The fly landed on his eyeball, but he hadn’t the strength to blink. His eyes were locked on mine, pleading. For him, the hospital means sickness and death. He did not want to go even though I found him naked, emaciated, face down, lying in the filth of his derelict room and his own bodily fluids, unable to get up.
The ambulance attendants had to suit up in hazmat gear to go in and retrieve him. They needed real bravery for the task. The room isn’t the worst I’ve seen, but it’s up there. Entering, they put a hospital sheet on the floor, then rolled the barely living skeleton onto it. Finally, using it as a full-body sling, they hauled him out and set him on the stretcher.
It was here that Denny and I locked eyes. It was the look of terror and confusion mixed with a little bit of betrayal. His eyes seemed to be saying, “Do something! Stop them!”
“Denny, these guys are going to take good care of you. They are going to help you get better, it’s’ ok, it’s ok.”
His pencil-thin arms reached outward, a pathetic attempt to ward off the only guys who could give him a shot at survival. The movement flung off the blanket, and I was dismayed again with the tragic sight. His shoulders, ribs and hips jutted out like bare tree branches against a winter sky. His manliness was the only other protrusion on his emaciated, discoloured frame, but all I saw was a clump of bug-infested filth. I’ve been to the holocaust museum in both Israel and New York, and the pictures I saw in those places and what I was viewing just then were the same.
For the last month or two, I’d been trying to talk Denny into going to the hospital. But he is like most of the guys at the Manor — stubborn! His precipitous drop off in health was noted by many in the building, and more than just me tried to convince him to go, but no luck.
Will the happy drunk from Quebec pull through? I hope so, but I don’t see how. Something’s eating him from the inside out, and I suspect it’s much too late for an intervention now.
In healthier times, I would find him sitting outside the Manor having an early brewsky. Since we shared the same name and since I liked to practice the two French words, I knew on him. I would yell at the top of my lungs.
“Bonjour!, Salut! Denny!”
To which he would raise his beer to me and, with a huge infectious grin, yell back at equal volume.
“Bonjour!, Salut! Denny!”
The ritualistic interchange was a source of joy for both of us.
It seems inevitable that a third French word will soon become appropriate.
If so, my friend, you will be missed.
Au revoir Denny
Denny passed away at 3:15 p.m. in the hospital on November 23, 2023. He was not alone. A beautiful soul from the Circle of Eagles Lodge Society was with him as he passed. Denny had a stricture in his esophagus. If he had gone in earlier when his health was stronger, he probably would have survived.