It had been a typical Monday thus far. I’d finished sorting out the previous weekend’s data dump and took care of any outstanding request tickets. All that remained was to ride out the rest of my shift before making the long drive back to Woburn.
Then my cell started buzzing, and its caller ID said it was the old man. Figuring it was another poorly timed request to buy him some smokes, I answered with my flattest “yeah, what do you want now?”
I got back “This is Trooper Redacted of the Massachusetts State Police. Your father was in a automobile accident.”
My dad’s 2009 Mustang had been in the shop during his turn toward the wretchedly bizarre. Lil Bro and I considered that a blessing, because he was in no condition to operate it. We’d also assumed he was in no condition to retrieve it from the service station, yet he’d managed to find a way.
He got a new inspection sticker. He bought some groceries. He stocked up on cigarettes. He had a bizarre episode where he started to drive on the sidewalk of South Boston’s “Sugarbowl” and plow through a bunch of trash cans, picnic tables, and park benches before getting boxed in by multiple police cruisers.
Nobody was injured (thank fucking providence), but the trooper decided the old man’s physical and mental condition warranted a trip to Boston Medical Center’s emergency room.
I spent the next hour alternating between rhetorically asking “what the fuck” to Maura while throwing my hands in the air and spamming Lil Bro via text and voice message. (The science-y place where he works is full of no-reception zones.) He finally returned my call after a long forty minutes. I filled him in on what little I knew, and we worked out a game plan while marveling at how stupid and lucky our sire had been.
The most pressing priority was dealing with my father’s cat, Peej. The old man had adopted him as a feral foster kitten and showered that sad-faced fluffball with all the unselfish devotion he’d withheld from his human children. Maura and I agreed to take him in for the duration, but that involved getting access to the old man’s apartment which involved getting my father’s keys. We had no idea if he had them in his personal effects or whether they were left in the wrecked Mustang.
We decided was the hospital was the best place to start.
Getting to BMC was a harrowing experience in city driving and garage parking, but it was a basket of puppies compared to the inside of the place. It had nothing to do with the physical condition of the place or the quality of the staff — it was a waking nightmare by virtue of being a big city emergency room. And there, on a bed between some partitioned curtains was my father, thrashing his skeletal limbs around and moaning.
Here’s a thing about the Weiss males: Our emotional utterances tend to sound like cartoon versions of the genuine article. My laugh, for example, is identical to Muttley’s hissing chuckle and Lil Bro’s fits of rage are straight out of a Donald Duck routine. It can make it difficult for folks to take us seriously when it happens, because it looks like we’re taking the piss instead of genuinely expressing ourselves.
We even respond that way to each other, which is why the old man’s agonized moans seemed oddly comical despite the horrifying context. It was the same sounds he used to utter during dad-joke bits when I was a kid. “Oooooooh, we’re all out of pudding, ooooooooh woe is me ooooooooh.”
His personal belongings were nowhere to be found and the few staffpeople we stopped for moment couldn’t give us an answer, either. Talking to the old man was no use. He didn’t recognize me and completely incoherent. He seemed worse off than my grandmother had been during her last few days, and I began to wonder if this was how it was going to end.
By the time the physician got around to speaking with us, I was in a state of existential panic. The old man was suffering from an infected bedsore, which was the likely cause of the hallucinations and odd behaviors. He was also in the vicinity of ninety pounds and severely undernourished. They were going to keep him for a few days and a case worker was going to review plans for going forward.
His possessions were bundled in a plastic bag stuffed under the covers by his feet. Turning out his grimy pockets netted six packs of Marlboros but no keys. The cat would have to wait.
I told Maura I just wanted to go back home, and so we did.