Seth takes his Grandma to the doctor. Wackiness ensues.
The clock alarm shrieked startling me from a deep sleep I had been enjoying after working the night shift at the hospital. I tried to shut out its screeches with some Zen focus nonsense I had recently come across. I spent some time on various internet websites trying to define myself and develop a life’s purpose. So far, I had not taken to much of it.
After several unsuccessful attempts to drown out the alarm with the silence of my mind, I rose up on the side of my bed. Burdened with groggy unsteadiness, I leaned over to my nightstand for the bottle of water on it. I hurled it at the alarm clock on my dresser across the room.
Pleased that it landed on target, toppling them both to the floor, I breathed in the silence. I squinted at my surroundings. The sun was dazzling. I made a mental note to investigate buying something to tack over my windows. I was finding all the sunlight repulsive. My phone rang with an infuriating pitch. I snatched up the receiver to end the torture.
“Yeah?” I was already uninterested.
“You’re still asleep, aren’t you? I don’t want to be late for my appointment Seth.”
It was my turn to drive Grandma to the doctor and afterward take her to do her shopping and other random errands, usually involving visits to family. This was every month and a chore shared by my brothers and myself. A task we all dreaded because it could only be described as something akin to going to visit with Boss Hog and the gang. That branch of the family tree had long found gainful employment and education far too much effort. They were quite content to collect government checks. Sometimes they bilked money out of those who had it. This meant my brothers or me.
My grandmother’s voice was shrill. I winced and held the receiver away from my ear. I looked around for the bottle of water I kept by my bed. Parched, I needed water. Where was that bottle? I remembered I reallocated its use for shutting up the intolerable alarm. My grandmother prattled on about God only knows what. I set the receiver down and calculated the benefits versus effort to get up and go get the bottle of water just across the room. I decided and made my way over to the dresser. I left the phone on my bed. My hip cracked as I bent over. I opened the bottle and took a deep swallow. I seated myself on my couch, grabbed my laptop and opened it up to scan the news. I heard a change in tone and inflection to the shrill sound emanating from the phone. This meant it was my time to chime into the conversation. I put the phone to my ear.
“Oh, yes. I know. That’s ridiculous” I monotoned.
“That’s what I said!” Grandma exclaimed. She launched into another soliloquy.
That bought me another 30 to 60 seconds, so I went to brush my teeth, threw on a t-shirt some blue jeans. I returned to the phone and heard, “He was just humping all over your cousin’s leg.”
She could have been talking about a date, a dog, or both knowing my cousins, “How unfortunate.” I feigned, “Look, Grandma, I need to leave to pick you up. Tell me more about this whole leg humping business when we are together. Loveyoubye!”
Grandma was just as chatty as we drove to her doctor’s office. She commented on a variety of topics ranging from my love life to the azaleas in Mrs. Leary’s yard. This set her off on a genealogy lesson about the Learys, and the impact of their genetics on their many unsavory proclivities. Proclivities, many of which the family had the nerve to display in public she declared.
“And her youngest just ran off with that Mexican boy. Did not speak a lick of Mexican or nothing. What kind of a life does she have I wonder?” my Grandma mused looking out the car window at a couple of men shoving one another on the sidewalk.
“No telling,” I replied. “It’s her life. She did what she wanted.”
“Exactly! You children think ‘it’s your life’ and you can do just whatever you want. No matter if it breaks your mamas’ hearts or shames your family. Noo, your happiness is more important than behaving and acting like you had any raisin’ whatsoever.”
“Oh, Grandma, that’s not true. I have turned down many marriage proposals from several carnies passing through town during fall carnival. Do you have any idea how happy it would make me traveling with the carnival?”
“Stars and heaven Seth. You turned down opportunities to be married. and you let the lady propose?” Grandma demanded.
I rolled my eyes. I turned into the parking lot of the doctor’s office congratulating myself on finding a parking spot close to the entrance.
“What are you doing?” Grandma asked
“Ummm…. parking. The doctors don’t make car calls Grandma.”
“You let me out at the door, then you find a spot,” She crowed.
“Grandma, the door is right there!” I motioned.
“I am an old woman Seth,” She pursed her purple-tinted lips.
“What does that even mean? The door is literally 6 feet away!” I cried.
“It means I will get out at the entrance,” Grandma confirmed.
I drove the car six feet over to the door. She continued to sit expectantly, so I sighed and went around and opened her door. With great care, she gathered her purse, the umbrella she insisted on bringing despite no rain being forecasted, her large freezer bag holding her medications, and swung her legs out placing her feet on the pavement. I tried to take some of her packages, but she scolded me for it. She was an entirely independent lady she insisted. After a production of five minutes in duration, Grandma made it out of the car. She was ambling toward the door of the office then promptly stopped and stood impatiently waiting for it to open itself.
