Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Lady And The Tramp

You may or may not recall that I wrote a post about meeting my old school friend B, who's now a bit down on his luck.

It was nine months ago and you can read my original post here if you wish. Well since then things have progressed and moved on a bit, I've got to know B a bit more and learned things about him and his life.

I've seen him more times than I can count in that same spot. Every time I stop and have a chat, just about everything and nothing. It's an experience that has taught me quite a lot already.

He sits on the pavement and doesn't stand up to talk to me, not that I've expected him to do so, but I remain standing as we talk, something that I feel awkward about. Should I sit down next to him or is it fine as it is? B doesn't appear to be bothered so should I be?

I was interested to find out exactly what had happened that resulted in him becoming a tramp, though I'm not even sure if "tramp" is the correct term to use. He doesn't display what I would describe as the "usual" signs of a tramp in these parts. He's not drunk, doesn't look as if he's been doing lots of drugs and in every conversation we have he comes across as the highly intelligent and quick witted guy that I went to school with.

After several conversations I felt that we'd got to a level at which I could ask him what had happened, to phrase it as "what went wrong" is wrong isn't it? I mean who am I to judge B's life as being wrong and mine as right. Undeniably though that's what I meant, what had gone wrong?

We were having one of our conversations. He sat, I stood. One of the things I've become aware of when we talk is the way other people look at him, then at me. To most people a tramp is a common enough sight, the surprise is when they realise that the chap is having a conversation with a "normal" looking person. Almost everyone does a double take to see what's going on.

B mentioned his medication and I asked him about it. It felt appropriate. He told me that he was/is a schizophrenic, that was his "curse". After we lost contact he'd gone to university but then the schizophrenia developed and he went off the rails, dropping out of uni and basically losing the plot. He spent years struggling with the illness and it's only in recent years that he's found suitable medication and dosage to keep everything under control.

He has bad days when he feels down, but is generally fine, as long as he has his medication.

When I learned this I felt as if I understood. I know little about schizophrenia but I now know how it can affect a person's life. There but for the grace of God and all that.

I want to help B and don't know how, or what is best. He's told me that he loves conversation and talking to people about stimulating matters. So I make a point of chatting to him about life, football and literature, the things I know he's interested in. I tell him about my work, my daughters and my life and we reminisce about school times, playground fights and what happened to our old friends.

I've been thinking about whether I should give him a book. I know he used to love PG Wodehouse and the Jeeves and Wooster stories and have contemplated giving him one of those, but then I wonder if he'd prefer money. The other day he had a copy of one of the quality Saturday newspapers next to him, I knew he was going to read and devour it in a way that you or I probably never would.

Some weeks ago I was in Richmond with K, the 12 year old. I told her that we'd go and see my old friend B and explained his situation to her. She was transfixed as I told her how bright he is and of the cards life has dealt him.

Sure enough he was there. I introduced them and they were equally delighted to meet each other. They had a conversation of sorts. B asked her questions and she spoke to him nicely, but wasn't sure what to say to him, understandable really.

She was touched and concerned by his plight though and afterwards asked me how she could help him. She wanted to go back and give him a radio she doesn't use as she'd spotted his radio that he listens to all day long. I told her that I thought the best way she could help him was to just say hello next time she's in Richmond. I said that she may have to remind him who she was but that I was sure he'd like that.

And that is it. There's no happy ending nor is there a sad one. Life goes on and I'll continue to try to help a friend, hopefully K will too.

I've learned a lot from B in these months and his arrival in my life has given me a bit more humility and gratitude for my good health and good fortune.

I just thought I'd update you as so many people were interested in the original post all those months ago.


Delilah said...

He's lucky to have you and now K. Friendship and understanding is what they need the most. I had a schizophrenic friend in college. He was a brilliant student and a beautiful person. But he was ostracized by most and often at the recieving end of many a cruel joke. One day he told me how hard it was and that all he needed was a friend. He innocently believed that his condition would get better if he had real friends to keep him sane. Good luck to you & B.

Anonymous said...

Just read your earlier post about B. Life could be so strange, sometimes I wonder is it because of our fate; something beyond our control. You did good; but as KaluSudda said, in your earlier post, stay within your “safe-zone.”

LazyOwl-From Scarborough

Indyana said...

Very happy to read this update about B!! And it's really nice to see that you have stayed in touch with him!

ViceUnVersa said...

RD sorry to rain on your parade and be a bit of a sore sod but there you go again...
You are a bit of a softie aren't you?
I say detest, stop, especially bringing your kids into it.
There are dark worlds out there RD, seriously. I don't mean to sound like a grandfather but I have seen some of them, in the motherland and in USA. Maybe I have not had the same pleasure in UK and maybe judging this person without knowing him is wrong.
Usually there is so much unsaid, and a dark past, unrelated to schizophrenia.
Be careful. Keep it cool, don't go overboard, a civil smile, quick hello, yes, not what you are doing, eh?
Keep the kids out of it too.
Trust Uncle Dhammika on this one. Detest.


Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Oooh DD you big cynic you!

I am a bit of a softie as you know, but this is more because I was really good friends with B when we were kids, it hits me so much harder to know that he was such a "normal" kid back in the day.

I am keeping things a bit cool, but introducing K to him is something I feel is good for her.

Thanks for the advice DD, it's heard and absorbed and GM2U2

ViceUnVersa said...

Went for parents day recently and received glowing reports from the teachers. Not a brag but she's in the top set for everything and the peers she interacts with are on her level. Went to the Tech teacher and his first comment was that the kid doesn't participate at all and needs to speak in class. I kept cool for I knew why but the Mama Chi went for the teachers throat. Why she is silent in tech is that tech is a mixed ability class and she sits next to a real ASBO loser. The teachers point was that she will meet all kinds of people in her life.
Kids reply (To us not to the teacher) - That ASBO will be someday on the job centre line or working at TESCO, I will have no reason to interact with him at all in my later life!
It's good for K to have life experiences and I agree completely. Meeting a schizo is a bit extreme. Keep your distance.
Sorry for long comment.

T said...

schizophrenia has got to be one of the scariest, most awful disoreders in the world. i cant even imagine living with it. best of luck to B, and i think its great that you introduced K to him.

Jack Point said...

Vice Unversa has a point, better play safe.