Saturday, August 4, 2012

Page 98 Hospital Groupies Part Two

Please read Page 97 Part 1

This is an absolutely true story


Let me tell you as sweet and kind as Willie was, under the influence of narcotic drugs (and yes, she demanded and got a morphine pump) she was vile and mean. I would come from work, bring a change of clothes, suit, stockings, pumps, hair products, jewelry and patience. Many times I had blueprints with me to mark up. I slept on a leather chaise.

She would wake up at 3 am and put on the television. When I asked her to please let me get a couple of hours sleep she told me to “Shut the fuck up or leave, she didn’t care if I went or stayed.”

Of course I considered she was under the influence but illness was a way of life for her. She loved to stay in hospitals. She LOVED to stay in hospitals. She worked there. Yet, she LOVED TO STAY IN HOSPITALS. It was just like staying in a hotel with room service, which she LOVED even more…no, almost as much. The longer the hospital stay the better. Even though it was a hardship on the family. And she called everyone she knew to let them know she was going to be in serious condition and needed their prayers. Deep sigh….

Personally, I hate them. I get a weird feeling waking up in one. WHen the nurse comes in, it is creepy to think you are part of someone's workday.

She would ask her co-workers to come in. And because she was under the influence, I had to give her a play by play of their visit. Repeatedly. She wanted to know how they acted and if they went to the nurse’s desk, if they looked at her chart, if they were concerned, what look did they have on their faces. As opposed to me who, when in the hospital, I could easily climb off the recovery room bed and hail a taxi. I hated hospitals. Subsequently, when I ended up in them something would happen and I would have to stay longer.

The doctor begged her to stop smoking. Finally he said the only way it was going to heal was if she stayed off of it. For a year and a half this went on. She had to have several more surgeries.

Even though the commode was less than 10 feet away, she had to have a portable one that I had to empty at the end of the day. I am not good with those things and it made me very sick.

I supported the family, at the time working directly for HCA Columbia Hospital System under a gay man. So that part of my life was not in the playbook.

Every day I came home to a messy house, screaming teenagers and a full portapoddie. I would be exhausted, but still made dinner, cleaned dishes and kitchen, threw in some wash spent, then, whatever quality time I could with the children finally climbing into bed exhausted. It would be 10 pm or later. I needed sleep. But Willie wanted to watch TV and I never stopped her. I was too tired to, but there were times…

My dear sweet nephew Joshua, one of my sister’s sons, came to Houston for 6 weeks that summer. What a sweet boy he was. He waited on Willie hand and foot. And I truly thanked God, and my sister for his presence. Most boys this age would be predestined to avoid such a situation, but not Joshua. He was a gorgeous six foot tall blond and black haired boy with his hair two toned in the latest trend. He never met a stranger and my friends were immediately taken by his charm and tenacity. He had goals and anyone within hearing range would be subjected to the ins and outs of his latest hobbies and he had many. One of them was making motion pictures.

He had the time of his life just 15 years old with such promise ahead of him. He and his cousin, my daughter Devon were as tight as brother and sister. But Devon was away at debate camp, so Josh was the only child, except for the frequent visits from Brooke

brook who felt she had carte blanche to Devon’s bedroom.

Joshua was a wonderful young man with so much promise. And handsome with a weird little defect on one ear. This would one day be an issue. Not too noticeable, but to him, it was. He was going to be a director. He and I spent endless hours researching different favorites, one being M. Night Shyamalan. M. Night, had documented his film making from a young boy. Some of these films can be found at the end of his more famous endeavors, the Sixth Sense and Signs. When you watch the young M. Night, as serious as we would find him funny, you could see Joshua. Who, in fact, did not find the films funny at all, but as a guideline to what he was going to do with his life. He loved to make movies. And we were subjected to these films with all the raw humor a young boy can give. They were detective type stories, who dunnits.

During his stay we spoiled him. We got him a Nintendo for the TV, tons of fireworks for July 4th; Willie would sit outside in her wheelchair and watch him blow up everything in sight.

Joshua met a young blond girl who was a dead ringer for Brittany Spears, but also the personality and brainpower. Joshua liked the look but the mind made him crazy and eventually he let the girl down. He told her he had a love at home. He didn’t say much about her, but it was obvious she was someone special for him to turn this young woman’s advances away. After all he was a 15 year old boy with raging hormones. I always thought about his self-discipline.

