... my hospital roommates, I mean.
Dan is directly opposite me; our feet point towards each other. He's the oldest in the ward, sleeps a lot and has poor hearing, so I don't get to know him very well. He is eighty years old, I think, and suffers from diabetes. I see his feet one day, and they seem to have white, diseased spots. About four o'clock in the morning of my first long and largely sleepless night, I see him sitting up at the side of the bed. He does this for two hours. The nurses try to their best to help and endeavour to give him medication. He refuses. They cajole, but he is steadfast. Eventually, they call his wife who advises him to take it, and he does, very compliantly. He's just very frustrated, and I blame him not, for I feel some sorrow for him and think, "This is not a good way to spend one's final months." I don't think Don is exactly on death's doorstep, but he can surely glimpse the door not too far down the hall ... and it is slightly ajar.
Meanwhile, Allan is diagonal to me. He's old too, but I can't determine just how old. He's an odd, little fellow but very friendly and outgoing. He's a diabetic too but clearly not as severe a case as Don: at least I hope not because I find him eating a large chocolate bar in the lounge on my final day after I am untethered and permitted to roam. He weeps on the second morning: for his wife who died "about a year ago." In part he cries because he hasn't thought about her enough for a few days, and that adds to his remorse. In the afternoon, I find him in the lounge and bid my farewell. I ask if he will be getting out soon. He says that it doesn't matter, that he likes it well enough in the hospital, that when he is discharged he will probably go to a nursing home, and that doesn't matter either because he has no one for his only son lives thousand of miles away. How sad that seems to me, who will be fortunate enough to drop in to see daughter and granddaughter, however briefly, on my way home.
After me, they admit Ralph to the bed beside me. He's old and grey. He's in to have his lungs drained — again! It challenges his stamina greatly to creep to the washroom, and he breathes hard and coughs when he lies down again. His coughing keeps me awake. On the second night, I am bold enough to find my stash of cough drops and pass one to him on the other side of the curtain. It helps. He tells me that he has been a heavy drinker, that he is retaining fluid because there is something wrong with his liver. That's when he mentions that he must change his lifestyle now that he's fifty. Do I hear correctly? Did the man who looks to be seventy really say "fifty"? Perhaps not. I mention it later to Cuppa and then to Thesha, but both are incredulous. So am I, but later, when he tells me his story yet again, he affirms that he is forty-eight. He seems to believe that he must stop drinking and that all will be well. I think, "He fools himself." I think, "He has cirrhosis and will deteriorate very rapidly." The next day Ralph decides to drag his feeble and tired body outside for a cigarette. I think, "You might as well, for it can do you little more harm." I feel sorry for all me mateys but especially for Ralph. He has made his bed, as it were, but he didn't mean to. He just got it wrong. I fear that his dutiful mother who comes to visit everyday will soon bury her son. And that will be hard.
Sometimes this week, in a bit of a post-operative funk, Mr Anvil has invited Mr Cloud over for a bit of a Pity Party. Sometimes, I say. It's natural, I suppose, after the stress of it all, but I am the first to count my blessings. I have so much goodness about me: the wife and children and grandchild that I do go on and on about in this space, and even the puss who choses to doze next to me and my computer almost each and every morning. Someday, many years from now if I'm spared that long, I will be readmitted to the ward and some young whippersnapper will join us in the room. He will recuperate rather quickly and bid farewell. Perhaps he will feel some pity ... for he will not know how blessed my days have been.