“You been seein’ the McCain funeral, we been watchin’ it,” and with that Michael Hunter floored me again. We talked about McCain briefly, I should’a dug into it more, to better understand what Michael thinks about all of that, but our conversation quickly moved on to Michael remembering the last time we met, and how glad he was to see me again.
As many of you likely know, Michael is out of the treatment center, and he’s back here in Clarksdale in an assisted living location. When he was still in treatment, many liked the idea of Michael finding assisted living outside of Clarksdale, but the key to that was Michael gets to chose where he is, and the truth is Clarksdale is his home, and he wants to be here. The thing is, though, Michael being where he is now is working for him, and for the community. Those that sae him through his last treatment have done excellent work. So far.
Talking with Michael was as free and easy as before, and this time it was even more cogent, self aware and grateful than before. The small tremble he had a short time ago is gone, and he’s talkative, funny and calmer than many of us have perhaps ever seen him.
“How do you like it here?” “I sho’ do, my own home, it say welcome home here.” Michael beamed.
“Why do you like it?” Michael added, “I got no where else to go, they treat me nice, I get food, my medicine, like two peas in a pod.” The small place where he is even sees that his clothes are washed. He gets three meals a day, and he is seen taking all of his needed medication daily.
The assisted living home where Michael is has a nurse practitioner that is there daily, and two other assistants that help Michael and two others there. It is small, clean, comfortable. There is a television, and even WiFi. Michael has his own room, and he pays rent out of his monthly stipend to be there. In short, it is exactly what is needed, and the staff there notably cares about those they assist (which is essential to any possibility of longer term success).
“Tell me about the food?” “I like all ov’it,” Michael again beams. “What’s your favorite?” “I don’t discriminate,” he adds, then later says that his favorite thing to eat is banana pudding. The assistant there said they didn’t know that, but banana pudding is now coming. “What don’t you like?” “Food is food, I like all’a it.”
Most days Michael also attends a day program that serves people with his needs. He’s usually there from the morning until mid-afternoon five days a week. He’s usually back by mid-afternoon, and his nightly curfew is 9 pm. He meets that curfew most of the time. When he hasn’t, the police have brought him back a few times. He sees City Commissioner Willie Turner Jr. regularly.
Michael is free to do and go what he wants when he is not in his day program. He can speak freely unattended, and he has had a few odd jobs moving out an office and cutting grass recently. “They don’t pay much,” he said, then he talked about working maks him feel better, and that making any money is good.
“What do you think about your day program?” “I love it,” Michael affirms, “it keep me out of trouble. I too old for trouble.” “Do you feel your medication when you take it?” “I take it morning and night, I gots to take it, it calms me, relaxes me so I can sleep,” Michael says, “I got my own room.” He much likes his nurse practitioner. At least one attendant is pretty much there all of the time, except when a few errands are run, and there is always an attendant there at night.
“Tell me about your crack cocaine girlfriend, you think about her still? “That woman keeps you broke,” Michael said affirmatively,” I done kicked her to the curb.” We both laughed, as he remembered us talking about this before. “Have you had any alcohol since you’ve been here?” “No, sho not,” he said, “I got an ulcer.”
We talked about people caring for him, and that he seemed both surprised and floored when we last talked that he was cared for at all. “Do you still realize than a lot of people care for you?” “I was messed up, so I didn’t know at first, but I do now,” Michael said. We ran off the care list, Turner, Ken Murphey, Sandra Williams, now all of the people at his new home, and more.
He knows now that more people than he ever realized care about him. “Did you see the article about you in ClarksdaleNews?” He has not yet, “but I heard about it,” he added. “Some 4,500 people read it over about four days” Michael settled in, thinking about that. He just didn’t know what to say, he just smiled, and it is clear that knowing that you are cared about is great medication for recovery indeed. He will see the article on our next visit.
It turns out Michael has some family still in town. “Do they come to see you here?” “Not been here,” Michael said, “but I see them at they place sometimes.” “What do they think about where you are now?” “They love it,” he said with warmly.
We talked about his two different names, and it was interesting that the kind professional attendant that was there has not even heard the name “Dollar Bill.” Michael then pulled out his treatment facility certificates and awards of success out of a large envelope he keeps in a drawer. He is proud of them, and as we took pictures of each one, we continued talking about his names. “They called me Dollar Bill in St. Louis,” he said, “then they call me that here. I ask for a dollar, they call me Dollar Bill.”
“What do you want to be called now?” “Anytime I’m Dollar Bill,” he said, “it’s 911! You see me on the street now, call me Michael.”
Our conversation ended with Michael asking me to be sure to come visit again, and “bring yo’ wife with you,” he added. It won’t be long, we both assure you.