My father’s assisted living home smells like poop. My father has been fading for five years. He now says very little. He will have a chocolate, a piece of fruit, a stiff Vodka Tonic. After his first sip he will say “this tastes good.” I have to keep the conversation going, and I talk about my girlfriend or my health issues. He does laugh and make expressions. He thinks I am a little nutty, like my mother and her Mother. He enjoys my visits.
Vance G was a crazy character. On the way back from away football games he would lead the team in singing, “spent the last year Rocky Mountain way,” then the team sang “ba na na na,” and then Vance, “couldn’t get much higher.” The team sang, “ba na na na.” This bonded us. He even sang it after a loss, which infuriated our head coach.
Later in life we shared a house. He was a womanizer which was fine with me. We had women coming and going. The sounds emanating from his room became a bit much, so I wore earplugs. When three of his rent checks bounced, we got into a fist fight. After that our friendship was never the same. He died several years back at the age of fifty from a brain infection. He will not be forgotten by me and not by many women.
“Do you feel OK?” The nurse was staring at me. I had barely finished my stress test. I stumbled off the treadmill. I was apparently white as a ghost. I had a pain in my chest. I started burping. The nurse went for the doctor. She had seen something in the data she was watching. The doctor came in the room. “Are you experiencing any chest pain?” she asked. I wanted to lie. I told them I had indigestion and burped. The doctor looked at the data. Her expression was one of concern. Another heart catheterization is ordered. Another set back on the road to recovery. I must be the warrior again. One day at a time.
I carry on.
“Hello Mr. Lebherz, follow me. I am Dr. Ping Pyong.” I shook his hand, entered his office. My girlfriend came behind me which made me worry that I might have to take my clothes off with the lights on.
“I am chief of Kidney Transplant surgery. Could you loosen your pants and lie back on the examining table? Do you have diabetes?” he asked. Yes, for 25 years, for many years, my blood sugar was out of control. I still eat cookies.
He said he needed to check the pulse in my pelvis. He stuck his hand in my pants and lay it flat right next to my special parts. I told my girlfriend to close her eyes, which the doctor found amusing. I made another astute comment that I thought my pulse was in my wrist. I looked at my girlfriend and rolled my eyes as if I was enjoying this. Unfortunately my body is big, my special part is not. If he moved his hand just slightly to the right he would feel this. I broke out into a sweat. He removed his hand and with a frown said your pulse is weak. Strangely, my girlfriend said she already knew this. She was frowning too. I just can’t win these days.
Two years back I went through the trap door to our ancient basement. I wanted to check on the oil, being aware of snakes and mice that live down there. Lining the wall near the furnace was a group of large creepy bugs possibly from the dinosaur era. I turned to run when one of them jumped onto my shoulder. I had not felt fear like this since I shit my pants on Thanksgiving. I stumbled up the creaky steps, smacking at the creature and screaming. Slamming the trap door, I sprayed some Raid bug spray through the crack in the door. I hoped this would be the end of these carnivorous, hairy eight-legged spider crickets.
Last night to my horror, two of these freaky jumpers casually walked across my kitchen floor during dinner. My girlfriend made short work of them with a frying pan while I watched standing on a chair. Later that night I felt a tickle near my groin inside my sweatpants which I had picked up off the floor and put on. I dropped my pants with amazing speed. The largest spider cricket yet fell onto the floor. Once again I screamed. The thought that these man-eating creatures every bit as big as a nickel were now upstairs and in the underwear region of my pants was too much for me. Even after taking two strong sleep medications I lay eyes wide open with my flashlight, a baseball bat and garlic bulbs by my side.
Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I go into a room with 32 recliners. The people in these chairs are missing feet and legs, and some are missing their minds. Some are old and near death. You sit, a technician sticks inch long needles in a surgery enhanced vein in your arm. A machine runs all the blood in your body seven times through a man-made kidney. After four hours you can go home, dizzy, drained, and thinking fuzzy until the next morning. You have to accept this. Some people give up and stop treatments. They will die within weeks. I thought life would be unbearable. I am actually happier now than before dialysis. I enjoy the small things in life more. Sunshine, my dogs’ wagging tails, my girlfriend’s laughter, a couple strong drinks, good music…the list goes on. Life goes on, thank God.
Eman is black, sixteen-years-old with Downs Syndrome. When they stick the dialysis needles in his arm he yells out, “God damn that hurts!”
We would all yell that if it weren’t for our pride. He yells this out once for each needle, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I know because I sit across the room from him. The nurses tease him. He yells back, “Shut up, Grandma!”
He wants to marry Beyoncé. He likes the Cowboys. He once groped the red headed nurse’s rear end and she had to pry herself loose. He does things I would like to do. God damn that hurts.