I got another call from the psychiatric nurse yesterday. The one who, out of nowhere, started treating Danny for his depression.

A month or so ago I got a call from the joint that someone had seen him and declared him depressed (duh-uh), and therefore ordered a new antidepressant for him. A bit of sleuthing got me in touch with the psychiatric nurse who had ordered the prescription.

“He’s obviously depressed,” she offered, when we connected.

Again, “duh-un” was all I could think. “Thank you for noticing…and for doing something about it,” was what I said in response.

“He doesn’t shower. He has no personal hygiene. He’s filthy.” These were her declarations, her evidence for his depression. All I could think to that was, “that’s not depression, or not just depression. That’s Danny.” I didn’t say that to her at the time.

So they put him on some new med, and I heard nothing more. Until yesterday when she called to tell me that the first drug apparently wasn’t working (since he still wasn’t showering or letting his toenails be cut or combing his hair) and that they were therefore putting him on a new drug. Some antipsychotic. “Not that I think your father is psychotic,” the nurse offered. “He seems to be in touch with reality. But the first drug didn’t work. He’s still depressed.”

Now, of course he’s depressed. He’s only 72 and half-paralyzed. He’s in an assisted living facility with no one he has anything in common with (or at least no one he’s willing to see if he has anything in common with…maybe because he’s depressed). An assisted living facility where they steam the fish and chips after they fry them, so that they’ll be softer and easier to eat. My father, the ultimate food-snob and twenty-year restaurateur, has found his own hell. Of course he’s depressed.

This time I tried to explain to the nurse that I so appreciated her efforts for my father, and that I hoped almost beyond hope that the meds would kick-in and help him feel better, and that she needed a fuller understanding of my dad. That he never really kept a level of cleanliness that other people keep. That he didn’t shower now because it wasn’t fun to have the facility staff bathe him. And that – whether it started with him or with them – there was no one on the staff with whom he felt comfortable and cared for. Theirs seemed to be a “dislike-dislike” situation.

His not showering, I shared – his too-long toenails; his disheveled, stained clothing; his smoking in his room (again). She looked at these as evidence of his depression. I looked at them as evidence of Danny. He was angry. Perhaps depressed, but also very, very angry. At me. At life. At his situation. At it all.

I shared this with her, and got off the phone and went back to my day. Then I started to sob. Because it is so, so sad.

I wish I could do something to help him.

P.S. He was kind to me on the phone the other day, and responded with “I love you too.” Maybe the meds are kicking in. Or maybe he was just kind. And the magnolia tree picture? It’s his favorite tree and they’re in bloom right now. They make me think of him and smile.

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