Saturday, April 17, 2021

Oh, Henry! Part 2

When I last shared Henry's sad saga, he was on Administrative Leave from his much-loved job at the library. Patrons had complained about his attitude. He said he was regularly disrespected as a gay Hispanic and it's his right to respond in kind. He blames Donald Trump for normalizing homophobia and racism. While I agree Trump did ugly things to us as a nation, and I believe Henry believes everything he says, I doubt these incidents happened as he describes. Key West is known as gay-friendly, and 1 of every 4 Conchs is Hispanic. Also, bigotry is born of ignorance. Would ignorant people flock to the local public library?

No, this is all the result of his traumatic brain injury. It makes him paranoid. (Check out the "Behavioral Impairments" section of this fine article to see a portrait of my friend.) It also makes him impulsive, and that impulsivity has cost him his job.

Apparently, when a library employee is placed on leave, a meeting is automatically scheduled with the County. Both Henry and the library were given two weeks to cool down and prepare. A representative of the County would listen to both sides and mediate.

I spoke to both Henry and his husband, Reg. I said "get appointments on the books." Henry has not been getting the care he needs. I explained that if they could show that Henry is working to get professional help from a psychologist and a neurologist, they would be giving the County a reason to keep him as an employee.

But Henry didn't want to wait two weeks for the County meeting. He can't wait. He made an appointment to meet with the head of human resources for the library. Mistake.

I told Reg to call and cancel it. "Say anything. Say Henry has diarrhea or a migraine. Whatever you do, don't let him go."

Reg started to cry. "I can't, Gal. I won't. He doesn't realize I have his best interests at heart. He wants to do this. He insists."

I pointed out to Reg that, since they are married, this is his healthcare we're talking about, too. Reg said that their home had become a nightmare, that Henry insists he knows best.

I spoke to Henry myself. I told him to wait for the County meeting. I said, "Bring a spoon and prepare to eat shit. Just keep this job." I am afraid that he won't be able to get another one if he loses this one.

"I cannot do that. I cannot sit and listen to them cut me to shreds. I will retire first."

And so he did. He went to the meeting with library human resources and retired.

The thing of it is, he didn't understand what "retire" means. Now he is complaining bitterly that they aren't giving him the 10 weeks severance he expected. There are strings attached to accessing his pension he didn't expect. He doesn't understand that Medicare is a federal program that isn't the County's to give him. He is shocked by how expensive Obamacare is. He is angry.

I am tired. Henry has yelled at me, demanding to know how he can get the reality of his mistreatment through my "thick skull." I have yelled back, telling him he will not talk to me this way and if he continues to, I will hang up. 

He apologized. That is progress. He is doing the best he can with his condition as it stands. And even though he is not yet 60, he can access his pension. That is a bright spot.

I worry that now, under less Obamacare coverage, he will never get the care he needs. I wish he'd been fired instead of retiring, because perhaps he could have been declared disabled to receive state benefits.

I am trying to be positive, though. I have done what I can do. I will continue to do what I can to support these people I love. But I will try to face forward, try to keep perspective, and continue to remind Henry of the Old Testament Bible verse that has become my prayer for them:

The Lord said, "I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." 


  1. When my husband retired early last year, after his ankle fusion and then the pandemic, we encountered many obstacles we weren't expecting. If Henry has a pension, he at least has steady income of sorts, but we are paying a fortune for our healthcare and will for the next three years. They may want to look at moving somewhere with a lower cost of living. This is actually a better outcome than I was expecting, and bless you for trying to help them. Your advice was sound. I'm sorry they didn't heed it.

  2. I truly hope that Henry will seek out the help he so desperately needs--and Reg will, too. This is a recipe for disaster without it.