January was quite an eventful month for me, to use British understatement.
On the 16th my Dad died.
The day after that I my left arm and hand and my right leg went lame. I could not hold a pen, fork, razor or walk without being in agony. Later in the week I was admitted into hospital with a suspected stroke. Don’t worry, folks, it turned out I had an inflammation on the top of the spinal cord, very successfully treated with cortisone.
All this medical drama meant I had to spend two weeks in hospital. Time to catch up a bit of reading. My local padre even brought me a copy of Brothers Karamazov, although I wasn’t really planning to spend that time in hospital, if truth be known. Ah, and the smartphone, the best friend of the hospital patient. Hours of surfing Facebook and watching YouTube video clips.
As for visitors, well, I had a steady stream, including Schatz and various people from church. I had advised everyone to check before coming to visit, as I was often (especially during the first few days) being whisked off to CT scan, MRI scan, endoscopy, ECG, etc etc etc. Why check first? Well, I refer the Honourable Gentleman to the answer I gave some moments ago. I didn’t want anyone to turn up when I had just been whisked away. And what if I already had another visitor seeing me? What if I just wanted to be left alone? Do I really need to explain the permutations?
In the case of Billy (Billy No-Mates) – yes.
Within minutes of my telling everyone by Whatsapp that I had been admitted to the local hospital, I received a reply from Billy:
What hospital? Which ward? What are the visiting hours? Have you informed the chaplain?
Shucks, it would have been so nice to see the words, “Get well soon.”
Billy could teach rubber-necking at the Department of Rubber-Neck Studies at Nosey Parker University. I did not want him visiting.
I do NOT want any visitors until further notice.
Actually, I was bearing false witness. I just didn’t want Billy visiting me. Sorry, folks, unkind as it may seem, his presence would not have been conducive to good blood pressure, nor would his tendenciy to:
- Talk at length about his recent circumcision op or his podiatry appointments
- Make sweeping statements about other people at church being like pharisees
- Drone on and on and on about how nobody was helping him with his problems
- Be the subject matter expert (“Co-Trainer”) on everything from German funeral procedure to Nelson Mandela to crop rotation in the fourteenth century
- Rattle on about any hobby horse of his but your own concerns
Fast forward to my second Sunday in hospital. I was on day four of intravenous cortisone. One side-effect of cortisone is it sent my blood sugar sky-high, making me very sleepy. Oh, and two weeks of hospitalisation had made my muscles rather weak, meaning I was prone to wetting myself slightly. Not nice when wearing grey shorts.
The time was 14:00. I had had a deep sleep after Sunday lunch. I was just waking up. Or was I? Was it, in fact. a nightmare? I heard my nurse say in heavily-accented English:
Ja? Room twenty-sree? Zat is ze room.
That was my room. I swallowed hard. Even harder than when I was given my endoscopy days earlier.
- Someone was looking for my room
- That person did not speak even basic German
- Someone who would turn up to visit me without checking first
Should I stick my sleep apnoea mask on again and pretend to be asleep?
Too late. Billy walked into my room and greeted me. Luckily I had climbed back into bed, and pulled my bedding up to my neck, thus hiding the fact that I had wet myself. Some consolation.
But I was still groggy. I had four days’ stubble. Despite the cortisone, I still could not shave.
Billy takes a chair and sits next to my bed. He proceeds to tell me he had found a flat, was getting a kitchen ordered, he wouldn’t have to move back to England, he’d proved everyone wrong, that the housing advisors from Diakonie were absolutely useless, and then asked how I was.
I tell a lie. He did not ask how I was.
Ginge in Germany:
Billy, I did ask you to check first before coming to see me.
Well, I did text you, but you don’t reply.
Ginge in Germany:
I was asleep. The cortisone sent my blood sugar up and made me sleepy.
Anyway, new flat… blah blah… kitchen blah blah… Bristol… yak yak… me me me me me me me. Monologue...
Ninety minutes of me, me, me with a captive audience. (I assume nobody wanted to babysit him after church service today.) Then my phone rings.
It’s Schatz. God has proved his existence.
Ginge in Germany:
Sorry, I need to take this call.
Billy gets up and leaves, telling me he’ll visit me again in two days time. (“Is that a threat?” I wondered.)
It’s always a pleasure to see my friends.
(Er, excuse me. From whose viewpoint? Not mine.)
I thank Schatz profusely for ringing me. Else Billy would have graced me with his presence till beyond teatime… bedtime… the Radio 4 Shipping Forecast.
I go back to reading my book about East Germany. Maybe I should lend Billy a copy.
He might then understand a bit more about respect for boundaries.
Have a respectful day, won’t you!