Oh, he died …..

Rubel Lex Phillips was a politician from the State of Mississippi. Phillips was a circuit court judge and a Democrat. But in 1963, he ran for Governor of Mississippi as a Republican. Phillips was only the third Republican to run for governor since 1877. Phillips ran on the slogan of “K.O. the Kennedys”.

Phillips told a story about going into a rural area and asking an old fellow sitting on a porch in his overhauls to vote for him. The man told him, “I ain’t never voted for a Republican, my daddy ain’t never voted for no Republican, and my granddaddy ain’t never voted for no Republican.

Not to be deterred Phillips then asked him if he minded if he asked his wife to vote for him. The old man replied,

“Wife. I ain’t got no wife. My daddy never had no wife, and my granddaddy never had no wife.”

The story is not about politics, but ignorance. It is the character of the candidate not the label of the party that matters. Labels come and go and change with the times. Character on he other hand is constant. It is measured in courage. It is weighted by the ability to make intelligent choices. It does not depend on slick slogans or fancy ads. Character does not have a party affiliation. Nor does it depend on which way the political winds are blowing.


There was a pain. Not sudden but steady and gradually increasing. Tired, oh so very tired. The walk back to the bedroom, although familiar in the way one knows but does not realize his surroundings, seemed interminable. A step and another step. Concentrate now. Supper wasn’t appealing. It was not bland but the taste…so indistinct. Another step of two. The bottle of aspirin was in the medicine cabinet. Always available for those minor headaches. Nothing to that pain. Nothing at all really. The aspirin washed down easily with the water cupped in my hand followed by two more quickly swallowed.

Not instantly, but after laying down for what was a short break, the pain under the arm was a discomfort and the weird feeling in my teeth lessened somewhat. One must not complain.

You know when your body is telling you something is wrong. A person should always listen, but you don’t want to be a wimp. So I’m tired. Everybody is tired. The pain that had subsided an hour ago shot back like a tree falling on your chest with deranged squirrels sitting on a downed limb cursing you. You want to curse back but you enter into survival mode because you are dying. You need help. Self help is not an option. I didn’t know it then but those aspirins helped save my life.

As I grabbed my chest and clinched my teeth the paramedic said, “Sir, do you know what’s going on?”

“Yeaah”, you reply through gritted teeth,”I’m dying.”

“Right you are.” The cheerful son of a bitch says while my heart has decided it has had enough of my neglect. Note to self: do not piss off heart again. If there is an again, again. Off we speed to the hospital ER. It is a blur of activity. I take priority over the lady with painful hemorrhoids, the anemic goth looking girl who is faking her back pain for drugs, and even the hooker who sprained her ankle and broke her high heel.

Doctors, nurses, technicians, and a dumb hospital lady asking about my insurance card hover all about. Then, Bam,”Mr. Teel we gave you morphine. This should help.” It did and if I had had the strength I would have kissed him right on the mouth. Nothingness sets in.

Blue scrubs. I recall blue scrubs. Two docs were standing by the ICU bed. “You had a bad time last night, Mr. Teel.”

I want to make a smart remark but my mind won’t let me. The tubes, oxygen mask, and blood pressure cuff expanding at random cause me to pause.

“Uh huh.” Brilliant repartee.

“We would like to explain to you what happened and suggest a course of treatment.” They tell me in that calm clinical voice that means we got you fella. I wanted to say doc if you need to spay and neuter me to keep that agony away, count me in brother. I always wanted to sing falsetto anyway.

Meekly, I say, “Uh huh.”

There is nothing to a triple bypass. All you have to do over a course of years is develop arteriosclerosis followed by a cardiac infarct (heart attack). A team of docs does their thing and boom you are back in your lovely ICU room. There is a trick though.

Before the surgery a nurse explains when you wake up your wrists will be tied to the bed. This is a precaution because you will have a tube running down your throat to your big toe. Like the dummy you are, you say ok.

I was groggy. Then I hear the nurse asking me if I am coming around. I say, “Gruggle da gabb a gur.” Translated, this means I have a damn tube down my throat lady. She understands though. Off I drift again.

I awake. Intubation tube in place and taped on. Wrists tied. Back the nurse comes. “Looks like you are awake. We’ll leave the tube in until the anesthesia fully clears. Ok?” Sure, like I’m going to argue.

You ever have a sudden itch? Maybe one on your head, Or on your elbow, just a little one, so you scratch it. All over. No itch. Think about it for a minute. Right now there is a place on your body that has a slightly irritating feel. See that I mean? You want to scratch don’t you? Well, go ahead. In the instant the nurse left, the tip, the very tip of my nose began to itch uncontrollably. It had a power all it’s own. It was irresistible. Humans are hardwired to scratch an itch.

The cavemen knew to scratch an irritation. It is human nature to relieve the problem then move on. Ugga Bugga feels the tingling so he scoots his hairy hands down his crotch. Mrs. Ugga Bugga spies him and yells,”Bluu tha oo ya.” Which in caveman means, “Hey, take it outside. My mom is in the next cave. Why don’t you act Neanderthal for once.”

