Hey y’all! It’s been a coon’s age! I have survived the holidays, my children’s snow days, and sinus infections ravaging my family.
So what’s new with Big Jim?
He is officially 83! Woo Hoo!
New year, New Jim?
No, you crazy optimist! Big Jim has already proven, at my expense, he is ready to entertain for another year.
Here. We. Go.
Do you ever worry about what others will think of you?
Have you ever sat analyzing the way you presented yourself?
Does your hair look perfectly quaffed? Do your shoes compliment your sweater? Was the opinion you just expressed appropriate?
In life we tend to operate under the delusion that insecurity is a mountain to be conquered. Once we reach the top of the peak, we can bask in the golden rays of not caring what others think of us.
If only that were true.
Being secure in who you are is a hill and valley situation. The second you conquer one hill, here comes a wicked east wind to knock you into a valley.
Now, I’m not talking about spiritual security or knowing your sense of purpose in this world. I’m just trying to get through a day. A two-hour block to be specific.
See, I’m one of those people that others would label secure in a superficial sense. I emphasized superficial because I want to be sure you know, that I know, what other’s see isn’t always reality.
I’m the kind of person that isn’t afraid of being in public without make-up. Baseball hats… I have a collection. Though housekeeping is something I’m fairly good at, I have a St. Bernard and four children. There will be dirt and/or dog hair even on my best day.
Even though I’m not the kind of person that habitually worries about what others see or their interpretation of what they see, it was recently revealed to me I may have a skeleton in my closet.
When I take my dad to the doctor, I am all that and a bag of chips. Hair done. Outfit coordinates. Make-up applied. I’m armed with current vitals, weights, lab results, and med sheets. Hell, I even eat before taking him to be sure my blood sugar doesn’t drop causing me to lose focus. I’m such a rock star, other old men are envious of my dad for his daughter! (They’ve never actual said it, but their look of longing can’t be denied.)
Why does someone, who doesn’t care what other’s think, go to this length when we all know, behind the scenes, everything is on fire?
Clearly, somewhere deep down, I care what the healthcare professionals caring for my dad think. In spite of what my dad does or says, his passion for noncompliance, or his Hobo chic fashion sense (you may remember the wallet story), I want them to know the person at the helm is rational and protecting him. I want the care he receives to be a reflection of the quality they see in me and, God willing, blind them to the nonsense he could unleash at any given moment.
How did I come to this place of enlightenment? Through meditation or prayer? A caregiver’s support group that is a safe place to address one’s insecurities?
Of Course not! That’s what normal people do! I, for one, prefer a ridiculous series of events that leaves me asking, “What just happened?”
Dad’s most recent doctor’s appointment was early in the morning. After rushing around to be sure I was presentable and getting my kids off to school, I zipped over to grab dad. I’m right on time, in other words, I’m late.
If you’ve ever taken an elderly person to an appointment you know that if you are not an hour early, you are late.
Dad is waiting in the doorway and starts making his way out to the car before I’m fully in the driveway. I notice he’s carrying what looks like a cane. Weird, but whatever.
Once he’s in the car, I realize it’s not a cane at all. It’s a 3-foot-long shoehorn with an ornately carved handle.
OK. I’ll bite.
“What’s with the shoehorn?”
He stares at it for a second, trying to recall why he brought it. After several heartbeats, as if the answer to a million dollar question dropped in his lap, he enthusiastically replied, “Gotta have it in case they need me to take off my shoes.”
Dad’s pride in his pre-planning is evident.
I nodded in understanding. Can’t argue with that logic.
As we moseyed down the road the seatbelt alarm started singing at us. With all the excitement of the shoehorn I forgot to remind dad to put his seatbelt on. This is normally something I help him with, but since I’m driving, he tries to accomplish this on his own.
After several failed attempts I notice he’s having a hard time maneuvering around the bulk that is in his coat pocket.
“Dad, what’s in your pocket?”
Now I want to pause here and make my first point.
What happened next I should have seen coming. As established, it’s early and we are in a time crunch (at least based on 83-year-old time frames). I take full responsibility for how the rest of this story plays out. Let this be a lesson.
You always have time to frisk your elderly parents.
Dad reaches in his pocket and produces the obstacle.
A strawberry jelly jar full of urine, in an old bread bag, secured with a twisty tie. (Dark rye bread in case you’re a stickler for detail.)
He holds it up for a quick inspection, but says nothing as he shoves it into the free cup holder next to my coffee. Now I can’t be sure, since I wasn’t looking in the mirror, but I imagine my countenance was similar to that of someone who was just surprised by a “shart”.
“Dad, what… you can’t… that’s not…why do you have that?”
Mystified at my confusion, he replies, “They may need it and I can’t be sure when I can pee.”
I fall quiet as I accept the next hour of my life. The urine is now in route. I’m stuck. Thanks to pesky littering laws, I can’t chuck it out the window. And in the confined space of a car, I can’t make it disappear in hopes dad will forget about it. That jar of urine is now a part of my day.
I spend the rest of the drive listening to the rhythmic sloshing of my, now, untouched, coffee and Smucker’s urine while my dad gives his commentary on the Super Bowl. Much like everyone else, he found it boring, but his biggest concern was regarding the “tattooed boy”.
“Now, do you think cocaine made him get the California tattoo?”
“I wonder what Janet Jackson thought of that mess. You know they thought she was a hussy!”
We get to the doctor and the urine goes right back in his pocket.
“Dad, why don’t we leave it out here and I’ll come back out if they need it.”
“No, No. It’s too cold to come back out.”
It’s 40 degrees.
I realize my only hope is that in the whirlwind excitement of getting checked in, he won’t offer the urine as a hostess gift and it will sit hidden in his pocket. I’m so close to this becoming a reality until the med tech bee-bops in with her let’s-do-things-right mentality.
We approach the scale.
“James, I need you to take your coat off so we can get an accurate weight.”
Outwardly, I smiled like a Stepford wife.
Internally… “Really lady!? Yes, he’s in heart failure! Yes, he’s on a diuretic and getting an exact weight is vital for maintaining his health, but that is none of your business! Let the man leave his coat on! Quit trying to be all good at your job! Now is not the time!”
Dad begins to remove his coat, and as predicted, remembers his precious cargo.
“Woah, woah. Hold on here. Gotta get this out of here.”
He hands me the strawberry/rye bread urine for safe keeping.
As I stood in the crowded medical office, surrounded by busy professionals, holding my expensive purse that matches my coat, an oriental shoe horn so regal it must have belonged to an early emperor, and a, surprisingly heavy, hillbilly urine sample, I was thrown into a private moment of self-reflection.
Did I really need to get up early to put on make-up?
I gotta be honest folks. I fear the answer is no.