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At the Stroke of Three (standard:drama, 2602 words)
Author: WaltAdded: Aug 30 2006Views/Reads: 2000/1241Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
A man faces life after suffering a stroke.

Click here to read the first 75 lines of the story

Holiday, I always call him that since he looks a lot like Doc from 
Gunsmoke. But he is too young to have watched Gunsmoke and does not 
understand. He thinks I can not hear well just because I am 

"And my leg?" I ask. 

"Yes, your left side was affected most, Dad. But they think you should
recover most of the use of both your arm and leg. It was a good thing 
we were at your place when it happened, not by yourself in that big old 
house." Cathy does not like me living alone. She has been after me for 
years to move into an apartment or even a retirement home. But I do not 
want to leave my home. Everything I have is there. All my things, all 
my memories. It is where Nattie and I raised John and Cathy, it is 
where we had our family gatherings, where my three grandchildren come 
to visit and play. It is where my golfing friends come once a month for 
our dime and quarter poker games. I have my bird feeders, my flower 
gardens, my outside pond. It is all I have left now, and they want me 
to leave it for some soulless apartment. Never. 

"Is someone feeding my birds?" I ask. 

A look passes between Cathy and Robert but he answers, "Yes, Dad, I've
been over to the house every day. I pick up your mail and put out some 
feed for the birds." 

"The chickadees prefer sunflower seeds, not that mixed stuff. That's for
the doves, later, when it starts to snow." I hope the preacher knows 
the difference between sunflowers and the mixed seed and I am going to 
ask but decide to give him the benefit of the doubt. "Is there anything 
in my mail that should be paid?" 

"I'll bring everything over tomorrow and we can go through it, if you
feel up to it," Robert says. 

"Sure, I'm fine. Maybe you had better cancel the paper delivery for a
few days until I get home." 

"I stopped the paper, Dad," Cathy says. 

There is a pause in the conversation. I suddenly feel depressed about
this whole sad state of my affairs. My daughter has stopped my 
newspaper. Does she know how long I will be in this sterile place? Doc 
Holiday has not said anything to me about any prognosis - maybe he is 
telling my children that I will be here for a long time. I wonder what 
John thinks of this. John and his fear of death. How my only son grew 
up to be so paranoid about living, is something I will never 
understand. Maybe it was Natalie. Nattie. 

"Did you call your Mother?" I ask. 

"Yes, Dad. She and Dan are in Florida. She sends her best wishes." 

Best wishes. Not 'love', even after thirty years of marriage. I suppose
I had that coming to me. 

"John will be up to see you on the weekend," Cathy says. 

"The weekend. Is this Wednesday?" 

"No, Dad, it's Thursday," the preacher supplies. 

"I seem to have lost a day somewhere," I say, wondering which day it was
that I have lost. Sunday was the Grey Cup, the day I had the stroke. I 
probably lost Monday, although I really do not remember Tuesday. If 
this is Thursday then yesterday was Wednesday, not Tuesday. I give up 
trying to sort it out. It does not matter anyway. It is the tomorrows I 
have to think about. 

Over the next few days, my body is subjected to many tests. Blood is
withdrawn, urine is passed and gathered, shaken in test tubes. I am 
scanned and x-rayed, flexed, poked and probed. So many different 
doctors come and go that I cannot keep track of their names. One has a 
haircut like Moe, another looks like Curly so I began to look at them 
all as Stooges. Doc Holiday comes once a day but only offers 
encouragement and says that they are still testing. He is not very 
encouraging about my chances of playing golf in the spring, only saying 
to wait and see. Besides, he says, golf is not everything. He probably 
does not play the game. 

The nurses are friendly and considerate for the most but one old
battleaxe upsets my roommate, Joe, every time she comes into the room. 
He is older than I am and has also had a stroke. His speech is slurred 
and he has lost the complete use of his legs. When you are bedridden 
for any length of time, the bowel does not move as it should, so one 
day the old battleaxe gives us suppositories to aid the system. These 
tiny torpedoes work like magic bullets and I ring for the nurse to help 
me get to the washroom. Halfway there Joe starts yelling for the 'beth 
pan'. She leaves me standing there to go to him. There is no way I can 
wait and try to get to the toilet on my own. I almost make it. The 
'beth-pan' is late and there is a major cleanup needed in our room. The 
old battleaxe is yelling at us and using language that Robert would 
have been appalled to hear anywhere, let alone a hospital. 

I guess I yelled back, because once the room was cleaned and aired out,
the head nurse came to the room to scold me for yelling at Bernice the 
battleaxe. "You have to understand, Mr. Watson, that we are 
short-staffed and under a lot of pressure." 

