How my brother survived so long out on the street eludes me still. Much of it, I’m sure, had to do with his own strengths. Since adolescence, Tom had been deeply concerned with how to live, how to do right by others, how to be. He was quick to defend the weak, to tell you to stop being a jerk, to point out how you were being unfair. In illness, this solidified into a rigid and high-minded moral code to which he adhered strictly, and which seemed to be part of how he avoided encounters with people who could do him real harm.
It was not that he blended in. Aside from his odd demeanor, he carried a large backpack full of rocks—ordinary rocks, rocks that appealed to him, rocks he picked up and examined while walking the Coastal Trail. And for a while he wore a bright yellow fisherman’s raincoat that Dad had given him. I see it flashing like a semaphore through the summer of 2007. It pops up in his court records from that time: large yellow rain jacket; WMA w/ yellow rain jacket.
That summer his arrests were frequent, the charges diverse.
Helen Ries was in her forties when her father died in 2011, and then her mother in 2014, a turn of events that left her as the main caregiver for...