As I moved toward the door, someone came out of it and held it open for her, she took her time turning to me and called, “Find a parking space and wait for me. I’ll be out when my appointment is over.”
With that, I returned to my car. My original spot was taken by now, so I parked further out and watched for the possibility of another closer place. Last time I did not park near the door, my grandmother scolded me all through the rest of the afternoon of errands for not parking close to the door so she could see me.
Finally, a spot opened, and I moved in. I rolled down my windows to enjoy the warm air and settled in for a light nap. I dozed longer than expected because when I woke, I noticed we had been there for an hour at least.
As I debated whether to continue my nap, I spied a suspicious, yet familiar looking individual exiting the doctor’s office. She began scanning the parking lot, stopping once to look in the window of a car, try the door handle, find it locked, and move along to the next vehicle. Her sunken in eyes complete with dark circles around them lent her the look of a malnourished raccoon. Her skin was riddled with acne and shined in the sunlight. Her hair was stringy and looked like it was perpetually wet.
She wore a bright pink t-shirt that appeared to be two sizes too small with the word “Princess” bedazzled across the chest. The bottom of her shirt rode up on her pregnant abdomen. To be fair, one could call her pudgy. It did not look like the tight blue jean skirt with holes, or the worn-out cowboy boots she was wearing were very conducive to ambulation either. Her ensemble was capped off by a blue sequined purse lined with powder blue fur. I recognized her as my cousin Starr, and sunk down in my seat, praying to not be sighted.
“Don’t think I don’t see you there Seth Matthew. I’ma tell yer mama!” Starr squawked, awkwardly negotiating her way to the passenger’s side of my car welcoming herself inside. Her breath heaved in and out, “Lord almighty, I’ma have a heart attack,” she panted.
“That would be unfortunate,” I greeted her.
Starr reeked of cigarette smoke, what could have been mothballs, and some other fleshy smell I was terrified to try to identify.
“What the hell are you doing?” she asked, opening my glove box.
“Waiting on Grandma,” I reached over slammed the glove box shut.
“Damn, I was just lookin, you ain't got to be so secret keeping.” Star sneered, then continued, “When is she gonna be done? I need to talk to her for Prissy and me.”
Prissy was Starr’s sister, and it was clear Starr had appeared sniffing around for pharmaceuticals. She and my other cousins like Prissy could never give Grandma a ride to these appointments due to not having cars themselves, but every month without fail, one or all of them showed up either in the parking lot of the doctor’s office or pharmacy. Grandma would proceed to dole out medication to them as any other grandmother might hand out candy.
This was a habit I complained to her about. Warning her that it was illegal, and she only fueled their drug problems. She countered that the medication was doctor prescribed. Besides, Starr and the others had pain. It was her medicine to do with as she saw fit. How do you argue with that logic?
“She’ll be done when she’s done; your street corner will still be there by then.”
“Whatever,” Starr was examining her reflection in a compact mirror, adjusting her nose before reviewing inside her nostrils.
I took in the unappealing sight: she was 19, bad skin, big nose, missing teeth and wearing too much eye makeup. In another life, she may have been pretty. In this life, she thought she was beautiful, and quit school to marry her soul mate, Little Ricky, who later left her for Sandy Quinn, a girl with even looser morals than Starr. At the time Starr declared she would not take Little Ricky back again after having gifted three earlier chances upon him.
She amended this declaration: “Unless he’s got his daddy’s car this time or I need me some lovin,”
Starr was recently pregnant which seemed to be throwing off her balance because she was falling down a lot. After these tumbles, she needed visits to the emergency room. Two weeks ago, she got tripped on some rocks in her mother’s yard, which has a small incline. She rolled thirty feet before an apple tree stopped her.
While I played a game of “Who’s That” or more accurately “What’s That?” using passers-by as subjects, Starr babbled on about the various complaints of pregnancy as if she was the only female to ever be pregnant. I took the opportunity to inform her that she was not. To illustrate, I told her that I had had a cat just like her. She got really fat, and then after some time she had babies. My mom and dad then took her and the babies to live on a farm where they could play with other cats and have as many babies as they wanted - not draining the American welfare system dry.
Starr considered my story and mused about such a farm. She announced it would not do for her because her allergies were too severe, and she hated nature.
