Monday, January 20, 2014

Looking up

I drove Grampa Munster home from our weekly coffee meeting with the other volunteers in his group. I don't usually do the driving for this particular gig because I already do more for him than the others in the group do, which is fine. I have the time. But I wanted to speak to him alone about the coming expiry of his probation and the steps which must very soon follow in terms of the supervisory order which Scooterville Police Department will surely apply for, and the subsequent court proceedings. I wished to advise him to keep me informed immediately of any progress on these matters and to expect me to accompany him in court. Grampa struggles with communication and gets nervous and flustered easily and is handicapped from effectively representing himself; something that has long attracted predatory tactics from both his psychiatric team and probation officer, according to reliable testimony.

Also I wished to run some errands in the neighborhoud of Down-n-Out Manor where Grampa is a tenant, and I knew he'd want to tag along rather than hasten his return to the third floor room where he imprisons himself but for a few outings per week: the coffee meeting, psych and probation appointments and his weekly day with me and the London Street Dobies.

As luck would have it though, Detective Biff and his partner were in the neighborhood to deliver Grampa Munster's paperwork and Grampa arranged for the detectives and I to meet, which he was delighted about. He'd been hopeful he could rely on me as an advocate in dealing with this new relationship with Scooterville Police.

This was an event of significant impact and it went extremely well. The proposed conditions of the court order - which could last for years; potentially the rest of G.M.'s life - contained only the standard restrictions: basically, no significant life changes (residence, career, relationships) without police consent and no contact with minors without approved supervision, or any presence in places where minors are likely to frequent - which is all great. I have been urguing Munster to look at the inevitable order, not as a hurdle but as a tool in helping him stay on the good side. A tool that is useful and appropriate given his presumed acknowledgement that help is required to be sure he'll succeed (otherwise he would not have come to our volunteer organization for help in the first place).

The usual prohibition from associating with prior offenders of the same ilk was, however, not included in the proposed conditions. Amazingly, Detectiive Biff strayed from the counsellor's and probation officer's advice and anounced his support and praise for the Mennonite Church's volunteer community and agreed that Grampa Munster needs our full support and should be free to attend our frequent community events. Furthermore he readily agreed to amend library restrictions if accompanied by myself or another trained volunteer and granted that certain park-type areas could be accessed for exercise walks under the right conditions - again supervised. He offered further concessions around movie theatres and supervised trips out of Scooterville city limits. I have a friend outside the city with horses on his property which Gramps would love to visit. He adores horses and dogs.

I explained to Detective Biff that my efforts to give Munster a little extra freedom came from my belief that the best route to community safety was not to encourage him to sit alone in his room day after day, letting his mind wander through potentially dangerous thoughts, but to get him out, filling up his time with useful positive activities; creating healthy habits and healthy rewards to reduce the need for selfish habits and rewards.

Detective Biff said he couldn't agree more! He gave me his card, told me to keep in touch, praised us for our work and acknowledged that we are all on the same team.

"I want [Grampa Munster] to succeed," he said. "If he succeeds, I succeed."

"Likewise," said I.


What an exellent departure in philosophy from these years of mistrust between the volunteers and the particular authorities who have worked with G.M. up until now.

Munster has a long history of incarceration; repeat offenses in the past and then a series of probation breaches, and now five years clean. We're all happy and eager now, while Grampa Munster remains nervous. He has not had this degree of "freedom" in about forty years, and he's unsure if anything is really going to change. I think that the slight loosening in restrictions is not the central issue. It is that we must use this event as a trigger and change our attitude and outlook. It's time to get out of the tower cell and participate in life again and make friends.

In the discussion with Detective Biff in this regard, I said to him, "I can't be Grampa Munster's only friend. There are other things I need to do with my life." I glanced at Munster when I said this. We've not used the word friend before, in terms of our association, though I know he wishes to think of me that way.

I suppose I must be generous for a the next while and give him more of my time and be sure that things start to change; that he sees changes happening and is inspired. This is a critical occasion; a turning point, and we must ensure it is a turn for the better.


Elizabeth Twist said...

I'm aware, through local channels, of the Mennonite group. You're doing a great thing for GM. A great bunch of things. It is enormously gratifying to read your exchange with Biff, who sounds like someone who is doing his (difficult and potentially crazy-making) job with grace and compassion. Thank you for sharing.

Fantasy Writer Guy said...

Thanks for your support, Twister. It's really helpful right now.