My father and I have just returned home from an appointment with his doctor.
He doesn't drive any more. Since he now lives with me, I find myself chauffeuring him around to conduct his personal business. I always thought the older you got, the less you did. Apparently, that's not the case. At least with my father. I'm always taking him here or there, doing this or that.
He's closer to the end of his century than the beginning and has been diagnosed pre-Alzheimer's. You might think that Alzheimer's is something that happens to someone else, but don't fool yourself, we're all pre-Alzheimer's. We just need to live long enough for it to catch up with us.
It's 11am. Still early. He's studying the medicine his doctor prescribed, and which we've just picked up from the pharmacy.
"Can you believe the price of this medication?" he asks.
Of course I can. I just paid for it.
"Now remember," I tell him, "the doctor said you have to take it in the morning when you first wake up, with lots of water. Or you can take it right before you go to bed, but you have to take it on an empty stomach."
We walk into the kitchen, and seat ourselves at the table. My wife comes up to say hello.
"How did it go with the doctor?" she asks. "You guys hungry?"
I look over at my wife. It's been a long day, and it's not even noon. She can see it in my eyes.
"I'm not hungry, sweetie," I tell her.
"Well, I am!" my father pipes up, so she starts to serve him.
My father and I continue our conversation.
"So I take it when I get up," he tells me.
"That's right, or before you go to bed. The important thing is that you don't eat anything before you take it."
"But I take it in the morning."
"Yes," I repeat, "as soon as you get up, but before you eat anything."
"I can't eat anything?"
He looks at the food in front of him.
"But I'm hungry."
"You can eat now, dad, but just not before taking your medicine."
He starts to dig in on the feast my wife just served him. She's a good cook. My father's a good eater. It's a match made in Heaven.
Speaking of my wife, she knows the direction this conversation is taking, so she gives me a little wave and makes her escape. I give her a little smile. A very little smile.
"Are you sure that's what the doctor said?" my father says between bites. "I've always heard you have to eat before you take your medication."
"That's true, but with this medicine you have to take it on an empty stomach."
"I don't know about these pills. I don't think they'll do me any good."
"And you're telling me I can take it in the morning or at night?"
"That's right. Take it as soon as you get up, or right before you go to bed. It just has to be on an empty stomach."
"But I'm hungry in the morning. Does this mean I can't eat all day?"
He takes another big bite of food.
"No, it means that you take it as soon as you get up. You can have breakfast after that. Or you can take it at night before you go to bed. It just has to be on an empty stomach."
"But I always have ice cream before I go to bed."
I'm too tired to answer.
"Well, I guess your wife can serve me less," he says.
And then continues.
"She always serves me too much."
He thinks, and then he thinks a little more.
"Why can't I just take it now?" he says. "What difference does it make?"
"I don't know, dad, that's just what the doctor said."
"Doctors," he sniffs, and rubs his nose in disgust. "They don't know everything."
"Just do it, dad."
"Okay, okay. So you're saying that I take the medication as soon as I wake up."
"You've got it. As soon as you get up, take your medicine. You can have your breakfast after that."
"But sometimes I go for a walk with my dog before I have breakfast."
"That's fine, dad. Just take your medicine when you wake up, go on your walk, and when you get back you can eat."
"I don't know about those characters. I tell you, sometimes doctors don't know what they're doing."
"So I'll take this medication right after I wake up but before I eat. After I brush my teeth and take my shower."
"That's right," I say, happy he's finally gotten it.
"Hmmm..." he says, checking out the bottle. The pills are small, and the directions are right there on the label. "...ahh... well."
He's continued eating throughout this whole conversation, but he's finally done. He then gets up, grabs his medicine, and tells me on his way out:
"I guess I'll go take my medication now.