I saved Mr. G. for last today. Most Fridays I deliver meals to some elderly people in my neighborhood. Today I would have a chance to visit with Mr. G. since he got out of the hospital.
I had taken him for a same day cystoscopy procedure on Monday. Because of the anesthesia, his doctor required him to stay overnight in a hospital since he lived alone and wouldn’t have anyone to watch him. Because his tumor was causing bleeding, they were waiting for the blood to lessen in his catheter before releasing him.
We drank some coffee together at his kitchen table. After delivering meals to him for nearly two years, we’d come to this neighborly habit most Fridays. He showed me the papers from the hospital. A librarian there had printed out information about his illness and the medication. I was impressed. “See,” I said, “This is the kind of information you can find on a computer. You are such a reader and so inquisitive, I bet you’d like getting online.” In response, he showed me a few magazines he subscribed to and asked if I’d like them after he was done reading them. I told him I hoped I’d be so mentally sharp when I’m his age — if I make it to his age.
how long do I have?
This is a useless question but one I sometimes wonder.
All my zen practice disappears in the dust
when the 59 year old faces the future.
I took Mr G. for same day surgery this afternoon, a cystoscopy — again. He was going to have ‘burned out’ more of the tumor in his bladder if it had grown back. Sadly, it had. His doctor said it was an aggressive kind of cancer. Mr. G. was taken to a hospital to spend a night since he lives alone and was not permitted to return home alone after anesthesia. I will bring him home from the hospital tomorrow.
I only know this man from delivering meals to him for two years. Since I’ve known him, his wife has died. I’ve met his Pennsylvania son and his wife. We’ve talked music, politics (we disagree), and health. He is 87 and in good health otherwise. He is kind. He is also a good conversationalist and listener, a rare blend. I can learn a lot from him. I seem to have adopted him as a grandfather.
You had told the nurse I was your social worker.
Yes, I am but it wouldn’t fly in court. The nurse laughed.
I proclaimed I am your neighbor and friend.
I ended up spending the afternoon with Mr. G. He is an 87 year old man I deliver meals to once a week. Mr. G is always appreciative and pauses at his front door to chat. His wife died last year and his two sons live out of state. At some point, I started carrying the bag of food into his kitchen and talking to him while he unpacked it. Every now and then, I’d linger and chat with him.
So when he told me he was urinating blood and had an appointment for a cystoscopy, I offered to give him a ride. What was to be a few hours turned out to be more complicated. After the CAT scan, he waited to be called in for the procedure. After he was prepped, they buzzed me in. The doctor said they’d found what was likely a tumor in Mr. G’s bladder. He looked so vulnerable sitting there in his gown with a bag of solution linked to his vein. Later I joined him in recovery and we were informed that, due to the catheter and the fact that he lived alone, Mr. G would be staying overnight at a hospital. I reassured him that I’d go to the hospital the next afternoon and bring him back home. My nice deed turned into a family affair.
Then there is Prem. This Indian man is my personal Deepak Chopra. When we saw each other at a New Year’s Eve gathering, I warned him not to shake my hand, it was cold from driving over without gloves. He gently cupped my hands in his and warmed them. He is so kind. We reconnected over the weekend at Veena’s home. While the other two men went to pick up pizza, he stayed behind with the women. Prem and I talked of retirement, how to schedule our own time, prioritize what is important. What did I do with my time? What is important to you? Please tell me, he insisted. Our conversation seemed intimate even with his wife and Veena drifting to and from the kitchen table. I wished it could have lasted longer.
in sickness and in health,
those who are so different
can connect in kindness