Clarence Hardin

Clarence Hardin takes off his coat in his new apartment. (South Bend Tribune file photo/JIM RIDER)

This story was originally published March 7, 2002.

Fifth of five parts

Most mornings, Clarence Hardin, an early riser, leaves his warm apartment and heads off for McDonald's, where he'll eat and drink some coffee before heading back downtown.

Sometimes, he takes a detour for more cigarettes. Then he returns to his room, where he watches TV most of the day. He doesn't really have any favorite programs. He just watches what's on and smokes his cigarettes.

Sometimes he takes a nap. This afternoon, my unplanned visit has woken him up. There's a pan of dried scrambled egg leavings in the sink, where's he's left it after making himself some lunch.

His feet are healing, he says. When they're better, he'll walk over to Hope Rescue Mission or the Center for the Homeless for some meals, to save money.

Clarence is becoming used to his apartment. He likes living here. It was hard, living on the streets.

But Clarence still has some unresolved issues.

Rosie Thesing, the home detention officer who has taken Clarence under her wing, struggles to manage his money for him. She tries to balance how much cash Clarence wants with how she thinks he should spend it. Clarence is a grown-up, after all.

At first, all of the appointments and paper work involved were a bit overwhelming combined with her own hectic personal life.

"It's like taking care of a child who's grown and can't take care of himself," she says. "But I don't regret it because it's somebody off the streets. He didn't really have anybody. So if it wasn't for us, where would he be?"

Clarence is usually very quiet, so when he expresses his gratitude, it's enough to keep her going. "He said, 'You've been so wonderful. Thank you so much,' " she says. "That was during one of my frustrating times. It makes it worth it."

Rosie's younger sister, Stephanie Vann, who has some nursing training, has offered to help Rosie. She and Rosie will take turns visiting Clarence every day to dole out his medication and help him organize his housekeeping.

Clarence and Rosie are still awaiting his health-care cards. He hasn't had his teeth or his vision checked.

These are still secondary to whatever the medical tests will show.

Clarence's feet are still affected by frostbite, and he was diagnosed with high blood pressure. Clarence's doctor is checking for other health problems, including anything that might put Rosie at risk, too.

The uncertainty of Clarence's medical problems is a little daunting. She worries that they won't be able to pay for treatment, or to bury him, if it comes to that.

Even though life is better, Clarence says he's still not thinking very far ahead.

"I don't live life that way," he says. "I take it as it comes."

Clarence says he knows he's dying, from the stress that's plagued him most of his life. That's what he calls the schizophrenia that has disabled him. He says he's never thought about how his life might have been different.

Well, if he is dying, how does he want his long-estranged family, and others who have known him since, to remember him?

"I don't want them to remember me," he says, so low I can barely hear him. "I'm just not that type."