Joshua earned everything we gave him. He emptied Willies potties, brought her food, and basically waited on her hand and foot. After all, He was just 15 years old, with all the spirit and drive one has at that age.

Willie took him out in truck with her leg in the cast and let him drive.

And he called home and asked to stay another 4 weeks. My sister Marnie gave the ok. It was a blessing for me because when I got home, I didn’t have to immediately start taking care of whatever Willie’s issues that needed attending.

That was the last summer he spent with us.

Every time we saw him in our visits to Kenosha, he would wrap his arms around us like a bear. He was a handsome, big boy.

2 years later he would be taken from us forever.

My mother called and left a message on my answering machine: Dianne you need to call home it’s Joshua. Please call as soon as you get this.






Page 97 Hospital Groupies Part One

This is an absolutely true story



”First the doctor told me the good news: I was going to have a disease named after me.” - Steve Martin


For years Willie has worked at The Methodist hospital with an employee population larger than some successful cities. It even had its own zip code. She never met with owners or presidents and folks were given performance reviews with little fanfare. Having spent her years in the Coast Guard and then Methodist, she had no idea about the private sector.

She had set her sights on working at the V.A. Hospital (Veteran’s Administration) in Houston. Actually, she felt entitled. She had been in the Coast Guard for ten years, mostly with a good record until she was put out because “she didn’t represent the C.G. in a uniform well. Yes, they actually said and did that to her. Ten years of faithful service, and she gained a little weight and she was out. I found that reprehensible. She had many stories of her time in the C.G. and she loved it there. She just couldn’t let go and spent every day of her life looking back instead of forward. I felt if she did in fact get the position she craved, perhaps she could let some of it go.

Her other reason she felt entitled I didn’t quite agree on. She was from the deep South and try as she did, she couldn't shake her history. She lived in an atmosphere of bigotry growing up in Alabama She felt the V.A. hired an inordinate amount of minorities to meet their EOC, (Equal Opportunity Commision).. Maybe they did, and maybe they didn’t. I couldn’t’ actually say. I feel there is a minority of whites in Houston and so we will see that ratio in the work place. I do not think it is a hiring/racial thing, I just think it is availability. But every day I had to hear about it. When she was at Methodist, it was a big problem with her. She felt if she got hired by the V.A.she would be at a fair advantage. In the interim, she was going to work for a small organization. The irony of all of this is, I actually worked on the design of this particular V.A. and once it was finished and all the kinks worked out, I never thought I would enter those doors again.

She could never understand about my coming and going in business. I would work for a firm for 6 months to a year, mostly on contract, mostly repeat business engaged by my Engineering firm, Willie and I put together, MD Tech, it was a drafting/graphic’s art company. But there were occasions where I was “let go”. Though there were occasions they simply did not want to do business with me because WIllie would harangue them for payment, however, that is for another post. . I really for the most part, had and have a good business partnership with most firms, however,there were occasions that I was "let go" almost always for the same reason.

Discrimination. One of the very worst was Roy Harper and Associates. When I started working there, he was so happy, far beyond satisfied with my abilities. He was a friendly sort and would engage me in long conversations about family and the like. For my daughter’s high school graduation, he was going to come to my house and make crawfish for the family party. He was very excited about this and asked that I come to pick up his cooker the day before so he could just bring himself, and the food... He heard me speak of Willie, but apparently thought nothing of it. That changed quickly.

When Willie and I showed up at his house, he acted very strangely. Willie looks very butch with a flat top typical clothing of Polo shirt, jeans and tennis shoes or boots. He chose to pass judgement. He knew we had been living together for several years. But please, I was a valuable worker and a good person. You would have thought he was just told his house burned down. He took me aside and said he wouldn’t be able to make the party. My heart sank. I had folks from all over the globe coming. I immediately knew why of course, but felt certain that was the end of that behavior. When I came in to work the following Monday, he called me into his office.

“Dianne, please understand that what I have to say is no direct judgment of you as a person and employee”.

I gave him credit for the eye contact and the folded hands.

“You know we build many churches and we cannot afford to lose revenue for standing on principle” .

He continued with the yadayada, but truly, I actually understood where he was coming form. And this was not my first trip on a sinking ship. No, it happened at BDMI, (Jehovah’s Witnesses) and a few more companies that would take me to task for a certain hypocritical liability.

