I think I saw a man die today.
I woke up today, first Monday after a holiday (not that it matters currently) and felt a little motivated. A little reason to get up and do something.
Of course, whenever I feel purposeful, it’s because I owe. And it’s time to pay up. So that’s what I did: Got dressed and headed to the bank.
I go to the bank the last week of each month and it’s always the same:
“Do you need a balance, Mr. Gardner?” New guy. The regular teller calls me “Robert.” Just like family.
My balance? Something for my moods, perhaps. Not likely they have that here…
“No. I’m good. Checked it before I came. Thank you.” Besides, it’s never more than what I expect. Save the surprises for Christmas.
“OK, sir. How would you like that?”
“All big, but the last hundred in twenties.”
“You got it. Do you need an envelope?”
“Nope. I’m only going to be holding onto it for about 15 seconds.”
They must think I’m a junkie. In a way, I am. I’m hooked on having a roof over my head. Smack-smack-smack…
And with that, I walk out of the bank to go get my fix. After literally 15 seconds drive time down Germantown Pike, I pull into the lot where I pay my rent. The strip mall shares parking with Friendly’s. I wonder: Has anyone ever set out to be a rude Friendly’s waiter? I am looking….
Anyway, I paid my rent and for whatever reason, I was thinking about death as I left the office. I know, pleasant. After I gave the girl my cash, I said something to the effect “See ya after Christmas.” That made me think of dieing??? As I pushed through the glass double-doors with the realtor’s name stenciled on it, I thought of Mom. Not lovingly, not fondly, not emotionally. Just a thought. Getting into my car, I remembered being sad when she passed. Bawling, in fact. But since then, I have not felt a ton of anything. It kind of just is what it is.
Does this make me cold? Does this diminish her life any? I can’t say either is true. People who know me might refer to me as “warm,” so I doubt it’s coldness. People who knew Mom remember her fondly. She was loved. But there will be no monuments, no engraved plaques, no awards in her name. Just memories; these will likely die when those of us that remember join her in the lasting embrace.
So what, then, is the point? Why all the toil and struggle? Why worry; fight; cry; long; hunger? Why care?
Today wasn’t supposed to be the day when I sat around pondering the meaning(lessness) of life. In fact, I thought I’d try to find some work even. Rent’s paid: a reason to rejoice! Tank is full: freedom of movement! Leftovers in the fridge: gelatinous gravy for sopping with canned biscuits! Life is good. Right?
All this death on my mind was “interrupted” by another thought: McDonald’s. Coffee. Mmmmmmm….. Some kinda breakfast McMuffin deal. Mmmmmmm….. Deep-fat fried potato-like thingy. Mmmmmmm…..
Fuck you, Death! I scoff at thee!
Pulling into the MickeyD’s lot, I saw a circle of people hovering over another person. Right there in the drive-thru. My stomach instantly double-knotted itself as the man’s violet face raced to my brain. I threw the car into park, got out, and asked,
“Do any of you know CPR?”
A group of women– restaurant employees– stood around the fallen man while a boy of about 14 knelt by his head. The women spoke in hurried Spanish and English.
“Has anyone called 9-1-1?” I implored.
“Yes, the police are on their way.”
“Has anyone tried CPR?”
I was certified in First Aid/CPR a few years ago for work. One of the things the trainer covered was how to ahndle the pressure of an emergency situation. Even though someone is trained, they may freeze up when it goes down. It’s human nature–fight or flight. And we’ve all heard the horror stories. A person trained and certified in life-saving tries and fails and is sued for the failing part. This scares off many would-be heroes. Nobody wants that…
What to do, what to do?
The man looked to be in his forties, maybe early fifties with graying hair and a thick, salt-and-pepper mustache. A large man, his round face grew deeper shades of blue. He was convulsing. A woman checked his pulse. I crouched to begin chest compressions when the police cruiser arrived.
Just as the policeman drew near, the boy reached under his father’s head, trying to lift him up.
“Dad? C’mon, Dad,” he pleaded. “Get up.”
A few of us, including the cop, told the boy not to move him. Without thought, the boy let his Dad’s head drop, landing on the asphalt with a thick thud. The officer quickly began asking questions and stepped in, pressing upon the man’s rotund ribcage.
