Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Regulars: Gus, Part 2

You all were introduced to Gus in my previous story. That story told one side of Gus. This one will tell another.

To give a little more background, Gus suffers from a wide assortment of ailments. In the years I have been volunteering, he has been hospitalized on six separate occasions. He has suffered a heart attack, needed a new pacemaker, gotten two heart valves replaced, and undergone two or three angioplasties. The guy has cheated death more times than Rasputin. In addition, Gus has chronic back pain, stomach and intestinal issues, and bad knees. All these problems understandably make Gus cranky. He's an old man and has certainly earned his right to be crabby, but sometimes he tries to do too much and play the martyr. Each week, we usually do a pickup of food from one of the local grocery stores. Gus usually handles this. Soon after I started volunteering, Gus was in a particularly foul mood (he had an angioplasty a few days prior) so I volunteered to do the pickup. Gus wasn't having any of it.

"No thanks...I can do it myself."

"Are you sure? I'm almost done prepping lunch.", I said.

"Let him do it Gus...You need to take a break and take a rest. You shouldn't be moving around too much", Ruth chimed in. Ruth is another one of the regulars, also a nurse, and has known Gus the longest. She's usually the voice of reason for him. Not on this day...

"I said I'm gonna do it!", he yelled. "Just make sure when I get back you help me unload the boxes. I'll call out to the window."


Half an hour later, Gus still hadn't materialized and it was lunchtime. We were so intent on getting the food out, that we must have missed Gus' return. I remember dishing up a plate of lasagna as the door slammed and Gus came into the kitchen, his face as red as I've ever seen it.

"What's the matter with you people? Didn't you hear me yelling outside?"

"Sorry Gus, we didn't hear you."

"Missed it!", he exclaimed incredulously. "I was screaming my lungs out!"

"Well, we'll help you unload the stuff now," I said, motioning to Ruth and Laurie.

"Forget it!" Gus dismissed us with a quick wave of the hand and turned to head back outside.

"Should I follow him?", I asked.

"Just give him a minute to cool down," Laurie responded. "Then go out there and see if he needs help"

Sounded like a good idea. I went back to dishing out plates, and was in the kitchen serving them when I heard a car honk.


It kept going.


I went to the window in the dining room and saw Gus sitting in his car, just pounding on the car horn.


I ran back into the kitchen. "Should we do something?", I asked.

"No, just let him be. He's just throwing a tantrum. He'll tire himself out.", said Laurie.

At that moment, the similarities between infants and the elderly had never been stronger in my mind. I went back to the dining room. Most of the customers had noticed the sound by now, and were gathered by the window to watch Gus.

"That muthafucker crazy", Jake commented, with a shake of the head. Jake is one of our 'crazy' customers. At various times he has claimed to be a stockbroker, secret service agent, master chef, and undercover South African spy. The irony of a mentally addled homeless guy calling Gus crazy was certainly not lost on me.

I went back into the kitchen, and the honking continued. We waited...after five minutes it finally stopped and Gus walked back in. His face was back to his normal color and he wore a huge smile on his face.

"Are you ok?", I asked him.

He grinned. "Sure, why wouldn't I be? Hey, you want to help me unload the groceries?"

"Sure...", I responded hesitantly, surprised at Gus' new calm demeanor.

We walked out and got the groceries. Gus was on his best behavior the rest of the day. We never spoke of that incident again...


Blogger Steve said...

Dude, was he bipolar? Or just super cranky? He sounds more like one of the hobos than a volunteer.

6:03 AM  
Blogger n said...

He was just moody sometimes. I think the strain of being lonely, and then feel like he was being ignored just got to him on that particular day...

8:16 PM  

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