May 11, 2020, 9:47 AM
“Ummm, excuse me? He was discharged when?”
“Like I said before Mr. Simon, he was discharged on Saturday”
“Okay, okay. I’m trying to make sense of this. How was my son, who had hallucinations prior to admission, discharged without me being notified? I’m pretty sure that I gave all of my contact information?”
“Mr. Simon, we don’t allow any patient to leave on his own without someone picking him up. I’ll check one more time”
My face began to burn hot as I paced frantically back and forth in front of the make shift window. The sky was clear, but my thoughts were all over the place. Just when I believed he was about to turn the corner, this shit happens! How in the world could a veteran’s hospital release a mentally unstable patient without notifying me? Before I could scream, the nurse called me back over.
“Mr. Simon, I’m sorry, but the computer states that he was indeed discharged on Saturday and that he left by car”
“By car? Who picked him up?”
“I’m sorry sir, but I can’t release that information”
“What do you mean you can’t release that information? Do you know who I am?”
“Yes sir. I understand that you’re his father, but your son did not put you down as an immediate contact”
“So who did he put down as next of kin?”
“I’m sorry Mr. Simon, but I can’t give you that information either. You may want to try contacting your son and . . .”
I walked away from the window before she could finish. I didn’t want to hear anything else she had to say. Shit, I understood HIPAA regulations, but I’m Brandon’s father! How could my son, my own flesh and blood, not list me as a contact? I was trying to reign in my emotions, but I couldn’t! I just sat there in the car, lost in my own head, replaying all the events that led to this moment. I was right back where I started: not knowing the whereabouts of my child.
Three weeks earlier:
“Hamilton! Hey man come on in. I expected you to be here a little bit earlier”
“Hey cuz! I get held up at the office, but I made it. What are the streets saying about Brandon?”
“Fam, nobody knows where Brandon is. I had my boys check in on that spot near May Park like you asked. There was no trace of him there”
“Did you check to see if he was hiding out in the house? Ol’ girl could have been lying?”
“Cuz, you know who I am. You know what I do. When I say we asked, I mean we ran up in the piece and searched. No Brandon”
“What about his friends? I’m sure they’ve seen him”
“They haven’t seen him either, Hamilton. Said ol’ boy been MIA for nearly five months. Word was that he had joined a cult and was giving all his money to them”
“So does this cult have a name?”
“Nah. They probably just some Jehovah people or somethin’”
“Well, we need to find these people. Go and put on your shoes, Jimbo, and call up your boys”
“Damn Hamilton! You ain’t been in town for five minutes and you already giving orders! You ain’t even put your bag down!”
“You know how I am when it comes to family business”
“Yeah. Yeah, I do. Don’t worry chief. We’ll find him”
Me, Jimbo, and his unmerry band of dope dealers spent the next three days scouring the city for Brandon. South Augusta had more abandoned buildings than I cared to count. It seemed that every other building was a storefront church, and we went to every one of them! We even went to the shelters, but no one had seen him.
I refused to turn on the radio, much to the displeasure of my rather large cousin. But I was already imaging the worst. Maybe he was rolled up in a carpet dead somewhere? Or maybe he was taken to task and thrown into the Savannah River? I needed to remain hopeful. So many were depending on me for this win.
Then as I woke up that rainy, Wednesday morning, something hit me.
“Jimbo, get up man! We gotta go!”
“Get yo ass up man! I know where Brandon is!”
In less than ten minutes, we were flying down Gordon Highway.
“Nigga, you might wanna slow down! The cops here haven’t changed since you left!”
“I just want to get to him in time. No telling what condition he’s gonna be in when we get there. Can you pass me the two syringes in the glove box?”
“Condition? Syringes? Ohhhhh, I forgot you be hitting folks with that sleepy time shit! By the way, where the hell are we going? You never did say? Just told me to bring my ass on!”
“We’re going to Hyde Park”
“Granddaddy Henry’s house?”
“But you know that place is a toxic dump now? I believe all the buildings have been torn down. You sure he’s over there?”
“Trust me Jimbo. I gotta feeling about this”
As a child, Brandon was fascinated with Grandpa Henry’s stories. Henry Simon was a proud Black man who had overcome his share of hatred. His stories about his last tour in Vietnam would leave us captivated and at times, angry. More important than his stories of war was his testimony of success. Before Henry Simon went off to war, he and Grandma Ida had purchased a home on Leona Drive. He was so proud of the home that he built. Grandma even let him have a place where he could listen to his records in peace. Grandpa Henry loved his music. So did Brandon.
