Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Grumpy Old Men: E.R. – By Don Barone – Story


Grumpy Old Men: E.R.

Don Barone
All three of us heading to the MASH Unit…

Also by the author

“I wish we could live forever…”

Dateline: The Heating Pad

Inside me, is a little boy who wants to dig up dinosaur bones.

In my mirror, is an old man.

Inside me, is a teenager who wants to be a rock star.

In my mirror is a gray old man.

Inside me, is a young man who wants to rock his children to sleep.

In my mirror is a gray wrinkled old man.

I am a shapeshifter in my dreams.

I run.

I throw and catch.

I lift the kids up for X & O’s.

And then I wake up, and can barely walk down the stairs, can barely catch my breath, can barely lift a coffee cup.

My body is aging around me, even though inside, the me within the vessel, still jokes, still sings, still thinks like I did when I was a young man.  I am a young captain of an aging shipwreck.

I now look upon my children as my father did upon me…wishing…wishing the child within, had the body without.

I wish for me.

I wish for you.

I wish for all those with shapeshifter dreams just one thing, one small thing.

A button.

A button that on it says…


If we could live forever, would life be better, or worse.  What would you do with your time on earth, if time didn’t matter.  What if there was no such thing as, “Wasted Time.”

What if there was, no time.

What if all there was, was just…is.

What if there was only one page on the calendar.

One month.

The month, of Forever.

“…then melt into the sun…”

I look in the mirror and wonder, just who is this that is looking back at me.  Where did he come from, how did he get there.  It is my eyes, but not my face.  Who is this.

Go away.

Leave what you have learned, but take the face with you, take the body with you, leave the joy, take the pain.

Explain, why the body attached to my brain, doesn’t listen.

Explain, why when my brain says bend, my body only sort of dips.

Explain, why when my brain says stairs, my body hits the UP button.

Explain please, you there in the mirror, where exactly have I gone to, explain, where is db.

The me that you see is not the me that is me.

The me that is me is a swashbuckling long haired rock ‘n roll pirate always on the hunt for the perfect margarita.

The me you see has an AARP card…and uses it.  What!  10% off is money dude, real money.

The me you see has eaten an Early Bird dinner.

While the me that you don’t see me would just rather pillage the restaurant.

My insurance company now considers me a “safe mature driver.”

The me that you don’t see me is popping wheelies down the street.

Old, is wasted on the young of heart.

When I have The Stones cranked on my headphones and Jagger it (the young Jagger not the real one that has managed to look worse than me) around the living room…I have to take a heating pad to bed.

Air guitaring it to the rock group Cream, usually ends up with an encore of Aspercreme on my strumming elbow.

But it is the me you don’t see me…that will rock on until rocks are placed on my grave.

“…melt into the sun…”

I don’t know the man in the mirror, I know the man inside the man in the mirror.

I know the calendar will soon say 60…an age I thought incomprehensible, until I turned about 58.  My body is about 3 times what age my mind thinks it is.

I type much faster in my head, than my arthritic fingers can on the keyboard.

The hardest thing I do all day, is get out of bed in the morning.  The only parts of my body that don’t hurt, are the parts that have been replaced.  At some point I may be more replaced db than the original db.

I do what it is I do thanks to modern medicine, modern pharmacology, modern Ice Crushing Frozen Margarita Technology…and love.

Old fashion love.

I love what I do, write, can’t think of not doing it.  Without writing I will become real old real quick.

When I do what it is I do, the moment of creating a story, the flash of a story line, that moment in time is the only moment in my life when I am totally…pain free.

No pain drug makes the pain go completely away.

No mixed drink concoction makes the pain go completely away.

No therapist.

No highfaluting pain expert.


But writing.

Which is why when I see my two roommates, Elite anglers Paul Elias and Shaw Grigsby move gingerly in the morning, grunt and oh and ah with stabs of pain, I know the feeling.

But I also see the transformation that happens when they pick up a rod and a reel…when they sit around the dining room table and talk fishing…when they pick up a new lure…when they hit the switch that fires up their boats.

They too are not the man in the mirror who they see looking back at them.

But the man in the mirror stares harder everyday.

“…time is gonna change you…”

We have a pharmacopia in Wal-Mart bags. 

We have reached the pill-box stage of life…plastic boxes with compartments for every day of the week…we even have separate compartments for pills taken in the morning, and pills taken at night.

Here’s why…stats you won’t find in the media guide:

Shaw Grigsby:

One hip replaced.

Triple Bypass.

Two Trigger release surgeries on his hand.

Two back surgeries.

Shoulder trouble.

Elbow trouble.

Paul Elias:

Right knee torn cartilage

Two stents in his heart

Elbow problems

Shoulder problems

And, “I think I might have memory issues…”

Paul just went through an MRI on his knee, “going to need to have surgery, hope to be able to push it off until the end of the season, don’t know though.”

I have personally watched as his knee has given out on him on the boat and watched as he caught himself before falling on his face.

I have watched him struggle to get a knee brace on.

Watched him struggle to climb up stairs, climb in or out of his boat.

See the pain meds.

See the grimaces.

See a 61 year old man launch to compete against people, some of whom he is 3 times their age.

But I know this from knowing him…that biggin’ hookset comes with no pain.

Carrying the winning bag up on stage, comes with no pain.

Lifting the trophy is painless.

The greatest pain, I know, would be to have to leave it all behind.

The unbearable pain, would be to not do it.

Which is something Shaw may be facing.

“…once it gets you on the run…”

“db, next Wednesday I have to go in for hernia surgery, and I have concerns about how long it will take to recover.”

Shaw has 25 days from the date of his surgery to when practice starts at Toledo Bend, the site of the next Elite tournament.

“Any hiccup with the surgery, the recovery, and that could take you out of your year.  I mean you could compete in the following three tournaments, but if I miss Toledo Bend I’m out of the Classic unless I win one event, if I miss it my chances to make the Classic are about done.”

And then the quote from the true athlete, from the true competitor, “I’m GOING to compete at Toledo Bend…the only question is will I be back to 100% by then or just 70-80-90%.  But db…I will be there when they say…go.”

I though, may not.

Be there…Toledo Bend.

One day before Shaw’s surgery, I too go into the hospital…I have Prostate Cancer…and Tuesday is the day I become a cancer patient.

There is a very real chance that I will not be strong enough to travel to the Toledo Bend event…almost 1,600 miles from my house…25 days of radioactive seeds in my body may take its toll.

It will be the first Elite event I have missed in 5 years.

It would be the first time in my career that I may not be able to answer the bell.

They make no pain medicine that will ease that pain for me.

It will break my heart more than the day I was told I have cancer.

It is my responsibility to cover this sport.

It is a honor to cover the sport and the men and women who do it, and do it through all sorts of obstacles and sacrifices.

To not be standing on the dock when Tripp says ready, set, go is to only let down he very athletes I respect the most.

But worst of all.

Worst of all.

It means, the man in the mirror looking back at me.

The me, not me.

Is really…


“…gets you on the run.”
There Will Be A Light
Ben Harper

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