Bill’s Case

by Brad Nelson6/9/16

The day before yesterday my 85-year-old mother fell and broke her hip. She’s likely in surgery for a partial-hip-replacement even as we speak. Your well-wishes are assumed. Gaining sympathy is not the point of this post.

Her physical prognosis is good. Long-term prognosis not so much because she’s an old, stubborn, somewhat vain person who will not use a cane. I’ve told her time after time, “You don’t want to live out the rest of your life as a hip patient.”

Well, the break wasn’t too bad and they will fix it up. If she’s willing to go through a little pain (reminiscent of our current cultural problems…generally she is not), she can be up and walking again in as little as a couple of weeks. The wonders of modern medicine. But medicine can’t always save us from ourselves.

Spending time in the emergency room is no picnic but is becoming somewhat routine. This is my third time with her in the last couple of years and this time at least wasn’t bedside hell. I won’t go into the details. But “the greatest generation” is sure a cranky one. I get the same story from others with elderly parents.

So, juggling work and ER time (and hospital visitation time..and even blogging time) is no picnic. And whatever is going on, the tomatoes must stay watered. Thankfully some other family members and friends have picked up the slack, including her wonderful pastor, and have spent much time visiting her in the hospital. If I ever went to church, I could do worse than attend this pastor’s church. But going to the same church as my mother is not an option.

Well, when it rains it pours. I was out taking a breather yesterday afternoon, watering my garden (which is outside my office) when the neighbor from across the street calls me over. He lost his wife recently. They were a cute, although somewhat odd, couple. A few weeks ago, Bill gave me a set of four plants he had received as a bereavement gift. He had no use for them. Being right across the street from my jungle, he knew I could likely use them so he offered them up to me. I’ve given him some of my tomatoes in the past as well. I planted the lily (one of the four) in plain site of his front window in honor of his wife. The other plants I had to find room for here and there.

Anyway, I know Bill in passing but not much more than to say “Hello, how about this weather?” But he flags me down yesterday from across the street and I came over to see what he wanted. Bill told me he didn’t know where he was supposed to be or where he lived…this while standing in front of his house in his front yard. He didn’t know where his wife was. He didn’t know what he was supposed to be doing in his life. And those are about the exact words that he used.

I may be a friendly neighbor, but those are big questions and above my pay grade. He was very friendly and cordial about his state of confusion and he knew he was confused. He wasn’t panicking. It was a matter-of-fact conversation as I tried to assess what was going on. He seemed stable and in no discomfort. He just seemed simply to have a sudden case of amnesia.

I looked inside his wallet (with his permission) for a name of someone I could call. I found the card of his pulmonary doctor and gave their office a call to see if they knew anything perhaps about any medicines he was taking (or not taking) that could be the cause of this…or perhaps who to call before resorting to 911. Of course, the person in the pulmonary office was of little help.

So I called 911 (as I had for my mother the day before) and told Bill that some people were coming to try to sort things out a little. While waiting, I chatted with Bill and he told me some details of his life. He worked in a community college for 17 years or so, although I’m not sure in what capacity. This was after he had retired from the Navy where he served on several ships. He was then, as he usually did, wearing a navy blue Navy cap with gold scrambled eggs on it and the name of some ship. His stories were lucent although punctuated here and there by some oddities. But he was in good spirits as he told me of his life.

And when the paramedics came after about 10 minutes, Bill told them that he had tripped inside his house. (He knew at this point, I guess, that he was standing in front of his house.) He had no visible signs of trauma and I overheard the paramedics saying his O2 levels were fine. I hung around a while and answered a few questions, but I knew very little about Bill. The paramedics simply wanted to know if this behavior for Bill was normal. And I was a bit chagrined because, yes, the man is a little odd under normal circumstances. But I didn’t know what normal was for him.

In retrospect, it could be that this was the normal. I have no idea how much his wife might have been steering him in the right direction, keeping him on the strait and oriented. Perhaps he had gradually become like this and she smoothed things over and Bill thus always knew his place, where he was, and what he was supposed to do. I have no idea. I told the paramedics I barely knew him, which was true. I couldn’t tell them what was truly normal for Bill.

But how many people look you square in the eye and tell you, “I don’t know where I’m supposed to be and what to do with myself”? And Bill’s case is Bill’s case. This may be how he is now or perhaps he had a sudden medical issue. I hope to find out next time I see him. But I can’t help thinking that this kind of amnesia and incoherence is being thrust upon us by a Progressive culture as a supposedly good and normal way to be. For Bill, it may be something to endure. For the rest of us, why did we choose such incoherence? Why are we intentionally forgetting our own cultural past? Who can tell the future Bills which way is up if we all are confused?


Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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16 Responses to Bill’s Case

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    Could be some sort of health issue. My paternal grandfather had his near-term memory blitzed by an infection that cost him a leg. I remember seeing him at his wife’s funeral, asking where she was. I decided I would never go back there again while he was alive, to see him like that.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      When you go to a hospital, you see a number of people in a very sorry state. Much of that is just the result of old age or an accident. Some is the result of unhealthy living. But it’s all pitiable. It’s all “there but for the grace of God go I” stuff. And, more than likely, we will be there ourselves.

      It can be hard to be around people who are incoherent. In Bill’s case, he was just a confused and sweet old man. It would have taken a stone heart indeed not to come to his aid. Still, there’s a deep metaphor there, at least for me, about the state of our society.

      To Bill’s great credit, he knew he was lost. But a man pretending to be a girl and competing against girls in organized sports perhaps doesn’t know he is lost. All of the supposed adults around him should know that he is lost and steer him accordingly. They should do so with a certain amount of compassion and gentleness, but with always a firm boot waiting to deal with those who are simply cultural anarchists or graffitists and are not, like Bill, simply lost.

      We ought to stop the world and find ways of helping the Bills in this world. Unfortunately, the compassion business is thoroughly corrupt. I know of no conservative who doesn’t think that people in truly dire and helpless situations shouldn’t receive help. We have (or had until we blew it all entitlements, welfare, and such) plenty of resources to help the truly needy.

      But the Left, perhaps backed by Beelzebub, has defined “truly needy” in a way that the “needy” are anyone the Left and the Democrats can use as a battering ram against Western Culture and ensnare and purchase as a voting constituency. There has never been a sincere and well-focused attempt to help the poor, including the plans of idiot Paul Ryan. In order to help “the poor” you first need to not hurt them, you have to actually help them, and also not waste the money of the people (taxpayers) who foot the bill. These aspects are forgotten.

      And you have to have an eyes-wide-open understanding of human nature, as well as how easily the politics corrupts any “do-gooding.” We are incapable right now of having a conversation about this at a societal level. We waste billions, if not trillions, of dollars and do damn little to help the Bills of the world.

      I’m not saying Bill is an angel. Anyone can be corrupted by government hand-outs. There is often no clear-cut division between the moochers and the genuinely needy. And the genuinely needy can very easily be turned into moochers. But if this is a man incapable of taking care of himself because of mental difficulties, a truly compassionate society would lock up the likes of Obama (and Paul Ryan) and take a sane approach so that money is available for services for those who genuinely need it and deserve it while the corrupt existing do-gooder establishment is dismantled and the funds put to better use (including returning much of it to the taxpayers).

      But man’s nature is so corrupt in this regard, it is an almost impossible task for government and the corrupt, selfish, and mooching citizenry. Only a good people stand any chance of using government for true charity.

  2. pst4usa says:

    Your point is very well taken Brad. That was very kind of you to try to help this man out by the way, that should not be worthy of praise, but today it is. Your point about who will be there for our youth in there so called golden years. I know, it’s the government, they will do it. What is wrong with us? The answer to that question is obvious.
    Only a good people stand a chance of taking care of each other, no other kind can even take care of themselves.
    You’re a good man Brad, but don’t worry, if asked I will deny I ever said that.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Elizabeth and I figure that neither of us could manage without the other. And what happens when one of us dies? This is one reason we’re thinking about some form of assisted living.

      • pst4usa says:

        Sandy, (my wife), and I have an agreement that I get to go first, because I could not make it without her, she on the other hand will be fine without me. She denies the agreement of course, but that is how I remember it.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      You’re a good man Brad, but don’t worry, if asked I will deny I ever said that.

      Silly you. Don’t you know, Pat, that “good” is defined now by whether or not you march in the sexual-perversion-of-the-day parade?

      I don’t consider myself a good man. I know good people, and you are one of them. I think Glenn and Deana are others, and that’s not an exhaustive list. There is “sociable” and then there is “good.” I think “good” is more proactive.

      And unlike the Left, I don’t intend to use Bill as a mere token, a puppet to show the bleedin’ world how supposedly compassionate I am. A compassionate person would have known Bill was lonely and visited him, maybe regularly brought him some food or treats.

      But I may be “good” in that I don’t actively go out there and cause grief for the Bills of the world as so many do (often through good intentions, mind you). Bill is, for me, just another of those little incidents in life that are interesting to write about. You have to be kind because that’s the decent thing to do. But unlike St. Francis, that is not a place where I want to live. Bill is in the low-rent district. You need a weed-eater to get your way from his front door to his kitchen. Boxes and detritus are stacked everywhere. It’s a relatively clean mess. But still.

      I don’t rise to the level of being my brother’s keeper. But I will at least not be his unkeeper.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Tolkien commented in The Hobbit that the dwarves were good people as long as you didn’t expect too much from them. I think the same thing if more or less true of me — and evidently you as well.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          LOL. Yeah. I’m a dwarf. And, really, the world would instantly be a near paradise if we were all dwarves, if we all just didn’t go out of our way to cause trouble and mess things up.

