The night my father was admitted to the hospital the first time, October 16, for falling...twice...in one day...I wasn’t precisely sure how long he would be there. Originally, all the ER doctor told me was that she was going to have him admitted “for observation”.
In my mind, at that time, “observation” just meant overnight. Just to be safe.
So, it was with that informed-by-too-much-television knowledge I arrived at the hospital the next day mid-morning. Just in case he was ready for discharge early1.
I followed a man and woman into the hospital from the parking garage.
I wasn’t paying much of any attention to them. As I walked toward the elevator, honestly, I was really calculating what time I absolutely had to leave the hospital, if he wasn’t ready to discharge that morning, in order to arrive at my hair appointment scheduled for 1 p.m.2 and, well, sometimes that kind of arithmetic is hard for me (and requires the use of fingers...and toes...shut up).
They reached the bank of elevators ahead of me but not so far ahead of me that they couldn’t hear me exclaim, “Up? Are you going up? Hold the elevator please!”
I rushed on just before the doors closed.
I reached to press the button for “fourth floor - telemetry”. They’d already pressed the button for the floor I wanted.
Right away, the man looked at me and immediately said, “This is weird. I know it’s weird. It’s probably all in my head. But wow! You look really familiar.”
I snapped out of my calculation revelry, looked at him, didn’t really recognize him and said, “Well...what is your name?”
He responded, “Bruce.”
Now most of you have no idea that I have no aptitude for faces but I am a wiz for names.
As soon as he said “Bruce” my brain’s rolodex started google-searching for the name “Bruce” and I landed on only one “Bruce” from my life - aside from the Rick Springfield song anyway3. A Bruce I hadn’t seen in 20 years.
“Did you ever work at Lehrer’s Flowers?” I asked.
And then threw his arms wide open for a hug.
I’d worked at Lehrer’s Flowers in college in the early 90’s. At the time, he was the manager of their main store.
He was my first interviewer with the company and recommended me for hire.
Ultimately, he would become my boss’s boss after I left to finish up college in Nevada.
We didn’t really know each other well.
I remembered his name. He remembered my face.
And, by some strange coincidence, 20 years after we’d last seen each other, we were in the same place at the same time going to the same floor - him to room 432, me to room 423 - to see an ailing parent (his mother, my father).
Pretty cool, right?
This shit gets better (and weirder).
Round 2. November 19.
My dad had been home from his first stint in rehab (for falls, not drugs) after his first hospitalization for exactly one week before his primary care doctor sent us back to the hospital with some urgency to have my dad admitted for things earlier described.
I dropped my dad and visiting sister off at the ER entrance and then went to go park the car.
As I was walking toward the ER, I saw a familiar looking man walking out of the ER toward a parked car. I couldn’t believe it.
“BRUCE!” I yelled.
One and the same.
He’d brought his mother into the ER for a severe allergic reaction to her medication. She was stable and he was taking her home.
Right at the same moment my father was coming in.
I hadn’t seen him in 20 years.
Now I’d seen him twice in a month.
I told him we really had to stop meeting like this.
We looked at each other wearily. He nodded. “Yes. I know.”
It gets better. And weirder.
Four days later…
It was supposed to be the day of discharge.
I’d taken the morning off work - Dad’s doctor having assured me the day before that he’d be discharged before 10 a.m. - took the elevator to the telemetry ward - the only place they’d had a bed when he was admitted a few days before (even though, this time, he was there for GI) - and, after exiting the elevator, looked both ways, checking for oncoming foot traffic, before taking a left to room 432.
I looked right.
I looked left.
I looked right again.
You have GOT to be shitting me!
To the right, in front of room 423, stood Bruce, looking as forlorn as I felt.
His mother had been admitted again.
This time for a broken rib...which has about as much to do with telemetry as bloody stools do.
He saw me.
I approached him.
I said, “The next time I see you it better be over a bottle or three of wine.”
I haven’t seen him since.
But I could really use that wine.
I'm thinking we're long overdue.
1. Ha! HA! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! 9 weeks and two hospitalizations and two rehab stays later. HA!
2. My stylist is fabulous and kinda hard to get into and, well, let’s just say I have my priorities.