Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Not long after the cookout, maybe two months, I was at home with Sean near dinner time. Barbara was in the kitchen, making dinner, Sean and I were watching television, Bugs Bunny, a personal fave of ours. The phone rang and I leaned over Sean to answer it.

It was Ed`s Mom. He had been taken to Veteran`s Hospital two days before. It seems that Ed had been having difficulty for months with water retention and was taking medication for it. For the last week the medication didn`t seem to be working. Ed`s body swelled, he was in great pain, but he refused to go to the hospital. I asked her if he had been going to the bathroom, she said he had been trying, she didn`t really know. She did know that he hadn`t gotten out of bed for days and she could hear him practically crying at times. He wouldn`t eat, wasn`t even drinking much, just beer and water.

Ed`s Mom finally couldn`t take it anymore and against his protestations, she called an ambulance service to have him transported to the hospital. She was afraid that he would refuse to go but by the time the ambulance came he was in such great pain that he had little to say, no protests, just groans of pain. I asked her if he was allowed visitors, she said yes, they were giving him pain meds. I told her not to worry, I`d leave right away.

I kissed Sean and Barb, whispered to her where I was going and saw my pain reflected in her face. “I`ll say a prayer. Tell him we`re all thinking of him.”

It took about forty five minutes to drive to the University of Penn`s campus, where Veteran`s Hospital was situated and another twenty minutes to sign in and find Ed`s room. He was lying in the bed closest to the door, on his back.

I bent over the bed and saw he was sleeping so I grabbed the nearest chair and sat next to him. As I saw the size of his body beneath the light sheet my hope for him vanished. In three days there should have been some reduction in his fluid retention, that much I knew. Yet his whole body was swollen, not just his stomach. Ed`s face was red, his mouth a grimace in sleep. His chin seemed to rest on his chest, his body so distended that his neck could hardly be seen. I couldn`t help but sob, then saw that I had awakened him.

He spoke softly and I bent close to him to hear his words. “Aw, Vince, I don`t look so good huh?”

“Well, you`re here Ed. They`re taking good care of you.”

“It`s too late this time. I can see it in their eyes.” I was about to protest when he continued, “You know, I don`t want to die, not really. Aw shit, maybe I do. I knew what I was doin`, I knew I shouldn`t be drinking, not like I was. That fuckin` war. Shit.” He tried to shift his body, failed, and I tried to fix his pillow, make him more comfortable.

He looked up at me, directly in my eyes. It took all of my strength not to turn away. “Vince, you know those statues I brought back from Nam?” I nodded yes. “Well, it would give me pleasure if you would take them, give them a home. The Buddha needs to feel useful, to be around love and peace. I think I failed him in that regard.”

I could no longer hold back the tears, letting them fall on the sheet covering him, sort of an anointing. “Ed, you didn`t fail anybody. You did your best. That`s all God asks of us.”

He grimaced in pain, closed his eyes, seem to try to speak. I bent closely but couldn`t make out the words. His face seemed to lighten as he fell asleep and I stole away from the pain, wiping the tears from my eyes.