I instinctively try to raise my hand to scratch. Nope, all tied down. My mind races. Ok, ok don’t panic. You got this. Turn your head and rub it on the sheet. But, I can’t turn my head. It is all secured with tubes and pillows. I attempt to raise my shoulder to my nose. Try it without turning your head. Remember Beetlejuice, he could spin his head around and that possessed little girl in The Exorcist, oh yeah, she was good at that head spinning trick. Bet they couldn’t do it hog tied like I was.

My brain wills the nurse to return. Thank you God. Here she comes. My eyes convey pity. “Just came in to see how you’re doing. Everything ok?”

“Uggg, mag ugg. Mag ugg.” Translation: my nose itches.

She nods in understanding. “Thirsty? Well, you can’t have anything yet. I’ll get something to rub across your lips.”

Noooo. Don’t leave me. My nose is now on fire. The more I tell it not to itch, the more it itches. You cannot not think of your nose when you don’t want to think about your nose. Get it?

“That will help.” She tells me as she wipes my lips with some kind of wipe thingy. Why couldn’t I have a psychic nurse? I would gladly have paid out of pocket. Forget the coverage.

Nooo. Don’t leave.

Seven days later (or so it seemed) she returns. “Are we Ok?”

Ah, no. We are not ok. Our nose is itching. Why is it medical personnel always say ”We”.

“Our catheter needs changing.” No, nurse, my catheter. You shoved it up my junk…not your junk. You ever have a yeast infection nurse? My mind responds. I am wishing fate would slap you down with one this instant. And, I wish just for thirty minutes or so I could be the nurse and you the strapped down victim with your mouth taped, hands tied, and your yeast infection roaring like a open pit barbecue grill in August. That’s how not ok I am.

“Aguu. Aguu. Aguu.” I plead.

“You want more wipe on your lips?” She asks.

This time I have a vision. I grab her smock with my left hand and hold on with a death grip. I ain’t letting go.

“Aguu, Aguu.” I am begging, pleading, and performing mental telepathy.

“Do you want to tell me something?” My eyes roll back in my head. Ever so slightly I move my head up and down as best I can. “Aguu, Aguu.”

“Can you write it down? Thank God. We are making progress. She brings me a pen and holds the pad for me to write with my tied up right hand. Yes. You guessed it. She brought the pad to my left hand. My head is tilted back and I cannot see the pad. What can I write to make her understand? Then it came to me.

N S E O. Best I could do. Squiggly, but semi legible I pray.

“NSEO?” She asks with a bewildered look on her face. “What is NSEO?” I want to strangle her and would have had my hands been free. Did Hellen Keller have this much trouble?

“Aguu. Aguu.? My eyes cross. Maybe if I go all cross eyed she’ll respond.

“Nose?” Is there something wrong with your nose?” Eureka!

“Aguu. Aguu. Gobba Abbu!” I explain.

“Mr. Teel, does your nose itch?” My eyes roll back again.

She gently begins to scratch my inflamed nose softly and then with more pressure. Ah. The nose scratching was better than any sex – real or imagined. One evening when the kids were away and it was adult play time our little Scotty dog jumped on the bed and put his black ice cold wet nose on my exposed white butt. I scream and wildly gyrate as the dog scampers down. My enthusiasm was somewhat temporarily dimmed. “Baby, I think I’ve lost the mood.” My wife, her voice all throaty and teeth gritted closed, says, “Put-The-Dog-Back!” Sorry, I digress.

Fast forward seven years and I walk up to the desk at the hospital with my wife.

“Can I help you?” The nice hospital auxiliary lady asks me. She has on a loose fitting pink jacket with oversized pockets. Her pearl necklace and genteel manner are are reassuring. I am already nervous. A group of different pins covers over her jacket pocket – badges of honor. She has one of those elderly lady voices – slightly shaky but clear and precise. I estimate her age to be eighty at least. To her credit she has given up watching boring game shows, Whoopi, and The Price Is Right to help people at the hospital. Nice lady.

“Well, I’m having surgery today and I don’t know where to go.” She checks her computer and after a few pecks prints out my data.

“Oh, I’ll be glad to show you.” She turns over her chair to another nice lady and down the hallway we go, her head toggling ever so slightly side to side, but every hair in place, of course.

“What type of surgery are you having, young man?” She must really be old to call me young man.

“Oh. I’m having a pacemaker.”

“That’s nice. My husband had one of those too.” She tells us.

I want to be friendly so I ask her. “How is he doing now?”

“Oh, he died.”

She keeps walking. I stop, feet frozen and knees locked. I want to ask who was his doctor? Did he have it done at this hospital? How long did he live? My fear is overwhelming. My wife scolds me into following the auxiliary lady telling me to be a big boy. I don’t want to be a big boy. I want to pee my pants as I tear out the door running and yelling.

I lived. I am happy with the pacemaker and don’t even know it is there. Now, years later my doctor wants to replace the original pacemaker with a newer model with more bells and whistles. Automatic transmission instead of stick shift. Eight cylinder and built for speed, but hang the cost. Medicare will pay for it. When the doc told me I had a low ejection fraction, I thought he said erection fraction. I told him,”Doc, I already know that. My erections are a fraction of what they used to be.” Once he stopped laughing he corrected me.

This time if that little old auxiliary lady is on duty when I check in I am going to tell her I am having a brain transplant. If she says, “That’s nice, my husband had one too.” I’m out of there.

Wes Teel

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