"That's no excuse for a nurse yelling at us. We didn't make all that
mess on purpose." 

"Yes, well, I guess it was just the straw that broke the camel's back.
Bernice just had a mess down the hall and this one was too much." 

"Well if she had half the sense that God gave a gopher she wouldn't have
given us both the suppositories at the same time," I said. "It's pretty 
humiliating for us, you know. We're not here by choice." 

"Did you say Bernice gave you both suppositories at the same time?" 

"Yes, she did. And none too gently, either!" 

"She shouldn't have done that. I'll talk to her. I apologize, Mr.

She turned and started to leave the room. When I saw that she was not
going to stop and tell Joe that she was sorry for his mistreatment, I 
called out, "Nurse!" 

"Yes, Mr. Watson?" 

"You should tell Joe, too. Just because he can't speak very well right
now . . . " 

After the nurse left old Joe, said to me, "Thanns, Bobth. They forguess
that weeth still hoomans, sometimesth." 

Old Joe died that night. It was his third stroke. I could see myself in
his position, weak, unable to control anything, waiting without hope. 
Waiting to die. I did not like what I saw in my future. I began to 

Ten days after my admission, Doc Holiday said I could leave the hospital
next week and go home as long as I had someone to look after me. I 
refused to go and live with Cathy and Robert. I could not stay by self, 
although I thought I might be able to manage if I stayed on one floor. 
I could walk with the aid of a walker and was getting some of the 
feeling back in my arm. Robert had found a vacancy at the retirement 
home that his church sponsored and I was to go there with him on the 
morrow to look at it. I agreed, buying time, to see if I could manage 
on my own at home. 

Doc Holiday came with the bad news that afternoon when he should have
been in his office looking after sick people. They had found a small 
tumour somewhere in my head and were now considering an operation. The 
chances were that it was growing very slowly but it might have 
contributed to my stroke. I should talk it over with the family and let 
him know. It would be three or four weeks before surgery and I could go 
home in the meantime. I asked him not to tell the family just yet. I 
wanted some time alone to think about it. 

Robert signed me out of the hospital at 2:00 p.m. the next day for a
visit to Sunset Manor, the retirement home he and Cathy have found for 
me. The place was not as depressing as I had thought it might be, 
although there seemed to be a number of old folks just sitting around 
by the front door, waiting. I was introduced to the manager, the 
residence nurse and the staff who were working in the kitchen. I could 
move in next week, since they had a vacancy. As a favour to Reverend 
Robert, my name had somehow been moved to the top of the list. I said 
okay and we headed back to the hospital. 

As we were pulling into the hospital parking lot I said, "Robert, I
don't know what I'm going to do with all the stuff in my house. I can 
see that I won't need it anymore, but what will I do with it?" 

"Well, Dad, I suppose we can sell the furnishings at an auction. Maybe
you could give some of the things to John - he doesn't seem to have 
much in that new house of his." 

"Yes, I'll call him tonight. Of course, if there is anything you and
Cathy want, you just take it. I'd like someone in the family to take 
the paintings. Perhaps Nattie would like a couple of them." 

"That's awfully good of you to offer, Dad. We can sort all of that out
after you've moved into Sunset. There's no hurry to sell the house." 

"No, but I'll be worrying about it sitting empty. I am going to miss the
old place." I paused for effect. Robert is such a caring fellow! "Do 
you think you could drop me off at the house before I move to Sunset? 
I'd like a couple of hours by myself - just to poke around and look at 
my things?" 

"Sure, Dad, as long as you think you can manage. You won't try going up
the stairs with that walker?" 

"No. no. I'll get you to bring down my photo albums. I just want to sit
by myself for a while." 

So, John, that is how I arranged everything. I have said all my goodbyes
in one way or another. There really was not much that had to be said 
again. I have had a good life, done most of what I wanted to do without 
harming or hurting others along the way. I am sorry that your mother 
and I could not keep things together, but maybe that was meant to be 
too. I am not afraid of dying. I just do not want to spend my few 
remaining days either in the hospital or in a residence. But equally 
important, I was never afraid of living, and I guess what I want to say 
to you is that this life is tenuous at best and I hope that you can 
become more at ease with yourself and your small place in this world. 
Stop trying to run away from life John, it will soon enough be over.  
And please apologize to Robert for me. He is the one who will find my 
body when he comes in a little while. If he is as good a preacher as he 
thinks he is, he will be able to handle this.  When the clock strikes 
three, in about ten minutes, I will take that old shotgun you were 
always so afraid of and be on my way. Love, Dad. 


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