"Howard wants to go to the hospital. He knows he isn't doing that great. He says he is having homicidal thoughts." This from my supervisor, Linda. Homicidal thoughts on the part of any client get our attention, especially so with Howard, because years before, he killed a man with a gun. I believe it was in a fight. "He wants you to take him to the hospital, Ray." "Sure," I say. "You think ...

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Many years ago, I was given a literary award from the Mary Roberts Rinehart Foundation.  It was for $175 and was an encouragement to finish an American Indian novel I was then writing. "Not enough to quit your job," I remember was a line from the letter I received from the foundation's rep, Barbara. And from thereafter, Barbara and I kept in touch for many years.   Mostly we wrote letters, and ...

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I remember Jake Mattolli as a pioneer in heart surgery. He certainly didn't wish to be one. I believe he had a valve replacement, and it was done in the early '60s. I remember the Boston surgeon termed the operation a success, but as Jake's lungs gave out on the table, he, the patient, died. That sort of success most of us wish to avoid. The thing I remember about Jake, aside ...

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My father would have liked to know Dr. Young's husband, Tad. Tad is a professional wrestler, the world-class wrestling kind, complete with lots of belts and awards (or so I want to believe). My father, he's been dead a long time. He liked both boxing and wrestling, probably wrestling more. My mother liked boxing, but maybe because my father did. It was in the years when there were boxers like Jake ...

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Philomena was the youngest child in a large Irish family. She grew up in a place called Kilquane, about ten miles from Dingle town in the Republic of Ireland. At about age three or four, she contracted measles, which settled in one eye, and that eye had to be surgically removed. That surgery was a botch job, and the artificial eye she was given never fit properly. All of this ...

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In the coronavirus era, I go most days to our neighborhood McDonald's, where I purchase a cup of coffee and take it outside to a patio area where I sit and eat peanut butter crackers which I carry with me. Today as I stood in a short line inside the facility, with persons standing the approved distance from one another, of course, an older man came up behind me and tapped ...

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Everyone called her "Maggie," which was short for Magnolia. She acquired that nickname because she was from the Deep South, which made her a standout in New York. Her name was really Linda. Maggie seemed to gravitate to the Irish in New York City, where she worked as a nurse. Not that she had a drop of Irish in her. But she enjoyed her pals, most of whom were undocumented ...

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It took some getting used to in dealing with Mae. My main function soon became acting as her bookkeeper. Each month, I would write checks for her. She was illiterate, and signing her name was about all she could do. Mae was a fairly ordinary looking lady past 50 by several years. But what was most striking about her was her mischievous personality — in short, she was a flirt. I found ...

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Correna is full of simplistic Henny Youngman-type one-liners (many of you readers, I understand, may never have heard of the comic, Henny Youngman, but no matter). But her one-liners are not particularly funny. She might say as we drive along, "I am SOB," (Stuck or broke) or "CRS," (can't remember shit), or "SOS," Stuck on Stupid, and her favorite one, which has no initials is "The world is full of idiots, ...

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In November each year, I usually attend an all-day conference in Louisville on the subject of depression. Some of it can become a little grim, but there is an especially tasty free box-lunch that I appreciate. Suicide is a big subject at depression conferences. One might expect this to be true. The focus is on suicide prevention, which is as it should be. The discussion is usually led by university professors, and ...

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Charles looks older than his sixty-one years; he is very thin and quite stooped, and his eyes are what I guess are described as "lazy." One goes one way, and one another. He is badly in need of dental work. He has emphysema, though he continues to smoke heavily. His coloring is not right, and overall, he looks unwell. But for the almost ten years I've known him, he has never ...

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When I first landed this job as a case manager (social worker), I was given Robert R. as a client. He was at his worst then, soiling himself virtually every day, with no change of clothing available. I remember him wearing a piece of colored cloth around his waist, which served as a belt. When he would come in in such a condition, sometimes even tracking in feces on his shoes, ...

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Ed is not from Kentucky. I believe he told me he is from West Virginia and from a very low-income family. At about 15, he was hit by a car and paralyzed from the waist down. He's now about 30. But for a guy in a wheelchair, he is nothing short of remarkable for what he gets done. He goes everywhere, either by his own strength or by bus, even on ...

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It all began on Valentine's Day when I arrived at my office and listened to my messages from the afternoon before. There was only one from a nurse at the state mental hospital. She had just seen, she said, a Mr. Lonnie M. and was calling to alert me (there is a law to this effect) that Lonnie had expressed very hostile feelings toward me, quite specific in nature. He planned ...

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The front-desk clerk, Ruth, comes to me and says Rose Henderson wants a cab voucher signed — which guaranteed payment. Rose could not be made to understand, Ruth tells me, that we are not permitted to sign vouchers when the person, the client, comes to our offices solely for the purpose of picking up cash ... which is Rose's purpose. We are Rose's payee, which means we handle her money. I ...

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I sit in Dr. Victor's small crowded waiting room, awaiting my turn. I am seated between two women, the one on my left probably 45, and the one on my right, somewhat older, both though younger than me. The lady on my right doesn't have much to say beyond telling me where she is from, and she is seeing Dr. Victor for the second time. The woman to my left is ...

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Wiley Boynton is dead. I first heard the news when Katie, a colleague, called me on my cell phone. Wiley had been taken to the hospital with a knife wound. I asked her right away: "Self-inflicted?" "I think so," she said. A self-inflicted knife wound might be possible, I figure with someone like Wiley, considering the violent world he came out of. I know quite a lot about him. Wiley is around 40 years ...

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Anita is 37 with blonde, wild, disheveled hair. She is overweight, has bad teeth, wears too much make-up, and is severely depressed — sometimes psychotic. She tells me she often hears voices. And she constantly complains that the medicine she gets from our clinic (and she gets a lot), does not take the edge off her feelings. She has severe anger and is in an anger-management group at our offices. Each ...

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James is a tall, lanky Caucasian man, well into his 40s. He has brown curly hair and is not a bad looking fellow except for the vacant look in his large brown eyes. He is a pacer, which is a manifestation of his illness, and a consumer of excessive amounts of water. You have to talk right at James to be understood. I try to make eye contact. Sometimes he doesn't ...

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Mr. Fine is in for the eleventh time in less than a week. I work as a social worker in a hospital emergency psych unit. Mr. Fine is suicidal again. It is kind of late in the evening when I see him, although it is my first time, I am the only social worker on tonight. This is the usual situation, one social worker per shift. The psychiatrist takes me aside, quietly ...

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