Bob is of the firm belief that he is always sick or working his way towards sick. Generally textbook hypochondria isn’t humorous, but as all things go in the Bob-i-verse, this is as far from textbook as a lamp is from a fire-breathing vagina.
Friday morning I get a call as I’m working through the list. “Very very very important,” Bob says (he thinks that if he repeats words three times in a row that they mean more, really that just makes people want to take an ax to his face). “I need you to Google grapes, ASAP.”
I have been through this with bananas and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, so being the seasoned veteran of Googling inane shit that I am, I stop to ask all the right questions so this grape search won’t be repeated again.
“What do you want to know about grapes, Bob? Specifically.”
I’m not sure if Bob interprets the word ‘specifically’ the same way I do. I think he believes it’s a command to list a lot of vague words together. Like when I ask him for what he wants in an email, specifically he responds with, “Something about reviewing the attached and give comments and so on and blah blah blah.”
And yes, he actually says the words ‘blah blah blah’. So his specifics on grapes are: “I don’t know, healthy, nutritious, good, bad?”
“Bad?” See now I’m just poking the bull.
“Will they make me sick?”
Let me remind you again that Bob is a grown man of 78 years and he doesn’t realize that grapes can’t make you sick. Sure, crush them, let em ferment and then chug the sludge until you’ve had too much and you’ll get plenty sick. But grapes making you sick?
I know deep down Bob believes there is a great grape conspiracy hidden on the interwebs, some place a Google can only find. When he finds that paper, he will show it to the world and save us all by opening our eyes to the pitfalls and hazards of grape consumption.
Nowadays, if I can find anything that says a food can be bad, I make sure and put it in the top of the stack. The more unreliable the better.
It’s one of the games I use to make my time in the Bob-i-verse a little less like a prison sentence. See, I hope one day that Bob, due to his fear of grapes and the like, is relegated to only eating a small bowl of powdered milk a day.
Bob has other health concerns. He believes he has tinnitus, but only when it means he can purchase something for it. “Buy me this,” he says, handing me a clipping for some cure-all herbal supplement, “It will help me with my tinnitus and it’s free.”
“Bob, it’s not free, it’s ninety bucks and you get paid it back minus shipping and handling if it doesn’t work.”
I know I’m going to be both buying this product and then later returning it, but I have to stick to Sunny’s rule of making less work. It’s the only way to survive. Plus, I won’t have time to write this blog if I’m buying a bunch of useless shit and sending it back in the vicious circle of Bob’s random needs.
“Just call them, get them on the phone, find out what it’s all about,” he says. See Bob thinks that if you get someone to talk to you there’s a magical special for all phone callers that gets them the product for free, the answers to life, and an extra gift of eternal life. He doesn’t realize that I will spend the next twenty minutes telling a call center dude that my crazy boss thinks he’s getting for free a tinnitus cure for ears that don’t ring but instead hear the tinkle of imaginary fairy voices. The call center people often say they’re sorry that my job is horrible, and they wouldn’t switch with me if their lives depended on it.
This is how I know I’ve hit rock bottom.
Still, Bob sends me on these missions to get ‘cures’ for things that are just part of getting old. “I’m tired,” he complains, “I’m exhausted all the time and my joints ache.” Somehow it’s beyond his grasp that being 78 means things will ache, that there’s a certain amount of fatigue related to being in the last quarter of your life, that you have gotten old. Instead he tells me I need to pick up any number of drugs for him.
“I can’t buy you Flurinef at CVS.”
“Why not, just buy it, this ad says it helps with fatigue.”
“It’s prescription, Bob.”
“Then call my doctor and get a prescription.”
“Bob, this drug is for Addison’s Disease, do you have Addison’s disease?”
“No, but I have fatigue.”
“But you don’t have Addison’s Disease, it’s for Addison’s disease!”
“Look here, it says for fatigue…”
“Fatigue from Addison’s.”
“LET ME FINISH! It says right here it’s for fatigue. I will outline it and you will fax it to Dr. Ruth and ask her for a prescription.”
Once, just once I wish Dr. Ruth would let go of the Hippocratic Oath and prescribe Bob every looney drug he wants so he would be barraged by the massive onslaught of side effects they all provide. Not death, per se, but an unending blitz of side effects like gas with oily spotting, anal leakage, temporary blindness, gynecomastia, anosmia, colored urine, explosive diarrhea, hallucinations, compulsive gambling, and of course–erectile dysfunction.
Instead I waste my time faxing clippings to a woman who earned her MD just to deal with batshit crazy hypochondriacs like Bob. Sometimes it’s good to know I’m not the only person who suffers in the pitch and sway of the Bob-i-verse.
Bob only believes he gets diseases that he doesn’t possibly have. One day while sick with the flu, he calls me repeatedly and I finally give in, just to make the ringing stop. “Yes, Bob,” I croak, holding back the vomit.
“I need you to research shingles?”
“You’re calling me about shingles?”
“I need to know the symptoms.”
“Bob, are you covered in welts or sores or scabs?”
“You don’t have shingles.”
“I NEED the research.”
“Why, Bob, why shingles?”
“Because I’m exhausted and have a headache so it must be shingles.”
At this point I hang up on him. Eventually he will get his research. He will learn that no matter how tired he is, shingles is not defined by exhaustion but by the actual presence of shingles. He will learn this from a call from Dr. Ruth who must be one of the most patient people on earth.
The funny thing is, Bob is sick. Bob’s forgetfulness, the way he gets lost, his massive issues with memory are a medical problem. In the afternoons he actively sundowns–the marked decline in the evening usually seen in Alzheimer’s patients. He starts to slow down, lose his place, forget the events of the day. He keeps the lists–usually two or three identical ones as he makes new ones after forgetting the previous–because he cannot remember. Sunny and I are sure he has dementia if not Alzheimer’s. Yet these symptoms he never looks up. These diseases are never on his list to research.
I don’t know if he’s stubborn or scared, but I know he sees the signs and chooses to ignore them. Bob will worry about bird flu and Hurler Syndrome (not as awesome as it sounds) but he won’t once pay attention to the actual threats looming in his symptoms.
I would feel sorry for him, but he’s a cruel old man. The fact that he’s forgetting things, that his life will end in a blank page means that he likely is going to forget every horrible act he committed in his life. If there’s guilt for his actions with any one of his wives, if there’s any nagging sensation about the cruel way he has treated his daughter, any regret for cutting off a son with a drug addiction–it will all go away. In the end, Bob will avoid his way into oblivion, never once taking stock of his life, just slipping into the present peacefully until his slate is blank.
Call me cruel, but I find this unfair.