••• The International Writers Magazine:Life Moments with Martin Green
“So you’re going to visit Irv Kane?” said Abe Silverman
We were having our weekly lunch in our retirement community’s restaurant.
“Yeah, I couldn’t say No to Julie”
Irv Kane was a big, blustery guy and nobody in our retirement community liked him. Julie was his wife. Like Abe and myself, Irv was from New York and he was in our New Yorkers club. I’d started the club and was its president and Irv always told people I was doing a lousy job and, I knew, wanted to take over the club himself. Also, like Abe and myself, he was in our tennis club. He’d recently broken his hip in a club tournament. Irv was a good tennis player but a sore winner and worse loser. When he won he liked to jump over the net, then make some sarcastic remark to the loser. He would brag that he was the only one in the club who was still able to jump over the net. On this occasion, in his second match after he and Julie had beaten me and my partner he’d jumped over the net once too often, his foot had caught, he’d fallen and broken his hip.
No one was saddened by this event. No one, Julie told me, had visited him. He wasn’t getting better because he wasn’t doing his exercises. He was in a foul mood all the time because of the pain from the surgery and because he couldn’t walk, bend over, get dressed by himself or do any of the things we take for granted. He was driving Julie crazy. I’d told her that I didn’t think my visiting Irv was such a good idea. He hated me. She’d told me he was jealous of me. She virtually begged me to visit him. As I told Abe, I couldn’t say No.
“Well, good luck. Be careful, Irv might get mad and take a swing at you.” Irv had gotten into fights on the tennis courts more than once. As I’ve noted, he was a big guy and most of our members were a little scared of him.
“I’ll keep my distance from him. He shouldn’t be too mobile with that hip replacement.”
“Well, be careful anyway. Let me know how it comes out.”
Abe was the one who’d told me that Irv Kane was my nemesis. I’d thought that after Irv had broken his hip I wouldn’t have to worry about him for a few months but now I had to visit him. “I’ll tell you at lunch next week.”
I’d had hip replacement surgery myself the year before, not because I’d tried to jump over a tennis net, but because my hip had gradually become painful from arthritis and then the doctor had issued the fateful words, it was bone on bone, which cinched it. I’d gotten what was called a “hip kit” after my surgery, implements to help you get dressed, get your socks on, pick things up, and the like. Julie had told me Irv had refused to buy the kit so I brought these along.
Julie greeted me at the door. “Thanks for coming,” she said. "I really appreciate it.”
“How is he today?” I asked.
“The same as always. Grouchy and miserable.”
“Who are you talking to?” It was Irv calling out.
“It’s Paul. He’s come to see you.”
I followed Julie into the living room. Irv was seated in an armchair. He was in pajamas and a bathrobe. He looked terrible. He probably hadn’t shaved in a week and his face was haggard. He was a big man but he looked thinner. Abe had told me to be careful of Irv but I didn’t think he was a danger to anyone right now. “Well, that’s a surprise,” he said. “You’re the last person I’d expect to come see me.”
“I had a hip replacement last year,” I said. “I’ve brought over some things I got; they called it a hip kit. They were pretty helpful”
“Isn’t that nice of Paul?” said Julie.
“Yeah, how about bringing me some water?” Julie scuttled away to the kitchen.
“Nothing’s helpful,” he said to me. “Hell, I can’t even use the footrest on this chair.”
“I remember. I think they’re afraid your hip might somehow come out if you put your legs up.”
“I think they’re just trying to make you more uncomfortable.”
“Are you taking any pain medication?”
“Yeah, but it doesn’t do any good. My hip still hurts.”
“It will for a while, but eventually the pain goes away.”
“I’ll believe that when it happens.”
“Are you doing the exercises?”
“Only sometimes,” said Julie, who’d returned with the water. “I keep reminding him but he doesn’t listen.”
“That’s because you’re a nag,” Irv said. “Always after me when I’m in pain. Go away and do something. Paul and I want to talk.”
Julie again scuttled away. Not for the first time, I wondered how a bully like Irv had gotten a nice woman like Julie too marry him.
“She just wants to help you,” I said. “It’s important that you do the exercises. That’s the one thing everyone told me.”
“Ah, maybe I’ll get around to it. So, how come you came over? I thought you hated me.”
“I don’t hate you, Irv. I know you don’t especially like me.”
Irv considered. “No, I guess I don’t.”
“Should I ask how come?”
“How come? Let’s see. I suppose you always seem so smug and self-satisfied.”
I was surprised. Smug and self-satisfied? I’d never considered myself that. I certainly didn’t feel self-satisfied. I’d always been full of doubts and I was by nature a pessimist who expected things to go wrong, which, in my experience, they usually did..
“How do you figure that? You’re the one who’s always seemed self-confident to me. You always thought you could jump over the net after a tennis match. I’ve never had that feeling.”
“You think I’m kind of a loud-mouthed bully, don’t you?”
Actually, I did, but I said, “You’ve never been too shy and modest.”
“Look, when I was a kid nothing I did was ever good enough for my father. Now, there was a loud-mouthed bully. I had to fight for everything I got. Maybe that’s why I try to act so tough.”
Good grief, was Irv Kane being introspective? Was he overbearing just because he was trying to compensate for a sad childhood with an uncaring father? “But what makes you say I’m smug and self-satisfied?”
“Well, you always act so calm and reasonable. People come to you with their problems and you settle them. And that column you write about favorite restaurants. People think you’re an authority on restaurants but I don’t think you know anything about good dining.”
“Wait a minute,” I said. “I never said I was a food critic. For the most part, I pass on recommendations people e-mail or tell me about.”
“Well, that’s not everyone thinks. Anyway, how long did it take after you had your replacement before you could walk again?”
“I’d say about three months. But I was doing my exercises. You should, too.”
Irv grunted. "I have to get up and pee,” he said. “Can you bring over that walker?”
I saw a walker in the corner of the room that I hadn’t noticed before. “Okay,” I said. “I had the same walker.” When I wheeled the walker over to Irv I remembered what Abe had said to keep my distance from him. But all he did was pull himself up and head out of the room. In a few minutes he returned and sat back down in the armchair. “Christ,” he said. “That trip just about wore me out.”
“I know,” I said. “But in a few months you’ll be back on the tennis courts.”
“Well, I hope I can do better than you,” he said. He laughed. “Anyway, I’m through jumping over the net.”
“That’s a wise decision.”
“Yeah. “Anyway, Thanks for coming over and bringing those things.”
“Sure.” I stood up. “Do those exercises. They’re a pain but you’ll be glad you did them.”
“I’ll see. Thanks again for coming. You’ll visit me again, right?”
What? Another visit to my nemesis? “Uh, yeah, sure.”
Julie saw me out of the house. “I heard you tell Irv you’d visit him again,” she said. “That would really be very good of you.” I could see that I was stuck.
“So, you survived your visit to Irv Kane,” said Abe Silverman
We were again having our weekly lunch in our retirement community’s restaurant and I’d given my report on the visit to Irv. “Yeah. He’s really kind of pitiful.”
“Ha. Just wait until he recovers.”
“Do you think I’m smug and self-satisfied?”
“Huh? Hmmm. Why do you ask?”
“That’s what Irv Kane told me.”
“Well, you do seem that way sometimes.”
“Just a little.”
“Great. So Irv Kane has me pegged. And I have to visit him again. I promised him I would.”
“What can I say? He’s your nemesis.”
© Martin Green November 2017
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