as featured in Desert Exposure Magazine
"I've got some bad news," my buddy Maloney told me.
It had been awhile since I'd heard from him, so I picked up my phone and gave him a call.
"How's it going?" he said, when he answered.
I took his inquiry at face value and began to tell him about my neighbors next door, the ones with the yappy little dogs. They had the Orkin pest control guy over, but he must have dropped the ball because my neighbors were still there the next day.
"You think you've got problems?" Maloney groused. "I've got some bad news, some really bad news."
"What happened, Slip?" I asked, using his nickname. There's no conversational road Maloney travels on that he doesn't make a big ol' U-turn right back to himself.
"We got a call Saturday night. Sofia was in the hospital."
Sofia is his mother-in-law and she suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes. She had lived with them for a while before listening to her loser friends who convinced her she would be better off living on her own. Maloney was happy to see her leave. He always complained that she loved their dog more than she loved their children.
That just might be true.
When his dog was just a puppy and his daughter was a toddler, they took a picture of the two of them together. I've seen the picture, and his daughter looks adorable. When Gail, his wife, showed her mother the picture, she said, "Doesn't she look beautiful?"
"Yes," her mother agreed. "The puppy looks beautiful."
The last time I saw Sofia was on Easter, over at Maloney's house. She was chasing after their dog all around the backyard, carrying the mutt's water bowl. She insisted the dog was thirsty, and wanted it to drink, but the dog, always one paw ahead of her, had other ideas.
Mainly, to get away from her.
"Nothing more foolish than a man chasin' his hat," Gabriel Byrne, as the Irish gangster Tom Reagan, said in the classic Coen Brother's movie Miller's Crossing.
Unless it's an old woman chasing after a dog who wants nothing to do with her.
Still... she was sick.
"Poor her," I sympathized.
"Poor HER?" Maloney griped. "Poor ME!"
At the end of a very long day, Maloney's wife got a call on her cell phone. It was from a friend of her mother's, the latest in a long line of bad decisions concerning men. He hadn't heard from Sofia in a while, and became concerned, so he went over to see if her wallet was okay.
"Why couldn't he have waited a few days before checking on her?" Maloney lamented.
"That's a horrible thing to say," I told him.
"It's okay, my wife's not here. Actually," he continued, "her 'friend' suffers from high blood pressure, too, and Sofia gives him her blood pressure medication. He had probably run out, went over to get some more, and found her passed out on the floor. That was why she ended up in the hospital. Her blood pressure was through the roof."
"He's on Medicare. Why doesn't he just get his own?"
When my buddy and his wife got to the hospital, Gail immediately started crying. Her heart broke when she saw her poor mother laying there, frail and broken. Maloney took the opportunity to pull the doctor to the side.
"Was it a stroke?" Maloney asked him.
The reason he thought it might be a stroke was because Sofia's 'friend' had told them that the left side of her face fell, but "she always looks like that," Maloney assured me. He also noticed that she didn't look so bad in the ER, either. "Probably faking," was his prognosis.
The doctor assured him it wasn't a stroke.
"Give it to me straight, doc," he finally said, bracing himself for some bad news, "is my mother-in-law going to have to move in with us?"
Fortunately, the answer to that was also no. However, before they went home from the hospital, the doctor warned them, "She has to take her blood pressure medication, or the next time it will be a stroke."
"You hear that, Sofia?" Maloney chastised her. "You have to take your medicine. No more giving it to your boyfriend."
"He's not my boyfriend," she said, avoiding the point. "He's just my friend."
Sofia was touched. She thought her son-in-law was concerned for her well-being, and he was, but only so far as it affected whether she would move in with him or not.
When she was released, they took her to their home to recuperate, but Sofia only stayed with them for a few days, her daughter weathering her insults while caring for her. Maloney was impressed by how much food she was able to shovel into the sweet spot of her digestive system while she was there.
"Her illness sure didn't affect her appetite," he told me.
"What are we going to do if my mother gets sick?" his wife wanted to know. "I mean, really sick."
Maloney didn't even have to think about it.
"If she move in, I'm moving out," he told his wife, drawing a line in the sand.
"I'll miss you," his wife said, stepping over that line, "or maybe not."
Sadly, the story ended there.
"I've got to go," Maloney told me, cutting the conversation short. "My wife's home."
I smiled to myself.
Later, as I was retelling his story to my lovely wife in our kitchen, my father, who was sitting in the great room watching TV, must have turned up the volume on his hearing aid so he could eavesdrop, because he snorted in amused contempt.
"You can't help the stupid," he chuckled.
But you CAN help yourself to more nonsense at RaisingMyFather.BlogSpot.com, JimDuchene.BlogSpot.com, and @JimDuchene.