Stubbornly Not Seeing Cause and Effect
My father was in the bed next to the window, which meant all his visitors got to meet the hospital patient near the door. That is how I got introduced to the close-to-the-door patient, a Russian immigrant with very little command of the English language. He had been admitted due to a severe nosebleed that no amount of medical intervention seemed to staunch. In desperation, the doctors had inflated a little balloon in his nose to keep the blood from flowing. Yet, a bit of blood still managed to trickle its way around the balloon, and so the Russian patient stayed on as my father’s roommate.
On this particular night, the Russian patient was in a jolly good mood for I was in the room and I know a smattering of Russian words. This meant we could have some stilted nonsensical communication, which along with hand motions went a long way in making him feel understood. In fact, he was doubly lucky this night, as the on-duty nurse was a darling Polish girl who also knew some Russian words. Between me and the nurse, it seemed he had found language access in his hospital room.
The Russian man pulled aside the curtain between his and my father’s beds, feeling camaraderie borne out of a few Russian phrases. He studied my father carefully, and then he smiled. He reached over and hit the call button. “You called?” asked the nurse, as she came into the room. “Dah,” he admitted. “What do you want?” she asked, which I helpfully translated into Russian. The patient pointed to the catheter attached to my father’s bed. The nurse and I looked at him and at each other. She looked puzzled and asked him to repeat, “What do you want?” He pointed again to the catheter and said, “so big” showing with his palms an example of how long he wanted the tube to be. Now the nurse was really confounded. “But you don’t need a catheter,” she tried explaining. It took about five minutes of mashing a few languages together to get him to explain he actually didn’t want the whole catheter contraption. He just wanted a “geeft” of a few inches of the plastic piping that is used in a catheter.
The Polish nurse, as I had said before, was a darling, giving person. She gave care and hugs indiscriminately. So she wanted to please and was good-naturedly thinking of giving the “geeft” of catheter tubes for this man. I was wondering what home repair project he thought it would help. It was at that point that the nurse asked, “I suppose I could give it to you, but what do you need it for?” That also took a few minutes to translate and get across, but the man finally understood the question. His face lit up and he said, “Yah Yogi.” “Huh?” we both asked simultaneously. “Yogi,” he repeated. I searched my mind for what that could mean, and in a burst of inspiration thought, maybe Yoga. I asked him, “Yoga? Exercise? Healthy?” He practically split his face with a smile at being understood. “Dah, healthy, Yogi!” And he moved his hands into some attempt of Yoga. That didn’t explain a flexible bit of plastic tube, which is why the nurse questioned, “and, because you do Yoga you need the pipe because….?” “To drink,” he replied, “through my nose. Eez healthy.” Well, I think that explained his nosebleed, to me at least anyway.
There then ensued the most ridiculous of arguments between the nosebleed patient and the nurse as to the health benefits of his sticking a catheter tube up his nose and drinking his liquids that way. Nowhere in his brain did it click, ‘uh, nosebleed, pipe up nose, maybe connection, like duh.’
It was quite an amusing incident, to be filed away as a war story used to get a chuckle from bored listeners at some future time. Until I realized that I was no better than that hospital patient. How many times does it not click in my mind, ‘cause, effect, duh.’ How many times do I do the wrong thing again and again and again, like a bird bashing my brains out against the non-yielding glass panes in my way, without stopping any of my harmful behavior? How many times do we Jews do that nationally, generation after generation, trying to assimilate, trying to impress secular society at the expense of our relationship with G-d, only to have anti-Semitism rise and engulf us and almost destroy us? ‘Assimilation and intermarriage increase and a backlash of horrors of anti-Semitism rises. Maybe connection?! Uh, duh.’