“Has your Dad ever had a seizure before.”
“Does he have a seizure disorder?”
“I don’t know. No.”
The boy’s calmness amazed me. Here lay his father, unconscious and seemingly traveling from life to death. And the boy silently knelt by him. Another passerby had stopped and asked if anyone needed any help. She parked and stood next to me, sharing my concern for the teenager. We could taste the feeling of helplessness. It was not fries we could smell, but rather doom; despair. I asked the boy,
“Do you have family that needs to be called?”
“Yeah, I called my grandmother. I’m trying to find my brother.”
“Are you going to go with your Dad?”
“I don’t know, I’m waiting for my grandmother to come.”
“OK, if you need to go anywhere, let us know.”
A woman from the restaurant took the boy inside to sit down. It was probably best he didn’t watch as the officer labored to coax a beat from his father’s failing heart.
The ambulance arrived and myself, two EMT’s and the policeman hoisted the big man onto the gurney. I don’t know how they do this on a regular basis. The man easily weighed 300 pounds. Forgive the expression, but his was a dead weight. He could not make himself rigid to assist in the process. The officer grabbed two handfuls of his sweatshirt, One EMT had him by the ankle-end of his pant. The other EMT took him by the right arm and belt and I hoisted from the waistband and belt on his left side. The four of us were barely able to get him onto the gurney evenly enough to transport him into the ambulance. At the back of the emergency vehicle, his dangling left arm prevented them from getting him in cleanly the first time. I lifted his arm so the EMT could hold it in place as we slid him into the vehicle. Two other ambulances and a couple of police cruisers had by this point arrived on-scene.
I slowly backed away, thoughts scrambling in my head, looking for a place to settle and make sense. The feel of his skin became emblazoned on my mind. The cold, spongy flesh burrowed deeply into my consciousness.
The woman who’d pulled over wore an expression of desperate compassion. There was no mask to conceal her concern for the boy sitting inside the restaurant. Neither of us wanted to depart just yet. Until we knew. Something.
“I’m worried for the boy,” she confessed. “I hope he’s not in there alone.”
“He seemed to be ok.” My words offered little comfort. “I imagine he’s in shock.”
“Yeah, seriously, seeing his Dad on the ground like that.” An officer came through the door and the woman queried of him, “Is there someone in there with him?”
“Yes,” the policeman replied. “The other officer is in there with him waiting for his grandmother.”
“OK,” she relented.
An EMT walked out of the restaurant.
“Is he going to make it?” I asked.
“I’m not sure,” he shrugged. “They’re working on him.”
Yes, they were. The ambulance rose and fell with the emergency medics’ efforts to resuscitate him. It was clear there was a battle taking place within.
We had a hard time speaking, but she said,
“That was nice of you to help.”
“I just hope he makes it.” What else could I possibly say?
The flashing lights announced the ambulance’s impending departure. The EMT said they were taking him to Mercy, just down the street.
And with that, I got into my car and drove off. My thoughts on life, death, and dieing had a more-immediate feel to them. Not that I’m scared or worried or anything like that. I still feel the same way about it. But to have been given a glimpse, so up-close and personal, the timing, again, just seems odd.
Look, I’m an odd dude to begin with. I think I see shit all the time. I think I’m connected and all that stupid shit. Just read almost any of my posts here and you’ll learn that. But still, even if a person sets out to find signs of the Hand of God from morning til night, makes it his life’s work, there come times that jolt. Times like this.
I hope the man pulls through. Let’s just say he doesn’t. Will there be a statue? Will there be an engraved plaque? Will there be a memorial garden? Probably not. Judging by the look on his son’s face, though, it matters. His life mattered. Regardless of what he did before, he spent his last day with his son.
What happened after this seems rather insignificant at the moment. I’ll save it for another entry. Suffice to say, life never disappoints. I’ll give you a few hints: free coffee, Jimi Hendrix, and library books. You just never know…
I would tell you all to read, subscribe, and comment. But, then again, what’s the point? Instead of reading this, go tell someone you love them.
PS, I love you all. Thanks for reading.