Monday, May 16, 2016

Chapter Four, Part 1: The Quest for Foster

In between the flurry of things going on that second week in November, Dad stayed focused on adding things to his Revised Bucket List.  He had always been such a positive thinker, and overall that remained the same, despite the obstacles and the hardships. 

Another thing about Dad that was unchanged was his enjoyment of sipping a cold beer at the end of a hard day.  Even in the ICU after his surgery, he started asking each morning if he could have a beer that evening.  ("Just trying to plan ahead!" he said.)

What do you say in answer to such a simple request from someone who is dealing with such tragedy, someone who is putting forth such effort while suffering and struggling so much, someone whom you love so very much?  The term simple pleasure took on a whole new meaning as we campaigned first the doctors at the hospital and next the one at the rehab facility to get permission for Dad for drink one beer at the end of each day. 

All of them gave the same answer:  as long as it had been at least a couple of hours since he’d had pain medication, as long as he’d eaten something beforehand, and as long as we kept it quiet.  I never quite figured out why Condition #3 was an issue, but we figured whatever it takes and smuggled in the beer for Dad. 

Dad’s favorite way to drink beer was in a can, and he thought it was funny when we wrapped a brown paper bag around the can for concealment.  His second-favorite way to drink it was in a cup over ice, which was handy since we sometimes had to stash a can or two somewhere in his room for a while before Conditions #1 and #2 were met, which meant the beer was hot when it was time to serve it.  As a bonus, a cup was great camouflage, plus Dad loved crunching the crushed ice, too.  We often had to remind him that the nurses and nursing assistants weren’t supposed to know about the beer; several times one of them came into the room while Dad was drinking his nightly beer.  “How’s it going?” one of the male nurses asked him one night.  “Great!” Dad said.  “I’m just drinking a beer!”  The nurse got a shocked look on his face and said, “You’re kidding, right? We don’t allow beer in here!”  Before Dad could give the answer that was sure to be completely honest, I said, “Oh, he’s such a kidder!”  The nurse laughed and went on his way. 

By far, Dad’s favorite kind of beer was Foster’s; he loved the big blue oil can that it came in and thought it was cool that the alcohol content was higher than a “regular” beer.  He was happy to have his wish of getting a beer each night granted, but he was thrilled when that beer was a Foster’s. 

Plotting to get his daily Foster’s became a major mission of Dad’s during this time.  In fact, as we drove up to the rehab hospital on the day Dad was admitted there, he spotted a Super Wal-Mart across the street from where we parked and commented that it would be so handy for us to run across the street after supper at night to get him a Foster’s.  ("Just trying to plan ahead!")

On the night of the third day after we got to rehab, my aunt stayed with Dad while Mom went to get the contraband.  Bad news: Super Wal-Mart wasn’t that Super – they didn’t have a single oil can in the whole store.  Mom drove up and down the street in search of a Foster’s, but to no avail.  She bought a Bud Light tall-boy instead.  Dad was grateful to get that, but he wasn’t happy when Mom told him about the shortage of Foster’s.  “I just can’t believe that they were all out of it!” he incredulously told my mom and my aunt, as if they were trying to pull a fast one on him for some reason.  My aunt later went to several other stores in search of the desired bounty and was told at several locations that the distributor in the area was running low.  “Huh?” Dad said when she told him the news.  “Why can’t they just make more??”

Nancy came to stay with Dad the next night and brought him two things that he really wanted, some chili from Wendy’s and a can of Foster’s that she had scored at a convenience store on the outskirts of town.  “This turned out to be a good day after all,” Dad told her.

Early the next day, I got a phone call from the scheduler at the Brain Tumor Clinic at Duke University:  Dad had been accepted into their program and was scheduled to be seen on the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  Again, I cried tears of joy and speed-dialed everyone in the family to let them know the great news. 

Over the weekend, my younger sister and her husband spent time with Dad; some family members who saw the news on Dad's Care Page about the quest for Foster's had procured a few stray cans of Foster’s, and Dad was happy as he savored one while he watched the Auburn football game that Saturday.   

Running concurrently with his campaign for Foster’s beer was Dad’s quest for getting a cat.  This quickly moved to the top of hisRevised Bucket List, and, around the time the area supply of Foster’s beer was running low, Mom agreed that Dad could get a cat.  Several of Dad’s sleepless nights were spent discussing what he should name the cat, and he finally settled on none other than the name of his favorite beer:  Foster. 

While my brother-in-law and Dad were spending some Male Bonding Time (“binding time,” Dad always called it) that weekend, Mom and my sister went to look at cats.  One had been hand-picked by a friend of my mom’s; he fit the description of what we were searching for in a cat – not too old but not too young, calm enough to sit in Dad’s lap, and good around dogs and children.  They liked him right away, and he was ear-marked for Dad as soon as Dad got home from rehab.

That Sunday night, I called Mom and told her that my mother-in-law had bought a case of Foster’s that she had found in our city and that I would be delivering the beer to Dad when I got there a couple of days later.  “Great, great news,” I heard Dad say in response when Mom told him.  “That, plus the cat – I’m coming out pretty well this weekend.” 

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