Several years ago, I read that all the residents had moved out due to the toxins in the soil. As we drove through, most of the homes had been torn down. But guess whose home was still standing? It wasn’t as majestic as I remembered, but it was still alive. Jimbo and I put on our masks and gloves and headed to the place I knew Brandon would be. As I opened the door, there he was, asleep on the floor. He looked so poor, clothes barely hanging on. I asked Jimbo to stay outside, but left the door open.
“Brandon, Brandon. It’s me son. I’m here”
He didn’t budge. For a second, I didn’t know if he was alive or not. But then he coughed, calming my fear.
“Dad, is that you?”
“Yes son. We need to get you out of here and get you some help”
“Nah, I’m okay. I just want to rest, right here, next to Paw Paw”
“Son, Paw Paw is not here. It’s just us son”
“Yes he is . . . here. Don’t you see? He’s about . . . to put on . . . some music. . . and make . . us some . . .hot links”
I shook my head, but I understood the situation. Not only was he hallucinating, his breath was becoming shorter every time he talked. It sounded like he had just ran a marathon although he had just awakened from his slumber. With him being in the streets, I was afraid that he had contracted the virus in addition to his mental instability.
“Okay Brandon. I see him. But we need to get you ready for school. And I left your clothes at the house”
“But I . . don’t wanna go! Paw Paw . . . about . . . to make . . . some hot links”
Brandon struggled to his feet. I reached into my shirt pocket and pulled out one of the syringes that I had. I came closer to him as he was starting to become belligerent.
“I’m not . . . going with you! I told you . . . that I’m staying . . . here with . . .Paw Paw!”
He took a swing at me, but I stepped to the side and grabbed his arm. I subdued him enough so that I could inject the sedative.
“Why are . . . you . . .doing this . . . to me? Why?”
“It’s for your own good son”
Before Brandon collapsed, I called in my cousin to help me get him to the car. We stretched him out across the backseat and made our way up Wrightsboro Road to Freedom Way. When we arrived, we were told that we had to go through the drive thru service and he would be seen by a nurse. The nurse explained that no one was allowed inside. Jimbo and I held on to Brandon for thirty minutes as we waited to be seen. We had to wait another twenty minutes before we knew the results.
“Mr. Simon, I’m afraid that your son did test positive for the virus. He was also dehydrated so we are admitting him for treatment”
“Okay. And what about the psych treatment?”
“We’ll consult with the psychiatrist and go from there. Right now, we’re going to admit him to the COVID unit where we’ll treat his symptoms”
“Okay. I’ll go . . .”
“Mr. Simon, I’m sorry. No family is allowed on the unit and we are not permitting anyone into the hospital at this time”
“Well you guys have all my information right?”
“Yes Mr. Simon. We have your information”
I watched as they wheeled my son pass the metal doors. That morning was the first time I had talked to him in almost a year. Hadn’t seen him in almost two. The pain I felt inside was more than I was prepared to handle.
The following two weeks were filled with hospital phone calls to check the status. At the beginning of the week, Brandon was doing good, only needing some oxygen. By the weekend, it was a turn for the worse. He was on ninety percent oxygen and could barely talk on his cell phone. The last report I received was that Wednesday, stating that he was making headway and was going through therapy. The social worker there stated that he may need to have a walker and some other things until he got his strength back. Penelope and I agreed that he would stay with her and rehab when it was time. I didn’t want to work with that conniving wench, but it needed to be done for our son’s sake. I had to endure her constant anxiety as she would call me every other day asking if I had gotten an update.
Nothing prepares you for the loss of a child. The constant rollercoaster of emotions. Not knowing if this call will be the one stating that his life is over. Not able to visit. I was starting to lose it myself . . .
I wiped my eyes and exhaled. I pulled myself together and was ready to drive away from the hospital when I got a call from my son’s mother.
“Hey Penelope. Have you heard from Brandon? The nurse said that he was discharged. Did he contact you? Is he already there with you?”
Penelope didn’t respond.
“Is Brandon there with you?”
She still refused to speak.
“Penelope Vesquez, if you don’t tell me the truth so help me!”
“Yes, Hamilton, he called me”
“And you weren’t going to tell me? Did you pick him up? Is he there with you?”
“No. He’s not here”
“So where is he?”
“He wouldn’t say”
“What the fuck you mean he wouldn’t say? Who picked him up from the hospital?”
Penelope didn’t respond again. I was about to explode when she finally spoke.
“Hamilton, he said that his disciples picked him up. He’s going to do his rehab with them”
Written by the Wednesday Gentleman