Saturday, April 10, 2010

Duck Hunting With Chris

Chris, was an old Norwegian, a bachelor all his life. He lay on his floor with a broken his hip for two days before a neighbor found him and called the ambulance. We shared a hospital room, there due to his fragile aging body and my incompetence on skis. He was broken and dehydrated; I was just waiting for the swelling in my ankle to subside so they could put a cast on it.

The first day he was alert and in good spirits. We talked and later in the day two of his nephews visited him, recalling the last time he was in the hospital. It had been a duck hunting season opening day, which he never missed. They had taken him from the hospital in a wheelchair, directly out to Bear Lake, where they picked him up, set him in a duck boat with his gun and towed him out to the cattails to shoot. There was much laughing at the memory and arguing about how many birds he had bagged.

Toward evening he began to doze off and seemed to lose track of where he was and how he got there. Later in the night, apparently with the day's earlier conversation still in his mind, he began hallucinating. In his world the bed was a boat and he was back out on the lake, hunting ducks and calling out to his dog and to his hunting partner. My first reaction was to call the nurse, but he didn't seem distressed and in my discomfort I couldn't sleep anyway. Eventually he became more agitated. I asked, "Are you all right, Chris?" He was pulling at a urine collecting hose. "No dammit, Homer, there's a snake in the boat and it's biting my penis!" I told him the nurses taped it on and it was okay, which in a moment of lucidity seemed to satisfy him. Shortly he began pointing his imagined gun in the sky, shooting, "I've never seen so many ducks! Look at 'em all, Homer, shoot!" So I shot. If I called, "Teal to the left", he could see them and he shot. "Mallards to the right!" We bagged our limit again and again. It was a glorious day on the lake. Eventually I became sleepy, but it didn't seem right to take the joy from him. So we hunted on through the night.

The next morning he seemed calm and aware again. I said goodbye to him as they wheeled me out. They wrapped my ankle in plaster, gave me crutches and sent me home. His nephew told me Chris didn't make it through the next night. I hope he died on the lake.

4 comments:

Debb said...

No insightful remark from me.. but pure gratitude. This story did more for me than a sermon in church, Gunnar... you gave this man exactly what he needed at the time, to be REALLY heard and also, might I add, your memory is amazing for your (our) age..

Gunnar Berg said...

Memory? I'm not even positive of the name. It was Dean Rasmusson's uncle.

Christopher, New Britain PA said...

Tuned in to your blog a little while back for the two-wheeled stuff(we seem to have similar tastes & proclivities in that respect--yours being much more aestetically refined), but I find I keep coming back just as much, if not more, for your other reflections on life as you know it.
This post was a prime example & simply superb. You're the one with the insightful remarks...please keep 'em coming & thanks for writing them.

Gunnar Berg said...

Thank you.