A Cup of Critical Care

The weather’s been betraying the calendar and season until today.

Now it’s just cold, windy, raw autumn.

I realize I have my coffee mug raised in my left hand at the driver-side window as I roll down the same 10-mile stretch of Interstate that I covered to the pediatrician yesterday.

It must look like I’m begging for a java donation, refill solicitations at 75mph.

Why hasn’t Dunkin Donuts figured out how to perform mobile refueling mid-Interstate, a java driven roadway rescue?

There simply isn’t enough coffee for mornings or days like these. But I’m drinking coffee at three and six o’clock in afternoon anyway.  Who am I kidding?

I nap spontaneously at moments of sedentary silence on couch or chair. My best napping done in waiting rooms here and there.

But today, I’m cold. Numb. Tired. It’s silent in the car as I drive to a spurious appointment for my youngest, whose home a third straight day ill from ear or is it throat.

Yesterday it was my eldest, whom I took for shots.  Last week it was twice up another Interstate in the teeth of commuter traffic to see other doctors. She has as many as a neurotic septuagenarian yenta on the Upper West Side.

And they still can’t get the co-pays right!

I have had a relationship with this pediatrician for fifteen years. When I was a young – ahh, well middle aged – first-time father, he’d walk in, promptly asking “and how are you doing?” of me.  Stunned. I recall being unable to immediately answer. Shocked frankly.

However, all at once pleased, he had and always caught me off guard with his sincere attention. I’d stammer “I’m doing okaaayyyy”.

Today, he walks in, shakes my hand hello and says, “We’re getting older. We’re  turning grayer.” I remove my hat to remind him I shave my head. He says, “well at least you’re still handsome” and he turns his attention to my pre-teen.

He’s the greatest doctor since Marcus Welby.


I always walk away from his office reassured, revived, totally rejuvenated.

Hell if he can support hundreds of children and their parents with a smile and quip,  I shouldn’t whine supporting just my two, I considered as I walk out to begin another long trip to a Newport dentist for my daughter’s appointed filling.

(Thoughts turn to) there’s a Starbucks on the corner of Thames! I have a Reward!


The humidity was visibly laying in a wall of fog that reflected off car headlights as I drove to the rink along the canal at five in the morning .

When the temperature is lower than the dew point, the atmosphere has an uncomfortable chill; that, positively sticky skin yet with a chill that can grow to a shiver, demanding no coat or cover, however demands a car’s air conditioning.

At such an hour though it also requires an espresso clutched in my cold fingers. I sip, standing before the chained door. I wait like the padlock to be freed and drop down the stairs into the dressing room.

The ice rink glass was fogged by the humidity in the building.  The panes of glass sweat clear streams of water downward, since they could not freeze in the warm air.

This morning dressed in goaltender gear, I stepped through the door already sweating from the slight exertion to proceed to the far end, my net. Solitary. Team-less. An exercise in tenacity and spirit for which there’s no reward.

As the skaters churned up the air, spinning, deeking, colliding about the ice, I saw their various reflections come clearer – a mosaic of movement on the glass, and as their motion moved air, it reduced the fog from the panes.

Like ghosts, I watched them in the mirrors of glass.  They multiplied, solitary figures became two, three, merging with others as they triangulated on the ice.

I heard a voice behind me say my name. Twice. But the play was at the other end. I glanced back to my right, then behind the net. Emptiness. My eyes were drawn upward. Empty grandstand though briefly, a figure. A skinny man, whose vestige then disappeared.

In months past, I’ve seen an older man standing by the railing at the other end of these grandstands, though I knew he was not really there. A figure that did not move for minute upon minute, gone once I had moment to glance again after stopping multiple shots on my goal.

At moments I’ve thought it my father, twenty-five years deceased. My biggest fan, supporter.  He had never seen me play hockey. I’d seen that smile. Perhaps he was there again, as he was always in my youth. Smiling. Beaming.

It’s been recurring. I’ve rationalized it another ghost, whose soul rested at the rink perhaps his greatest love. He has stood there motionless many mornings.

The voice returned to say my name but I ignored it as the swirling reflections to my right multiplied, even though the boys were playing at the other end.

It was a projection of boys turned men now perhaps ghosts. Reflections of youth, which we no longer possess I was thinking as suddenly a half-dozen skaters barreled toward me like life, or maybe death were chasing, chasing our youth from our aging bones.