I actually stayed at Harpers through the week to complete an expansion on one of those churches. He trusted me enough to leave me there that Friday night. I finished up, turned on the alarm, locked the door and put the key under a rock where he told me. You would have thought this would have dissuaded Willie from getting a position where her boss was in her business every day, but she was determined. It was going to be different for her. So I created resumes and cover letter, faxing them to the several organizations she plotted. One of them was a dental firm, who actually hired her.

And then she got the opportunity to experience having to work with the owner of the company you are with,. It was full of gossip, cheating, stealing upstaging and aggrandizing and she seemed to thrive. She heard the tag line: Hate the sin not the sinner. She didn;'t seem to mind. Until she slipped in the laundry room on one of my negligee’s, one of the few times she was doing laundry, and busted her leg up pretty badly.

We spent hours in the E.R. at Houston Northwest Hospital. It was like the early days of Cook County in Chicago where there were no free rooms. They had to reset her leg and made things worse. It is called reducing. Yet, they never reduce anything and you can tell when a doctor is doing it. Everyone can tell, because in spite of the massive amounts of Demerol, there is some screaming going on. They did this several times. I got into it with the Doctor and begged her to call my orthopedic doctor who fixes everything pretty quickly and painlessly. But she refused. She was an intern and she was going to do it herself. I begged and begged.

Eventually someone must have called because over the P.A.:

“Dr. Know-it-all, Dr. Fitzgerald is on line 4 for you”. I pick four because that is how many times she “reduced” Willie’s leg.

Well Dr. Know-it-all was incensed “Did you call him!!! I told you not to call him!” (I guess doing what’s right is not as important as doing what’s profitable).

What…wait…WHAT!!! Is this China? Am I really not allowed to do this? I told her no I didn’t as she had done so much damage to Willie already I didn’t dare put Willie’s LIFE at risk. Her leg was already looking like a mangled extension of what it should be!

Thankfully Dr. Fitz told her to stop what she was doing. One reduction should have been enough. Two was already looking dangerous, three “WHAT THE HELL SCHOOL DID YOU GO TO ANYWAY???”

The nurse who called shirked sheepishly by and told me she made the call, then immediately begged me to not tell Dr. Know-it, and she said she used the term Doctor loosely.

After all, do you know what they call a doctor who graduates at the bottom of her class? “Doctor” . Even lawyers lose their ability to practice – well, to get a decent internship at a law firm if they don’t graduate at the top 5% of their class. And if you graduate at the bottom, you get a job as a “person with a law degree” I know this. I worked at an Engineering firm where one of the Mechanical Engineers quit his job all pompous and everything

"I'm going to Law School, I am going to move on up from all you loosers!"

…he returned. He graduated at the bottom of his class. Because he had a “law degree” they made him the Office manager. He did nothing but chew tobacco, spit in a cup and recite racist, bigoted and homophobic salutations. When I asked him where I could get a “Black’s Law Dictionary” for Devon, he gave me his. Still in the packaging.

So things settled down at Houston Northwest Hospital and Willie was allowed to leave with a temporary cast on her foot with an appointment to see Dr. Fitz the next day. And Dr. Know-it was put on probation. It seems that was her first day as the lead intern and what a bang-up job she did! Literally.

After seeing the Dr. Fitzgerald, she was slated for surgery the same day and she had to have several pins and a plate in her leg. This should have been a pretty standard conclusion, but we were not so lucky. When making the fusion, they needed to use donor bone. Which works very well in fact, if you don’t smoke? Willie was not going to quit, so an injury that should have rectified itself in 6 weeks dragged on for months. And then years. The little Dental firm she was working for could not oblige this and since they were not backed with the same employee morality issues as large firms, Willie was put out. She had worked her best, but the pain was too much.

The private sector job told her they couldn’t keep her. She was all “OH my God, I am gonna sue, they can’t do that etc. I simply smiled and said, yes they can, and yes they do. No need for I told you so."

“Fuck that, I am never going to work for any company smaller than ten thousand employees”. I.e. the government.

Willie had been out of work for some time. Her leg was too painful to even take her across the room. She truly enjoyed convalescence. She said It is the part that makes the illness worthwhile.

But she continued to smoke so the donor bone wouldn’t take. I told her I didn’t give a shit if she smoked, but secretly I hated it. Especially when we were in restaurants. My dad made a statement one time about smoking sections being like having a peeing section in a public pool. He was a lung transplant recipient and he always got a table at the demarcation line; i.e. the table next to him was a smoking table. Anyway…yes she continued to smoke. And being a cripple, I had to buy those cigarettes. So I was a little fucked myself. But I got her back, I never told her I bought them at the Indian Burial Ground convenience store down the street.

