When Life Imitates Art (and not in a good way!)

As a writer I’m often coming across advice on how to mess with your main character.  “Stick him (or her, I don’t want to be sexist) up a tree and throw rocks at him” is something I’m often coming across.  Make your character suffer and then make them suffer some more. 

Well at the moment it seems someone is applying those rules on a cosmic scale.  And in real life. 

My poor stepfather-in-law, Don, is a genuine salt-of-the-earth, good-hearted man.  The sort of man who would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it.  So to watch him go through the crap he’s enduring at the moment is so painful. 

He’s suffered recent loss.  He’s seventy eight years old and hasn’t been in good health for a while. About a year ago he suffered a series of mini strokes that left him with aphasia, which has been getting steadily worse.  Now he can’t talk at all.  He can understand you.  He can read and comprehend.  He can get around by himself, even drive.  He just can’t speak. 

He’s been with my mother-in-law for thirty seven years.  But they don’t live together.  Yeah, if their relationship had a Facebook status it would be, ‘it’s complicated!’  But it works for them.

Sunday night, he left her to go to his own home, exactly as normal.  He was scheduled to call her at two pm the next day and come to her by four.  This they do every day.  Every. Single. Day.  So when by four oclock she hadn’t heard from him, she called him.  No answer.  She called him a few times with the same result.  His cellphone would ring so it was on, but he wouldn’t answer.  By six, she was more concerned and called us.  Between us, we called him another dozen times and left messages.  Nothing.  As the wife got ready, I called around the hospitals in Brooklyn and Manhattan.  I pretty much covered them all.  None of them had admitted Don.  By seven we left home, picked up mother-in-law and headed to Don’s apartment in Manhattan,  I have to admit I was fearing the worst.  Fearing the worst, but hoping for the best.  Though that got harder to maintain when we saw his car was in his usual parking space.  Don never went anywhere without driving, so he was home.  But why wasn’t he answering the phone.  We alerted the security guard to the situation and he accompanied us to Don’s apartment on the eighth floor, together with two maintenance guys.  We knocked repeatedly.  No answer.  I called his cellphone and could hear it ringing in his apartment.  The guard called a locksmith who was available for emergency calls.  Ten minutes later, he’d arrived and was breaking the locks.  The guard had already called 911.  The door was opened and we all rushed in.  I got a glimpse of Don lying on the floor halfway in the bathroom.  To my imense relief I saw him moving his arm.  He was alive.  I think I even shouted that so the wife and mother-in-law behind would know. 

Don was rushed to hospital.  When we got there, through a combination of Don nodding and writing, we established what had happened.  Around two am Don had gone to the bathroom.  Apparently his hip gave out and he fell.  Heavily.  Half his face was badly bruised.  But the poor  man had been lying there, unable to move, for eighteen hours!  Eighteen hours!!  I can’t imagine what that was like.  I can’t imagine how he felt when his phone was ringing and he couldn’t reach it to ask for help.  Or how he felt when he heard us knocking on his door and calling his name, but he couldn’t answer because of his damned aphasia!  He must have been so afraid we’d give up, assume he wasn’t in and go away.  The relief he must have felt when he heard us coming through the door and knew help had finally arrived.  That’s the kind of torment I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. 

So after all that, he had a series of tests and they’ve established he has a fractured hip.  Unfortunately the first x-ray didn’t establish that.  They’d already put him on Plavix, a drug that thins blood, especially for people who have heart conditions, and they can’t operate for five days after the stuff he has last been given that drug.  So now he’s stuck in hospital waiting until Tuesday before he can have surgery.  They’re going to insert three pins to help fix his hip.  Thankfully it wasn’t a full break, so he won’t need a hip replacement operation. 

So while I’m thinking up ways to torment my characters in my books, some cosmic joker is doing the same thing to poor Don.  I hope things get better for Don soon.  The poor man has been through enough!