My sister, God bless ‘er, is, well, a bit of a control freak. She admits this, and of course I and my rather twisted family members take every opportunity to remind her.

Well. She’s taken the lead role in my father’s treatment, keeping track of the details, scheduling rides, asking questions of the doctors and basically staying on top of everything. Between her and my oldest brother, they have all that stuff covered. All I do is follow orders.

When I took Dad for his checkup yesterday, I had a list of questions she wanted me to make sure he asked the doctor. As I was sitting in a traffic jam on I-95, I realized I’d left the list sitting on my table. Damn! I called my brother.

“I forgot the list,” I said ominously. “She’s gonna freak if she finds out; you have to go over this stuff with me again.” I discovered that my sister, being my sister (and knowing me), has also made my brother write all this down – “just in case.” So I was covered. Whew!

The traffic jam is a little more persistent than I’d like, so I call my father to tell him I’ll be a little late. No answer, so I leave a message. I get to their condo building and see my mother in the lobby. I laugh to myself, because I know what this means: My father was waiting downstairs and never got my message.


It turns out my mother is accompanying us, which slows things down a bit; she has trouble getting in and out of cars. But we’re finally settled and on our way to the doctor’s.

I am five minutes late.

“Now let me ask you something,” my father says, with a certain annoyed tone I recognize. “Did you leave yourself enough time, knowing there might be a problem on I-95?”

I sigh. “Yes, Dad. I left fifteen minutes early in case there was traffic.”

“Oh, you had to ruin it by saying that,” my mother chimes in. “He was all ready to tell you what you should have done.” Oy.

Anyway, after we all shuffle into the doctor’s office, my mother says, “I’m going in with him, you don’t have to go.”

“Hey, I have my orders,” I tell her. “I’m not going to have her mad at me, I’m going to do what I’m told. Sorry. I’ll tell you what, though: If you ask the questions yourself, I won’t have to.”

As my brother predicted, we sit in an examining room for almost an hour before the doctor comes in. (The doctor does not wash his hands.)

While waiting, I note there is a framed certificate of attendance from a conference called “Medical Ethics in the Third Millenium: Christ’s Healing Love through the Gospel of Life.”

I am always at least a little wary of professionals who tout their personal beliefs; I suspect at least some of them may slack off, telling themselves, “Oh, what the hell, it’s God’s will,” much as the BushCo fundies have happily trashed everything they could because the Rapture’s just around the corner.

Maybe I’m wrong, but you never know.

So the doctor switches Dad from insulin to oral diabetes medication, I ask about his hoarseness, we’re done and we can head off to the neighborhood diner – where, like Cheers, everybody knows their name. There is much talk of hospitals, illness and death with everyone they meet, and I begin to understand that, at this age, everyone’s just a contestant in the game of “Survivor.”

My father orders liverwurst on rye with a slice of onion; the Greek proprietor, who brought Dad food while he was in the hospital, takes exception. “What for you want that Depression food?” he chides him. “I got nice roast chicken.” But Dad’s firm.

By now it’s almost 1 p.m., and I’m a little cranky from not eating. “Why are you so hungry?” my mother says.

“I eat breakfast at 5:30,” I say. It’s been…” I start counting off… “Seven hours since I ate.” No wonder I’m so cranky.

I cook dinner. Hot dogs, baked beans, applesauce, corn on the cob. My father doesn’t eat much; it’s the first time I’ve known him to leave food on the table.

The phone rings. It’s my beloved niece, my sister’s daughter. She’s coming over to see my parents. “She told me to tell you not to leave before she gets here,” my mother says. I really like this kid, so I hang around.

When my niece gets there, it comes out that, even though she was coming to see my parents anyway, her mother is, um, a tad anxious that she hasn’t gotten a report from me. (She didn’t specify that in my orders.)

“I knew it!” I say, laughing. “We’re going to have to make something up.”

“Oh, good,” my niece says. My parents look bemused; they’re used to this sort of thing. As I say, we’re a little twisted.

“Let’s see. When Grandfather asked the doctor about the oral diabetes medicine, the doctor screamed at him. He said, ‘I’m the doctor, you’re the patient. If you need to change something, I’ll tell you.’”

We are all laughing as my niece writes it down. “Aunt Susie, how about this? The doctor said he’s drinking too much water.”

We’re all convulsed with laugher, because my sister is always chiding my father for not drinking enough water. “Brilliant,” I finally get out. “That’s great.”

“Hey, I know my mother,” she says, shrugging.

I grab the list and add, “TOO MANY BOWEL MOVEMENTS” We all get hysterical again.

I know that I am going to hell.