My Friend Mr. H.

Every girl needs a man in her life and if she doesn’t have one then she can find one.  I found one through the Wishard Volunteer Advocates Program.  After background checks and extensive legal and medical training, I was awarded legal guardianship of Mr. H. in 2010.  I will be with him until the day he dies.

Mr. H loves me from the depths of his soul.  He lights up each time he sees me.  He makes me feel special and needed and beautiful.  We have promised each other that whoever goes to heaven first will open the back door and let the other sneak in.  I believe our souls will always be friends.   I want him to die first because I could make it alone easier than him.  These are the thoughts I have when I think of Mr. H.

Mr. H., is a 59-year-old moderately mentally retarded schizophrenic loaded up on drugs. He lives at Rural Healthcare in a world of delusions believing he is dead, frequently checking his pulse. We have a well-established routine. He sees me enter the facility, screams “Nancy” and stretches out his arms for a hug. My name is Debbie, which he uses for the remainder of the visit. We have the same conversations on each visit. He immediately wants to know what I have brought him. It’s always a bottle of Sprite and either 3 sliders or one double cheeseburger.  He finishes his mini-meal then wants a dollar to go to the vending machine and buy another drink.

I visit Mr. H once a week. I believe he had a fiancée who died of ovarian cancer decades ago. He still misses her. I know every job he’s held, the details of every one of his broken body parts, and can nearly recite all of his imagined diseases. Each visit we talk at length about the food they are serving that day. He wants to know my age and if I’m married. He has told me many times if he wasn’t so fucked up he’d ask me to marry him. Almost every time I leave he tells me he wants me to find a husband to take good care of me. He likes for the other residents to think I’m his girlfriend.  Some think I’m his wife.

On Monday, the social worker from his facility called me and told me Mr. H. came to his office crying. He told the social worker I had not been to visit him in three weeks and that he wanted him to find Debbie. He used my name instead of Nancy. I had not been to see him for 11 days. I told the social worker to tell Mr. H. I’d be there that afternoon. The social worker said he didn’t want to promise Mr. H., because if I didn’t make it he would be too disappointed. I said, “tell him.” I hurried through a few things at work then headed to the facility.

I was there two hours later. I talked to Mr. H. about my absence. My grandson had surgery the past week and a few other unexpected things came up, which loaded up my schedule. I asked Mr. H. if it would have helped him if I’d called the social worker so that he’d know that I was going to miss my visit with him. He said yes. I assured him I never forget about him and I will keep coming to see him. I also told him that I was glad he had the social worker call me. That took a brief few minutes and we were right back into routine.

Robin Bandy is Wishard Volunteer Advocate Program director.  What she has done for the poorest and most helpless of us all is more than money can buy. For Mr. H. she has given him a friend. I am blessed that it is me. Without Robin, we would have never met. I have been a volunteer all of my adult life. Never have I felt that I’ve made such an impact. This volunteer position gives me the opportunity to help someone feel loved and valued. It is shocking even to Mr. H. that we should be so lucky. He asked me one time how much “they” pay me to visit him. When I told him I am not paid, he wanted to know why I did it. I told him because we are friends. I was waiting for a big smile or a hug or thank you, but instead he looked momentarily surprised then asked if I had a dollar; that made me laugh. I laugh a lot when I visit Mr. H. He laughs too.

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