Friday, August 20, 2010

Doctor, Doctor

I took Mom to the hospital this morning for a scheduled procedure.  She's become so tiny and frail.  At eighty-eight she's still an amazingly resilient and resolute person.  I am clearly just her ride.  She's fully in charge of everything else.

I leave her in the lobby while I run over to her doctor's office for some papers.  Arriving there too early I sit down next to Max.  I haven't seen him for years.  He's grown older and slower.  We've both grown past the old religious confrontations that don't seem to matter so much any more.  We chat for a few minutes about growing up in Jensen and him losing his dad at age eight.  The nurse calls him in to the examination room and he looks pretty old as his eighty year old frame, still large, but stooped marches resolutely through the door.

My papers in hand I head back down the hall to the hospital proper.  There I encounter Leonard and Nell. Leonard is just learning to maneuver a wheel chair.  Nell hasn't changed much, but Leonard looks much older and drawn.  His robust good cheer hasn't changed a bit though.  A more engaged, encouraging, delightful man, I've never known.  I'm clearly a peripheral friend.  We belong to different churches, circles, age groups, everything; yet Leonard always makes me feel like I'm his best friend.  He wants to know what I'm doing these days and I tell him I'm writing a book.  He encourages me on that too, but we're both in a hurry to appointments and so we have to move on.

In the radiology lobby and while Mom has her treatment, I find Cindy and her mother-in-law.  I saw them on a visit to another doctor yesterday.  Cindy's husband Jim and I are good friends.  We sold camp trailers together.  He's a baptist preacher and I've attended his tiny congregation.  Yesterday, when I met Jim's mother I made some smart remark about tough women who could put up with a character like Jim.  His mom seemed pretty offended that I would say anything disparaging about her perfectly darling son.  (Jim's 60 years old.)  Today I decide I'd better make it up to her so I mention that Jim is a good friend for whom I bear deep respect.  She replies, "You can't pull the wool over my eyes.  I raised him and believe me, he's no angel."  She got me both times.  Something I'd expect from Jim.

Then Cindy pipes up with a open raucous laugh.  "You know," she says, "I was supposed to be picking him up right now from a Colonectomy."  She obviously meant Colonoscopy.  "But he got here all prepped this morning, only to discover that his appointment was for next week!"  She laughs and laughs.  "You know how well he listens - with his mouth."  I'm thinking poor Jim, now he has to go through all that prep and nasty gut cleansing treatment - all over again.  Cindy says, "He's had a good practice run."  "More like practice runs,"  I amend.  Now I'm laughing, holding my ribs.

Jim's mother gets back from her x-ray.  Jim is clearly her son.  Both of them full of spit and vinegar.  As they leave I tell Cindy to tell Jim I said, "Drink your barium like a man!"

I wonder if I'm due for my next Colonoscopy.  I think I'll wait until I'm having a period of severe sleep deprivation.

As mom and I emerge into the hall.  Joanne and her mom appear, coming the other way.  Two sweet little ladies pause to commiserate about how and where they are and why.  Both are near 90 and considerably smaller and slower than they once were.  The genuine good cheer they exchange is so pleasant and uplifting.  I don't know how well the two of them know each other.  They've lived in opposite ends of town.   Still they belong to a pretty exclusive sisterhood by now; and just a glance or two exchanges tokens of membership that affirm they're still here and get each other.

Leonard is waiting by the front door.  He wants an autographed copy of my book.  I explain that its a long way from completion.  "What's it about?" he asks.  "Growing up around here," I tell him.  "I've changed the names to protect the guilty."  "Thanks!" he sighs.  "I couldn't find any innocents," I explain as we shake hands.

"Now be sure I get an autographed copy!" Leonard insists with a smile.

He'll probably be gone before I ever go to press, but who can argue with optimism.

How we're going to miss these octogenarians when they've moved on.  We miss their predecessors too;  those who died in their sixties and or seventies.  But these, these enduring few are such beacons, such talismans of an era of more certitude; such anchors to life's ship.  I fear we'll go adrift without them.

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