“I can’t believe he hasn’t called back yet.” My father says, his voice slow and heavy with the weight of his misery. “I’ve left multiple messages.”
I have as well but this doctor is notoriously bad at returning calls and his staff, one overwhelmed woman with an edge of defensive indignation is possibly worse. Yet for two years my father has been under their haphazard care. We should have found another doctor by now, but my father is kind of haphazard himself.
“I’ll try again,” I say, hoping to get some answers but really just wanting to get off the phone and get something done. It’s been 28 minutes on this road with little if any progress. Really it’s been 20 years.
“Okay, but wait…” he stalls, hoping to drag out a little more time with me. “I’ve got these papers we should talk about…”
I hear some shuffling and the phone drops.
“Ow!”He yelps from a distance and I hear more scurrying about. I make an effort not to roll my eyes while compulsively unraveling my third piece of gum. It’s better than the ice cream tub calling my name.
This doctor has one last carrot he’s been swinging over my father’s head to ease his chronic pain. It’s a new experimental drug; one that’s supposed to be even more effective than morphine. He brought it up in October, scheduled the trial a few weeks later then abruptly canceled it. Now three months of hemming, hawing and wait, wait, wait has left my father as wilted as the carrot. Still, he’s chomping at the bit, always looking for the thing that’s going to save him. I wish I believed something could save him.
“Dad,” I call out, even though I know it’s useless. Still, I’m slow to learn that nothing about him or our conversations can be rushed.
“Okay?” I ask after a few minutes when labored, exasperated breaths signal his return.
“No,” Is his immediate response, then “Yes. No. Yes. Hold on, I need to…”
“Dad!” I cut in before he leaves me hanging again, “I’m going to call him now. I’ll call you back,” I say and quickly hang up.
With one breath doubling as a stress reliever and a confidence builder, I go to dial the doctor on his personal cell. Even though he has been irresponsible returning calls and giving information, I’m still embarrassed about using the personal number he gave me awhile back. It makes me angry. Why can’t people just do what they’re supposed to do?
Amazingly he answers on the third ring. Although he is clearly not happy to hear from me, after months of runaround, I finally nail him down to a day for the trial. Right before we hang up I think to ask the name of the drug. I can’t believe in all this time I never asked. But I actually can. Managing my father’s life is like throwing a sheaf of paper into the air. You just deal with the ones that fall in your lap first.
“I’m blanking on the technical name…” The doctor pauses and struggles until finally it hits him. I kind of wish I could hit him. “It’s Zinconosomething. Just look up Snail pain relief.”
“Snail pain relief.” I repeat and shake my head disbelieving. Of course.
The Universe always knows when I need a good laugh.