Norwalk, Connecticut Home

It’s 2am and I’m in the emergency room. I’m writing in longhand on the only hard surface I could find: a box of latex gloves. My mom is asleep next to me. I’m waiting for her to be admitted into the hospital.

It’s been a long night.

Things started out fine. My old friend Jake came by. It’d been a long time and it was great to see him.

He took me on a tour of Westport. We went by our old high school. It looked bland and two-dimensional. We went by a toy store, but it was closed. We went by several fitness centers, cause we both need to join gyms, but they were all closed too.

Not for nuthin, but what’s the deal with all these women’s-only fitness centers? We’re banned from over half the places in town. Is it that out of hand that it makes good business sense to kick men out altogether just so women don’t have to worry about us seeing their saggy, sweaty asses? And what’s wrong with guys that we’ve become so outnumbered? It’s a sad state of affairs.

Goddam yuppies!

We stopped by the Levitt Pavilion; an outdoor concert hall near the center of town that puts on free shows during the summer. My mom was there listening to a jazz performance with a friend. One of the guitarists was J. Geils of J. Geils Band fame.

Anyone remember him? Angel is a Centerfold? Freeze Frame?

I only stayed a few minutes, but I enjoyed the whole thing a lot. I enjoyed that the town puts it on for free. And I enjoyed that it was filled with people and there were kids running around playing.

Jake and I had dinner at Angelina’s, where both of us delivered pizza in high school. We regaled the waitresses with tales of our stunning achievements since leaving delivery boy life behind.

…Actually, we didn’t tell them anything and they weren’t asking. They took one look at us and that answered all their questions.

Jake and I are both unemployed in our late twenties and living with our mothers. I could flower it up with qualifiers, but that’s the naked truth. The straight dope. The brass tacks. The bottom line. After acknowledging this, I struggled to find some precedent that warrants optimism. I recalled Genghis Khan, who was also once unemployed and living with his mom. He went on to conquer the whole of known civilization.

So there’s that.

A cop walked into the restaurant and I recognized him immediately. It’s a long story and it’d take me a whole nother post to explain. The incident involved Jake and I being chased on foot through a parking lot along with another friend, Jessica. It was that same cop, speeding behind us in his police cruiser. Over the years, he started brandishing a gun in some versions of the story. More recently, he even pointed it at us. All I recall is a nightstick and some angry curses, but who am I to say?

Regardless, there he was. I’d probably be taking way too much credit to think he remembered us, and even more credit to think he’d care if he did. But I sure as hell remembered him.

After dinner, Jake dropped me off at home. It was about 11pm. I walked inside and immediately heard screaming from the kitchen. It was my mom. When I found her, she was lying facedown on the floor, bleeding from the head and hysterical.

It was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever seen.

Before I could feel my legs beneath me, I was calling 911 and asking for an ambulance. The voice on the other end told me to apply pressure and said the ambulance would be right over.

Mom kept screaming that there was a hole in her head and she didn’t know why.

I didn’t know what to do. I asked her when it happened and she said a couple minutes ago. I checked to see if the blood was coming from her ear. It wasn’t. I looked a little bit more, then decided maybe I didn’t want to. I have a well-documented tendency to pass out, and I was inclined not to risk it under the circumstances.

Mom didn’t want to be moved. She only wanted to stay right there on the floor. She wasn’t making a whole lot of sense, but she was clear about that one thing. I went to get her a towel and a pillow so she’d be more comfortable. I called my sisters. Jennifer wasn’t home. Kristin lives in the city only an hour away and I needed her. She can handle things. But she wasn’t picking up either.

Guess who came through the door right about then.

Go on, guess.

It was the cop who I’d seen at Angelina’s a few minutes earlier; the one who chased me across that parking lot when I was 19 and nearly arrested me.

Just one of those things.

The response time couldn’t have been more than three minutes, which made me happy to be white and moneyed.

