Blaine was an Ash/Craft client, an older fellow. That is to say, he was much older than I was then, but not necessarily much older than I am now. Blaine was six-feet tall, give or take an inch, and lanky. He stood erect and strode purposefully everywhere he walked. A cantankerous coot, Blaine called me Tom Harrison, a name he spat out in the tone of an exasperated third-grade teacher reprimanding the class clown for the seventh time in the last five minutes.
Blaine’s hair gave him an air of authority. It was thick, wavy and gloriously white. It was the hair of a highly respected retired judge, an elder statesman or a beloved English professor emeritus. Then one day, Blaine came to work as bald as a cue ball.
“I shaved my head.”
“Because I wanted to.”
Blaine’s supervisor got in touch with the people at the group home where he lived. “He insisted on shaving his head,” they told her. Why Blaine wanted to shave his head remains a mystery.
Gloria got me thinking about Blaine. At dinner one evening, she said she liked my hair. She particularly likes a spot on the back of my head where the hair is practically white.
“I wish my hair was like that,” she said. “Look, my hair is all gray, but it’s so drab. Your gray is really gray, and that white spot really stands out.”
Gloria is in her early nineties, nearly thirty years older than I, and she is jealous because my hair is grayer and whiter than hers. Maybe I should shave my head.
I had just stepped out of the shower Thursday afternoon, when someone came knocking at my door.
“Ken from Convalescent Care.”
“I’m going to need a few minutes to get dressed,” I said.
And as I dressed, a profanity laced tirade echoed in the empty chamber that is my mind. “That (lengthy list of deleted expletives) idiot. Why in the hell didn’t he call and let me know he was coming? How (expletive deleted) inconsiderate is that? Does he think I’ve nothing better to do than sit in this (expletive deleted) room all day in case some (expletive deleted) jerk happens to drop by?”
Fifteen minutes later, I was, if not nattily attired, at least appropriately clad for receiving company, and Ken knocked again. I refrained from telling him the things I’d been saying about him, because he had come about my wheelchair. The wheelchair’s brains are in its joystick unit, and it has been malfunctioning from time to time. The last time Ken was here, I gave him my insurance information and Dr. McKee’s name and phone number at the Cleveland Clinic – it was Dr. McKee who prescribed the wheelchair in the first place. Ken said Dr. McKee had sent them a prescription for a new joy stick unit.
“The problem is,” he said, “it’s going to cost you nine hundred dollars out of pocket. According to the insurance company, you haven’t used your insurance this year, so your cost will include all your deductible.”
“Au contraire,” I said, or words to that effect. “I went to the Emery Clinic in January to refill my baclofen tank, and it cost me over a grand because of the deductible. Let me see. Here it is, eleven hundred sixteen dollars; the check to the hospital is dated the first of March.”
Ken said he’d get in touch with the insurance company and ask them to take another look.
“And can you give me your phone number again?” he asked. “I know I had it, but I must have lost it. Otherwise, I would have let you know I was coming out here today.”
I recited my phone number with all the politeness I could muster while thoughts of “You (expletive deleted) incompetent fool. You lost my (expletive deleted) phone number. That’s (expletive deleted). They ought to fire your sorry ass.”
Ken and I traded niceties as he left. Then I resumed lambasting him with all the profane and obscene words in my vocabulary. When I was done, I felt better. But only for a moment. It came to me in a flash: in January, my medical insurer was Medical Mutual, but on April 1, when I went on Medicare, OPERS switched my medical insurance to Humana. And, no, I hadn’t used it yet. Who is the (expletive deleted) idiot now? And I had to call him and admit it.