-- a shrimp tale --
Here's one. Have you ever once upon a time felt the difference in watching a big man cry versus a woman cry? You may perhaps feel surprised at one and empathetic to the other, or vice versa. These days, with everything trying to be equal, such an admission might invite derision and scorn. But I think there's something about the way we're wired that causes that difference.
I was made aware of this one morning several years ago when I entered an exam room and could tell the gentleman had been crying or was on the verge of it.
I asked him how I could be of help and he complained that he'd lost interest in things that once delighted him. He thought he was depressed. He tired easily with little activity. He was forgetful and having trouble concentrating. As a result, he was concerned about his job security, being frequently reprimanded by his boss for shoddy and wasteful work, work cutting and molding composite material used in the manufacturing of ships for a company on the Industrial Seaway.
He said it seemed to all begin about eighteen months ago shortly after his wife left him -- for another man. He never knew he had a marital problem until the day he received an email informing him that she had consulted an attorney and that he would be receiving papers soon. At first he wanted to oppose the divorce thinking there might be hope in marriage counseling. But his lawyer advised him that it was his experience that once a woman no longer wanted to be married that there's no stopping her.
He continue his medical history saying the divorce took only six months. He was just getting over the emotional shock of it when Duke, his nine-year old black Rottweiler, fell ill and had to be put down. The vet had suspected a malignancy and diagnosed stomach cancer. Bobby thought it might be due to the brand of dog food.
So one Saturday morning a few months later, without a dog or wife, he drove to the Humane Society and scanned death row, hoping for that unique connection. But he was disappointed. But as he was about to leave, being late for an appointment, he saw a three-year-old boxer with a lost look. He pushed two fingers through the chain link cage and the tired-looking pooch laid one paw on his fingers. Since he was late he left to return later.
The following weekend he asked a staff member for background information and learned the boxer had been abused by the previous owner. Before she finished speaking Bobby had made up his mind. It was then she told him that the other boxer in the cage on the corner was this one's brother. Bobby walked over, took one look at its sloping brows and saggy lips and told the lady he'd take them both.
He named them Merle and Jake.
I told him I thought it was a great idea that he didn't wait too long to replace his previous dog. He said it helped some as his mood swings improved.
He taught Merle and Jake a few tricks but they seemed to especially enjoy riding in the back of Bobby's pickup during short errands. Driving out of the subdivision the boxers would bark crazily as they passed yards with fenced dogs. Bobby especially enjoyed driving by one retired military widow who had a reputation for walking half way into the street at oncoming cars, waving her hands wildly to get cars to slow down. But she gave Bobby, Merle, and Jake a wide berth.
Anyway, about a year later Merle became disinterested in things that once stimulated him. Frisbees, toys, squirrels. He lost his appetite and moped around drooping his head. After he'd lost seven pounds Bobby brought Merle to the doctor where they drew blood and called Bobby the following day urging him to bring Merle back right away because his white blood cell count was very high.
Further tests revealed Merle had leukemia. Bobby had the choice of an estimated $6,000 bill at LSU's hospital, or putting Merle down. He had hoped to take out a small loan but he'd maxed out his debt service to the bank with a loan to pay for his ex-wife's demand that she keep and have paid for the Toyota Camry with all the bells and whistles. So he did what he thought was the practical and merciful thing to do -- he put ole Merle down.
On sharing this Bobby's eyes filled. He buried Merle in the back yard, next to Skip and Blackie.
A few months later Bobby noticed Jake limping on his left front leg. He caressed the paw, looking for stickers between Jake's toes. Nothing. Like Merle he lost his appetite and started losing weight. He took Jake to the vet who diagnosed a bone cancer in Jake's left front shoulder. Jake rapidly deteriorated and, Bobby's eyes filling again, said he had to put him to sleep too.
When he'd finished the medical history I asked him if he was agreeable to taking medication since he shared that he was leery of medication. But he agreed to the medicine admitting he was afraid of losing his job.
On follow-up visits he seemed to improve saying he felt better but that he still felt tired a lot. Not a hundred percent but his work improved and the reprimands stopped. He was happy. He also busied himself with home repairs, repairing a sloping driveway and cracks in the laundry room floor and patio.
A year later Bobby's sister presented as a new patient. She had relocated from West Virginia looking for work. I asked about Bobby and she informed me that he had been diagnosed with a lymphoma but an autopsy showed he'd died from methane gas inhalation. She was the executor in probating his small estate, and said she was participating in litigation against a home builder who had knowingly built Bobby's house and nine others on the edge of the city's old landfill.