Seriously. I mean it.
And before any of you Bay Area fans who worship the beloved Forty Niners start to riot and devolve yourselves into black sheep Raider brethren pounding on my doorstep, I promise I have good reason to hate football. Before, not so much. My hatred was purely a distain for overpaid atheletes – but now… I have reason to hate it. Fuck it. And fuck the fans. You go too far I say? I say, “FANS GO TOO FAR.”
Sunday morning I wake up late. 10am… 11am… I’m not quite sure. 11:30am?
I roll over, don a pair of sweatpants, haphazardly pull on a sweatshirt and twist that mop of curls into a screwed up bun that resembles #4 on the “Desperate Housewife Blues Clues”. I’m ready to clean basically everything in the house. Bleach, scrub, mop, and bleach round two. But when my hands are deep in kitchen sink suds, my man comes in, faster than normal, and slams the garage door behind him. I hear my name. It’s loud. He doesn’t usually yell. This is trouble.
“Something felt like it flicked my eye. I need you to take a look.”
[My internal monologue is going wild. Bubbles. Two of them. Bubbles... bubbles... what do I do? Bubbles mean air. Air probably shouldn't be in your eyeball. This is bad. Not too bad. Don't stress. Shit.]
“Ready to go to the ER, sweetie? They’ll know better than I what happened.”
Missing the exit, I still manage to navigate us to the appropriate hospital. I drop him off while I look for parking. I immediately second guess myself once the passenger door closes. I’m not sure what I’m thinking – he probably shouldn’t walk himself anywhere!
By the time I get into the ER area, he’s already been admitted and has a private room.
Cue applause, Kaiser!
I’m not allowed in quite yet, so I take a seat. There’s a handful of people in the waiting room, all of which have their eyes glued to the TV over the entrance door. It’s some game taking place on a field. I don’t even register that 1) this is football, 2) this is Niners football and 3) this is a playoff, Super Bowl spot football game.
I look down at my phone and start getting out the texts to family. Done. Bored. Stressed.
I watch people come in and out slowly. It’s sad actually. Most people are elderly. Cruel world thoughts swim around my head, blah blah… I would presume, having never been in an ER more than once or twice as a child, that confusion would be high, but surprisingly no one is panic stricken… well, at least they aren’t concerned about the injured. The only thing that appears to matter within this small seating area is that football field.
I take a closer look at the people around me. EVERYONE is in a red and gold jersey. And everyone is watching this game. And apparently, the Falcons are ahead.
I find one person that strikes me as particularly interesting – the only one without a jersey on: An elderly man dressed in grey slacks, a button down plaid shirt covered up with a light blue cardigan and an adorable khaki fishing hat. Floppy, of course. He has a long, but well trimmed beard. His eyes are wide, scared, but slow to register his surroundings. When I catch him in my line of sight, he’s shuffling from his seat to the admittance window where another man, about 30 years younger, hefty, unshaven and in a jersey, is chatting with the nurse.
“My mother was admitted by ambulance… Yes… Okay… Sure.”
I swing back to the old man and as he slowly approaches the window, his lips are moving with conviction. They stop briefly and then begin again. It’s slightly more audible, but I still can’t hear anything. Without hesitation, he repeats his phrase a third time. “My wife.” And then again a fourth time, “My wife!!”
Gathering that this father and son duo is at different stages of the process, I honestly can’t help but eavesdrop. I’m bored out of my mind.
The son brushes off his father’s words since by the time his old man reached him from where he was seated, the son had already handled the conversation with the nurse and had turned his attention towards the elephant in the room – football. The son brushes aside his father and takes a seat, front row, to watch the game. Once again, I watch this old man slowly walk towards his son mouthing words that I can’t hear.
“She’s fine. Sit down.”
“Where is she?”
“Shhhh… sit down. I’ll handle it.”
“Where is my wife?”
“You’re blocking people’s view. SIT down.”
The old man sits like a defeated dog, but his eyes remain fixed on his son.
“How is she?” His eyes are still widely intense, but his voice can’t hide itself as an obvious indicator of fear. His phrases are trembling.
Now, this is what kills me. That “shhh” came from the woman seated behind them.
[I'm in the last row, farthest from the TV, but there's only 7 rows total.]
“Dammit, dad – I’m so sorry, Ms… dad! Knock it off. Can you just keep it shut until the end of the quarter?”
Those eyes that were so intensely focused on learning about his sweetheart’s status drop to the floor. The old man remains solemnly seated with his head hung low. There’s silence for all of two minutes before: TOUCHDOWN.
There’s a sudden uproar from the son and surrounding comrades, all congratulating each other on the lead that San Francisco has managed to redeem. The old man hasn’t moved. The high fives echo in the tiny room and drown out the soft weeping and blind the audience of the old man’s tears. His son is oblivious to his pain. I’m the only one looking at him.
I hear my name softly in my left ear. I turn towards the sound and there’s a nurse at the admittance door 15 feet away searching the audience. I walk towards her, glad to make my exit from this crowd of drones and scan the space around me.
He’s the only person sitting, face in his palms, slowly rocking.
How sad it is that this man, merciless because of age, remains clueless about the health of his great love because his son is more focused on the success of a sports team than the successful recovery of his mother.
How sad it is that his son has forgotten that his father is a man whose relationship with his mother is a vast ocean of trials and tenderness that spans more than his [worthless] lifetime.
How sad it is that this son, surrounded by a pseudo support system of fans, had the luxury of a distraction from fear while his father sat in defeat and ignorance.
“How can I blame football?” you ask…
I don’t really blame football, but it provided a dramatic starting point for this post.
In reality, I blame our society’s worship of empty, trivial subjects that have, for the most part, replaced substance. I blame the lazy, self-indulgent narcissists who have never learned how to empathize. I blame the children who have never connected the dots and fail to recognize that their parents [voluntarily or involuntarily] restructured a large portion of their human existence in order to raise them, feed them and shelter them.
Maybe this old man deserves no sympathy because he raised this loathsome creature for a son. I mean, the guy turned out like he did because of something, right? Or maybe this entire post is superfluously attacking an American tradition because I have post traumatic high school disorder.
The haunting image of pitiful ignorance that I saw within that man during my ER visit is what I want to bring to your attention. Don’t do it to your parents or a stranger. Empathize. Pull yourself away from the TV and ask your significant other on the couch, “How are you doing?” Call your mom and say, “I love you.” Help an old person cross the street. Get a kitten out of a tree.
Those things will matter.
Be a good samaritan. Or at least… a decent human being.