I was in Paris, waiting to undergo what promised to be a pretty disgusting medical procedure, when I got word that my father was dying. The hospital I was in had opened in 2000, but it seemed newer. From our vantage point in the second-floor radiology department, Hugh and I could see the cafés situated side by side in the modern, sun-filled concourse below. “It’s like an airline terminal,” he observed.
“Yes,” I said. “Terminal Illness.”
体育投注平台Under different circumstances, I might have described the place as cheerful. It was the wrong word to use, though, when I’d just had a CT scan and, in a few hours’ time, a doctor was scheduled to snake a multipurpose device up the hole in my penis. It was a sort of wire that took pictures, squirted water, and had little teeth. These would take bites out of my bladder, which would then be sent to a lab and biopsied. So “cheerful”? Not so much, at least for me.
体育投注平台I’d hoped to stick out in the radiology wing, to be too youthful or hale to fit in, but, looking around the waiting area, I saw that everyone was roughly my age, and either was bald or had gray hair. If anybody belonged here, it was me.
The good news was that the urologist I met with later that afternoon was loaded with personality. This made him the opposite of one I’d seen earlier that month, in London, when I’d gone in with an unmistakable urinary-tract infection. The pain was a giveaway, as was the blood that came out when I peed. U.T.I.s are common in women, but in men are usually a sign of something more serious. The London urologist was sullen and Scottish, the first to snake a multipurpose wire up my penis, but, sadly, not the last. The only time he came to life was when the camera started sending images to the monitor he was looking at. “Ah,” he trilled. “There’s your sphincter!”
体育投注平台I’ve always figured there was a reason my insides were on the inside: so I wouldn’t have to look at them. Therefore I said something noncommittal, like “Great!,” and went back to wishing that I were dead, because it really hurts to have a wire shoved up that narrow and uninviting slit.
The urologist we’d come to see in Paris体育投注平台 looked over the results of the scan I’d just undergone and announced that they revealed nothing out of the ordinary. He also studied the results of the tests I’d had in London, including one for my prostate. My eyes had been screwed shut while it took place, but I’m fairly certain it involved forcing a Golden Globe Award up my ass. I didn’t cry or hit anyone, though. Thus it annoyed me to see what the English radiologist who’d performed the test had written in the comment section of his report: “Patient tolerated the trans-rectal probe poorly.”
How dare he! I thought.
体育投注平台In the end, a quick prostate check and the CT scan were the worst I had to suffer that day in Paris. After taking everything into consideration, the French doctor, who was young and handsome, like someone who’d play a doctor on TV, decided it wasn’t the right time to take little bites out of my bladder. “Better to give it another month,” he said, adding that I shouldn’t worry too much. “Were you younger, your urinary-tract infection might not have been an issue, but at your age it’s always best to be on the safe side.”
体育投注平台That evening, Hugh and I took the train back to London, and bought next-day plane tickets for the U.S. My father was by then in the intensive-care unit, where doctors were draining great quantities of ale-colored fluid from his lungs. His heart was failing, and he wasn’t expected to live much longer. “This could be it,” my sister Lisa wrote me in an e-mail.
The following morning, as we waited to board our flight, I learned that he’d been taken from intensive care and put in a regular hospital room.
体育投注平台By the time we arrived in Raleigh, my father was back at Springmoor, the assisted-living center he’d been in for the past year. I walked into his room at five in the afternoon and was unnerved by how thin and frail he was. Asleep, he looked long dead, like something unearthed from a pharaoh’s tomb. The head of his bed had been raised, so he was almost in a sitting position, his open mouth a dark, seemingly bottomless hole and his hands stretched out before him. The television was on, as always, but the sound was turned off.
体育投注平台“Are you looking for your sister?” an aide asked. She directed us down the hall, where a dozen people in wheelchairs sat watching “The Andy Griffith Show.” Just beyond them, in a grim, fluorescent-lit room, Lisa and my sister-in-law, Kathy, were talking to a hospice nurse they had recently engaged. “What’s Mr. Sedaris’s age?” the young woman asked, as Hugh and I took seats.
“He’ll be ninety-six in a few weeks,” Kathy said.
Lisa looked through her papers. “Five feet six.”
Really? I thought. My father was never super-tall, but I’d assumed he was at least five-nine. Had he honestly shrunk that much?
体育投注平台More shuffling of papers.
“One-twenty,” Lisa answered.
“Well now he’s just showing off,” I said.
体育投注平台The hospice nurse needed to record my father’s blood pressure, so we went back to his room, where Kathy gently shook him awake. “Dad, were you napping?”
When he came to, my father focussed on Hugh. The tubes that had been put down his throat in the hospital had left him hoarse. Speaking was a challenge, thus his “Hey!” was hard to make out.
“We just arrived from England,” Hugh said.
My father responded enthusiastically, and I wondered why I couldn’t go over and kiss him, or at least say hello. Unless you count his hitting me, we were never terribly physical with each other, and I wasn’t sure I could begin at this late date.
体育投注平台“I figured you’d rally as soon as I spent a fortune on last-minute tickets,” I said, knowing that if the situation were reversed he’d have stayed put, at least until a discount could be worked out. All he’s ever cared about is money, so it had hurt me to learn, a few years earlier, that he’d cut me out of his will. Had he talked it over with me, had he said, for example, that I seemed comfortable enough, it might have been different. But I heard about it secondhand. He’d wanted me to find out after he died. It would be like a scene in a movie, the wealthy man’s children crowded into the lawyer’s office: “And, to my son David, I leave nothing.”
体育投注平台When I confronted him about the will, he said he’d consider leaving me a modest sum, but only if I promised that Hugh would touch none of the money.
Of course I said no.
体育投注平台“Actually, don’t worry,” I said, of the plane tickets. “I’ll just pay for them with part of my inheritance . . . oops.”
体育投注平台“Awww, come on now,” he moaned. His voice was weak and soft, no louder than rustling leaves.