“So I’m going to the doctor. I have trouble breathing. I get out of breath so easy. I can’t walk that far because I get out of breath. I went up the stairs in the mall last week and I had to stop at the top because I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t go any further. So I’m going tomorrow and I’m gonna see what the doctor says,” Dad said after my daughter handed me the phone. I put it on speaker.
“The doctor already told you what it was. It’s the stress on your lungs from your posture,” I said.
“Rest? Well, yes, I need to rest often because I can’t breathe,” he said.
“Stress!” I said. He refuses to get a hearing aid.
“Yes, rest. I can rest. You’re right. I know I have to,” he said.
“Yes, I’m sure there’s a test for it. I’m going tomorrow,” he said.
“One of the neurologists –the one you didn’t like–told you to stand up straight or your lungs would collapse. That’s what it is,” I said.
“Well, we’ll see what he’s got to say,” he said.
The man just spent a year trying to prove that he was permanently injured in a car accident. He claimed the accident was responsible for his two shattered vertebrae, and his resulting posture. He has been hunched over since the 90s. I admit that his hunch has worsened. He’s got the posture of a vulture eating carrion and the doctor told him that his lungs and heart would collapse if he didn’t stand up straight. Then when he was arguing for the lawsuit, he kept saying, “I’m hurt for life.” And he won his lawsuit. He was really happy when he won, but now things have changed. He read a newspaper story about a young guy who got $20 million when he lost the use of his arm and now he’s got tort remorse.
“Well, my award wasn’t very much,” he tells me, every phone call, “They kept talking about my age. They thought I wasn’t worth anything because of my age. That guy got twenty million. If I was young, my lawyer could have gotten me more. I got hit head-on.”
“Well, I guarantee you that guy didn’t use a lawyer who was on TV commercials, and I’m sure he wasn’t paying him a third of the settlement on contingency,” I keep telling him.
“There was this one guy, used to have commercials, but he won a big case and doesn’t have to work anymore. These guys, they don’t want to work.”
“Your lawyer worked. He got you a good settlement. You were limited by the other driver’s insurance maximum,” I said.
“These insurance companies, they’ve got money, but they don’t wanna pay up.”
“But they did,” I said. Honestly. It’s not like he needs the money for anything. He still buys his cookies and the greeting cards he sends us at the dollar store. He still goes for cheap meals at the senior center. He still goes to the Chinese buffet. And that’s pretty much all he does, besides go to the doctor. He just loves money, and wants to see big numbers in his bank account, and he does. He will never change his ways. Every time I watch “A Christmas Carol,” I think, if Scrooge was my father, Tiny Tim would be SOL — there would be no happy ending.
And there isn’t a happy ending, at least not for my father. He’ll go to the doctor. The doctor will tell him the same thing he said months ago, and my father still won’t make an effort to stand up straight. Even if he did improve his posture, it wouldn’t matter because he sleeps 90 percent of the time, sitting up, his head hanging. Nothing will change unless someone offers him money to stand up straight. And that will never happen. But, oh, if it did, my dad would make a full recovery.