What the F##k?

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There I sat in disbelief. On the cold travertine tile surrounding the toilet flange, I chiseled away. Once again, brother-in-law Brett broke the commode. Although forty-five, he remains eternally twelve. Pulsating through the sewer pipes, Brett’s karaoke filled the room. “Living on a prayer,” my ass. The smell of poop was nauseating.

“Can life get any worse than this?” I thought to myself. Just then, a fragment of PVC pipe struck me in the eye. Holding my eyelid shut, I staggered to the medicine cabinet. There was an eye wash kit somewhere in the house and we finally had a need for it. Flipping through random first aid products proved to be pointless. A foreign object was lodged in my eye and the case of Pepto-Bismol we bought at the local wholesale club would do me no good.

“Hey what’s up?” Tilting my head back, I answered my phone.

The worry in my friend’s voice made my eyes open wide. “It’s Jonathan.” Concerned about her son, she continued. “I don’t know what to do.”

“What’s wrong Pamela?”

“He was out all night. He’s been spending the night at random girls’ houses and I think he’s smoking marijuana.”

“Wow!” In disbelief, I exclaimed. “That doesn’t sound like him.”

“If you only knew…”

A stinging sensation hit me as tears ran down my cheek. “Do you mind if I place the phone down for a moment?” Apologetically, I asked. “I have something in my eye.”

“No, go right ahead.”

Reaching across the kitchen counter, I grabbed the spray hose. Leaning back I squeezed the stainless steel handle. With my head emerged in the kitchen sink, I wished. I wished my son was out getting laid and smoking pot. Young adults do stupid things. How I wished that Cade was doing these stupid things.

“Sorry about that Pamela.” Drying my face with my shirt, I continued. “I’ll have a talk with Jonathan.”

“Thank you so much. He really admires you.”

“No problem. I love that kid.” Noticing the water splashed everywhere, I started laughing. “You should see the mess that I made.”

I smiled a crooked grin as I comforted my friend. Attempting to help her through her predicament, I placed my phone on speaker. There was a big clean up job ahead of me and this required both hands to be free.

“What’s that awful noise?” She asked.

“What noise?” Gathering a mop, I rummaged through the laundry room.

“That shrieking sound. Where are you?”

“In the laundry room.”

“Oh,” she recalled. “I remember you saying your washing machine was making a lot of noise…but, I thought you bought a new one.”

“Pamela.” As I walked past my brother-in-law’s room I informed her. “That’s no washing machine. That dreadful noise,” in laughter I continued, “is Brett singing Bon Jovi’s greatest hits.”

The hard rocking tunes were suddenly overshadowed by the sound of shattered glass. “Cade!” I yelled as I ran to the living room. Fearful of what I’d find, I took a deep breath. There, on the corner of the couch, sat my son. The picture window behind him had been annihilated. There were tears in his eyes as he tightly clenched his fists. “Need medicine, Daddy.”

Later that day, while visiting a friend in the hospital, I received a message from Pamela.

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Smiling, I placed my phone back down. My friend Adam was lying in bed rubbing his chest. “Ain’t this some shit?” Pointing to the implant just below his shoulder, he explained how his chemotherapy was administered.

Fascinated by medical science, I listened as Adam continued. “This round lump right here is called a port. There’s a tube that connects the port to my vein. When it’s time for my chemo, they just inject a needle into the port.”

Adam spoke of his chemotherapy and rare cancer the same way that I would speak about lunch or a pair of tennis shoes; like it’s no big deal. There’s one thing, however, that I knew was bothering him. Adam’s a very active guy and fitness is an integral part of who he is. With wires still connected to the adjacent infusion pole, he nudged his bed to the side. Dropping to the floor, he sneaked in a few push ups.

Moments later, Adam’s parents walked in and their faces lit up. Not because their son was on the hospital floor doing push ups, mind you. But because he had company. This would be the first time meeting Adam’s parents for my friend, Tony and I. “What an amazing family,” I thought as we spent the next several hours laughing and sharing stories in the hospital lobby.

I didn’t make it home until 1:00 a.m. that morning. To my surprise, Julee was still sitting up in bed reading a book.

“The window looks worse than I thought,” she sighed. “How’s Adam?”

Inspired by Adam’s courage and positive outlook, I told Julee all about my visit. I told her about the many fascinating things I learned about Adam. I had no idea that Adam was such an incredible artist and musician. I told her about the many fascinating things I learned about Adam’s parents. What can I say? They’re just downright cool. Realizing what Adam’s parents are going through, I gave thanks. I gave thanks for my son’s good health. Raising a child with autism can be grueling at times. However, I am thankful that my son is not battling a life-threatening illness.

“What the f##k do we have to complain about?” I asked as I kissed my wife good night.

The next evening I sent Adam a message.

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Kelly Jude Melerine