They finally re-operated, but that did not work either. After 8 months, and me being the primary bread winner, we finally found a renowned specialist in the medical center who operated yet again. The second operation they should have removed and replaced the hardware. They did not and yes, we tried to sue and no, nothing came of that.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Page 96 Buddha Released

This is an absolutely true story



One must lose all, sacrifice, in order to gain anything, you must first lose everything. The 14th Dalai Lama



When I returned home Willie was already up and shopping EBay. I put my things down and headed directly to the kitchen. I wanted something decadently sweet. And Willie wanted her dinner. I battered and fried some chicken; butter fried canned corn and whipped mash potatoes with cream. You are saying "Shame on you Dianne", but if I didn't cook this stuff, she would buy it elsewhere and pay three times as much for the heart failure. Everything she loved. I told her if she kept up like this we were going to have to start thinning the population by making the killing humans legal hunting, otherwise some of us were going to starve to death.

I also made a peanut butter pie with tons of cream cheese, whipping cream and peanut butter. Now we can just watch our arteries explode in appreciation. I made the pie so I could bring some to Bootsie. I told Willie about mine and Bootsie’s conversation and that she needed surgery to “Fix things”.

What is that about?” I asked.

“I don’t know, maybe they need to cut away some dead or infected intestine”.

“Is that going to be difficult on her?” I asked “What exactly does that mean?”

“Nothing more. She is going to have some pain, but that’s normal after surgery” Willie explained as she handed her empty plate to me nodding toward the deadly dessert.

“You aren’t going there tomorrow?” Willie pleaded “Please Dianne, I can’t take this, please do not go without me.”

I promised her I wouldn’t, but something told me I should go anyhow. As it went, I did as I was told. I worked to distract myself. It is a strange feeling to draw in walls and ceilings to new buildings that may not be built for a couple of years, very possibly with no more Bootsie in the world. Life has an entirely different perception when looking at the yin and yang…or am I using the wrong verbiage? Just the idea of life going on, it seems like life is so cold and unrelenting never caring about the life and loses we experience? Nonetheless, it does and I need to commit to my end. Geez that sounds formidable.

I had to do a checklist and walk-through at 10am that should consume a few hours. I got to the site at high noon and my God it was hot. I had on a pantsuit and heels which I changed to sneakers, tennis shoes, trainers, whatever. The men were huddled in small masses around the property and I regretted at once showing up when they had time on their hands. I was 15 or so years younger than I am now and I attracted my share of attention. Add to the fact they saw few if any females throughout the day. On the positive side, they would be available when I needed attention to details. But today, I didn’t find any, because, frankly, I didn’t want to. But it didn’t stop the haranguing and it took me a bit longer to break loose. I knew it would be regrettable if there were problems and I prayed there weren’t but made a mental note to maybe take a second (or third) walk-through within the month.

Bootsie’s surgery would be at 11am and she promised me that someone would call me with the news. But by 3pm I heard nothing, so I called. Her voice sounded amazingly upbeat.

“Di, I came out of surgery with a colostomy bag…can you frickin believe it? I have to carry a bag of shit around with me!”

As humorous as that sounded, it was really her way of downplaying the awful truth. I asked her point blank what the diagnosis and treatment were. She said they removed the tumors along with huge lengths of intestine but she was in end stage cancer. I swerved in traffic almost hitting a car of teenagers. I thought it best that I veer off the highway and stop. I found a parking lot, pulled in and I got out of my car. There was a small building with several steps leading to the lobby. I perched there. I bent over, phone in hand, my hair covering my tears. I could see how alarming I looked in the people’s eyes leaving the building, trying to look away, but just falling short. Bootsie delivered this news like she was relaying weather conditions. I didn’t know what to say or do. I wanted her to cry so I could comfort her. Instead she comforted me. Soon she tired and I hung up with the promise of seeing her the next day, but she said she would be out and home. Modern medicine. How could they let her out so soon?

Bootsie never once said the words dead, or dying. It was as if those words didn’t exist .

