Sex is On Fire

”Could this thing be burning me?”

I looked up from my keyboard, my brow no doubt furrowed as I regarded my old man. The other day, his doctor thought he heard my dad's heart skip a beat and recommended he wear a portable monitor for a few days. My dad's been living with clogged arteries for years after angioplasties failed and he opted not to have a bypass, and dietary changes and homeopathic solutions have kept him going. But, he does occasionally get a chest pain when he walks fast, although he has trouble verbalizing it. Sometimes it's a stomach ache, relieved by burping. Sometimes it is a tightness, but he thinks it isn't his heart because his nitro spray doesn't work. I should point out his impatience, and the fact that he'll take a spray and continue briskly walking down a block, without resting for even a few seconds. If it doesn't work right away, in his mind that's not the problem.

So the portable monitor would take readings and allow the doctor to see what happens when my dad has one of these times of discomfort, which is good since there's no guarantee it would happen while he was in the doctor's office. It would help figure out a treatment and any lifestyle modifications. Honestly, I think my dad would benefit from the philosophy behind the old joke, where a man tells a doctor “It hurts when I do that.” and the doctor replies, “Then don't do that.” But my dad is set in his ways, stubborn, and a hard worker, so he's going to climb under cars, climb up ladders, trim trees, do carpentry work and more every chance he gets. On weekends and vacation days I can beat him to things or at least assist, but he gets bored during the week. “You want me to just sit in a chair and die?!” he'll snap if my mom suggests he rest. I recognize the fear of mortality there; he associates inactivity with death. So he keeps pushing.

Now, another problem with my dad is his fear of modern technology, specifically anything compact or computerized. The day I lost him in the Bronx for a few hours, he refused to borrow my cell phone. On the way to the gig, he wouldn't even talk to the band's drummer while I was driving. “Take it; I don't know how to use this thing!” he said, trying to pass off a hot potato. He was and--barring physical limitations like carpal tunnel, a missing rotator cuff, and arthritis--still is a damned good automobile mechanic. But he draws a line that he won't cross. With the phone, part of the problem is also his failing hearing.

The device he's wearing is fairly simple, and fits in the palm of his hand. There's a few electrodes attached to his skin, and he wears it around his neck. It only has two buttons, one to store data and another to send it. It's no more complicated than a digital watch or pedometer. But on Wednesday night, he was really frustrated. He didn't know what to do with it. He said the woman in the doctor's office explained it, but must have gone too fast or he wasn't paying attention. Likely, he couldn't hear her but was too embarrassed to ask her to repeat it. That sort of thing gets him in trouble a lot. And he won't get a hearing aid because he thinks batteries for them are super expensive or hard to change or some nonsense.

“My groin feels like it's burning,” he elaborated on Wednesday night, as my expression changed from confused to horrified. “Could this thing be giving me a shock?” I'm pretty sure those things read electrical impulses rather than deliver them, and even if it was going the other way, I doubted whatever button cell was powering the thing could carry much juice. I did my best to allay his fears, and heard him bickering with my mom in the kitchen a few minutes later. Soon, she convinced him to call the technician as the instructions he'd brought home had advised.

I tried to concentrate on my writing, but couldn't help overhearing. “Yes, my question is, could this thing be burning my groin? What? I don't understand. What do you mean, ‘not your department'? Okay, let me explain. Do you know what I mean by my groin? I'm wearing your device, and my privates are hot. Do you know my privates?”

Amazingly, the next words out of my father's mouth were not, “Hello? Hello?” Instead, there was silence, and then he repeated what he was told, “Okay, so then it's not this thing. While I got you on the phone, here's my next question: what am I supposed to do with this? She explained it to me but I don't remember what she said, and I don't know if it's doing anything, and I'm ready to throw this thing in the garbage!”

I decided at this point to leave my room and join him. The technician told him he needed to press the red “STORE” button when he wanted to save a reading, then hold the device to the mouthpiece of the phone and press the green “SEND” button, until the noise it was making stopped. He tried it, and got a single beep. “I can't even understand him,” he said loudly to my mom, “He's like some Spanish guy or something; why don't they get anyone American?” I was horrified, and certain the technician heard even though the phone was at arm's length, because my dad talks really loud. Both my mom and I made silent shushing arm waving gestures, as he replied, “WHAT? HE CAN'T HEAR ME!” I think the neighbors heard him. At a certain age, people just speak their mind, without any concerns about political correctness or politeness. And it's not even a racial thing, just a statement of fact, translated to “you shouldn't have an accent so I can understand you”. But you can't actually say that. I've learned that the lady who makes my sandwiches in Subway is saying “Toasted?” and not “To stay?”, but I've definitely seen newcomers and older customers make the same mistake I used to make. I guess the older we get, the less willing we are to adapt.

There were a few more failed attempts, and a few times I heard the guy talking and had to put the phone back to my dad's ear. The guy was loud enough that I could hear him, and his accent didn't seem that noticeable. Eventually, he walked my dad through the process, and I looked at the printed instructions to help piece it all together. He had to hold the green button for a few seconds, not just tap it. At this point, a loud screechy set of beeps like a fax machine or old school modem could be heard, and we knew it was working. “HOW LONG SHOULD I DO THIS FOR?” shouted my dad, as we once again shushed him so he wouldn't interfere with the signal. When it finally ended, the technician explained how he could reset the device by opening the battery cover. Relieved, my dad thanked him for his help and I helped locate the battery. It was only a 3 volt button cell, definitely not strong enough to cause a shock.

“Well, that wasn't so bad once he explained it.” my dad said. “And my groin isn't even burning anymore!”

Son, if you're reading this, I'm glad I was finally able to get my life together and make you a reality along with your mother, whomever she turned out to be. I hope you were able to meet your grandfather, and I hope you find amusement reading these old stories about him. Most importantly, since I'm probably his age NOW as you've discovered the old blog I kept when I was in my 30s, I hope I'm not having the same struggles that my dad did. And if I am, I hope you have the patience and good nature to help me. Could this thing be burning me?


Post a Comment

<< Home