The thing about Starr is that she has the odd habit of just being a Jerry Springer reject. A few months ago, she got it in her head that she would be a nurse and sought my help in achieving this goal. To keep my mother and grandmother off my back for refusing to support the family, I agreed and filled out her paperwork, luckily, she had managed to get a GED since dropping out of high school. We applied to the local community college’s registered nurse program.
The adviser tactfully explained, and I translated that Starr was too stupid to be a registered nurse, but that the LPN program might want her. To my shock, the LPN program did accept her. The government even supplied her with several grants of free money. More than enough to cover tuition, books, and other supplies. The amount of money the government gave was such that Starr could comfortably live without having to get a job during school. All she would have to do is study and pass her classes. The government, in turn, would continue to send this same amount to her each semester. She was being paid to go to school.
When I applied for financial aid, I received barely enough to cover tuition and was recommended to get a job, scholarships, and work-study to pay for everything else despite having excellent grades and graduating high school. I tried not to let these facts make me feel bitter.
Starr attended classes long enough to receive the balance of her first grant payment and get into a hair-pulling fight with a classmate over a boy. Then the pregnancy navigational malfunctions began.
She currently has a pending lawsuit against the Cash $aver, a regional chain of discount grocery stores that sell merchandise considered unacceptable for sale in larger, more popular grocery chains. The reasons mostly pertained to minor package damage. Her lawsuit alleged that Starr was irrevocably injured due to a puddle of water on their floor. A pool that mysteriously only she saw, managed to walk through, and then fall in. Staying completely dry the entire time. She has the mysterious ability to not get wet. Superman flies, and she avoids saturation - go figure.
Naturally, she found an ambulance chasing attorney and a super qualified medical doctor. According to Starr, this doctor told her narcotic painkillers would not affect her developing fetus. He also recommended her that she needed to stop going to school for the duration of the pregnancy that may have been compromised by the standing puddle of water that was or was not negligently left in the floor of the Cash $aver.
As she was giving me these updates, she lit up a cigarette took a drag, savoring the smoke, then proclaimed that Cash $aver was going to pay for what it had done to her and her unborn baby. As I contemplated this evil corporation's part in endangering her unborn baby's health, I decided to ask the obvious,
“Hey, shouldn’t you not be smoking?”
“Oh yeah, I guess. But my doctor told me to keep smoking” she responded.
Now, this turn of events piqued even my laboriously garnered attention.
"How's that now?" I inquired.
"He said it would be worse for the baby to quit." She replied matter of fact.
After an uncomfortable silence, I decided to go for it, "No....I'm pretty sure everybody says the opposite of that these days."
"No, no he said that I would go through withdrawals and my baby would want nicotine," Her voice was pregnant with certainty.
"Uh, this isn't 1900 Sigmund Freud - smoking is bad for your baby, and any quack will tell you to quit."
"Noooo, think about what I would be going through. My doctor said it would be ten times worse on my baby" she whined, “And who the hell is Sickman Fruit?”
"Damn bitch, what are you going to do when this baby is born? Give it a cigarette to puff away? Sigmund Freud was a psychologist who died a painful death because he was an obnoxious smoker.”
I had to hand it to her, so few people appreciate children learning to use a cigarette lighter so early in life. The blank expression on her face was beginning to annoy me.
“You don’t know everything, Seth. Smoking could make my baby like the next Earnestine or Kim Kardashian,” Starr challenged.
I gave her a quick look, not unlike the one I would give if she had just emptied her bladder on my car seat, “Who the hell is Earnestine?”
“Umm, that super smart guy who invented time or whatever. Come on, Seth, you went to college.”
“Einstein. Starr, he was Einstein and he didn’t invent time.”
“Then how do we all exist genius?” Starr responded, her voice dripping with condescension.
I let this sink in for a moment, considering how I could best maturely handle this that would speak to her experience, “Your baby is going to have an arm growing out of its forehead- if it gets a forehead, dumbass."
Disgusted and huffing, Starr threw open the car door, and with the grace of a brain-damaged flamingo, got out. She turned around and said, “I’m calling yer mother and telling her what you said Seth Matthew.”
She pivoted and stormed off as only someone in a tight jean skirt and cowboy boots could.
“Good! Tell her what an Earnestine you are while you’re at it,” I called after her.
Starr looked back and shot me eye daggers. At that moment, she plopped off the sidewalk into the shrubbery; a kicking pair of cowboy boots was all that was visible.
I shook my head, got out of the car, and walked over to the boots and profanity. I pulled out my cell phone, snapped a couple pictures, and kept going. The Dairy Queen was next door, and I wanted an ice cream cone.