It’s Thursday night already!
My God, where has the week gone? I’m so tired I don’t know what to do.
I lost two long-time patients this week … two people I’d come to admire … within twelve hours of
each other. I hate standing by and knowing there is nothing I can do except be there to lend condolences.
I didn’t even get to do that with
the second one!
Anna Catherine Golden made it all the way
to her seventy-second year and had great hopes of seeing her granddaughter graduate from high school. Annie had been named for her, she’d told me, and they were great friends. Anna had a raucous sense of humor and it stayed with her to the very end.
Her daughter Sarah, forty-three, was much more straight-laced. The rest
of the large family surrounded Anna on her deathbed and took turns staying with her, talking to her in low tones and in general,
giving her their love and respect until the moment she died about ten on Tuesday night.
I knew the end was coming, and had stayed in my office late with the music turned low, trying to console myself and
concentrate on some charting, knowing she would not last until morning. But it
was still difficult when the family came to me later, offering their thanks for helping to prolong her life for as long as
Young Trevor Branlin, on the other
hand, was fifteen. He was a handsome blue-eyed blonde; tennis player, swimmer,
golfer, bowler, long distance runner. His Father had died in a work-related accident
three years ago, and his Mother was a Human Resources Manager. She was a feisty
lady, and she and Trev had a great relationship. Illia had raised him well. He
had a head full of smart-ass attitude, a steel-trap mind, and did not suffer fools gladly.
He had leukemia, but kept going into remission after remission, and I … and his mother …were beginning
to think we were getting the upper hand.
He was back for further tests, and trying
to make the best of another round of tubes and needles. He loved picking on me. He
called me “Dr. Dork” and “The Galloping Geek” (among other things much less kind) with monotonous
regularity, just to rag me whenever he’d see me roll my eyes in exasperation over something else he’d said to
get my goat.
One day I told him I suspected he’d
been vaccinated with a phonograph needle. Illia laughed with delight, but Trevor
frowned and squinted up at me, looking enough like a young Gregg House that it set me back on my heels. Then he asked me: “Doc, what the heck is a phonograph
needle?” Made me feel like a doddering old-timer! Turned out he was playing me for a sucker … again … but as usual, it had worked.
Two days after that, Trevor was gone. When I came to work yesterday morning, his bed was empty and made up fresh, and one
of the nurses from night shift said he’d died at 3:30 a.m. I was still
in mourning for Anna … and now Trevor. I
would miss his youthful sarcasm and teen-age silliness. I would even miss being
called “Dr. Dork”.
This morning when I went to work, I still
felt a little down. Roger and Jules had some kind of argument last night, and
were both sullen and uncommunicative at breakfast. I was relieved that today
wasn’t one of Rodge’s therapy days, and I wouldn’t have to listen to a reproachful silence in the car all
the way to work. The old Dodge Shadow was still parked in the driveway, waiting
until Jules could get a driver’s permit and then take his driver’s test.
(I hadn’t thought about that when I bought the car. It had taken
Gregg to remind me!)
Roger was doing well. He was already out of the wheelchair, mostly, and learning to use the crutches. His therapy was difficult. He was still in considerable pain,
and in the latter part of a day he would still collapse into the wheelchair and let Jules or me push him around the house. We all wished it would hurry and warm up outside so everyone could get outdoors on
a regular basis and just … literally … blow some of the stink off!
Cuddy agreed to discharge Roger, and I
brought him and Jules home Monday evening after work. They’ve been here
ever since. They really took a liking to the Den-cum-Bedroom, and couldn’t
stop thanking me for the opportunity to actually have a place to live after years in shelters and on the streets. Both of them even began to make noises about looking for jobs. I
told them to give themselves time and recuperate first. I got no argument on
That night Roger made a phone call
to Trenton. Spoke to Mom and Dad on the phone. At
first they had no idea who it was. Roger’s voice had changed; deepened
in the ten years he’d been gone.
When he finally said: “It’s Philip, Mom. Don’t you know me?” His voice was so plaintive I wanted to cry.
Jules just sat there beside him, holding his hand. The silence on the
other end of the phone was like a blank space in the middle of a symphony when the laser isn’t hitting the CD: then a piercing telephone-filtered scream that I could have heard even if I’d
been all the way out in the kitchen. After that we were all crying … both
ends of the line. It was almost embarrassing for all of us. But what else would we have done?
So … they’re coming here this
weekend: sometime tomorrow night. Dad
and Mom, Tommy and Suzanne. Each couple can have one of the bedrooms upstairs,
although I’m going to have to buy and take delivery on another bed between now and then.
