Veteran’s Affairs–A Ring’s Tale (Part 3)

I sat upright as he looked around the room warily. “You’re in the hospital Mr. Flint,” I offered more loudly than necessary. “You’re in the VA hospital.” He looked at me, some lucidity trying to dawn.
“The VA,” he acknowledged. He yawned and shifted beneath the blankets. “You my doctor?”
“Well, I am one of the interns here. I helped your doctor last night when you first came in. You were in serious heart failure, Mr. Flint. Your brain wasn’t getting the blood it needed.”
“Since when is my brain getting enough blood? And don’t call me Mr. Flint young man. I’m retired. That Mr. Flint is retired.”

“OK, Myron then.” It felt strange to call a patient of his generation by his first name. He shifted in the bed to a somewhat sitting position and stared at the nametag on my lab coat.
“A Jewish name,” he suggested.
“What are two nice Jewish boys like us doing in a rotten place like this?” He laughed and I smiled. I knew it, I thought.
“How are you feeling?”
“Well, under the circumstances, not bad. I feel pretty good. Nothing like a good night’s sleep, I guess.”
“Your friend called the ambulance. He found you unconscious.”
“Ah, I see.”
“Do you remember last evening?” I asked. He thought a moment.
“I remember being light headed and laying on the couch.”
“Is that all?”
“I…yes, that’s it.” He shook his head.
“If you don’t mind my asking, your name: it sounds…”
“Not Jewish. I know. Some charitable bastard at Ellis Island relieved my family of Fleinzschutz or something like that. I used to know it.”
“Right.” I couldn’t wait to tell Pete.

“How long am I gonna be here?” he asked.
“I don’t know. Your doctors will have some idea tomorrow morning when they come around.”
“So, if you’re not my doctor, why are you sitting here? Not that I mind of course.”
“Well, I was wondering about something. When you came in, you…” I paused.
“I what?” He said, yawning.
“Well, you had a ring on your penis.” I shifted uncomfortably in my chair.
“A ring,” he replied impassively. “Oh, yes. Well, you understand I don’t do my best thinking at night. I wouldn’t have remembered it if you hadn’t told me. You know, those water pills the doctors have me on can create quite a situation. I have a problem with incontinence as it is and it can drive you crazy. I thought that the ring might help. I was really not myself, you understand.”
“Oh, I understand. It’s just that we had to cut it off.”
“Cut it off?” he responded, pulling himself up in the bed. “Where is it?”
“We had no choice. There was a lot of swelling…”
“I don’t care about swelling. Do you have it?” he asked, scanning around the room with his eyes. I reached into my lab coat and pulled it out. Leaning forward I placed it in his large hand. He stared at the ruined piece, nodding his head slowly.

“I’m really sorry.”
“Oh, it’s my fault, ” he said softly without lifting his eyes from his palm. “These things happen.”
“It means a lot to you.”
“It does. It did.” He closed his fist around the ring. “Is there some water I might have?” I walked over to pour a cup of water from the plastic pitcher on his nightstand. I handed it to him, and he drank it down in a single go. “In one end out the other,” he said, gesturing to the full catheter bag. I returned to my chair.

“Were you in North Africa during the war?”
“Yes. North Africa and Italy. He closed his eyes tightly and we sat in silence for several minutes. I was considering standing up to leave, when his eyes popped back open. “Did your father serve? Grandfather, I guess it would be.”
“Yes, my grandfather was in the Coast Guard.”
“The Coast Guard,” he replied, animated. “That’s a nice service. Did a nice job over there. Where was his boat?”
“They were mostly in the North Atlantic.”
“North Atlantic. Protecting shipping lanes. Very good.”
“I know they hunted U-boats and I saw some pictures of him with Inuit.”
“Oh, Eskimos.”
“Eskimos. Isn’t that something?” We sat silently for a minute.
“Would you mind if I asked you about that ring?”
“This?” he said opening his fist and considering the contents. “Well there’s no secret about it, but it’s a bit of a story. I’m sure you have more…”
“Oh, I am done for the day, so if…but I’m sure you’re tired. I could hear it another time.”

“Young man, at my age, no time like the present takes on a real immediate significance,” he said, sitting up a bit more. He sat silently for a moment looking off at nothing in particular. Then he looked at me and began. “North Africa.”

Tomorrow, Part 4

Published in: on May 24, 2007 at 12:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: