Wednesday, June 9, 2010

OL's Friends

As I may have mentioned before, OL has a lot of issues with her one and only son. She constantly mutters that he doesn’t take care of himself, that his place is a mess, and that his clothes are old and ill-fitting. He also doesn’t take responsibility and help her enough around the apartment, and he doesn’t communicate well. Additionally, he is a bad planner, and consequently her funeral is not yet arranged, and he will likely be ripped off when he tries to ship her body back to New Jersey. As these complaints are a constant drone from her, I now tune them out as background noise.

However, last week she mentioned something new and different, and my ears perked up. “He has nobody!” She yelled out of nowhere. “No friends, no nothing!” I made a non-committal noise to encourage further elaboration. “Not like me!” she stated emphatically. “I have The Doctor and The Man.”

Let me break this statement down for you. OL has several peculiarities, but one of her most puzzling is the refusal to use proper names: “He shouldn’t have done that!” she tells me, and “he” could range from former President Bush to the guy in line in front of us to her own son. She doesn’t like to explain herself, so OL’s audience is mostly left with context to figure out exactly who she means. However, after months of OL exposure I’ve narrowed down the possible options considerably. About 60% of the time it is OL’s son, 30% of the time it is either Bush or Obama, and the remaining 10% of the time “he” is a random person she has recently talked to or read something about. In the above case, OL was pretty clearly talking about her son.

Occasionally, OL will deign to give someone a title. This is the case with her physician, a lady with an office several doors down from OL’s apartment, who really does take extraordinary care of OL. “The Doctor” is how OL refers to her at all times, even in the presence of other doctors. This was particularly confusing when OL was in the hospital, and answered many questions with references to “The Doctor.” When pressed about which doctor she meant, OL would favor the unfortunate nurse/specialist/case manager with a stern frown, and stress it again: “The Doctor.”

That OL should consider The Doctor a friend is not all that surprising. This lady occasionally stops by the apartment with flowers, organizes restaurant outings on major holidays for OL and other patients who have no place to go, and just this past weekend took OL to Red Lobster to celebrate her 89th birthday.

The Man is a member of the service profession who has also gone above and beyond the call of duty when dealing with OL. He is her favorite sales clerk at Macy’s. The Man is a pious Malaysian Muslim in his fifties. Despite rather heavy accents on both sides, often leading to mutual incomprehension, The Man and OL have a bond going back years.

He carries a picture of her in his wallet, brings her novelty t-shirts when he visits his home country, and occasionally calls to check on OL when she hasn’t been to Macy’s in a while. The Man does not own a car or drive, and when OL was really sick, he and his wife took several buses in order to visit her at home for a few minutes. In return for this devotion, OL occasionally brings him candy bars at work and harangues him that he doesn’t call her enough. I’m pretty certain that she does not, in fact, know his first name.

How this relationship originally developed and why it continues is a mystery to me. I mean, OL does love Macy’s, but why this adoration was transferred to a short brown gentleman with an accent is beyond me. Even more puzzling is The Man’s continued attention to OL, especially given their significant communication hurdles. The Pit, ever of a suspicious bent, suggested that The Man is somehow stealing from OL. However, unless The Man is a connoisseur of rather dated knick-knacks, I’m pretty sure OL has nothing to steal. I think the more likely explanation is that she reminds him of his own constantly complaining mother. Either that, or The Man is quite a masochist.

So there you have it, OL’s friends enumerated. You’ll notice the conspicuous absence of a certain Peachy on her list…there’s gratitude for you.

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