaps in funding for her by partially supporting two households? Were I to die tomorrow, despite all, would my Dorian drift out into the social abyss and end up under a bridge somewhere?

Collapsing our lives into a single living space will undo all the years of training her to live without me. It's been such a long and painful process, but may have been an exercise in futility after all. I still hope to not infantalize her this late in life, but must try to continue to confirm her independence in every way possible. That involves taking some worrisome risks.

It seems less likely now than a month ago, but -- given a bit more effort -- maybe I can salvage something beyond my principles. That resignation may be have more costly than I'd realized. It troubles me to think that I may have compromised Dorian's future as well as my own, and she has a lot more future than I have, at least potentially. And therein lies the undercurrent that rules our lives ... the theme that dominates everything.

What will happen to Dorrie?