Tag Archives: caring for elderly

Please, Don’t Slap the Nurses

The other day I had to take my father to a doctor’s appointment.  He’s at the point now where simple everyday tasks can be grueling to complete.  Just getting in the car, out of the car, and into the doctor’s office, is exhausting for both him and me.

So we got there, and he was out of breath and had just sat down in the waiting room, when the receptionist called his name.  Immediately I knew something was up, because usually the receptionist doesn’t even look up when I sign him in, and only speaks to me on the way out, to set up his next appointment.  So I got up and headed to the little receptionist window that resembled the same kind they use in gas stations to protect cashiers from bullets.  I thought my father was following behind me.  That was my mistake.  He was not.  He was walking to the doorway where the nurse calls the next victim to take to an examination room.  At the window, the receptionist handed me a form she needed updated, and then I heard a ruckus to my right.

Does this look like a man who would slap a fly?

My father was saying, “Someone called me.”  The nurse tried to explain to him that they were not ready for him yet, and that the receptionist was the one who called him.  He yelled, “Get out of my way!”  And then he slapped her in the face.

I have to say right here that my father has little to no muscle mass left, so a slap from him would have about the same sting as being slapped by a wet noodle, but still getting slapped is getting slapped, no matter if it’s a pimp or a noodle doing the slapping.  As you might imagine, a hush fell over the waiting room and all eyes were on me and my father, Joe Lewis.  I took his arm and led him to a seat, trying to act as if nothing had happened.

Now I don’t have children, but I have to imagine that the embarrassment I felt that day was equivalent to the embarrassment of having a child, in the middle of a temper tantrum, throw himself on the floor, screaming, in a crowded grocery store or restaurant.

When I finally got my father settled in the examination room, I snuck out and found the nurse he had assaulted.  She told me that she was fine and that the slap didn’t hurt.  She said, “I know he is demented.”  Demented?  I hated that word.  The doctor approached us, and said, “It is all right.  He has no control over his emotions.”  It was then that I had a fleeting thought that they might sue me for not controlling him better, as if there were elderly leash laws I was ignoring.  But it has been over a week, and I’ve yet to receive a letter from the nurse’s attorney.  Keep your fingers crossed that I never do.

So, in conclusion, I can only assume that my father was so exhausted from the trip that it made him irritable and that was the cause of the slap.  But it is a good lesson for us all –  and the next time you must visit your doctor, remember to use the proper amount of decorum, and please, … do not slap the nurses.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under caring for the elderly, comedy, Creative writing, Father, Humor, Parent, Random, Uncategorized, Writer, Writing

Daydreaming of Paul Bunyan and a T Rex

One of my favorite passages from On The Road, by Jack Kerouac is at the end of the novel, after Sal sees Dean for last time “under sad and strange circumstances.”

So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? 

When I first read this passage, many years ago, I loved it because as a child, Pooh Bear was my God.  Each night I worshipped at the altar of A.A. Milne, and snuggled my Winnie the Pooh close.  But what gets me now are the images of the road, and travel.  …raw land that rolls…all that road going…the immensity of it…  I write this because today I had an ache in my heart for the open road.  Since my father became ill, over two years ago, neither my mother nor I have been able to travel.  And lately, since the weather has turned warm, I crave the open road, cruising towards some destination.  I don’t even know where, but going .  Perhaps, the best part of any trip is the anticipation.  The sense of freedom.  The hum of the tires as they speed along on a warm spring day.  Passing other cars, knowing they’re headed to work while you’re headed to the coast, or the mountains, or wherever your heart desires.  They look like suckers.  You feel like a king. 

I read a blog the other day in which someone from the UK lambasted Americans for being uncultured and untraveled.  He claimed most had never even been out of their own state, let alone to another country.  I wondered at his statement, and considered it a gross exaggeration.  If he had statistics or facts to bolster his claim, he didn’t state them.  While I will concede that many Americans haven’t travelled outside of the country, I will argue a good number of them live near the Canadian or Mexican boarders.  Also, isn’t Cabo San Lucas one of the most popular spring-break destinations?  Maybe the blogger didn’t consider trips to Canada and Mexico counted as “world travel.”   Or perhaps he just didn’t think his argument through.

What I fervently disagreed with was the idea that most Americans have never been out of their own state.  While I could possibly give you names of a couple of people who have never been out of the country (and I said ‘possibly’), I know of no one who hasn’t ventured out of their own state.  No one.  Hell, it’s what we, Americans, are about.  Cars.  Open roads.  Resorts.  Amusement Parks.  Sandy Beaches.  National Parks.  Grandmother’s house.  We live for this stuff.  We plan it.  We record it.  We post it on YouTube.  We build bigger and better interstate superhighways to enable us to speed along to our destinations.  Most states have “Welcome Centers” for weary travelers to stop, take a break, use the restroom, get a snack, and snag a brochure or two about local attractions.  Cottage industries have sprung up close to our highways to capitalize on the American traveler.  Restaurants.  Truck stops.  Gas stations.  Seedy motels.  Gift shops.  I’ve even seen farmers markets and fruit stands. 

