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Gone Daddy, Gone

12/18/2007 11:59 pm 23:59:00 | Updated Nov 17, 2011

At this very moment, Iowa's full of candidates talking about overhauling the health care mess while I want to haul off on an entire hospital. I don't know about you, but that's seriously ironic in my head. But then, according to the literature, after the death of a parent, it's common to see irony everywhere.

The question is whether or not that makes the ironies less ironic. Let's see: Since my father's wildly successful aortic aneurysm surgery twenty years ago, I've told a million friends about the fantastic care and efficiency at the hospital where, a few weeks ago, way after visiting hours and just days before he died, someone stole the wedding band off my father's finger.

No, that's some solid irony, comparable to all the years I singled out the superior nursing at this hospital where my mother, a week before my father died, asked a nurse if she could prop him up on the bed and the nurse said "Can't you do it? You're his wife."

Maybe those two are little more ironic than thinking back a few months ago when my father said he was pulling for Hillary Clinton because she was the first one in the pool on health care. My question for Hillary would be, Is there something in her plan for a situation where, say, you're charged a lot of very adult dollars for the services of a physical therapist who showed up days (days!) after my mother begged and screamed and my brother actually tried to get my father up and-

No, no. No. No, no. Just no. I gotta just-- This is all too ulcerous.

Let's just say, as I see it now, in selling people on the privilege of entering the health care system, presidential candidates are basically raffling off vacations to Fallujah.

Most of the candidates are Baby Boomers and no one's getting a harder crash course in hospital reality like Baby Boomers. We're losing parents everyday and often not feeling so hot ourselves. Our crash course has such intense lab study that, at this point, lots of us could administer IV's, clear breathing passages and read PET Scan results ourselves. Our knowledge of Cumadin is breathtaking.

But the main thing we've picked up is well-deserved, knee-jerk cynicism: When my friends hear me say that my 86-year old father woke up one morning, hopped out of bed, took a shower, ate breakfast, drove on a highway to the hospital, parallel parked, walked three blocks uphill to the hospital for an angiogram and... never came home, they darkly allege, "Something went very wrong during that procedure."

Maybe, maybe not, but my father's doctors and their mutual fund portfolios are not my targets. After all, no doctor prescribed the IV blood pressure medication to treat his perfectly normal blood pressure. No, his doctors were actually wonderful. Caring. One even paid a condolence call.

It's the hospital itself that gives me daily homicidal fantasies. Unfortunately (or fortunately) every hospital is General Hospital, an amorphous target, impossible to pin down. The sharpest focus I get is visualizing a faceless hospital employee slinking to the bedside of my sedated father and slipping off the wedding ring he wore since 1950. I get that image 1950 times a day.

If all this weren't happening to me, it would very interesting.

To dampen all the flailing emotions, I talk to doctors who inevitably wind up saying sideways, "You really want to avoid hospitals at all costs."

Well, that's when it all becomes too much to process. The doctors advise avoiding hospitals. The politicians fight to get you in. It's like trying to sort out exactly what happened to a man I read about who died from an unsuccessful fake suicide attempt.

Like my friends who have lost parents, I've learned one vital thing: if a loved one absolutely, positively must be hospitalized, you must hire your own private nurse no matter how much it costs.

Yeah, I know: The one hospital must-do is the one thing you'll never see in any of the gaily-hyped, poll-resistant health care plans flying around Iowa. Crazy, crazy, crazy.

After my father died, I sat in an airport looking at a girl on my left wearing Uggs and reading Self; a Hasidic Jew to my right texting at lightening speed. I wanted to say, What's the matter with you people? Don't you know the world has changed? Then a young guy sat across from me, opened a textbook on neurology, got a call on his cell and, jolted by his own ring tone, dropped the book on the floor.

Yet, people still say The Age of Irony ended with 9/11. Maybe it's just that the irony's not funny anymore.