Santa, Spirits & Ghosts of Gallstones past
| "Farfel, Farfel, look, that's Arthur! Your brother Arthur! Psst! Hey, you with the sheepdog. Yes, those people ma'am. Tap them on the shoulder, Farfel is the dog’s sister."
A nudge and the couple holding Arthur turn and look back at the line that snakes its way down the hallway and out of door of the SPCA. The siblings are separated only by a large black setter with its tail between its legs, two small short hair dogs, a cat in a carrier, and a hidden iguana. The man spots Farfel and remembers meeting her five years ago. We exchange pleasantries. The iguana is too busy rehearsing for a beer commercial to join in.
I point Farfel in the proper direction and they turn Arthur toward his sister, but God is too busy sitting on his cloud and reaching out to Adam to notice the canine reunion. It also could be the hair that covers much of their faces prevents them from rushing to each other and hugging. This doesn't stop the proud parents from telling all in line about their canine saints.
We had lead-footed 260 miles to have her photo taken with Santa. She knows this man in the red suit who visits the Delaware County SPCA is the real Santa, not the ersatz St. Nick who sat in Petsmart@ years ago. We have driven through the remnants of the first snow storm of the year, a dumping of two to three inches. The car is now camouflaged for winter. Green shows on the roof and upper body, but all lower panels are the color of fine ash. No one will steal it now. Like the bomb that sprays red dye on the bank robber, this vehicle will leave its putative thief looking like a man who survived an eruption of a volcano.
Santa is in a separate room behind a door with a glass panel in it. As we stand next in line at the door I watch as the iguana pulls on Santa’s beard to see if he is a fake. Then it is Farfel’s turn. She behaves; we go outside and meet Arthur up close and personal. Farfel pays him back for all the grief he gave her as a sibling, growling and lunging at him. We leave, stop at a huge park nearby more for me to find some woods to relieve my bladder than for the dog, but run into Arthur again. This reunion is no happier. Then on to my sister-in-law Barbara’s house!
Thursday I had dropped my car off at the shop to have it aligned and new tires put on the back wheels. I walked a mile and half into Kinderhook, stopping on the way to chat with a man planting bulbs in early December heat. We commented on the weather and that he had closed down his construction business for the year. Walking on to the village stoplight, I made a note to look in the gift shop on the other side of the street on the way back.
My sister, sister-in-law, niece and nephew are the last people I have to reward with gifts. The gift store is tres upscale, but I realize any Christmas could be our last. I find the obligatory bear for Barbara, a tree ornament with a Nast Santa painted on it for my niece Amy, and a box of something called Christmas Crackers, which look like nothing more than giant firecrackers but cost the equivalent of a Pentagon smart bomb. I am stupid enough to think they are something to eat.
Pleased with myself, I have a seat on a bench near the post office before continuing my walk back to my car. I feel downright self-righteous from the walk and also a bit like Alastair Sim, waking Christmas morning to find the spirits have done their work in one night. He did a wonderful dance. I consider a Buck and Wing, holding on to a fence. I am too stocky to be Astaire, but maybe I could be a passable Gene Kelly. The thought of this late middle-aged man leaping and clicking his foot to his opposite knee gives me such a laugh and convinces me that the health scare I was given last weekend is over.
I had more blood drawn Wednesday, as well as an Ultrasound test. Poking me, the doctor told me it could not be ulcers. He gave me medicine to treat sour stomach and I felt one hundred percent better. “The medical profession has done it in one night,” I exclaim to myself. Life does not follow art. Thursday evening while talking with Pam on the phone, the first of the shadows returns, a silent pain in the same place. Friday as I sit to eat dinner, the doctor calls to tell me it is gallstones. The gall bladder must come out. He gives me the phone number of a surgeon.
Having had it explained, the next night while chatting on line with Jackie I mark the passage of another stone, giving her a blow by blow account. I have become Captain Hook, having swallowed not a clock but these little marbles. Two extra strength pills from Sam’s place take the pain away. This I can live with. I carry my acetaminophen with me, but the stones seem to follow a late night schedule.
I’ll become a first class bore talking about the stones. I give my act a try out on Barbara. I give credit to Pam, Lynda and Jackie for their diagnosis, and let her know that Maralyn also concurred when she had more facts. They won’t get paid like the doctor, but they were there. I let her know every little detail. When I see Barbara’s eyes glazing over and my niece falling asleep, I know I am a success.
Waking Barbara and Amy, we open our gifts. The crackers, packed to look like three tubular roman candles fastened together, are pulled apart with a pop and in the center tube is a gewgaw that delights Barbara. The sound does not scare Farfel. She waits patiently in the car, a victim of animal profiling. A dog had mauled Barbara’s preceding cat and I would not want her to treat the current resident as if he were Arthur. As dusk closes in, Barbara packs two bags of cookies. We go down to the car. Farfel gets out and greets them, takes a drink and then the two of us begin the four hour trip home.
No more than two miles away, hunger sets in. I haven’t eaten since six in the morning. One bag of cookies is opened. I also drag out a bag of dog snacks that keep Farfel from the oatmeal, raison and chocolate chip treats. I try to decide if both inserts are too much of a good thing and keep sampling them. As I get on the Pennsylvania Turnpike I notice the gas gauge where it should not be. Twenty-five miles later filling the tank shows I had three-tenths of a gallon left.
Three hours later I am stopping at Mickey D’s on the New York Thruway, less than forty miles from home. The dog is hungry and so am I. I look for a super value meal that is solely French fries but find none, so I supersize a meal and tell them to put nothing on the double cheeseburger. The poor dog must smell the burger the rest of the way while I gobble the fries, my arteries coursing with salt. I pass a test of driving skill, shooting by an eighteen-wheeler while nibbling.
As I pull into the drive, Hank is singing of the Mansion on the Hill. I would not call my house a mansion, but it sits under the stars, the lawn snow covered. The dog makes snow angels while I open the door. There has been a power failure but lights are back on. The house is incredibly cold. The cat has not been instructed in the finer points of starting a fire in the wood stove. The dog wolfs down her double cheeseburger and goes to roll out Snow Angels Five through Seven. She then retires to my bed.
I sit down to type this account. The gallstones do not visit; but after completing four paragraphs, I lay down and pull a quilt over me. A little after midnight, a spirit wakes me. It is the ghost of Travel Present. “Hey dummy, you forgot to turn off your computer.”