The guest room is a little empty. It’s going to be interesting. I’ll probably be sleeping on the old rollaway bed in the basement laundry room. Certainly should be warm enough down there!
Should also be interesting falling asleep with the furnace going on and off all night.
Oh well …
I haven’t seen Gregg all week
… except for a short time late Monday … and here and there in the halls when he was working on something or other
…when I went over to talk to him about the cool thing he did for Roger … and yes, I know exactly what he did and why he did it, and there’s no way I can ever thank him without him blowing me off like it was some other guy who did that neat thing for his best friend’s brother
… but that’s the way it is when you’re friends (or whatever-the-hell I am) with Gregg House.
Anyway, I went to his office to let
him know how I felt, and that Cuddy was discharging Roger, and the boys were leaving with me.
And I wanted to let him know Claire and Luther and Tom and Suzanne were visiting for the weekend.
But that’s not what happened.
Gregg didn’t have much to say.
When I walked into his office, he was seated at his desk with his leg stretched
out in front of him. Probably still sore from earlier. He had a Vicodin in his palm, ready to take it dry. He threw
back his head and did so as I approached the desk, then he shifted his gaze slowly to meet my eyes, and seemed to search my
face with a sadness that roiled in my belly. I was struck dumb. For once, the look in his incredible eyes was unreadable, but his thin face seemed to elongate even more
than it normally did, and his natural pallor took on a bleakness that made me wonder if he was ill. His mouth worked the pill for a few moments before he swallowed.
I felt suddenly empty … the same way Gregg looked.
All he said to me was: “Take it easy, Wilson, but let it
alone. If you need me, I’m around …”
That seemed to be all there was. He made himself busy with a stack of papers that I knew he’d been shuffling around on his desk for
weeks. I’d been dismissed. So
I gathered myself, turned in the direction of the door. I knew he did not look
up. I wanted to say, “I love you” or “Take care” or even,
“Let’s go get a beer!” … but none of those things seemed appropriate.
Other than glimpses in the hallway, I have
not seen him since … or talked to him. I’ve wondered where his mind
has been. Sometimes I also wonder where the hell mine is!
Now it’s Thursday night. I came home to find that Roger and Jules had solved their difficulties, whatever they
were, and were sitting close together on the couch in the living room, watching an old rerun of Star Gate 1 and laughing about something Jack O’Neill had just said to Daniel Jackson.
The house had smelled of something cooking
when I’d come in the back door, and Jules told me he had “made-a-batch-of-bar-b-que-and-there-was-lots-of-it-left-and-it-was-
probably-still-hot.” I nodded my thanks and returned to the kitchen to
make a sandwich, pour a glass of milk and call one of the local fast-delivery discount furniture outfits around Princeton.
“Joe’s Discount Furniture –
75% Off ALL THE TIME!” That’s what it said in the Yellow Pages. It was in Plainsboro, but it wasn’t that far away, and the price seemed right. “Full-Bed-Size – Box spring, mattress and frame. ONLY $199.95” I decided it must be made out of cardboard
and stuffed with abandoned birds’ nests … but it was temporary at best.
So I punched in the number …
“Ya want us to deliver it tonight?” The guy on the phone asked.
I was taken aback. “Unhhh … yeah. Can
“Yup,” he said. “We never close. Gimmie directions to your place …”
I did, and turned on the front porch
light, and they delivered it at 10:00 p.m. Carried it right in the front door
and upstairs to the guest room and even set it up. It cost me $255.00 (including
I had always thought that any price that
had the word “Only” in front of it was a total rip-off. Tonight I confirmed the theory! (Just like anything labeled:
“Absolutely Free!!” never is!!)
And yes, I think it’s made of cardboard. At least parts of it! I was almost afraid to press too hard on the mattress, for fear part of the birds’
nests might poke through.
I threw on a thick mattress pad, tucked
in the sheets and a blanket, covered the whole works with a nice bedspread, flicked off the light and came back downstairs.
I asked Rodge and Jules (he told me to
call him ‘Julie’, but I balked at that for obvious reasons) if they’d like another bar-b-que. They said ‘yes’ and we all convened in the kitchen, one sandwich each, and the pan was scraped
clean. We finished the gallon of milk.
The boys were already dressed for bed.
I left them and came back upstairs, stepped
into a shower as hot as I could possibly stand it, and now I’m between the sheets and it’s midnight.
My last thoughts before my eyes finally
go closed, is a moment’s love and concern for Gregg House.
Dear, beautiful, fucked-up House