My leaving card from work, which will always hold these memories close.
I haven’t felt the need to write or blog for the last few weeks, though tonight as I walk along the streets for my weekly chip shop treat I realised that I needed to get this out. I know first hand the side effects of my medication, starting with my memory – it sucks. Secondly, unless I am going through hypomania or depression then I don’t tend to realise that I feel emotions. So when I found out some bad news earlier this evening and feeling something very alien to me, the emotions called shock and grief, I knew that I had to write all of this down. I don’t want to lose these memories, they mean an awful lot to me.
So there I was browsing Facebook for the first time in days (I know, me not on Facebook – shocker in itself) and a post catches my attention from my local soup kitchen. Within the post is a photo of a man I know, helped, cared for, was his side kick for winding people up. Obviously curiosity got the better of me and I clicked the photo to be greeted with the news that this man, Wayne, has passed away last night.
Numb, that’s what happened first, then shock, followed closely by tears. These feelings or blankness were all alien to me. While all I was thinking about Wayne and wondering what had happened, there was something in the back of my head saying “this is not normal”.
Within minutes a friend rang for an evening catch up unaware of what happened and I was just stuck for words. I remember that Wayne had given me something and I had this overwhelming urge to find it. Mad panic kicked in as I knew roughly where it was but it still meant ripping the bookshelf apart to find it. I couldn’t talk to my friend, even though right at that moment in time I didn’t want to be alone. I wanted him to stay on the phone, not even to say anything to me, just to know that he was there. I found what I was looking for, my leaving card for my place of work where I met Wayne – main photo.
It was only now that I could start to remember Wayne and think of all the laughs we had, the serious stuff and the times where we just sat there in silence when his head was bad. You see, I first met Wayne two and half years ago at a homeless hostel in my town. He became a resident there pretty much the same week I started working there. He was the first resident to come and greet me and although he had only been there a few days himself, it was as though it was already his home and he wanted to make sure everyone that ‘visited’ his home (as in staff, volunteers and other residents) was made welcome and had everything they could ever need.
There were times where we would wind people up together, usually other residents; all in jest and they did usually get their own revenge afterwards. We would wind the other staff up too, to the point that we were shunned from the office and made to sit in reception alone until the tears of laughter were too much and one of us had to leave. One of the best memories was when he went to have his hair shaved off as it was winter and he needed a bald head to keep him warm. Though whenever he got his head shaved he always went for the same beard trim too; all he needed was the blades coming out of his knuckles and we had our very own Wolverine.
I’m sure you can appreciate that with Wayne being a resident of a homeless hostel that there were circumstances that brought him there in the first place. While I won’t tell you about them as it is not fair to do so, I can tell you one thing about him which is he was an alcoholic (which if you knew Wayne then you’d know it was ok for me to say that). Though I will say that the stories that brought homelessness to us both mirror imaged each other, and I wanted to tell Wayne all about what happened to me to let him know I really do understand him, but also to let him know there was hope. Sadly, the nature of the job and not wanting some of the other faces in the hostel to know my past meant I couldn’t tell him.
Wayne was either in one of three states; DT’s where all you wanted to do was give him the biggest strength inducing cuddle ever, happy and jolly where you got the best laughs out of him, or too far gone to remember which room he lived in. While the two states at either end of the spectrum brought their own memories, the ones I want to keep alive are the happy jolly ones.
Specifically where every time I saw him for a year and half, in and out of the hostel, he would get down on one knee and propose to me. He took it like a gentleman that the boundaries were getting in the way of us being together; though really he did know we would never be. He even took it upon himself to ask my manager to sack me so when she questioned why, expecting something along the lines of a complaint, he said it was so that we could buy a camper van, park it up in the car park opposite the hostel, get married and live happily ever after. He won a hug from both my manager and me for that tactic; I never got the sack.
There were hard times too, times where his head would leave him in a bad place. While he knew that he needed to get talking therapies and work things out, he was never in the right place for it. We all knew that even mentioning it to him could set him off, which one night it did. His whole demeanour changed from this gentle loveable rouge to a hard cold face man that didn’t want to be there, though you could also tell that he didn’t want to be alone. Nights like this we would simply sit there and just ‘be’ with the conversation gentle and flowing, though he would at times say “Tracey, just shut the **** up”. While it sounded cold and aggressive, I knew that he just needed time to process it but wanting me to stay there and sit by his side.
The final memory that I really want to keep alive is the first winter we were at the hostel together. The snow had fallen thick and the car park covered in a thick layer untouched snow. Hearing a noise out of the window I looked down from the office to see Wayne and two other residents having a snow ball fight. This may seem a simple playful thing to do, but knowing that it was only a few hours earlier that two of these residents had been to talk with staff because they had been suffering with their heads. So to see them throwing snowballs at each other with no care in the world we so heart warming and lovely to watch.
Now I remember the last time I saw Wayne, he was happy and smiling where you could see he was excited to see me. We had a chat and a catch up and he was telling me what was going on in his life. He told me that he was rough sleeping again and that he was trying to get back in at the hostel. It was upsetting hearing this because knowing the behind the scenes of his life and the rules of the hostel from working there I knew it was going to be some time before he had a roof over his head again. We both knew that he was doing everything possible to get himself sorted out and that it was a matter of waiting for the hostel to open up his place again. I never thought as I walked my way and he walked his that that would be the last time I saw him.
Rest in peace dear Wayne, you truly deserve this break from all your struggles. Who knows, you may just get your Wolverine blades now.