Over the following weeks we would meet for lunch and talk about everything but her condition. She ate very little and was bloated. There were days she didn’t quite make sense. The meds. She always told me she loved me and she wanted me to be with her. At times she got angry about this. But she never cried. I asked her one day why. She told me she found nothing of a solution in crying and didn’t understand why people wasted their strength. I had to agree with her but it didn’t make emotional sense. I saw her with a bald head and an extra 100 pounds from the steroids.

“Can you fucking believe this” she tapped her cigarette and tried to eat her hamburger, but didn’t appear to enjoy anything.

“Booter..About the cigar...”

“Don’t even Di. Don’t you dare. Do you really think this is going to kill me?” which was ironic in retrospect.

“Anyhow, I am gaining weight…you would think that I at least could’ve gotten a svelte bod out of this, instead I look like a buddha”.

“Booter, you have plenty of time to lose weight, right now the additional weight could be a blessing” I was referring to her apparent lack of appetite.

She lost all of her hair and really looked cute in spite of her chipmunk cheeks, but her hair came in very curly.

“You’re gonna do something about that” Her mom Ginger asked?

“Mom, I have cancer. Curly hair is not such an issue.”

She had a love/hate relationship with her mom.

She told me how it came about.

She spent all her years as a girl very shy hiding behind her mom. She worshipped the woman and treasured every moment she had with her. Her mother felt the same thing for her. As she grew into a young woman, her mother was her greatest fan and accepted anything and everything Bootsie did. Her sexuality not the least of those issues. Bootsie said she would not have wanted to live without her mom.

One day while her mom was visiting her, they were sitting together chatting up their lives and events when blood burst from Ginger’s ears and she suddenly could not talk. An ambulance came straight away and she was whisked to hospital where she remained in the ICU in critical condition.

‘She experienced an aneurism in her brain. The doctors warned the family that she may not survive. If she did, she would never be the same. Bootsie was divided. She wanted her mother. But she wanted her intact.

Her mother recovered and had a long future of physical therapy in front of her.

Bootsie resented her mother after this. She couldn’t bear to be with her. The beautiful intelligent well-read woman was a walking vegetable.

But Ginger did recover. And no, she wasn’t the same. Many of her memories disappeared, sadly. And these were the things Bootsie could not get over.

Of the few things that Bootsie and I argued about, this was one. I could not fathom hating your mother for something out of her control. But Bootsie would get angry. She felt secure in her feelings that they were warranted and that I didn’t have the right to judge her…as she judged her mom.

But now, with her precious daughter in trouble, Ginger collected herself and made it her mission to save her child.

Days turned to months to a year and things felt like they were going to turn. She fought with every inch of her body and soul. Bootsie chose to do everything she could to live which in the end was a more painful form of death.

And then Bootsie heard that magical word.

Remission.

And Buddha was released



Thursday, August 2, 2012

Page 95 The Prognosis


This is an absolutely true story Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and safely insane every night of our lives. - William Dement


The tranquility and sweet safety of sleep.

I stared down on this sweet wonderful funny person. I could not fathom losing her. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. I count on that. She went to sleep with her life safely in front of her¸ she will soon awaken to an uncertain future. I hushed everyone that came and went, including nurses. I wanted her to have as much time dreaming, safely, that she could.

Willie sat reading her book, catching occasional glances. The irony that Willie would be the one delivering the sad news. Willie, her worst enemy. How unfair was that? I kept looking at the clock wishing her family would come. I didn’t want us to be associated with such a grim outcome. And my wish was fulfilled as Ginger, her mom came softly shuffling in with the news. The doctor had followed. Ginger’s face said it all. I didn’t need the doctor to discover this. We left without a word. What does one say to a mother whose child is faced with such an undetermined fate?

Willie and I left the hospital holding each other’s hand oblivious to those around us.

“How about lunch”

“Yes…sure, yes, lunch” what more could I do.

Lunch would be a welcome distraction. She drove to our favorite haunt Baba Yega’s where we were taken to our favorite seat. It doesn’t necessarily “cater” to the Gay establishment, even though it is nested in one of most popular night club hot spots for the "alternative lifestyle". It has been in the tony bedroom community of Montrose since 1975, long before I had even known a lesbian close up and personal.

My first visit was when I was employed at Curtain Call and the P.A.S.S. A coworker and close friend, Sammy Ramirez took me there. I loved it at once. The décor is Victorian sheek, much like the cafe's in Old Town Spring, or in Santa Cruz, California and is in a constant state of renovation with new eating areas and outside dining. Sammy has since died, but I still remember that first time at Baba Yega’s.

baba



Their menu is not extraordinary, but the names for the items are quite clever. There is a Sandwich called “The Fantasy”” with avocado and sprouts, that sort of thing. The waiter came to our table and asked for our choice. Sammy said “The Fantasy” I asked him “What is the fantasy?” and he proceeded to tell me his is every heart’s desire.

