I Deserve a Day Off After This
Early this morning, my cell phone rings (which, in a sense is a good thing since I have an iPhone on AT&T and 75 percent of the time, I can’t make telephone calls from inside the house). A nurse from a local hospital was on the other end. She asked me if I could come into the emergency room to provide some pastoral care for a gentleman who fell at home last night. I haven’t had a hospital emergency pastoral care phone call in a while, so I get up and get out in record time.
As I was driving to the hospital, it eventually occurs to me that a man falling at home usually never warrants a pastoral care visit. When the caffeine started to kick in, I worried that the story the nurse gave me wasn’t the whole mess. And yes, the word “mess” fits this story perfectly.
Arriving at the hospital, I am taken behind a curtain where I find a young man with a large bandage is wrapped around his head while his doting wife sat beside him, holding his hand. The nurse leaves us alone and we talk. So far, nothing too dramatic. The man fell late last night and hit his head on their kitchen table. His wife said he had a bit much to drink at their Father’s Day party they held for their dads. I said a prayer and walked out from behind the curtain.
In speaking with the nurse, I was told that the loving couple only supplied me with a part of the story. Yes, the man had a little a teeny bit too much to drink at their party. But she urged me to go back in and prod them to tell me the entire story. With my interest piqued, I did so. The updated story — thankfully not covered by any sort of pastoral care silence rules — had me thinking about the movie “War of the Roses” where a longtime married couple was on the road to divorce, but they both wanted their luxury house. The entire film was centered around their comedic physical fight against one another. The movie was terrific and funny. Sadly, in the end of the film, it is surmised that the couple tragically died when falling from a chandelier.
My couple wasn’t so bad. They allegedly argued over their collective dad’s party. During their argument, instead of picking up a drinking glass or a roll of paper towels, the women allegedly picked up the toaster and may have flung it across the room that may or may not have hit her husband in the head, possibly causing him to fall and whack his head on their kitchen table. With the need of multiple stitches (and a possible concussion) and because his loving wife could not stitch up her husband’s wounds, the caring wife drove her husband to the hospital where his injuries were repaired. His headache, which may have come from the toaster, his fall into the kitchen table, or even the bottomless pit of beer he drank on Sunday, was this man’s worst problem.
I smiled when I listened, trying my best not to laugh. Yet, I giggled, which neither husband or wife appreciated, let me tell you.
And, of course, my giggle turned to outright laughter when the husband said that he didn’t remember what happened. He just remembers sitting in the car with a towel on his head while his wife drove him to the hospital. Puh-leeze!! Playing the good pastor in these early hours, I urged them to seek some sort of marriage counseling. I offered to say another prayer with them, but they forcefully declined (I think, “Can you please leave, now?!” was their way of asking me step out).
After walking out from behind the curtain the second time, I storm over to the desk asking them why they called me for this train wreck. One of the nurses said that since the police couldn’t do anything since the injured, yet loved beyond all human understanding by his doting and caring wife of about a year or so couldn’t remember how he got hurt, this couple needed to hear someone explain that the two of them should get some help. “Couldn’t you people do that? Why wake me up to come do this dirty work?,” I asked.
“Because we like the way you do the things you do.”
What they meant was that at times, I can give abrupt advice, something that most pastoral care agents in hospitals refrain from doing. Nearly every pastoral care visit is centered around people being sick or facing a long health battle; we pastoral care agents bring God to the scared and worried, and when facing an unknown future, we clergy provide some kind of peace. Then, of course, there are times when illness is not the central role in hospital calls. There are times when family members of the sick don’t understand why doctors and nurses aren’t providing the most immediate care for their loved ones and we pastoral care agents try to calm them down. But there are those times when the sick or injured get involved in some other “issues” whereby pastoral care is needed on a deeper spiritual level. In these situations, the need for care is rarely seen by the sick. It is in these events when I can be a little abrupt with spiritual or life advice, and apparently someone at the hospital noticed and felt that in this case, the couple needed someone to tell them to get counseling.
After giving them the evil eye (its an Italian thing), I told them not to call me the rest of the day.
But my story doesn’t end here: As I was leaving, the wife came from behind the curtain and called out to me. Afraid that she had some other sort of kitchen appliance in her purse, I cautiously turn around. The woman came up to me and apologized for being so “snippy.” She said that she and her husband had a fight and that they would work through their issues. Thanking me for coming to visit and she walked back to her husband’s cubby. Maybe some Godly words had an effect.
All I could think of as I walked out of the hospital this morning was that if I were the husband, I would stop eating toast and sell the toaster on eBay. I would probably also get rid of the blender, food processor, toaster oven, microwave, and all knives in their kitchen, just to be safe.
And as I got into my car and fiddled for my parking pass, I realized that once again it was Monday —- TODAY’S MY DAY OFF!! Ugh!!