I’ve always wanted to travel the length of Route 66, from Chicago to LA.  Sure I know a lot of the highway is in disrepair now, but I’d still like to see the fiberglass Paul Bunyan, the statue of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and The Wigwam Village – the motel that has teepees instead of rooms.  Maybe what I want most of all is to feel the sun on my face, land moving below me, and the anticipation of embarking on a new adventure.  Don’t we all?  But don’t tell me that Americans don’t travel.  We do.  However, unfortunately for me, for some time at least, I won’t be one of them.  Oh well, maybe I’ll settle in with another read of Jack Kerouac.

2 Comments

Filed under caring for the elderly, comedy, Creative writing, Family, Humor, Life, postaweek2011, Random, Travel, Uncategorized, Writer, Writing

Little Yellow Flags

Wolfgang and Bunny

Crisp air swirled around us as we strolled arm and arm in his back yard.  Kicking up yellow and brown leaves as we went, I positioned my hand higher to give him more balance.  This is good, I thought. He needs fresh air. 

At long last fall had wrestled control of the days away from summer, not a small feat in the south. He stopped to pull his sweater tighter around himself.  “I wonder what the flags are for,” he said fastening a black button and pondering the little yellow flags waving near the back edge of the yard. 

Leaves crunched behind us as a little black and white fuzzy torpedo came running up with a ball. I picked up the toy lain at my feet, and gave my father the simplest answer that I could, “The landscapers put the flags there.”  Tossing the red ball as far as I could, Bunny, the shih-tzu torpedo, took off with her tail high in the air.

“When were landscapers here?”  He never remembered.

We had gone over this several times, but the cardiac arrest had left him with some brain damage.  Now there where huge gaps in his memory, and often times my visits were spent filling in those gaps.  Usually, the holes were monumental: who I was, where he lived, what had happened to him.  Today he simply wanted to know about the flags again. 

“They came when you were in the hospital, Pop.”

“When was I in the hospital?”  Bunny danced around his legs for attention.  I picked her up.

“Late September through most of October.”  The little dog squirmed and wiggled in my arms.

“Oh. I don’t remember any of that.”  He always said that.

“I know.  It’s probably better that way.” 

“I guess so.”  He patted Bunny on the head as I reminded him about the cardiac arrest and the CCU.  When I explained about his pace-maker and defibrillator he touched his chest, feeling the lump that was about the size of a deck of cards.  “I wondered what that was.”

“You’re the bionic man now.”  He looked amused.  It was better to keep things light, otherwise he became overwhelmed.

Bunny begged for attention and he took her from my arms.  “I haven’t seen Wolfgang today.  He must be under the bed.” 

I considered ignoring that observation, only to decide that the truth was best.  “Wolfgang passed away, Pop.”

Pain crossed his face.  “I didn’t know that.”

I told him gently, “Yes, you did.  You’ve just forgotten.”

His occupational therapist had said that repetition was the key.  She said eventually it would start to sink in.  I sure hoped that was true. It was excruciating seeing him discover over and over who was still here and who had passed on.

“It doesn’t seem like I can remember anything.” 

“That’s a side-effect from the cardiac arrest,” I said trying to reassure him.

Stroking Bunny’s ears, he asked, “When did Wolfgang die?”

“In August.”  Just over a month before the event that changed his life.

“Where is he?”

“You buried him, and then you planted a daffodil to remind us.”

“I did?  Where?”

I pointed to the spot in the yard.  “Over there.  Where the little yellow flags are.”

He walked towards them, setting Bunny down as he went.  She followed.  Stopping in front of the flags, he took in the prospect. 

“The landscapers didn’t want to upset his grave, so they marked it.”

“That’s thoughtful.  He was a good dog.”

I tucked my hand under his arm again.  “Yes he was.”

He grinned.  “One time he stole a loaf of bread off the counter top.  Reached right up and pulled it down with his teeth.”  Funny the things that did come back to him.

Smiling, I added, “But he put the half-eaten loaf in Rusty’s bed to hide the evidence.”

“Rusty,” he gasped.  He had forgotten about Rusty.  “So, Rusty is gone too?”  That was a good assumption.  If Wolfgang was gone, then Rusty, who was older, must be gone too.  Sometimes his reasoning skills worked.

“Yes, two years now.” I walked to the other side of the flower bed and pointed to more little yellow flags. “He’s over here.”  Bunny tromped through the garden, unaware of her predecessors. 

“And that must be Teddy,” he said pointing to another set of flags.

“Yes.” Pleased that he had figured that out, and that there were no tears today, I considered that maybe somewhere in his sub-conscious it was sinking in.

My mom and I could have taken the flags down weeks ago, but we didn’t.  Perhaps, we wanted to remember too.

“You know,” he said turning to me with a twinkle in his eye.  “I don’t think you’re allowed to have a pet cemetery in the city.” That he remembered.

4 Comments

Filed under Cardiac Arrest, caring for the elderly, Creative writing, dog, Family, Father, Life, Love, Parent, pets, Starting Over, Unemployed, Writer, Writing