Baba Yega became a favorite spot for Bootsie and me. We would eat out on the front patio so she could monitor the coming and going of familiar faces. I loved to eat outside.

When I met Willie, she brought me to Baba Yega’s as well. I think every gay woman thinks she is the first one to take me there. Willie wasn’t one for eating outside; she picked a spot in the front window dead center, but very private. It became “Our Spot” and the staff knew every time we came in, where we were to be seated.

There were times Willie and I would be there, and Bootsie would watch from the bar. The second Willie went to the lady’s room; Bootsie would scurry over like a little mouse at play, put an Irish Coffee in front of me and leave just as quickly. Willie would return – scowl, because we didn’t drink. She never found it curious that there was no charge. Just grateful for not having to pay for liquor, I guess.

So going to Baba Yega’s with a combination of events from both Willie and Bootsie was agonizing and I didn’t enjoy it, nor did I think I was entitled to.

As usual we grabbed a few newspapers and leaflets to read while we waited for our lunch. Something we always enjoyed; being silently alone together. But I could bear the distraction.

After we ordered I wanted some answers. I asked Willie everything one would ask regarding such matters. And she gave me numbers and statistics. It was Colon cancer, but it had spread and trying to take the tumors out may proliferate more in other areas. If they are left “still” she may have a better chance, but as things stood not likely. She would have the requisite chemo therapy. She may be able to fight this. She was healthy.

Well of course she will be fine. I was certain. Bootsie cannot just disappear. I wasn’t having any of it.

Willie had issues of her own. Was I going to leave her? She knew as long as she stayed the supportive nurturing person, as much as she despised it, having well wishes for Bootsie was the only thing that would keep her in every one's good graces . And of course I wasn’t going to leave Willie. I loved her in so many different ways. I needed her in almost as many.

After leaving Baba Yaga’s we headed straight home where Willie scrambled to the bedroom for her daily nap.

I finished up the last of my drawings for my client and drove them over. It was rush hour and the nastiest behavior on the roads was happening.

I decided to call the hospital.

Bootsie actually answered, she sounded amazingly upbeat. One wouldn’t have known she just got out of surgery.

“Why did you leave?”

I explained that her family was what she needed and I didn’t feel comfortable staying. She was disappointed, but she understood.

She asked if we knew, even though she knew that we knew. She asked me how I felt.

Are you kidding? How I felt?

I was pissed, bewilderedat a loss as cliche' as that sounds.

I knew what she wanted. I apologized for not believing her, when she told me she was sick and I accused her of being manipulative. Which seemed so trite; I was embarrassed to even say it. But she didn’t seem to mind that. She and I danced around that conversation until she got to brass tacks.

“Dianne, please don’t let me go through this alone.”

“You won’t, Bootsie, you have your family…shit, you have an entire community...”

“No, Dianne, you know what I mean!”

And yes, I knew. But I made a commitment. I believed in the integrity of that vow and I could not break it.

“I, we, Willie and I will be part of this and we will be there.”

She sighed a defeated breath. She wasn’t happy with that outcome and truthfully neither was I.

She had to have another surgery the next day. She said “To fix things”

Fix things?



Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Page 94 Cancer's Mockery


This is an absolutely true story


A belief in hell and the knowledge that every ambition is doomed to frustration at the hands of a skeleton have never prevented the majority of human beings from behaving as though death were no more than an unfounded rumor.

Aldous Huxley


The day started much as it had ended 12 hours earlier. The rain was abysmal, matching our spirits…well mine at least. Willie and I got up and performed our morning rituals, coffee, morning news, Willie checking her EBay bids, me reading the paper.

We dressed and I cleaned up any messes. We made our way to her black ford truck with the front bumper bashed in from Devon’s use.

We made small talk, but, ironically, said nothing of Bootsie.

Rush hour traffic was beginning to thin, so we made it to the hospital a lot faster than originally planned. We parked the truck and walked across the garage, our footsteps echoing, keys jingling, other visitors and patients alike talking in soft chatter. It felt like the halls were forever and our heels clicking on the parquet tile sounded ominous.

