Now Is Not The Time

It is safe to say I am not the poster boy for patience these days. Things I’d normally let roll off my shoulders are being snapped at.

There are a few stressors at the moment. I have to leave where I am living as a member of my landlord’s family needs the home. My landlords have, for these past nine years, proved themselves to be the greatest landlords in the world.  I am also on disability with a sprinkling of money here and there for writing along with the occasional speech; there is a reason there is no fancy car in the driveway. Truth is I wouldn’t want one anyway no matter the state of my revenue.

Thinking I was moving to Herkimer County New York we switched my NY TBI Waiver benefits there and now, given that the deal for the house we’d hope to buy looks to be dead in the water, I find myself without rent or utility subsidies and despite the fact I may be moving to a place close to my current home, I am dealing with a state Department of Health that will likely make it impossible to regains the subsidies. Those of us on the TBI Waiver are having their services sliced and diced and, in too many cases, entirely denied  by a DOH that essentially creates regulations on the fly and doesn’t even follow what few regulations they have set forth in the manual they wrote.

Moreover, because of the presumed move to another county, there are, for this month, no food stamps. So, a for man who has  been homeless before, hospitalized twice for hunger pains, the pressure is on. While intellectually I know I will not wind up homelessness, I think it fair and accurate to say that once you have experienced real homelessness in your life, its specter is always near. Along with this, my body, normally an ally, has paid the price. Nights are fairly packed with back spasms which strike sporadically throughout the day as well.

This too shall pass, as they say and I know that. I have been reading some good books, having, I am ashamed to say, started reading John Dos Passos for the first time this year (a staggeringly brave and brilliant writer).

Having said all this, now is not a good time for someone to give me any grief. Some years ago someone I was working with said, “You’re a tough guy you know.” I was mortified! To me tough guy meant bully and not only have I never been a bully I have always been the one who has looked to take on the bully. I took my mortification to my friend and sister in my heart, Judy.

“You got a minute?” I asked.

“Sure,” she said, sitting down, smiling.

“Am I a tough guy?”

“Tough guy?”

“Yeah. Tough guy. Like in bully.”

“You’re not a bully, no. But you are a tough guy.”

“What do you mean?” More mortification.

“You don’t take any shit from people.”

Now that I could live with. And it’s true, I don’t take any shit.

Especially now.

The Tough Guy Wannabe

Years ago I was watching a guest on the Johnny Carson Show (God, I miss that show) talk about this one member of the tabloid press that grabbed any chance possible to bad mouth him in ways that were, when he cited some examples, about as childishly condescending and tough guy wannabe (a wimp) in tone and content as one can get. Clearly someone with way too much time on their hands.

Anyway, Carson asked his guest who the member of the tabloid press was. The guest, who, like me, had a heft dose of street in his make-up, smiled widely and said, “Ya see, this punk is just looking for attention. He’s nothing more than a lonely little rodent that I bet no one likes not even his Mommy. So…” he went on, turning to look in the camera, “I ain’t ever gonna mention your name or say who you are you are punk ‘cause you’re not getting any attention hanging on to my coattails. But you can meet me outside any time and we can settle things that way.”

And so it is that I have a similar childish, condescending, tough guy wannabe,  who from time to time, usually when the blog is about some tough time I am going through on the personal front, will write in spewing idiotic crap like, you’ve had your brain injury 20 years already, Peter, whatsamatta? Don’t have your act together? Actually, let me bring this person up to speed.  It will be 26 years this August 24 since the injury.  This person’s attacks usually involve a kind of slithering demeaning commentary about the brain damage I live with.

I have some rather instinctive responses to this person. First, I pretty much know who it is. Even though they will never leave their name – another characteristic of cowardice – who it is is rather obvious. Second, were their behavior not, when you really look at it, truly sad, I’d likely find it amusing. Third, were it not for the fact their behavior is truly sad, I am sure a sly smile would emerge on my face  and I, like the Carson guest above, would be inclined to invite him to meet me outside to settle things which would require, at most, 30 seconds of my time.

Having said all this, my overwhelming response to this person is one of compassion. And  I do not mean this in a sarcastic or snide way. The compassion for this person is real. And if it is who I think it is, this is someone who has lived through some brutal things in life, and while the way he is managing it is not healthy, and he is certainly accountable for his choices and his behavior, none of this makes him less deserving of compassion.

While I would gladly sit down over coffee with this person and talk, I will not, ever ever ever, publish their nastiness, or mention the name I know is theirs.