By Linda Germain
Someone is calling my name. Is it my mother? No, wait, it couldn’t be. It must be my wife. Why doesn’t she leave me alone?
"Mr. Durdle!" insists the voice, though not unkindly.
"Open your eyes, Sir. I have to draw some blood."
Blood? Hey, this must be a hospital. Painfully, I manage to raise one heavy eyelid to see the face of a smiling young woman. What’s going on? I’ve a mind to tell her if she thinks this is funny, she’d better think again.
"Uh, Uh, Uh…"
Hold everything! Why can’t I speak? Something is wrong. Let me try again.
"Wa, Ka, oug." Now I’m really scared. Gently she lays her hand on my arm and pats me in a very maternal manner. I hear another voice, a booming one.
"Hey Freddy, how’ya doing? Guess I’d better explain what’s happened. Where’s your wife?"
Yeah, where is she? Just then she comes scurrying through the door. Why does Myrtle Lee always careen around like she is in some kind of race to a deadline? You wouldn’t think a woman that clumpy could move so fast.
In her singsong way she trills, "Good Morning Doctor Joe. Any results from his tests?"
What tests? What is wrong with me? Why is he talking to Myrtle Lee, for goodness sake? She doesn’t understand anything about anything. I always have to explain to HER. She could never make it in this world without my constant direction. I feel helpless.
"Well Myrtle Lee, it looks like Freddy here has had a cerebral vascular accident."
"He what? I just KNEW he would run that old truck off in the ditch driving so fast."
"It’s not like that my dear. A CVA is what most people call a stroke."
Whoa, no wonder I can’t talk. I decide to signal to them that I can HEAR just fine. One whole side of me feels like a cigar store Indian. This situation is getting worse by the minute.
In a stage whisper you could hear over a jet engine, Myrtle Lee asks Dr. Joe, "Is he gonna die?"
Crazy ole woman. What would she do if I did kick off? Fall apart, that’s what!
"No. He received quick enough attention to pretty well project a complete recovery. Of course, Fred will have some serious work to do."
Do they think I have disappeared? I begin to rattle the metal side rails. The three of them whirl around.
"Uh, Uh, Uh…."
Dang! I know what I want to say but I am definitely stuck in neutral.
A green-garbed fellow, pushing a gurney, joins the manipulating vultures hanging over me. Wait a minute, buster! Where am I going? These defenseless thoughts have no sound.
"Mr. Durdle. They want you downstairs for follow-up scans."
Resisting would be futile. I hear irritating babble aimed at him. "Oh, please take good care of my sweet husband. He’s all I have."
Well, by guppies, she’s got THAT right. Poor woman must be suffering something awful.
It seems like hours before I am returned to my room. Myrtle Lee is not in sight. How am I supposed to keep an eye on her if she keeps disappearing? Two extra-stout women hoist me over to a freshly made bed. Glucose is trickling through a tube into one arm. Conveniently, there is another tube for draining it out after it makes its run through my various parts. I wish they would leave me alone. I am exhausted.
I receive an injection of some kind. Soft pillows are placed between my knees and behind my back as I lie on my side in the semi-dark. A light blanket covers me. Desperate for sleep, I’ll have to ponder this more tomorrow. Hmmm. Wonder where Myrtle Lee is? She’ll probably forget to feed the dog.
"Wake up sleepy head."
My proverbial windows to the soul are shut tight. I know that voice. How did she manage to get home and back without getting lost?
I feel a warm, wet cloth on my face. It feels pretty good. Opening my eyes, I see it is not Elle or Cheryl or one of those tall willowy girls. Nope, it’s just regular old Myrtle Lee Durdle in that ugly flowered muumuu thing she wears.
Pushing a button, she rockets me to a sitting position. Is that breakfast I smell? A nonchalant fellow wearing a shower cap zips in and slams a tray on the over-bed table. I stare down at the eggs. They stare back at me. What am I supposed to do?
Suddenly, that magnolia-covered thorn in my side begins cutting food in little pieces. I am so surprised, my mouth falls open. That is the signal for Myrtle Lee to plop some breakfast in it, and like a dumbfounded baby bird I chew the best way I can. She puts a straw in the coffee so I won’t get it on me. What else will she think up?
In the rehabilitation place, she comes every single day. On Sunday, she doesn’t get here until after her church is over. It is rumored they sing and pray, and just generally love everybody. Of course, I have never been. Who knows what they might do next?
Today the physical therapist says he sees amazing changes. I can walk without dragging my foot too much, and I can feed myself without sticking a fork in my eye.
I glance out the window and catch sight of a woman striding up the sidewalk with some flowers in her arms. She’s wearing a snappy green pants suit. It kind of looks like… wait! Where is the muumuu? It CAN’T be.
She sails into the sun-filled day room. "Myrtle Lee!" I scream. "What have you done?"
"Why Freddy, I just have a little make-up on and a new hair style. Do you like this burnished copper color? She twirls around.
All I can do is stare. "When did you get skinny?"
"All these months I have been so busy taking care of you and running things at home, I just kind of forgot to eat so much.
"These lovely roses are from the prayer chain at church. They have lifted you up for twenty-four hours a day. Maybe you’d go with me some Sunday? It would be so nice, Freddy."
I reach out for Myrtle Lee’s hand, not even trying to stop the big tears sliding down my contemptible old face. With a lopsided grin, I manage to say, "Yes, my dear, it would be VERY nice."
What in the world would I do without her?
Linda Germain is a willing freelance writer for the Lord – Daughter of the King, Woman of Faith, Mother of Hope, Sister of Charity and Granddaughter of Grace. You may contact Linda via the Letters page of this Magazine.
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