Eye Exam – Part 2
“Good morning, GC.”
I hear getting-up noises from his room. I go in without knocking. He is sitting on the edge of his home-hospital bed hanging on to one side rail.
“Good morning, Erin.” Always pleasant, always interested.
We fumble his pants on. He wears only scrubs pants these days. No need for pockets, or zippers. His clothing requirements have evolved. What once mattered: pressed shirt, pockets, clean drahw’ers. Now, NO TIGHT CLOTHES. Period. Loose and soft are all that matter. The man has the Body Mass Index of a chicken, but he wears only clothing cut for an mountain gorilla. Soft t-shirts, a fleece sweater, and scrubs that tie up. (Or don’t.) I have had to hem up several pairs of scrubs to child length so he doesn’t trip into his future. And by “hem” I mean “cut off with scissors.”
He slides his swollen feet into his hospice slippers. They are Skechers. They are substantial. Thick of sole, and stout of heart. No flippy-floppy, saggy-waggy, drinking coffee in your smoking jacket slippers. No, these slippers are full-coverage, grip bottoms, padded interiors, spill-disguising slippers. Entire nations could be jettisoned out of poverty if we catapulted them in some Skechers. (I mean, as long as they were countries where people still had feet. I’m not an animal.)
I wheel him to the bathroom where he relieves himself. He washes his hands and his face. He is fastidious and hygiene-sensitive even in the eye of this shit-storm. (It’s not literally a shit-storm. At least not yet.) I wheel him out into the living room.
GC: “Hello, cat,” he says as Mango serpentines in front of us, a leader with no clear concept of the mission.
GC, to me: “Well, did you get some sleep?” Always pleasant, always interested.
Me: “Some. I just need about three months’ worth tonight. Maybe I should take a cruise on the Corona Virus Life Cutter. I hear it’s quite relaxing.”
One by one I hand him his morning meds. Some are pills, some are liquid, some are inhalers. One requires a spit bucket. Today I forgot.
GC: “Where’s the spit bucket?”
Me: “Use the cat.”
I rinse out the bucket and sit on the edge of the couch facing him.
GC: “Why do you sit on the arm of the couch?”
Me: “It artificially elevates my importance. What do you want for breakfast?”
GC: “What did I have yesterday?”
GC: “How about pancakes?”
Me: “Perfect. Those are very different.”
He eats. Cream and brown sugar makes the medicine go down.
GC: “What are we doing today?”
Me: “Today we go get your eyes examined.”
GC: “How will I get there?”
Me: “I will take you in my car.”
He eats some more, and grows small and quiet. Transitions are terrifying for the ill. Moving a small, fragile patient from one vehicle to another is like having sex with a marionette. All these arms and legs flailing about that might or might not contribute, and might or might not get stuck in a poky place. The goal is to get the job done and mostly not get hurt. Like in college.
As before, I bundle him up, get him in the car, roll him in to the eye place. I transfer him from his wheelchair to the eye exam chair, and the doc angles the overhead goggles in front of him.
Eye Doctor: “Okay, Mr. Waugh, what do you see?”
Eye Doc: “Can you lean forward?”
GC: “Not for long.”
Doc puts a pillow behind his back.
Doc: “Okay, is it better like this, or like this?”
Etc. “One or two?” “Three or four?” Five or six, pick up the check.
The doctor writes my father a prescription for bi-focals, and I study it. I ask the doc about one of the sets of numbers. The doc pulls out a plastic cornea and squeezes it. He explains that because of his astigmatism, the numbers on the prescription have changed. Goo goo, gah gah.
Me: “Oh. Because his cornea is now it’s no longer a circle. Both length and width have changed. His cornea becomes more ovoid, more elliptical.”
The doc turns to GC: “She’s a smart one.”
For some reason, this bothers me. But GC has my back.
GC: “Of course she is.”
We go back out into the main area to pick out some frames and get fitted with Katherine. Katherine fits quite nicely.
Katherine, holding up the one frame we like: “Now these USUALLY cost $359, but today I’m going to give you 50% off.”
I don’t know why. I never know why. Why is there a mystery about the price of things? Why isn’t everything just marked the price it’s supposed to be, like a goddamn French fry?
Me: “Great, thanks. Gernard?”
GC: “It’s fine. I’m not trying to win any beauty contests.”
Me: “But you would, ya know.”
GC: “You got my credit card?”
Me: “Never leave home without it.”
We pay, we leave. Katherine tells us it usually takes two weeks, but promises to rush the job.
I’m an asshole, so I point at GC and say: “Some jobs are rushier than others.”
On the drive home, Gernard asks: “Would your mother like a taco?”
Me: “I’ll bet she would, but I’m going to buy her a doughnut instead.”
Home. I slide him into his Big Chair. The outing has exhausted him. 90 minutes start to finish, 8 chair transfers, and mostly his job was just to look at things. His eyes close.
Me: “How about you take a nap now.”
GC: “Great idea.”
Me: “Well, I AM a smart one, ya know.”
Epilogue: The rush job worked. We received the glasses one week later. We take them home. He tries them on.
Me: “Can you see?”
GC: “No, not really.”
Me: “Would you like a malted?”
GC: “That’s not a very good question.”
GC: “Of course I’d like a malted.”
Eye Exam, Part 2
From the collection “This Gernard” by Erin Waugh, 18 February 2020