Chapter 2 – We’ve Been Through Some Real Shit Together
My Southeast Asian adventure began in the year 2011 on the 26th of January – another brutally frigid day in the dead of a Chicago winter. It was a sunless day with winds powerful enough to steal your breath and with a temperature so cold it could convert even the steamiest of alcoholic hobo diarrhea into a slippery brown patch on the pavement in a mere matter of minutes. It was also a day that happened to be the 10th anniversary of my thirteenth birthday and, unfortunately, a day that coincided with the scheduling of my mother’s surgery to have colon cancer removed from her body.
My family and I went to the hospital around 9 a.m. My dad, my brother, my sister and I posted up in the waiting room while my mom checked in and began going through all the procedural bullshit. My flight out East didn’t leave until late in the evening so I had all day to hang out and would, at the very least, be around to see the loopy anesthetized version of my mom after she’d gone under the knife.
About an hour after our arrival we were summoned by a nurse and invited to join the head of our family in a generically white-walled, no-privacy closet of a pre-operative room. With not much to say besides how much dick the situation sucked and how much we all loved each other, we five sat in paranoid anticipation of the early afternoon procedure. As every type of doctor and clueless intern popped in to run and rerun checks and tests, we passed the time by watching terrible programming on a tiny wall-mounted television. After we’d been subjected to almost three whole episodes of Jason Lee getting his mediocre on as a detective in the new TNT series Memphis Beat, a nurse came into our room and informed us the surgery would be bumped back until further notice.
Another few hours passed before they finally came to take my mom away. The time dragged slowly as I spent it in the waiting room mindlessly searching for hammers and screwdrivers in the “Hidden Pictures” feature of Highlights magazine while occasionally glancing up at daytime ABC to catch a glimpse of intense dialogue between buxom babes and shirtless studs.
The minute hand had just lapped the hour hand for the fourth time when we finally heard from someone.
“Hi, Mr. Lally?” the nurse addressed my father.
“Yes?” he responded.
“The surgery on your wife was very successful. We got the tumor and took out several lymph nodes as a precautionary measure. She’s doing well right now but she’s still in the recovery room and you can’t see her just yet, but we’ll inform you when she’s ready.”
We thanked the bearer of good tidings as she smiled, nodded and walked away.
My mom’s younger brother John met with us around six or seven and, after being led on an hour-long goose chase through the labyrinth that is Resurrection Hospital, we finally got to see the patient of interest. She was conscious but weak and pretty messed up on drugs. Although some of the goofy shit she’d been rambling from her immobile position was quite funny, overall the visitation proved to be a humbling and very adult experience.
We hung out for a couple hours and although my mom had been making jokes and what not, I could tell she was in quite a bit of pain. She made it clear she wanted me to stick to my plan and go on my trip, but her forced positive sentiment didn’t make it any easier for me to leave the person who’d given me everything.
In my lifetime, my mom’s stuck with me through all kinds of shit in both the literal and figurative sense. After popping me out, she helped baby me by changing my diapers and scraping the feces off my little shit-caked baby genitals. From there, she stayed with me all the way to when I was a whiny teenager and she’d put up with all the self-centered shit that so often spewed out my mouth. And perhaps most memorably, my mother was also my number one motivator and sympathizer when I was a little kid who had a serious shitting problem, a time when I learned just how much I could count on her.
It was a time of ignorance, a time of innocence, a time when play took precedence over all else and unfortunately, a time when I’d always been too busy to set aside a few minutes to take a dump. My friends and I would be out running around, playing cops and robbers when all the symptoms of defecation would arise – rumbling stomach, constant farting, the poop sweats (especially the ones affecting the ass-crack area) – you name it, I had it. Nevertheless, I chose to ignore these bowel urgings, clenched my cheeks and continued chasing down my schoolyard chums. Little did I know that I’d pay the price for prolonging the inevitable and it almost turned out to be a check my ass couldn’t cash.
One fine summer morning after a week of self-neglect and a big bowl of Honeycombs, that familiar feeling came over me once again. Since I wasn’t doing anything at the time I deemed more important than adhering to an essential bodily function, I made my way over to the bathroom, hopped up on the big-boy toilet and assumed the position. Nothing was coming out, not even the squeak of a fart…yet I could sense the presence of a seemingly ready-to-go stink pickle occupying the lower half of my crap factory.
Making little progress, I felt like my internal organs were on the verge of busting as I pushed and strained with all the might stored in my immature frame. Following sufficient dilation, I began to crown and a sharp pain tore across the southernmost stretch of my Hershey highway.
“Ah! Mom!” I shouted in a fit of agony.
Sensing I was in danger, mommy dearest swooped into the bathroom to see what was the matter and in what way she could assist. The situation offered little for her to do other than provide moral support and hold my hand in hers, but it meant the world to me.
“I know, I know. Just hang in there, push a little bit harder,” she gasped. “You gotta get this thing outta you.”
With the help of my mother’s steadfast encouragement, I managed to evacuate that piece of shit which plunked into the water with a vengeance, sunk like a rock and was the biggest, fattest hunk of shit she’d ever seen. The thing looked like something that came from the ass of a horse, not the body of a 7-year-old boy.
