The man with the brown hat.

He had a brown fadora.  It is as much a part of his routine as brushing his teeth.  He tells us he only takes it off for showers, he tells us he met his wife in that hat and she’s been with him ever since. 

He comes to dialysis in the morning, shuffling in on his own accord.  He’s been moving a bit slower these days but still steady. 

That morning, I’m taking out his needles, I’ve already pulled the first and have placed his finger over the site, I hold the other.  For some reason, that morning I choose to hold it for him, to talk with him, it’s slower then usual and frankly I am a bit tired, so I take the opportunity to sit.

He’s watching me, I feel it, so I look up at him and smile, baring teeth in a grin I know he will appreciate.  I expect some sweet remark, or funny comment about taking advantage of him.  Instead he just stares.

“I’m tired,” he says.

“Are you not sleeping well?”

“I sleep as well as expected,” he whispers, “I’m tired of all this.” If he had a free hand I’d expect him to wave it about the room.

I lower my eyes, I hate this part, I glance back up and nod.  I understand.

“I’m too old for this, too tired,” he tells me, he then asks me what we would do if he stops coming.

I tell him we’d make sure he understood the consequences of stopping dialysis, and then we would make sure he had all the resources to make him comfortable.

I wondered at the moment if he thought we’d be mad or dissappointed in him if he stopped.  I wanted to cry, I felt the tears stinging the back my eyes.

He lowered his eyes as the other patients around him squirmed, no one likes to hear when someone is stopping dialysis, and HIPPA be damned, most dialysis clinics chairside tables are about a foot a part.

I leaned in, slipping the face mask off my head and staring at him blue eyes to blue eyes. “Have you talked to your wife?”

He nodded and smiled, a lopsided grin, “she says I’m not going anywhere, but she’ll be fine without me.”

I ask if he wants to talk to the social worker, or Nurse R, or anyone else, to perhaps express something that is bothering him.

“No,” he says as I tape him up and secure his sites, “talking to you was enough.”

As he stood so I could take his blood pressure, I slipped his hat onto his head and helped him button his shirt, straightened his cardigan and made myself be still, so as not to hug him. 

I walk him to the scale, ignoring the tech’s glances as I take my time with a patient who usually is done and out.  I walk him out the door and into the lobby and watch him leave.

He doesn’t know it, but I stand in the doorway until I can’t see him anymore and I catch what he thinks no one else will. 

He slips his hat off as if this is the final gesture and places it neatly, tidily into the trashcan.

I took his hat out of the trash and placed it behind his chair, on the ledge before the window.

His mind was made up and his hat is there to stay.


~ by Kim on July 7, 2008.

3 Responses to “The man with the brown hat.”

  1. That brought tears to my eyes.

    I’ve had those patients as well. Those are the ones who stick with you. And it’s ironic that you mention the hat… Because one of my absolute favorites wore a brown fedora.

  2. Oh god. You made me cry 😦

    Great post; really compelling.

  3. Ohh. That broke my heart.

    Very good writing, and you handled it well.

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