September 28th, 2019

heart in hands

LJI 1: resolution

I will set clear boundaries at work.

I work as a mentor for disabled people. Some have mental disabilities, some physica!. Our clients could have anything from cerebral palsy to Prader-Willi syndrome, and any number of things in between.

I have been with the company since April of 2018, my first job after what was basica!ly a two year nervous breakdown, culminating from dealing with terrible co-workers, s worse boss, and a clique-ish work environment I was not welcome in.

My first permanent placement was with two gentlemen. One (Homer*) was non-verbal and obsessed witb cups (and Circle K sodas). The other (Kelly**) was prone to hallucinations, and would say good morning to his departed grandparents, mother, former doctor, brothers, even deceased celebrities, every morning around 4:30 like clockwork.

I started there in August of 2018. I lasted about six weeks doing overnights, dozing off for an hour during reruns of Carson on MeTV, then trying to stay awake with coffee (not after 4 AM), Netflix movies downloaded onto my Kindle, and housework.

To Homer, I was Cute Girl.

To Kelly, my name was no longer Corrie.

I was Lisa.

And Kelly LOVED Lisa.

Every morning, still in his clothes from the night before, Kelly would use his walker to hobble over to his bedroom door, open it, and ask me for tea and a cigarette.

My permanent overnight tenure ended on September 28th of 2018. My boss, an intuitive and brilliant firebrand who loved this job with an all-encompassing passion, asked me if I was happy. And I broke down in tears.

I kept returning, though. Sometimes to do a sporadic overnight shift, but mostly to do the 6-9 AM shift (and to keep Homer from eating his lunch before we left the house.)

Homer and Kelly were close to my heart.

And then, Kelly began calling me his girlfriend.

And planting kisses on my cheeks in the morning with an enthusiastic "howaya doing, doll?"

I thought it was cute.

I played along.

One morning he was hallucinating a conversation with his day program staff. "JULIE IF YOU STOP ME FROM KISSING MY GIRL GOODBYE AGAIN, I AM CALLING YOUR PARENTS!" (Not a viable threat for an adult, but it was his favorite.)

A few weeks later, I had a medical incident. I thought I was having a heart attack, but it was pleurisy. Homer continued making fireworks noises and signing for his dad. Kelly sat in his chair at my side, worriedly repeating, worthy of a Michael Jackson song, "Lusa, are you okay? Are you okay, Lisa?"

Pleurisy is a smooth criminal.

My husband picked me up and took me to the ER.

That night, my boss's boss called. She wanted to know how I was, and also had some questions.

Immediately I knew. Kelly's behavior. Lisa. My girlfriend. Kisses.

Her reasoning was sound. Both Homer and Kelly have issues with boundaries. My safety is important. So, after almost a full year of spending time with Homer and Kelly, with my health and safety as a concern, she made the decision to not have me return.

I miss them.

Although I wonder if I had set boundaries - said no, told him my name wasn't Lisa, said I was staff and not his girlfriend, would I still be there?

I have a different client now. She has BPD and CP, and she doesn't call me Lisa. I resolved to set boundaries with her.

I've been her staff since April.

It is a good fit.

But I will always miss Homer and Kelly.

And I miss not making this resolution about boundaries earlier.

It might have been different.

*not his real name.
**not his, either.