Thursday, May 11, 2006

Shorty's Ballgame

"Shorty" is one of my clients. Among the duties I have to perform for him are a little shopping, some light cleaning and assisting him with a shower three days a week.

His nickname is an oxymoron and is not limited to his stature. He stands at six-foot two and weighs in at about two hundred. The cartoon seen here is not a stretch when it comes to another of his attributes.
....You've heard, I'm sure, the cliche "He's got more dragging than I have hanging." Well, if the shoe athletic cup fits ...

No ladies, I won't introduce you to him. You see, Shorty is 74, and "Johnson" is but a limp lizard. He jokes that it isn't of much use except for swatting flies. I have neither witnessed nor have wanted to witness this feat. In his youth, this man could have been in the movies, and you know to which kind of movies I refer.

Shorty is a Korean War Vet, a recipient of a Purple Heart. He was shot in the head by sniper fire and was in a coma for three weeks. Although he survived, he was left with brain damage. Understandably, he suffers from some dementia, hearing loss and Attention Deficit Disorder. Otherwise, he can be as sharp as a tack and he has a great sense of humor.

The following exchange, paraphrased because I can't remember every word of the conversation, took place on Monday afternoon. (Please note, we joke around a lot.)

Shorty: I'm gonna watch the Red Sox game tonight with my friend Bill.
Myself: No game tonight. Tomorrow night - the Yankees.
Shorty: In New York?
Myself: The Yankees moved to New York?
Shorty: What do you mean? They are always in New York?
Myself: I thought they were in China. You know, the Yankee Clipper and all..
Shorty: Yeah, yeah. Yankee Clipper ... Joe DiMaggio!
Myself: Hey, wasn't he in that movie .. The Graduate?
Shorty: Huh? Of course he finished school.
Myself: Yes. He went to Mr. Coffee State.
Shorty: Oh, I get it. You're being silly. Ha-Ha!
Myself: Shorty, how would you have liked to wake up with that wife he had?
Shorty: (Clapping his hands.) Yeah, oh boy, yeah.
Myself: Let's see ... Um .. What was her name? Oh yeah, I got it! Marilyn Manson.
Shorty: You sure are dumb sometimes, Mike. Everyone knows ... Marilyn Monroe!
Myself: That's right, I remember now. She had that nasty skin problem.
Shorty: Huh?
Myself: Sure! Don't you remember? She had that "Seven Year Itch."
Shorty: She's dead, you know.
Myself: Well, you'd be dead too, if the only one you had to scratch your back was Arthur Mailer.
Shorty: You shouldn't make fun of dead people. You know that, don't you?

The conversation over, I marked on his calendar the game time and TV channel. As was the case at the end of everyone of my visits, he placed a crumpled one dollar bill in my hand. We aren't allowed to accept gratuities from our clients, but sometimes they feel offended if you won't take their money. I have gotten around the dilemma by bringing him a cup of coffee the next visit. I don't know for sure, but he just might know that his "tip" pays for the coffee.

In the event that you may think my joking around during our conversations is unkind or cruel, perish the thoughts. His Case Worker was present one time and witnessed our exchanges. She spoke to me in private later and complemented about the matter. She felt that our interaction was quite healthy for him. My joking and being less than serious was helping him to keep his mind sharp. It was a challenge for him to figure out when I was serious or just joking around. She sent a letter to my boss commending me on my original and clever methods in helping to improve this man's quality of life, if for only two hours, three times a week.

I never had the "heart" to tell her or my boss, that it wasn't a calculated method so much as it was just an accidental slip of the tongue one day. Well, it wasn't exactly a slip of the "tongue" ... He usually is just in a bathrobe on the days of my visits. On one of my first visits, he was sitting at the table having a bowl of Cheerios when I arrived. To make a long story short, or maybe it should be a short story long? Anyway, when he stood up from the table, Mr. Johnson decided to take a dip in the bowl. Without missing a beat, I matter-of-factly said, "Wouldn't a spoon be easier?"

First he, and then I, broke out laughing. From that day since, there is always a smattering of jokes and wise cracks when we chat. I think the Case Worker was right. There was something else I never told her or my boss. The Case Worker once asked me why he went by the nickname of Shorty. I replied that i had no idea. I couldn't have very well told her that he was hung like a horse. I certainly didn't think it was a good idea to tell her that he could use it instead of a spoon to have his cereal! Well, could I?

Perhaps one day she'll be surfing the web and come across this posting. Then she'll know .



Peter said...

Now that's a great story Mike, you deserve a pat on the back for helping to make shorty's days a little brighter, bloody well done.

Jay said...

The part about you dealing with his tip really warmed my heart.

Carolyn said...

LOL! You must have a really interesting job. Shorty sounds like he makes your day too ;D

barefoot_mistress said...

Wow, what a great stroy! It takes a special kind of angel to have the patience and giving to care for another....and you are that...what a joy you must be in his life!

OldHorsetailSnake said...

Fine piece, Hale. Isn't it fun to be funny?

jipzeecab said...

Thank God there are people like yourself assisting, bonding and laughing with the Shortys of our World on a regular basis.