Where Have You Gone, Joe Dimaggio?
(Credit for and apologies to Simon and Garfunkel)
Where have you gone, Devon Dominar? We hope you’re safe, wherever you are.
Imagine growing up having to come to terms with the facts that you have a major mental illness called schizophrenia and finding out that your parents adopted you. Add to this scenario that those parents, while smart and successful, are not skilled at being parents and in general do not know how to demonstrate their feelings. This was Devon’s lot.
Devon came to the Shelter’s doors in 1998. Without our ever being able to get a firm grip on why, he came from Arizona. Very much looking like a big kid, Devon was probably 6’1’’ 205 at the start, and probably weighed in the vicinity of 250 at the “end.” He had a big head, too, which he eventually got into the regular routine of shaving. And within 6 months of his arrival to Bangor, he started dressing all in black.
It would be an interesting exercise to get 30 or 40 people together who were reading this, and then have them compare notes as to the visual image of Devon each of them had. Six feet, one inch. Two hundred and forty pounds. Wearing all black. Shaved head. Skinhead? Anything but!
Devon was actually friendly, gentle, and kind, and he loved to laugh. I frequently thought that the world would be a happier place if more of us could be like Devon. He was always greeting the female employees with a, “You look very beautiful today!” In many ways his presence was that of an apparently happy pre-adolescent, but inside his head, things lurked that were dark, and he worked hard to keep them away. Medication and psychiatric therapy helped.
Devon does not know, and may never know, that he was the inspiration that got us to look for funding that would support redeveloping the vacant third floor of the shelter and create apartments that would allow some homeless folks to have their own place. I can remember spending some time up there in the attic in 2002, walking around the piles of pigeon poop and being careful to avoid anything broken, and then stopping to look out one of the windows that faced south. I remember getting a little emotional and thinking how nice it would be for someone who had struggled all their life, who had never known much better than a shelter bed, to wake up in their own place and be able to look out over part of Bangor and across the Penobscot. Later I remember the Shelter’s Program Manager letting Devon go up to the third floor a few weeks before construction was complete, and how much he was like a kid on Christmas morning.
Devon called Cedarview Efficiencies home for 5 years. He had a life in this city, including going regularly to a place of worship. He eventually graduated from the efficiency in the shelter to a larger apartment in a bigger building several blocks away. Eventually his visits to the Day Program became infrequent, until one day we decided we were seriously concerned about not having seen or heard from him. Two of us went to the property manager’s office to inquire. We found out that Devon’s rent was 4 weeks late. The three of us went to his apartment to see. The manager unlocked the door and, with some foreboding, we stepped into the apartment. Nothing. Clean and tidy, the way someone who was moving on would leave it. No skateboard, no collection of clocks, no black clothes. Nothing.
Where have you gone, Devon Dominar? We care about you, miss you, and hope that you’re okay. I hope your contagious, stomach-stressing laughter is making others laugh with you, somewhere warm and safe…