Thursday, August 04, 2005

between two stools

August could very well be a tough month for me as it is coming up to a year since my grandfather, who regular readers will know reared me as his son, passed away.

I know for a fact he wouldn’t mind my telling this story in an attempt to cheer myself up.

During his time in permanent residence at the Royal Hospital Donnybrook, visiting my grandfather was always a traumatic experience, but it was made even more so when I’d bring my grandmother with me. She always blamed herself for his being there, even though she could hardly look after him herself on her own being well into her nineties herself.

This one particular day I had her in her newly-acquired wheelchair and I was pushing her into his ward. As we passed the nurses’ station, she was warmly greeted by all the staff. Since my grandmother has retained her American accent, they would always treat her as if she was some kind of ageing movie star, which of course she totally lapped up.

Having worked in a hospital herself in her day, she was never exactly shy about asking the staff for specific information which most would avoid. This day was no exception. With me smiling nervously at all before us, she instantly came out with the question;

“Has Joe been moving his bowels regularly?”

To which of course I replied,

“Grandma, haven’t you ever heard of small talk?”

Everyone laughed, and the head nurse managed to tactfully answer my grandmother’s question.

Then, out of the blue, with me already extremely anxious to get moving to his bedside behind the sanctuary of his surrounding curtain, one of the Filipino nurses chipped in with this:

“Oh, that reminds me! Did I ever show you the stool your husband made, Mrs Lee?”

If ever there was a question that made “small talk” into “no talk”, that was it.

Amazed by our communal silence, the nurse continued.

“No, really, you have to see it, it’s very nice! I have it over here, just under the desk!”

And as all my awkward nightmares seemed to be coming together at once, off she went to the desk and reached in underneath it.

I stood there behind my grandmother’s wheelchair like a deer caught in the headlights.

In my head, I was desperately trying to think of something, ANYTHING polite to say about whatever this strange lady was about to produce from below the desk.

And with that, she took it out.

My line of sight nervously travelled from her smiling face…

to her shoulder…

to her arm…

to her forearm…

to her hand…

to the wooden stool my grandfather had “made” in the hospital’s woodwork shop.

Our collective silence continued as the nature of the double entendre sunk in.

Luckily one of the nurses was able to break it with her thick Dublin accent…

“Jaysis, luv, I didn’t know WHA yiz were gonna pull outta der!!!”

As we all guffawed, the Filipino nurse stood there going “What’s so funny?” as she was holding the stool, which of course made us guffaw even more.

And so my grandmother and I were left with a funny story to remember our difficult hospital visits by.

RIP, Grandpa.

Click here for a full list of the "Lifeslice" stories


Buffalo said...

Made me laugh, dude. And that ain't easy.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I'm so sorry.

My fondest memory of my granddaddy was when he used to yell, "Shut the Goddamn screen door you're letting all the Goddamn flies in the Goddamn house!"

I love that quote, which he said innumerable times, because it makes him sound like a meanie, but he was a total softy at heart...

shandi said...

This is a great story, and you told it so well. I'm still smiling. However, I need to know... do you still have the stool?

Anna said...

Great story Jeff!

just out of curiosity though, how did you know it was me??

JL Pagano said...


Laughter is what keeps us from going do-lally, and I'm glad I could provide some.


Sounds like you too have fond memories of your grandfather.


Yes indeed, we do have the stool, and hopefully it will remain the in the family for years.


A combination of Statcounter, NeoCounter, common sense and the timing of one of your comments gave the game away. I hope it didnt freak you out in a Big Brother kinda way!

Michèle said...

What a precious memory and a story so well told!

hermione2001ie said...

Great story - would definitely be lost on people who don't have English as first language that's for sure!

Thinking of you x