For the past month or so I’ve been inhabiting my parent’s house in Carson City Nevada, by myself. I’m here on business in the town I grew up in to hopefully take advantage of old contacts. It’s not going too bad. My folks are retired and travel as much as they can in a 38 foot motorhome more luxurious and better appointed than most apartments I’ve lived in. It has a satellite dish for the all important NASCAR contests along with at least three televisions, it even has a washer and dryer.
Yesterday they arrived home after months away. Mother has a kidney stone(s) to be dealt with via an ultrasound procedure. I’m hoping it will be painless. Otherwise they wouldn’t have returned until early December.
Not far from home they met heavy weather. A sandstorm that compromised an awning on my father’s beloved rig.
My father is seventy seven years old.
We had a pleasant supper of tomato basil bisque and BLTs; we’ve been blessed simultaneously with an affluence of tomatoes of exceptional caliber. My folks brought home bags of them and my sister dropped off gorgeous heirlooms along with peaches and handmade olive oil soap yesterday morning. My family understands a good tomato. A nice malbec followed by a peppery shiraz. Great conversation. I adore my parents. Bright, well informed, kind, compassionate, loving and remarkably open minded. We caught up on all things family, my Mother’s nine siblings, politics and specifically the dumb fucking racist Republicans.
In case you wondered, I’m a product of progressive non-biased thinking.
My father mentioned casually how my mother would no longer allow him on a ladder. My mother and I discussed how well he’s doing after a series of illnesses. About two years ago he was hospitalized after a colonoscopy revealed a substantial tumor. There were complications and by Christmas, things were more than dicey. Before that he’d torn a rotator cuff after a night of getting shithoused with my cousin Derek at a NASCAR race in Phoenix. Sometime after the surgery, he injured his back after falling from a ramp while helping to construct a porch for my cousin Dee Dee with my uncle Fred.
My old man is one tough sonafabitch. No shit. One eye lost in a barfight some 45 years ago. A retired concrete foreman that coveted the idea of the bigger they are, the harder they fall. He was fond of proving it to himself. Left home at 12 years old after completing the sixth grade. Honest, brave, fearless and a firm believer in hard work. The kind of man that might not make cops obsolete, but certainly lawyers and courts wouldn’t be necessary if all men had his honesty, ethics and ideals.
I stayed up late writing a new A&M chapter, basking in the warmth of my parents return and writing another chapter for the book about my time in the music business. Nostalgia fueled my muse and I went with it. I was very happy to see my parents.
I was awakened this morning around eleven or so by mother. She was asking me to move my car so she could get her car out. There are two other vehicles so I rolled over to face her a little confused. “Your father has fallen off a ladder and I need to get him to the hospital”. I think I said “fuck me” out loud. I rushed to pull on my pants and t-shirt and made my way to the driveway. As I pulled my car out and away, I flashed on the blood I’d seen on my mother’s blouse.
I walked towards their hoopty Buick in the garage and there he sat in the backseat, head bowed, feet not in the car yet. I touched him on the shoulder and said something like what the fuck happened? He didn’t really raise his head as much as he raised his eyes. He was in pain and a little confused. His face was bleeding from where it had bounced off the cement. “I fucked up”, he said. I asked my mother if she had her phone and she didn’t. I rushed to fetch it off the counter.
As they pull out of the garage I knuckle the window and give my old man a thumbs up. He gives me one back and says take care of my puppy. My mom echos it, take care of the puppy. Billy Jean The Tripod Lab. No worries I tell them.
I was left with my thoughts for hours. His hips must be fine because he was ambulatory. The head bleeds profusely, but their didn’t seem to be an inordinate amount of blood so hopefully that’s not a big deal. His ribs I thought, he must have cracked some ribs. That’s gonna hurt. I understand that as well as I can without ever suffering it myself. It goddamn hurts.
A few hours later mom returns. X-Rays and a Cat Scan but no word yet. We’re both hoping it’s just cracked ribs. He’s in a lot of pain, they give him morphine. She collects some pajamas and a robe and heads back. I call my sister to tell her what’s happened. No way I was gonna call her until I had some info. She wants to head out immediately and I advise her to wait. Let’s just see what the tests tell us. Probably just cracked ribs I tell her hopefully. He’s tough. Hold tight. He’ll be in a world of hurt but we know how tough he is. She says she’ll shower, prepare a meal for us all and be ready for my call.
After five p.m. and no word from mom so I call. She can’t get a signal at the hospital but calls me back minutes later. Six broken, not cracked but broken ribs and a cracked shoulder. No internal injuries and they’ve stitched up his head. He has asthma and the doctors are worried about his blood oxygen as it’s excruciating for him to breathe deep. He’s on oxygen and they want to keep him for a few days. She says she’ll be home once he’s comfortable, settled in a room and has a morphine drip.
I call my sister and in her inimitable style, she says a meal will be cooked and she’ll head to the hospital. I tell her she doesn’t need to do either because mom is there and I’m an adult now.
Uncle Larry calls just to chat and I fill him in. I love this man. The orneriest bastard I’ve ever met. Woke up with his socks in my mouth once. Liked to blow his nose and put the tissue back in the box. Decorated a Christmas tree with my mothers undergarments and left it in the front yard. A former jockey, he liked to shock me as a three year old with his homemade version of a cattle prod. Despite all that, he’s among the sweetest men to ever suck air. I got him back but that’s a story for a different day.
He recently kicked the ass of unbeatable cancer through sheer force of will and an indomitable spirit. We all thought he was a goner but the little bastard whipped it. It was grim and he somehow handed the big C it’s ass. He said to me, “goddamn I hate to hear that”. As a onetime jockey, he understands very well the pain of broken ribs. We told each other we loved and he said he’d be in touch. I’m sure he will. Probably everyday, even though my old man hates to talk on the phone.
Not long after that, the doorbell rings and it’s my brother in law Todd and my nephew Keaton with a basket of goods. Two different kinds of ice cream, sliced peaches, cucumbers in vinegar & oil, bread and a hamburger helper casserole. At the same time, sister Tammy has arrived at the hospital with a prepared meal for my father.
My mother is exhausted and tells my sister he’ll be fine, that she doesn’t need to stay. My mom says to her, “You have to work in the morning”, my sister says, “Well, that’s why I’m here now”. She then shouts down some nurses who want to remove some sheet from under my father they used to transfer him from the gurney to his bed. They insist, she stands her ground. He’s in pain and my sister is not having anymore. Period. There really is no use in fucking with my sister.
As I write this, she’s either snoring or watching my father intently in his hospital room. She will spend the night in a chair and go straight to work as she did for weeks two years or so ago. I arrived to give her a few much needed nights off. My family does not fuck around. My sister, well, she is fierce and sincere with her love. Intrude in the way of my sister’s love, loyalty or affection at your peril. She will mow you down.
I am lucky. I see a hospital room in my future with the man who made me goddamnit.
Drinks for my friends.