Biff America: My own personal Mother Teresa
There is an old joke about an Italian stone mason named Luigi who is lamenting over his hated nickname.
Luigi complained, “I built that beautiful steeple for the Catholic Church, but I’m not remembered as ‘Luigi the church builder.’ I produced the stone work for the spectacular fountain in the town square, yet I’m not called ‘Luigi the creator of fountains.’ But one night – many years ago – when I was very drunk – I made love to one goat – and now 40 years later, I’m still called ‘Luigi the goat-…..'”
The moral being that one slip-up can define a person to the point where they spend the rest of their lives trying to overcome a reputation garnered from a single incident.
In Luigi’s case, rather than the wonderful creations of stone work he is forever known for one amorous encounter with a farm animal.
My mate, Ellen, and Luigi have much in common.
I certainly don’t mean to imply that my mate has had a history of animal husbandry, but more that her earlier behavior, and my habit of embellishing that behavior, has painted her in an unfavorable and untrue light.
Throughout the years, in columns and over the airwaves, I’ve told stories of my mate’s less-than-compassionate caregiving. I regaled readers with her warning me, as I crossed an icy log over a raging river, “Don’t you dare fall, break your leg, and ruin my summer.” I told the story of the time she used my toothbrush to clean the acid off her car battery cables, then placed the acid-encrusted toothbrush back in my bathroom – forgetting to tell me. And who can forget the day when I split open my head on a cabinet door she left ajar and, while I lay bleeding on the floor, she mistook a bottle of ammonia for hydrogen peroxide and poured a third of the contents into my open wound.
Though all those events actually occurred, I did not always limit my stories to the truth. I told of her leaving super glue in the exact spot where I kept my Preparation-H tube – that was a lie. In truth it was spermicidal jelly and my toothpaste. Yes, over the years I’ve had some fun and made a living at my mate’s expense. That ends today.
Sixteen years ago I married Lizzy Borden; somewhere along the way she has morphed into Florence Nightingale.
Last week after a freak fall while skiing I broke some bones in my shoulder. My doctor informed me that, though the prognosis was for a complete recovery, the operation and rehab will be long and painful. He suggested surgery as soon as possible, followed by Oxycontin, Percodan, Crown Royal and medical marijuana. (Actually, after I followed his advice on the operation, Oxycontin and Percodan, the booze and pot recommendation might have been a figment of my imagination.)
After giving me the bad news, the Doc asked if I had someone who would be taking care of me during the first few weeks after surgery when the my condition would prevent me from fending for myself. When I told him that I was sure my mate would rise to the occasion, he appeared doubtful; it seems he has read some of my columns. He ended the conversation saying there was always home care for hire available if needed.
My doctor was correct on all fronts but one. The operation went well and in a few months I’ll be back to as mediocre as ever. The subsequent pain is something only a Denver Bronco fan can fathom, and the drugs to numb that pain (save one) make me mental.
The one bright spot has been my mate. She has been at my side for a portion of every day. She won’t head out to ski unless I have my ice-pack, books and medication nearby. And after a long day she returns home to check in on me and regale me with her adventures. A couple of times, when the skiing was bad, she came home early. When I tell my friends all this, they assume the drugs have clouded my mind.
Like the stone mason Luigi, Ellie has been unfairly tarnished by her ancient history. We all have good days and bad ones. We all have times when we can give to others and times when we need to take care of ourselves. And like Luigi the stone mason, Ellen has been unfairly portrayed. And also like Luigi – that really gets her goat.
This column is dedicated to Doc PJ, from High Country Health Care and DR. Abbott and staff at Vail/Summit Orthopedics.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on RSN TV and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Biff’s book “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic” is available from local book stores or from http://www.webersbooks.com
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