The One Who Knows

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I spent a lot of time in hospital halls yesterday, waiting outside while procedures and consults were being performed. Time to look around, wander around, look at stuff. At one point, I found myself face to face with a fancy scale, I assumed. It looked like a scale, anyway, and it was in the right place. Just fancy.

A technician was working in the area, and noticed. “You want to get on the scale?” he said, not impolitely at all. People and scales, I guess. Sure, I said, so he turned on this gee-whiz contraption and I stepped on it, and rolled my eyes a little at the number.

This technician tried to reassure me. “You’re wearing a coat and shoes,” he said, kindly. I also had a phone in my pocket and two sets of car keys.

“Hmm,” I think I said, and he moved on, and I shook my head a little and went back to business. People and scales.

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You don’t see me in real life, or not most of you. If you’d asked this guy to assess my body type, I imagine he wouldn’t have had a skewed take. I’m slightly shorter than 6 feet, and with that added weight and breakfast and everything else, I weighed 162 pounds. I rolled my eyes because I’ve missed some meals lately, with all the busyness, and I can’t afford to do that too often.

As regular readers of this blog know, this has become one of those senior citizen oddities, a lifetime of watching weight go up and now a few years of exactly the opposite. I may be the exception, but it wouldn’t be a bad thing to gain a few pounds.

And this guy, even though he could see me, assumed that whatever the scale said, it was bad news. Because it’s bad news for everyone, I assume, and I assume he assumes.

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It was just a moment, but it seemed representative of something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. We make assumptions because it’s easier, and sometimes necessary. Sometimes it’s a personal philosophy; we assume the worst and are pleasantly surprised when we don’t get it. The opposite is surely true.

Some of this is being in a hospital, too. A lot of humanity passes through, and patterns emerge. I’ve seen doctors surprised just when speaking with my hospitalized friend, who has very few risk factors for an unhealthy life. Never smoked, almost never drinks, very athletic most of his life. He doesn’t appear that way at the moment, and I’m sure they made some assumptions before figuring it out.

Then there’s the assumption that amused me, that I only suspected, which was that this older man was very sick and he was being supported by this other older man, with no one else around. There was a sweetness I noticed coming from the staff, and I began to suspect they assumed we were a romantic couple.

Who knows? I corrected this regardless, as soon as I could, because it’s important. I have no legal rights or responsibilities in this situation. I’m not family, and I’m not married to him or in some other domestic partnership. They need to know.

But, again, it was amusing. Sometimes temporary mistaken identity can be a fun diversion from real life.

It hasn’t left me, though, that comment by the guy at the scale. He could see with his own two eyes that I was probably not the kind of person worried about gaining weight, and still he reflexively tried to reassure me.

Now I’m evaluating everything I think about everything, and wondering what I assume and how wrong I must be.

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My son and I drove to choir last night, as he’s become interested in singing and likes the people. He’s got a nice voice, too, although it runs higher than mine and so once again I’m the lonely bass-baritone in our small group. It’s fun to have him with me, though.

And that may be why he’s there, too. My son contains multitudes, let me tell you.

On the drive there, I brought up the subject of our friend’s illness and John’s reaction. I mentioned that he seemed maybe under more stress than usual, and I asked how he felt about the whole thing. He surprised me.

He was worried, he said. But he was focused entirely on my stress.

It’s been nearly 35 days. Most of those have been spent at hospitals, nearly all of them. I look over to my sofa here in this room, and there are piles of medical records, plus a box of medications, plus more supplements over on my desk, all for him, all unused at the moment. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to access his bank records so I can help him with financial stuff (for all of my suspicion that he was reckless with online security, he’s got that account locked pretty securely; I don’t have his cell phone, for one thing, so I can’t receive security codes). I’ve had long conversations with physicians, therapists, nurses, pharmacists and administrators. I’ve been busy.

I asked my son if he noticed irritability on my part, because honestly I’ve been a little irritable on a few occasions, although I think always with people on the phone who don’t seem all that helpful.

But no. He just knows. As I’ve said before, ours is the most consistent relationship I’ve ever had. I was already working at home when he was born, and we brought him back from the hospital to this very room I’m writing in. I’ve been his at-home parent his entire life. I was the one who went up to school when he had problems. I was the one at home while my beautiful autistic son attempted to negotiate an unfamiliar reality. He’s used to me being around.

As chaotic as my life has been lately (lately?), it’s a joy to understand that the one person on this planet who reads me best is a guy who theoretically shouldn’t be able to read anybody. We both mentioned this in the car, laughing a little at the absurdity, but then we’ve been hanging out for nearly 30 years.

“I know you,” he said, no assuming involved, and coming from him I felt better, just a little, just enough.

Chuck SigarsComment