Tuesday, June 19, 2007


John has been in the hospital for over a month now. He wants to go home. He wants a cigar. He wants privacy. And he wants decent cable. But John won't be leaving the hospital anytime soon. His arm and pelvis are not healing well, and he still can't sit up in bed or stand without assistance. His dementia is getting worse. He is weak and has lost a lot of weight because he refuses most of his meals.

I visit on the weekends, and after work when I can make it before the end of visiting hours. When I'm not there he constantly asks for me, and when I get there he orders me to leave. Then wants to know where the hell I'm going, and when I'm coming back. He won't play cards, and he won't let me take him for a spin around the halls in his wheelchair. To cut the nerve wracking worry and boredom, I started bringing my computer so we can play dvd's. To date we have screened, "Annie Hall," "Broadway Danny Rose," "The Thin Man, ""My Man Godfrey," part of "The Palm Beach Story," ("Turn this crap off!) "The Wild Bunch," "McCabe and Mrs. Miller," and "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly."

Ruth and her boyfriend Neil were visiting Saturday afternoon when I put on the spaghetti western. Ruth loves movies. Because she is nearly blind, she sat right in front of the screen, occasionally standing and leaning in for an even closer look and asking, "Is that Lee Van Cleef?" Or, "Have you seen, 'Play Misty for Me?' That's a great picture." At one point she mentioned, "Somewhere at home I've got a beautiful driftwood frame, painted black with Clint Eastwood's photograph in it." I asked her where she got it. She snuck a sideways glance at Neil across the room, grinned and told me a "friend," gave it to her. "In fact, I've got two." Why two? "One broke but I kept it because I was going to fix it." How long ago? "Oh I don't know. When did this movie come out?" About 40 years ago. "Oh...I've wasted my whole life waiting to get things done. Now I can't die because I have too much to do."

Trudy drives an hour every night to visit John. She tries to coerce him into eating dinner, then they watch the news, and, "Jeopardy." ("We don't care for 'The Wheel.'") Tonight when I called they were watching, "Two and a Half Men." Trudy loves Charlie Sheen because he is so darling. She usually leaves at about 11pm, when the news comes on again. Sometimes on her way home, she calls me from the car, crying. She worries that John has given up. She is upset that the doctors don't return her calls right away. She is angry because the nurses don't make John eat and she complains about, "that one Hispanic girl who has a bad attitude and should really be required to pull her hair back. It isn't sanitary."

The last time Karla saw John was before his fall. She moved back to Los Angeles from Memphis three weeks ago and since her return she has visited the hospital one time, after catching a matinee of, "Jersey Boys," at the nearby Ahmanson Theater. When she walked in the room and saw him, her eyes widened and she quickly explained that she had a friend waiting in the car. After ten minutes, she announced to John that she was leaving. Then she turned her head and mouthed to me, "We're going to dinner. Wanna come?"

Leo lives across town and doesn't visit or call at all. He did, however, send flowers just after John's surgery. The last time I saw Leo was at a restaurant in Playa del Rey. When he reached across the table for a roll, he dropped the napkin covering the bread basket onto a candle nearby, setting it on fire. My nephew and I put it out. Meanwhile, Leo nodded off, waking up just in time to pay the bill.

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