The first thing the cop and his buddy did was order me to bring mom’s dogs outside so they weren’t in the way. With that taken care of, they went into the kitchen and had a look. The second cop quickly determined that there was a laceration on the back of her head. She’d fallen and hit something. They asked her what happened, but she wasn’t answering questions. They looked around for signs of impact – nothing obvious.

An ambulance arrived about a minute later and two paramedics came in. The dogs followed behind them. Barking ensued. I was on the phone with Kristin by that point, bringing her up to date. The cop said, “I’ve already told you once to get rid of those dogs. Either you deal with it, or I’m calling the dog warden to take them away.

Apparently cops and paramedics get bitten a lot.

I moved Hattie and Ruckus into the small bedroom downstairs. I didn’t manage to turn the light on inside. They were pissed off, but contained.

Mom was delirious and not at all comfortable with what was going on around her. She was grabbing onto whatever was nearby while they tried to load her onto the gurney. It was the same as what a cat does once it figures out it’s going to the kennel.

The cop asked me if she’d ever been to Norwalk hospital.

“Well, I was born there. So, yeah.”
“Has she been there since?”
“Umm…no. I don’t think she’s been anywhere.”

Here’s the thing. My mother hates hospitals. In her mind, and I think she’ll back me up on this, hospitals are where people go to get sick. Since my birth, she went once about twenty years ago when she sprained her ankle, and once after that for a physical that was mandated by her employer.

On the other end of the spectrum is my dad. As Kristin puts it, going to the hospital for him is like summer camp. He hops in a cab and checks himself in with an eerie zeal. It’s his thing. It’s what he’s good at.

My sisters and I are somewhere in between, occupying a space I like to call: sane.

Kristin stayed on the phone and walked me through finding mom’s insurance information and putting together a bare necessities bag. She was calm and composed throughout, which had me in quiet awe and kept me from falling apart. I hung up with her so she could get a cab to my dad’s place and ride with him to the hospital. Meanwhile, I looked around for anything I could do – which is difficult for me as I am not, by nature, useful.

The dogs were getting increasingly noisy and threatening to break down the door. I decided they needed to be moved to the upstairs bedroom where they’d have more space and some light, if I could remember to turn it on. I approached the cop and said, “Look, I’ve got to move the dogs into a different room and I can’t be sure one of them isn’t going to get loose for a few seconds. So if you see a dog running around, please don’t, you know, shoot it.”

He agreed not to.

The transfer went okay, considering. They were pissed, but they knew I wasn’t screwing around.

I went back downstairs and started looking for more things to do. The paramedics were still trying to get mom to settle down and cooperate so they could load her onto the stretcher. She was nervous and u pset. She started vomiting.

A lot.

Anxious for some non-vomit-related task, I picked up the phone and started talking to Jennifer’s babysitter. Jen was out at a play and her cell phone was off. I proceeded to tell the babysitter just enough details to scare the living shit out of her, without actually explaining what was going on. Then I hung up.

The reason I hung up was because a paramedic was yelling at me to put the phone down and get my mother a garbage bag to throw up in. I felt really dumb.

We eventually made it out to the ambulance and got mom loaded in. I went back inside for a few minutes to clear my head, then made my way over to the hospital. The problem there was that in addition to being very upset, I hadn’t been behind a wheel for the better part of a year and couldn’t remember which side of the road we drive on. There were one or two incidents and probably some very stunned occupants of neighboring vehicles, but I made it to the emergency room without hitting anything.

The whole time I was thinking about how I just got home two days ago – how my mom lives by herself – how I could easily have stayed out until midnight, one, two, three…

You can go crazy thinking about stuff like that.

Fast-forwarding a bit, mom’s out of the hospital and she’s okay. Here’s what happened:

She fell asleep in the living room with one of her legs balanced on the armrest in a way that cut off the blood supply. When she woke and stood up, her foot was still asleep so she fell to her knees. It wouldn’t have gotten more serious than that, except mom has this problem. It’s the same one I have. When she gets in scary situations, she forgets to breathe.

She was on the floor trying to take deep, controlled breaths, but it was too hot in the living room so she decided to make her way to the kitchen. She got to the sink and pulled herself up. She stood there for a little while before going unconscious. She fell straight backwards, hitting her head against the granite workbench on the way down.

