Archive for February 6, 2010

The Visit

The old man sat in his chair, waiting for his grandson and the boy’s new wife to show up.  They were supposed to be coming down so he and his wife, the boy’s grandmother, could meet the new relation.  They said they’d be here around ten or so, but it was pressing eleven and the old man’s patience was wearing thin.  He’d been to the doctor again yesterday and was made to sit for hours and there was nothing he could do about it.  The doctor had been called out shortly before the old man got there and he had to wait till the doctor returned because he, and only he, could give the older man his test results.  At any rate, the young upstart doctor, when he finally got to the office and had taken care of the two patients ahead of the old man, had told him that all the tests were looking good, but that he still had to take it easy and to make sure that he came back for the follow up tests in three months.  So, the old guy was still tired of waiting from yesterday, and now he had to wait for the kid and his new wife to get there today.  At least he was home, he told himself, and not waiting in a small, plastic waiting room with a bunch of old people who could do nothing but talk about the weather and the treatments they were receiving.  The old man reached up and removed his U of A baseball cap to scratch his head.  The cap was an odd adornment that he’d taken to wearing since they’d put him on chemo and his hair started falling out.  The only times he’d worn a ball cap in the past was when he was in the service, and that was only so he’d be in uniform.  When the decision came to buy a cap for everyday use, he didn’t know which one to choose because he didn’t give a damn about anything, and knowing this about himself, he didn’t want to appear as such, so he chose a cap that showed he supported the local university, the alma mater of people who were a bit more initiated than himself, the innovative ones, or the ones whose parents were footing the bill for their advance.  “What the hell,” he thought; it was a sharp looking hat, clean and crisp white with the red and blue logo.  It almost even looked patriotic.  He pulled the hat off his thinning pate and rubbed his scalp with the old, chubby fingers whose nails were thick and hard and yellow with many years of cigarette smoke.  Their jaundiced hue matched the yellow stripe under his nostrils where he still sported a thick white moustache.  For some reason, the chemo had only affected the hair on top of his head and his beard and moustache were untouched.  Go figure.  He had been sitting in his recliner for going on an hour and a half and the reflected heat from his body into and back out of the Styrofoam cushion was beginning to make his scalp sweat.  His fingers were glistening as he removed them from his hair and looked at them, noticing the little scab that had come loose from his scratching and was caught under his index finger’s nail.  Unconsciously he wiped his hand and fingertips against the slate blue, crushed-velvet upholstery, and after that, against his crisp, dark denim pants when he discerned that the velvet didn’t absorb the sweat from his fingertips.  He looked into the kitchen where his wife was sitting at the little desk making calls to citizens from her list, checking to see if they had anything to donate to the Lighthouse Foundation.  The local charity sponsored an elementary school of the same name that was exclusively for developmentally disabled kids and ran a couple thrift stores that were located in strip-malls in the poorer sections of town.  He didn’t mind her being on the phone for several hours a day.  “It keeps her off my ass,” he thought.  Since he retired and she stopped taking her anxiety medicine, she’d been riding him to do something more constructive with his time.  Putt-ing around in the garage and spending ten and fifteen minutes walking around the yard trying to kick the weeds loose from the rocks while he picked up the dog turds just wasn’t cutting it for her.  He would go outside and smoke on the patio while reading a book, but that would get tiresome quickly as the days were still warm and the humidity still up a bit too high.  He didn’t need to go get his hair cut since he’d started the chemo and he couldn’t go to the commissary at the base nearby as he’d just gone last Friday.  And besides, the kids are on the way down.  “Maybe they won’t stay too long,” he thought, “I’m ready for a nap.”