Sunday, 5 October 2014

Lucky Man

The old man sat in his favorite easy chair cradling a glass of vodka, neat, and stared ahead at his big screen television, the one that his son had bought him for Christmas, the one he could no longer see.

He loved this pocked old chair in the screened-in porch overlooking the par three golf course. For years, it had been a place of great joy for him, for his wife, for the family on the occasions when they came to visit.  There were snacks enjoyed here, Sunday barbecues, board game contests with the grandkids.

Not anymore. His only company these days was the wind whipping around the autumn trees and the occasional mosquito drunk with the season, unable to fly, weaving around his head. He could hear a mosquito; alas, he could no longer see one.

The day had been difficult, he had railed at the children who somehow had become his parents, telling him what to do, how to live. When had this happened? It seemed like only yesterday, he was chiding them for missing curfews, now they were doing the chiding, in muffled tones, but they were chiding still. How dare they, he thought as he sipped his vodka, and listened to the drone of the evening news.

Well, there had been a fall last week that required an ambulance. He'd been lucky his girlfriend had been on hand to call the authorities or he would have laid there alone on the cold tile, feeling the sting of his eye swelling shut, wishing for the Good Lord to take him.

When does a man stop feeling like a man? When he lay on the floor helpless, peeing himself.

What happened, asked the paramedic.

I don't know. I just don't know. One minute I was here in my chair, the next I was on the floor. I guess I must have gotten my medication wrong.

Medication, his daughter had sniffed when she arrived at the hospital at 2 a.m. Vodka, more like.

Anyway, the fall had been the last straw. The son, a big shot lawyer from Toronto, had been called and he flew in to read the old man the riot act. He'd heard this song and dance four times before, and four times he had stood his ground.

This is my house. I'm not leaving. This is my home.

But after the fall, even his family doctor, even the caregivers and homemakers, had switched sides. He had to move into a home.

A home, he thought, it's not a home, it will never be my home. It's a God damned facility.

Instead of cigars and chili, it will smell of cleaner, and urine and poo. He remembered that smell, it was the smell of his father in his latter days when Dad was in diapers and barely remembered his name. It was the scent of lingering and longing, life in the past tense.

The old man never liked the place he put his Dad into, so he rarely visited him. Was it guilt for forcing his elder into care? Was it remorse? Whatever. Dad spent only a few weeks at that place, then he was gone. Didn't want to live like that.

And now he was following in the old man's slippers, forced to move by his children, his doctor, even his girlfriend who said she'd take one for the team and go-with.

Stop complaining, she said. What are you afraid of?

That I'll lose you, he said. I'm scared, I just want to die.

How had he come to this juncture, a man built like a bear, a Master of the Universe who had been loved and feared by thousands of employees, a man who once not that long ago had bought a round for the clubhouse to congratulate himself on a hole in one?

At this point, all his money, all his hubris had no chance against cancer, blindness and dementia. For the first time in his life, he felt defeated, alone, his only friend a Russian Prince on a bottle of clear liquid. Would he lose him, too?

The old man began to sob, uncontrollably, in grief for the wonderful live he'd once had. A successful marriage, a fine job, cruises, homes in Florida, golf every day.

Now that was a lucky man, he thought to himself.

Slowly, he rose from his chair, got his footing, toddled into the kitchen to wash the glass, put away The Russian Prince, so no one would know they'd had another meeting, or that the Prince was, indeed, the cause of the last fall and the one before that.

He cleaned his teeth, changed into his pajamas and rolled into bed.

Slumber came quickly and he dreamed of Nellie, his wife of forty years. She was waving to him.

Come, she said. I've made your favorite, roast chicken.

And so he did.

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