The Longest Blog
I’ve had a piece of roof fascia board that’s been rickety for a while. It fell off eventually, just sort of popped out from under the eaves, and I wasn’t sure what to do. It was too heavy to nail back up myself, and I wondered about rot.
I eventually called a guy I sort of know, a good guy who does this sort of casual household repair in his spare time. He was supposed to come Monday, and I figured I’d be looking at a bill for a couple of hundred bucks in labor and material, maybe a bit more, not bad to have one less thing to worry about.
But he didn’t show up. Just got busy and forgot until he was already home from work, so he called and said he’d try to stop by the next day, yesterday. When I was possibly going to be gone all day, but then he knows John and really I was thinking it was just going to be an estimate.
This is not a metaphor.
I honestly don’t know why I’m writing about this medical thing with my friend. It’s always been fun for me to share an unusual experience, but there’s also also the hope that it has legs, that the story makes some other experience, by some other person, a reader, more understandable. Or just more relatable. Or maybe they feel less alone; that has come up the most, in fact.
But I’m not sure how universal this particular experience would be. I became friends with this guy a long time ago, but mostly because he had some similar interests and we could share them. Films, plays, science fiction novels.
Not a close, touchy-feely, share-our-inner-thoughts kind of friend. I have those. You can have all kinds.
Then he got sick, and there was nobody else. I’m not a monster. I couldn’t leave the guy lying alone in a hospital bed, sick and abandoned with a scary diagnosis. A stranger would be hard enough, if more probable. But someone I knew, liked, cared about? Of course not. Certainly not before others arrived to take over.
So you see why this might not be applicable as an object lesson to you, or anyone else? Unless this is a spouse, or a parent-child situation (either direction), we expect reinforcements.
Yeah. So. The cavalry ain’t coming, not unless I want to raise a cross-country fuss and make my friend miserable for the rest of his life.
So yesterday. It got close. I believe I uttered the words, “I know how to operate a fucking elevator!” at least once. That might have been the worst, but you get the picture. It was a long day, all day, and unnecessary in the way hospital visits can be. My friend had a dressing changed, several tubes of blood drawn, and five minutes with a corneal specialist. I was gone for nine hours.
I did the math, with the help of Google Calendar, during one of my fun visits in the waiting area. Yesterday was the 50th day I’ve been inside a hospital (or a skilled nursing facility) out of the past 53. I could be off by one or two. You still get it.
I was on edge from the moment I walked the quarter-mile to the bus stop in barely 40 degrees. And then the next quarter-mile from the next stop to the car rental agency. I’ve rented four cars, for a total of more than two weeks, in the past couple of months. I get free upgrades all the time now.
And I’ve borrowed two cars, for a total of nearly three weeks, from friends willing to help. They’d still help but it’s harder to ask, and I’m not sure I should be asking anyway.
Or that I should be spending thousands of dollars I don’t have, that he doesn’t have, even though friends have stepped in to help. There are so many things to think about in my personal life already.
Yesterday was almost enough, then. Who knows? I didn’t snap, but I might have crackled and popped. I was wrong about that elevator, for one thing. And you know what eased the entire situation, that long day, including a miserable 90-minute commute home beginning at 4:45pm (Seattle drivers shudder)?
He did. The man has cancer. He’s been anemic for weeks. He’s not in pain, or very little, but he’s lost sight in his eye and that’s not coming back. He’s weak, as you can imagine, and needs rest as much as he eventually needs movement. He doesn’t seem in a great mood, and he’s never been Mr. Happy.
But he’s very smart, and sensitive, and he knew what was going on. He kept me calm, amazingly enough. He even suggested, after I made an obvious but dicey choice for our route home, that it might have been the right one after all (doubtful). He kept me on track, and it must have taken a lot of effort because I really, really wanted to blow. He saved the day.
That’s what we’re up against. How many days I have left versus how many days he needs me. I don’t know how to make that calculation, but it’s going to calculate with or without me.
He doesn’t need a nurse or aide now, he just needs a ride for a bit, until his balance returns. Those bus rides to downtown would be too hard right now, but even so. I can’t lose three days a week to chauffeuring for the foreseeable future. And as much as I want someone else to fix this, I have to do the work, at least get the ball going, and I’m not the most organized guy.
I’m eating way better, and sleeping a ton. I’m getting tasks done, and doing a lot of physical work along with the driving and walking. I’m backing off into my regular life so I don’t get crazy—which, you know, I tend to get—with the lost days and the car rentals and everything else. I need normal and I need it soon.
Writing all this makes me laugh out loud, really. I find it difficult to believe anyone has read the whole thing without skimming; I would skim.
Because I’ve been bouncing off Lent to try to make sense of the world, of the entire world, really. Of my world, definitely. And this particular situation landed right in the middle of that, so at least I had some inspiration.
But yesterday I saw my situation. Sure, I’ve known this man a long time, but rarely saw him. Plenty of his life story is a mystery to me, as are his family relationships. I offered him a space to live because he was going to be homeless, it seemed; I couldn’t see another way for it to work out.
And in a real sense, that’s what I’ve been doing. It’s as if I grabbed a sick homeless man off the street and started taking him to hospitals, getting him on Medicare, trying to manage his meds and his appointments and his treatments, with no real relationship other than we’re both over 60 and men and human beings. Who does that?
So, fuck me, if you’ll pardon the expression. I’ve been bitching and begging and feeling sorry for myself, mad at life, mad at my poor friend, mad at this stupid situation I’ve found myself in, bound to this, unable to free myself, stuck aiding this man who is, nearly, close enough, the least of us. I don’t feel like a better person; sometimes I feel like a gullible person, or an easy mark, or just a dumb person for getting involved. I resent this a lot. As I said, who does this?
And as I said, fuck me. I’ve got a book around here with some stories about just this kind of situation. You can’t go to church and not hear some of them. You don’t have to like it, apparently. You just need to do it. When What Would Jesus Do became an easy acronym a couple of decades ago to slap on T-shirts and advertise your goodness, my wife raised her eyebrows and made the point that we should avoid extrapolation. What did Jesus do? was the better question, she thought. I don’t have to like it, but I can appreciate the irony of practicing what I’ve heard preached.
I’m a lousy Christian. I have too many questions, I’m too skeptical, too provocative in my questions and my reactions to unthinking belief systems. You certainly don’t need any kind of religion at all to do nice and right things. Nonreligious people do this all the time, for their own reasons, which really they probably don’t think much about.
So yeah. I’m a bad example of a Christian follower who sometimes believes some stuff and rolls his eyes at the rest. I’ve been sitting in these churches for a long time. How good of a Christian I am is irrelevant, and always has been. I just am one, by God. I have my instructions.
And my reward is there, just joking about that. It’s hard, but rewarding. There’s a reason we’re called to help the less fortunate, even if we’d rather avoid it. It could be us one day soon. We all share this passage, and hopefully we try our best and it works out. I don’t need a T-shirt. `
Guy came over yesterday about the roof. He and John got it secured in there tightly in about five minutes. No charge, he said.
Lent. Go figure.