Something Joshua wrote (about his bad mood and its relationship to his self imposed exile in Wales) jogged this odd memory of my father.
At seventy Arturo’s heart disease got the upper hand and he had his first bypass surgery. Over the next two years he was in and out of the hospital, but that first surgery is the one that burns brightest in my memory. When I went in to see him in post op intensive care the doctor warned me that he would be cold to the touch — they chill down the body for bypass — and not to be alarmed. But still, I was alarmed, because my father was one of those human furnaces, he generated such heat. And so it was a difficult week. I spent a lot of time at the hospital, got to know the nurses, tried to insulate them where I could from my Father in a Bad Mood.
One morning I came onto the ward and I heard my father shouting from down the hall. You just want a look at my ass, you fairy! Send me a real nurse. I want the blond!
The nurse — his name was Michael — comes out of the room and I’m standing there blushing and in agony. Many apologies follow, but Michael just laughs. We love it when he gets all cranky like that, says Michael. It means he’s feeling better today. And look. Then he fishes a wristwatch out of a pocket and holds it up.
My father had a million wristwatches. He could not pass a guy on a corner selling watches from a trenchcoat. It wasn’t so much the watch as the bickering that he liked. So he had this large collection of knock off watches, and he had brought a box of them to the hospital with him to give away like candy.
To Michael he had given a fake Lady Bulova watch. I cringed, but Michael was pleased with its campiness, and so everybody was happy.