The doctors did a CAT scan, an EEG, an EKG, and whatever else they could think of. Aside from the huge gash on the back of her head that required seven stitches, nothing was wrong. No internal bleeding. I took her home the next day. She was out tending her garden that evening and back at work before the end of the week.

There were a few minutes in the beginning when things were looking a lot worse.

So it’s been eventful here lately. So much so that I haven’t even mentioned Courtney’s wedding yet.

Courtney and I have been close ever since we met around age 6. It’s one of those friendships where you can move to the other side of the world and lose touch for years at a time, but when you meet back up you don’t miss a beat. It’s not about being at similar places in life or sharing interests – we’ve never had anything in common. It’s just a link that there’s no accounting for.

Actually, I can account for my part. She’s one of the most fascinating, engaging people I’ve ever met. She radiates strength and compassion. Everyone she meets wants to talk to her, listen to her, watch her — whatever they can get. And she’s smarter than all of us. It’s more the other side of the equation that I can’t explain. At any rate, she got married on the 7th and I scheduled my whole trip around getting home in time. I can credibly say that I wouldn’t have missed her wedding for the world.

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I’ve been all round this great big world and I’ve met all kinds of people, but never have I felt more white than I did in that church.

When she came down the aisle, it was the first time I’d seen her in two years. I nearly fell over. She seemed pretty excited too, but it’s possible there were other things on her mind.

Courtney is off in Aruba right now. She’ll be back in a few days, and I guess settling into that whole married thing. I’ll hopefully get to have a conversation with her at some point.

I should mention that her husband, Brian, is a class act. They’re one of the few couples I know that are as fun to talk to together as they are apart..

I went to the wedding covered in dog hair because of this thing.

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No amount of lint brushing could save me. I looked like a yeti.

A few days later, I got my revenge. I took her to the grooming place with instructions to “skin her.”

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We think she actually kind of digs it. She doesn’t look much like a collie anymore, but she’s less sticky and knotty and she has a much easier time getting at her fleas.

So I’m back in country. What’s changed? Well, for one thing, this place is a whole lot more paranoid than it used to be. Also, wraps are really big now. We seem to prefer having all food in cylindrical form.

Shaving technology has taken enormous leaps forward. The latest razors use humane methods to actually coerce the hair from the face without ever touching the skin. I don’t know how they do it, but it has something to do with fighter planes.

The commercials they play at the start of movies are now longer than the movies themselves. Folks, we don’t have to put up with this. We’re paying top dollar to be subjected to it and we’re a captive audience. Theaters only get away with it because we tolerate it. It’s time to take a stand.

By far the most shocking turn of events is that BP, British Petroleum, has opened stations in the Goddam Yoonited States of Murrica™. Of course, if we knew we were buying gas from those limey pricks, we’d ash our cigarettes at the pumps and blow them all to hell, but they tricked us by changing the meaning of their acronym to Beyond Petroleum. The fact that they call it Petroleum is still a really big tip-off, but apparently no one else has figured it out yet or we’d most certainly be invading London right now.

I’d forgotten how privileged my hometown of Westport is. I don’t want to do that affected backpacker rant about how much money we have and how poor the rest of the world is. I’m past that. I understand how it works. The thing that gets me though is seeing teenagers drive around town in Mercedes SUVs with GPS navigation systems. That’s way past frivolous, past excess. There’s something really wrong there. And this town is full of it. The parents are giving us the cars, but they’re not teaching us how to function. They’re turning out broken people.

I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean on account of it has pirates in it. It was great. Buckles were swashed and swashes were buckled. Johnny Depp dominates the movie as Keith Richards meets Long John Silver crossed with Hunter S. Thompson by way of Han Solo. I think he tries too hard a lot of the time, but I’ve gotta admit he was damn fascinating to watch.

Anyway, between the wedding and my mom’s head injury, the last few days have been memorable. If it keeps up like this, I may not need to travel anymore.