Life at all costs

I accompanied my father to the surgeon’s office yesterday for his first post-operative checkup. This is easier said than done because my Dad’s in a wheelchair now, and necessitated the use of the nursing home’s transport van.

I got there with a few minutes to spare and the nurse said he was in physical therapy. The van driver was there and walked with me to the room.

Dad’s physical therapist is a guy in his 30’s I would say, short but looked quite strong. There were about half a dozen other older people in the room, and they all looked at me – a blank look I’m beginning to associate with the place. The Therapist’s face was the blankest.

I said hello to Dad and he said “Hi Dear” back, and seemed almost as if he wanted to stand up to greet me, but couldn’t. The Driver looked at Dad’s large wheelchair and mentioned to the Therapist that he was worried it wouldn’t fit into the van. The Therapist replied that of course it was, this was America. America is full of big people, with big wheelchairs and the van creators know this.

I looked down at him from eighteen feet above, and gave him the most neutral, polite, and toothy smile I could summon. I hope it gives him nightmares the rest of his life.

Dad’s chair did fit and we ended up at the Doctor’s office. The waiting room was full of people, and the Driver placed Dad next to a couple of empty chairs and I sat next to him. A woman who was sitting in the chair next to mine, got up and moved three seats away.

I have ambiguous feelings about Bloomington, Indiana. I’ve met some very friendly people, but I’ve also experienced some very unfriendly people, too. It is typical midwestern community, while St. Louis has much of the deep south about it. I find that I prefer St. Louis, especially after waiting in that Doctor’s office, with a room full of people who wouldn’t look at Dad. At the ceiling, at the floor, at the door, at the wall, at the magazines, anywhere but look at my Dad. Of course, Dad does look old now. Not well aged. Not gracefully old. It’s like he’s been beaten, daily, by life. I suppose if I were 10 or 20 years older, I wouldn’t want to look at Dad, either.

The doctor’s visit didn’t go too badly. The nurse took out the surgical staples, with me helping to move my father around. He said I’d make a good nurse, which I took to be a high compliment.

The X-Ray technician was a drop of sunshine, she was that sweet. She knew we’d need help, so she put out a call. Next thing we knew, about six other nurses and other office people were there to help. There’s that good part of Bloomington in action.

The surgeon –yes, that surgeon, the one who didn’t leave Dad with pain medicine – left a very negative first impression, but a mixed impression after the second visit, when he checked the X-Rays. The first visit was fast and when I tried to identify myself, he just looked through me. The second time, though, he was slower, and more friendly, and even patted Dad on the shoulder. The X-Rays show that the bone is healing nicely (we Powers always heal fast – good thing because we’re all clumsy as hell), and maybe that’s the key–the surgeon’s work won’t be wasted after all.

(I asked someone recently why the doctors work so hard to keep us alive if they’re only going to get resentful when they succeed and we get old?)

Anyway, we survived the trip, staples out, bone healing, and Dad had a nice trip in van. He kept calling me Dear all throughtout the trip, which was endearing at first but towards the end of the visit, I realized he’d been doing so because he had forgotten my name. That’s okay. I like being called, Dear.

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