          Yes, we can admire those who go the extra mile. And we should probably all try to do that…at least go the extra quarter mile. But most of the problems of our world are, as Pascal noted, because someone can not sit quietly in a room. In essence, trouble has a way of bubbling out of some people and they need to learn to cork it.

          • Anniel says:

            I have no desire to be a “kept” woman. Not even by Bear. I think I’m supposed to be a help “meet” for him, not his slave, but his equal.

            Remember it was not God who proposed to Cain that he should be his brother’s keeper. It was Cain in his arrogance who questioned God. God’s answer was that Abel’s blood cried to Him from the ground, and then His judgment on Cain’s remaining time on earth. Which Cain said was too hard for him to bear. Maybe he was the first snowflake who needed a safe place.

            On February 27, 2014 the big O proposed from the White House his Brother’s Keepers Education Initiative. Funded for a Billion dollars. There are those today who still get all ga-ga over it and claim great success for the blacks in the program, and the reality is — the money all went somewhere else. What else is new?

            God’s way is to love our neighbors as ourselves, so we don’t rise up against each other.

            Brad, you took an opportunity to serve someone else, not make him your prisoner or to show how great you are. Good for you, sincerely meant.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Ah, shucks. You’re swell, Annie. Funny thing is, with so much “for show” stuff that advertises itself loudly as “compassion,” it’s genuinely difficult to write about this kind of stuff. That’s how much the Left has polluted the waters. It used to be the expected thing to do the right thing.

              I might have been more in tune with the culture had I yelled back at Bill from across the street, “Hey…I pay my taxes. Call 911 if you need help.” This is, after all, what I think is the general Zeitgeist that has developed in anyone under 40…and perhaps above that age as well.

              I was genuinely surprised yesterday to hear from a good friend of mine — one who has a very solid religious background (JW) — pine for the socialism of some of the African countries because (wait for it) the government provides internet access…instead of all those corrupt corporations who all have their different standards and such and want to hook you into buying their product (what you or I might call the blessing of choice as provided by the free market).

              Oh, Jesus H. Christ. And I think I can say that because those who claim to be adherents of Jesus are taking his name in vain a thousand times a day. Rarely does someone encapsulate the thing the drives socialism, the desire for government to make decisions for us.

              That is not a human condition I wish to share. Calling for help is a good and necessary thing sometimes. I’m not going to move in with Bill and set his life straight. I don’t have time for that. There is a place for state services. I’m not an anarchist. If Bill’s case is a permanent thing, he needs help. Ideally, a family should supply that. But if he has no family left or willing?

              Bill’s Case is our case. Socialism (including and especially Social Security) has ripped apart the family. And much like the dirty little secret that public schools are daycare facilities so that both parents can “seek fulfillment” in the marketplace of employment, Social Security is about freeing children from the need to take care of their parents. And given my situation at the moment, I can fully understand that desire. Parents are a pain in the ass. Has it always been this way? Don’t we all picture Aunt Bee as the model for a seasoned citizen probably sweet to the end?

              In reality, what a cranky generation that is aging to the abyss today. But perhaps it has always been thus. But don’t these Christians actually believe their religion in that life is not the end and better things are to come? Apparently not. With my mother, it’s hard to say the Christ is anything but a superstition or crutch. I’ve never seen religion be much more than a means to beat other people over the head with it.

              Bill’s Case reminds me once again there is something that binds us, or should bind us, beyond our petty gripes. And it’s a reminder, at least for me, that analogous to conservatism being but an identity, so can it be with Christianity. In many way’s Bill’s Case is a relief, pathetic though it may be, from the normal corruption of human beings. Who hasn’t looked on the face of a handicapped person and seen that rare kind of unselfconscious joy? Yes, it is often paired with heart-breaking bouts of anger or despair. Bill had/has that kind of innocence. He is a bit of a Mr. Magoo type of man in his demeanor, at least as I’ve always known him and his wife.

              A friend’s dog died recently and he told me “I have more feelings for the dog than for the passing of my own father some years back.” Despite all the large kumbaya shouting from the Left, actual and real human sympathy is a fragile and somewhat rare thing. “The Family of Man” makes for a catchy slogan, but most people we would not want in our own family…including some who are in our own family.

              Bill’s Case reminds me of the handicapped man of about the age of 35 or so who walks with a very unpleasant and painful-looking gait. But I see him walking on the sidewalk of the same busy 4-lane main thoroughfare through town. Silly people complain about the discomforting pea they can feel through 14 levels of mattress. Walk in this man’s shoes, if you can call it a walk.