“You did it!” she was so proud of me. “Are you okay? Here, lemme wipe that for you.”
In pain at a level which I’d never felt, I had nothing to say for myself.
“Aw, you poor thing,” she said while utilizing Charmin to dig the mud outta my smelly cavern. “No more holding it in, you hear me Timmy? If you have to go, you take time out to go, okay?”
“Yes mom,” I whimpered.
After she decided I was clean, I pulled up my trousers and took a step away from the crapper.
“Ho! Lee! Shit!” she muttered. “I cannot believe that this thing came outta you.”
I shrugged once again, not knowing how to respond to the assertion. I’d been to hell and back and didn’t much feel like chatting about my ass-splitting turd experience. Emotionally and physically drained, I felt like a soldier – a soldier after a long struggle who’d just gone through something awful, something that no human being should ever have to go through. I wanted nothing more than to plop down in the TV room and drown out the nagging sting in my ass with a little Tom & Jerry. But just when I thought my “call of doody” had come to an end, the colonel called me back for one final mission – a mission that would leave me a different man than I’d been going into it.
“Uh-oh,” I heard my mother say as I started to walk out of the room.
“Whatsa matter mom?”
“Well Tim, I don’t think that this thing is gonna make it down the drain,” she explained. “I think I’m gonna hafta get a hanger for this one.”
She exited to the bedroom and I was left alone with the monster that I’d created. It actually was a pretty awesome sight – a beastly, football-sized excretion that probably should’ve been removed by Caesarean section now resting at the bottom of the john in all its glory.
Moments later, madre returned with a metal hanger whose previous employment was undoubtedly much more pleasant than its new assignment and bent it into what looked like a giant question mark. She then used this device to begin poking at the abomination in an attempt to fish it out. After breaking a few nutty bits off the end, Captain Ahab finally got Moby Dick to bite and slowly lifted the dripping mass out of the water before carefully laying the beast and its captor into an empty case of Heileman’s Old Style lager. Why she hadn’t just used the hanger to bust the chocolate piece up into a bunch of tiny flushable chunks before sending it on its way with a flush, I’ll never understand.
“Ugh. This is so gross,” she said holding out the box of shit in my direction, wincing from its stench. “Here Tim, take this out to the alley and put it in our can.”
I reluctantly accepted the task at hand and began my descent down the stairs and into the alley where I encountered a new dilemma. Turns out my short stature didn’t meet the vertical requirements to simultaneously open and toss my shit into your standard-ass Chicago garbage receptacle. However, what seemed like it was going to pose a problem had quickly been solved when I noticed that the friendly garbage men were only a few houses away and heading right for me. My childish logic told me to wait for them.
The entirety of this whole shitting fiasco took place during the summer of 1995 amid a notoriously scorching July when a record number of people died from heat-related causes. As I stood by our rusty gate patiently awaiting the garbage men’s arrival, the neighboring garages appeared to dance before my eyes, swaying to and fro in the heat rising off the blacktop.
“Tim! Tim!” I could hear my mom calling from behind. “Just leave the box! C’mon, get inside now!”
I didn’t see any reason why.
“No, hold on Mom. They’re right next door.”
“No, it’s okay! They’ll still take it!” she persuaded to no avail. “Just leave it on the ground and get inside right now!”
She knew what was coming but I sure as hell didn’t. How was I, as a seven-year-old kid who didn’t have the mental capacity to piece together the whole scheme of things, supposed to comprehend and then have the foresight to see how this monster shit I’d just taken was about to be thrown up into the high-velocity blades of the proverbial fan spinning right above my little ginger head?
The truck pulled up and expelled a cloud of exhaust into the sweltering summer air when a sweaty, red-faced garbage man walked up and cast a foreboding shadow over me. From his disheveled appearance, even I could tell how hard these men had been working. Before I could even muster a word, the man reached out and grabbed the shit-filled beer box with a look of sheer delight spread across his face.
“Wow! Hey, thanks kid!”
I soon found out the hard way why my mom had been urging me to drop that shit and get my ass inside. As I began the walk back to the house in la-la land with my mother still in the doorway frantically waving me to safety, I was treated to the type of intense verbal thrashing that’d rightfully be reserved for a home plate umpire who’s just blown a crucial ninth-inning call in Game 7 of the World Series. Seeking sanctuary from the barrage of profanities being spewed at me as tears began to stream down my chubby little cheeks, I bolted into the house whereupon my mama took me into her arms and patted the back of my head to calm me down.
It had been a rough day for me, a loss of innocence in a sense. I learned that life isn’t all about cops ‘n’ robbers and lemonade stands but, in actuality, that it can be really shitty. Most importantly however, I learned that the shit times don’t stink nearly as bad when there’s someone there to help you clean up the mess.
Back at Resurrection, I approached the bed and gave my mom – who looked like she was in need of a metaphorical ass-wiping – one last hug and a kiss, half-expecting her to whisper, “Stay gold, Ponyboy,” in my left ear. Feeling guilty as all hell, I looked back, forced a smile and waved from the doorway before leaving the hospital and making my way to the airport.