When we got to Bootsie’s room, she lit up at seeing me, but immediately came down upon Willie’s arrival. But it didn’t stop her from scooting over in her hospital bed to make room for me to sit. I ignored her gesture as she padded the mattress and sat in a chair instead, but she was not having it. Willie nodded to me her accordance and I went and sat with Bootsie.

Every word Bootsie said she looked at me and acted as if Willie was not even there. Willie ignored this childish behavior to get answers.

“Hello Bootsie, I hope you don’t mind that I came”.

And again Bootsie responded but wouldn’t look at her. “I understand, you don’t feel Dianne is safe with me”.

I just hung my head, shaking it back and forth with my hand on my brow.

“What time is your surgery” Willie asked.

Bootsie’s family was going to be there around 2 pm since her surgery was scheduled for 2:30. The doctor came in and asked us to leave, but Bootsie asked us to stay. I didn’t understand much anyhow, but, of course, Willie did. They were going to “go in” and do an exploratory to find out what they couldn’t in the “PetScan”. If it were possible to remove the tumors, they would be in the operating room for about three to four hours. If they find they couldn’t do anything, they would close and she would be back in the room in 30 minutes. That was the result we didn’t want. And the surgery was moved up by two hours. The doctor left and Bootsie for the first time looked at Willie…almost a triumphant sort of look. We were going to be her only family, as they took her immediately.

“Are you staying?” She asked Willie, “Is Dianne allowed to stay?”.

“Yes Bootsie we are staying. Dianne is allowed to do anything she wishes (that’s a lie) and if your family arrives, we may leave as a courtesy to them.”

“No” Bootsie demanded “You need to stay, they will understand.”

I don’t think Bootsie took this seriously. To her this was a pretty convenient ploy and she seemed to be willing to go through the motions and withstand a few cuts and stitches to have me stay with her as long as deemed necessary. We agreed to wait in her room for 45 minutes and if we didn’t hear anything, we would know she was in it for the long haul. We would go get something to eat and return.

Willie read, I crocheted a brightly colored blanket, with all the colors of the rainbow, for the upcoming Christmas Songfest Silent Auction. The colors jumped out against the putrid yellows and greens of the room, somehow out of place.

We watched the clock, I was breathing irregularly as Willie informed me. Every second ticked by loudly, ominously. I thought of Bootsie being everywhere I was. It’s curious how one’s thought pattern runs around like mercury – scattered thoughts like droplets then bump into each other and pool into one generalization. A man may be the controller of doubts before lunch and an optimistic believer in the will's freedom after. She was an important facet of the Gay community helping various charities attending all the significant events, the White party and The Dianas. She had a business, Three Dog Bakery, a healthy pet food pantry and Throw a Dog a Bone, a pet dog walking venture.

I thought about her sitting in the rotunda below my building when I didn’t think she knew where I worked. I thought of our first attempt at a life together in her apartment on the corner of Gray and Montrose, the “Worden” building, sadly gone now. I saw her sitting on my closet floor sorting through my shoes, holding them. I could hear the twinkling of the ice as she poured her Dewers. And of course, our first night alone together, making love until dawn.

I am certain Willie had her thoughts also, but they were probably veered toward “Thank God, this woman will be out of my life forever” I was hoping she wouldn’t be that crass, but I have to admit to myself, she definitely is.

After twenty minutes things slowed to almost a standstill and I prayed, Willie holding my hand. Then at 30 minutes I let out a sigh.

All’s well!!!

Bootsie’s surgery is continuing and so this means she has a chance!

I got up to use the bathroom and while washing my hands I heard voices and shuffling, I hurried out to greet Bootsie’s family and explain what had happened. But it wasn’t her family.

The nurses were shuffling about transferring a patient to the bed next to Bootsie’s and again I had that spike of fear, followed by a feeling of relief.

One of the nurses stopped. “Wrong bed…it’s bed B”.
How heartless was fate? And to put a person through this again and again. My hopes have been raised and dashed in a matter of minutes…I had hopelash.
There she was, asleep in her bed. I gasped and turned to Willie who pulled me as close as a person could without smothering them. We both knew what this meant. The doctor explained that she had been in recovery for the last 20 minutes. They had opened and closed in less than five. The news wasn’t good and it wasn’t going to get better any time soon.

Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can't practice any other virtue consistently... Maya Angelou

So now it was that time…the time for courage, all other dimensions in my life were at a loss.