              Condensed down, this rambling could be translated as: Pessimism is justified in the case of man’s character. But it’s oh-so-nice to find a piece of innocence or decency (perhaps benevolent normality) even if packaged in a dire or pathetic case.

  3. Timothy Lane says:

    One thing I want to point out is that we (especially Elizabeth) receive a lot of help from friendly people who see how difficult it is for us (especially Elizabeth) to get about. Some of this comes from members of Elizabeth’s church, or medical personnel (they brought out wheelchairs to help both of us going to and from dermatology yesterday), but also many ordinary people who see someone who could use a little help. This includes a neighbor named Andrew who has done a lot of yardwork — gratis — for us recently.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      There are a lot of Good Samaritans out there. And it’s a reminder of Luke 13:26:

      Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ And he will answer, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers.’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves are thrown out.

      Sometimes the Samaritans are awfully confused about their politics and such. As Dennis Prager notes, there are even good atheists. But, by and large, you don’t become a Good Samaritan by reading Alinsky. And it’s a reminder that God will call his own. The label and identify of “Christian” might be worth not much more than the paper it’s printed on for many people. Others, outside of that label, act on the deeper principle even if they think of themselves as something else and might even be useful idiots for other evils. Many Catholics are particular schizophrenic in this regard.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I was out watering the garden and some fellow crosses the street and asks, “Are you the printer guy?” I answered in the affirmative.

    This was the son of Bill informing me that Bill had passed away in his sleep at the hospital recently. The son was up from libtard California (he told me a little about their death panels) taking care of some details.

    And he filled me in on a number of details on Bill’s life, and death. The main reason (besides age, which gets us all unless you are a victim of Obamacare) for Bill’s distress which sent him to the hospital (in June, via my 911 call) was because for some reason he had stopped using his oxygen.

    I didn’t know that he was on bottled oxygen. But he was. And he just decided to stop using it. Perhaps he wanted to follow his beloved Louise into that sweet goodnight. Louise had passed earlier this year and quite suddenly. Men who have long been attached to their wives often follow close behind them in the relatively rare case that the wife passes first.

    His son, also named Bill (Bill II), confirmed what his father had told me while I was chatting with Bill I on his stoop waiting for the paramedics. He had indeed retired from the Navy. He served on the USS Coral Sea. He was apparently there for both its commissioning and decommissioning. Bill I had earned the nickname “Wet Dog” because of the time he fell off the transom into the water while taking a cigarette break. I wasn’t clear on whether he was sneaking a butt (that is, whether the smoking light was on or off).

    Bill indeed retired from the Navy and then (as he had told me) worked at a community college. He was fuzzy at the time (in June) about what he did there though. But I found out from his son that he was a computer geek. He taught a class in computers at the community college. His son (Bill II) is also in computers. He specializes in networking and works for an Indian casino down in California.

    Bill’s oxygen content was down to “60” when the paramedics measured his O2 levels back in June. Bill II said that 85 was the bare minimum before brain damage occurred. This then is the explanation for Bill’s lack of coherency in the event from June. And he never recovered. He was in the hospital for 60 days and then passed. His son told me that even on full oxygen, his lungs just weren’t absorbing enough.

    When you tip your glass tonight, have one for Bill. As his son said, he lived a good life. His son told me (with no prompting from me, can you believe it?) that his father wasn’t one of those kind of people who lived life for today with no thought to what the next generation would inherit. His son, at first glance during a brief meeting, seemed a testament to that.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Oxygen acquisition has been one of my potential problems. When I had an anal fistulectomy back in 1987, they made sure I could get adequate oxygen lying on my stomach. When I was in the hospital in January 2012 over my pulmonary edema (a symptom of massive general edema which left me with a blood pressure of 195/148), they had me on oxygen for at least a day (and it was unpleasant due to drying out my nose).

      But Bill’s is certainly a sad story, at least for the end of his life. Was he with the Coral Sea (an aircraft carrier, I believe) for its entire existence? It seems hard to believe.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Well, given your memory for details and literary trivia, I’m pretty sure you’re getting your oxygen.

        He was with the Coral Sea carrier. CV-43 was commissioned October 1, 1947 and decommissioned April 28, 1990.

        According to Wiki,

        Before 8 May 1945, the aircraft carrier CVB-42had been known as USS Coral Sea; after that date, CVB-42 was renamed in honor of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the late President, and CVB-43 was named Coral Sea.

        Bill may well have been there for the decommissioning of CVB-42 and the commissioning of the new one. Or some combination thereof. It doesn’t seem likely he was with the one ship throughout its life. But you never know.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          According to Jane’s Fighting Ships of World War II, the Franklin D. Roosevelt was launched on April 29, 1945, and Coral Sea nearly a year later. (Launching is not completion, but I believe it generally does include the christening.) Many ships (especially carriers) had their names changed before launching. Fewer had their names changed after commissioning, since that’s considered bad luck.

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