Sunday, December 03, 2006
Back to Reality
It's been three days and it feels like three months.
My father returned from the nursing home on Thursday and I feel like a ex-con who just had his parole yanked.
Yes, it's his house and yes, he's my father, but I'm still feeling a little stressed.
The pick-up alone was a piece of work. I recently took over the retail beat and--wouldn't you know it?--Thursday was not only the day of my father's discharge, but also the day that the montly same-store sales were released.
So I had to get into work by 8 AM, bang out a couple versions of the story and then get on the subway and head out to Coney Island. Piece of cake, right?
I'm still struggling with the retail sector, so the story came together rather slowly and as I kept on slamming in the numbers from all the major retailers, I had one eye on the time ticking away in the lower right hand corner of my computer.
I think I turned out a fairly decent story, and I see now where I can do a better job next month when the December numbers. But I was wiped from lack of sleep, nerves and too much Diet Coke.
"Don't you wish you had taken this beat in February?" one of my sources said, when retail is dead and Christmas is just a memory.
"Oh, hell, yeah," I said.
But this was trial by fire and I think some part of me likes this madness. At noon I filed in the last version of the story and hopped on the train.
It was strange riding the N train out to Surf Avenue for what I hoped would be the last time--at least to visit the nursing home. I was looking at all the faces on the train: an elderly Asian man who was literally twiddling his thumbs; a middle-aged woman and her adult mentally-challenged daughter, who smiled and giggled like little girl.
Watch the Closing Doors
My mother used to work with retarded adults so I have a pretty good idea the difficulties that woman must be facing with her daughter. God bless you, lady.
The crowd thinned out by the time I got to the end of the line and I strolled at the boardwalk, looking at all the people who were out enjoying the warm weather. It's hard to believe Wall Street and Coney Island are in the same country, let alone the same city, but that's New York for you.
I looked at Cha-Chi's, a bar that claims to be the "home of Wild Women and Wise Guys." It's always been closed whenever I go by and I get the feeling it's been shut down for a while, which is a shame because it seems to have a lot of character, what with the cartoon mobster painted on the wall. I think that guy's actually wearing panties, but I could be mistaken. I sort of hope so.
Now I'm sure this is just a coincidence, but as my father departed Coney Island, Astroland is also heading for the last round-up.
According to the Daily News, "a big-bucks developer bought up the gritty Brooklyn amusement park yesterday in its bid to turn Coney Island into a sparkling new $1.5 billion year-round resort." Nothing lasts in this world, no matter how solid and immoveable it may seem to you.
I met Mary, my father's aide, at the nursing home and prepared to take my father him. It took him a while to say goodbye to all the nurses and fortunately he didn't try to feel any of them up.
My father was still very weak and he needed a walker to get around. Mary had gotten a car for us and we all piled in and headed for Bay Ridge. I thought I smelled something unpleasant and assumed it was the cab, which was in pretty sorry shape. We didn't know until we got home that my father had crapped his pants. Oh, yes, this was going to work out real well.
I hung around for a little while as Mary cleaned up my dad and got him into bed, and then I was back on the train, back on Wall Street, and then back out desk. The whole Coney Island ride felt like some kind of lunch-break dream, except the exhaustion and nerves were all too real.
I had one last errand, uptown, after work, to see my shrink. As I walked up 73rd Street I had to step around a homeless man who had stopped dead in his tracks in the middle of the sidewalk and started reading the Bible. He was so still he looked like a statue.
I told my shrink all my worries and fears about having my father home, even though we have additional help. Every time he gets up we all have to watch him for fear he'll fall down and break his hip. At night he tends to get up and walk down the hall to the bathroom. It can make sleep a little challenging.
On Sunday my sister came over to have dinner with my dad. We had to chop up his meal pretty severely or else there's a chance he might choke on his food. He was sleeping when I went back to get him for dinner and he was a little disoriented.
As he held on to my arm he leaned over and said, "I don't know what I would do without you."
I'd never heard speak so directly and it was my turn to be a little disoriented.
That simple sentence made the whole bizarro ride out to Coney Island worth the trouble. And if I ever go out that way again, I'll make sure to stop at Cha-Chi's for a drink. Even if they are shut down and that mobster really is wearing panties.