My Life As a Gay Man: Vinny, Part II
Two winters ago Vinny took me up on my offer to visit me in Florida where he was considering relocating after he sold his handicapped accessible home in upstate New York. Here, besides the “Endless Summer,” the cost of living was lower, and his disability dollars and his nest egg, primarily what he got for his home, would go further. Plus south Florida offered the kind of health services a person in his position would need on an ongoing basis.
Bear in mind to make such a journey was a big deal: Vinny was primarily confined to his wheelchair because of his paralysis and had another strike against him when he broke one of his legs in a fall at his home. When the leg failed to heal, doctors were forced to amputate his leg from the knee down.
How much bad luck could one person endure?
Yet l felt l could reasonably accommodate him in my ranch style home where virtually every room opened up onto the patio through sliding glass doors. A ramp made from plywood l bought at my neighborhood Home Depot would give him the mobility he needed, and while state health department regs no longer allowed commodes to be rented, l picked up a perfectly good used commode and shower bench for just a few bucks at a local thrift shop. The furniture in the guest bedroom was rearranged so he could maneuver around with few issues.
I thought l was ready. So did Vinny.
We were both wrong.
He looked older and more tired than l had last remembered when l picked him up at Fort Lauderdale International Airport in his own fold up wheelchair that l would become acutely familiar with over his five day stay. Lifting him, virtually dead weight, into my Honda Element was no small feat.
Since the bathroom door was too narrow for his wheelchair l had to transfer him to a desk swivel chair on wheels and from that onto the commode and reverse the process when he was done. Pissing was a lot easier – he did that through a disposable catheter in a bag and by the end of the day there was a trash can of plastic bags loaded with urine to dispose of.
He loved the idea of using my pool and l remembered reading how Franklin Roosevelt, paralyzed from polio, felt so free in the water. Getting Vinny into the pool was no problem, but getting him out which meant lifting him UP into his wheelchair was a nightmare. So too was attempting to use my stall shower. The “lip” at the bottom might as well have been as high as Mount Everest. I ended up hosing him down naked in a secluded corner of my yard.
Yes, though no fault of his own, Vinny was high maintenance. Only someone who truly loved him could deal with this on a day-to-day basis. Forever.
Yet despite all these major setbacks, we had fun. l played his private leatherman, the two of us in harnesses and not much else, him treating me to a bit of his Tri-mix which kept my dick as hard as a pipe. And in between, we hit places like the Ramrod, our leather bar, which he entered via the delivery door for beer, and where the usual patronizing faggots made him feel special, and at Hunters, our dance club, he enjoyed “wheeling” to seventies’ Disco.
That night of fun and frolic ended abruptly when Vinny received a text from his ex who been babysitting Bosco his black lab attendant dog that the dog had gotten loose and was missing. Not only was Vinny emotionally linked to the dog, losing such a specially trained animal inferred irresponsibility and could mean you would never be given such an animal again.
I had always assumed that Vinny’s partner had left him after he had become incapacitated, but Vinny confessed to me it was he who left Ed when he finally realized he was a closet alcoholic, enabled by his own mother. In fact, it was not until 5 a.m. that morning that the mother texted Vinny that they had found Bosco an hour after he got loose. Apparently Ed was too inebriated to make that text earlier himself, leaving Vinny on tenterhooks the entire night.
I was all set to visit Vinny that June at his home in upstate New York to see how and where he lived, but at the last minute, with my flight booked, I couldn’t get a hold of him, and it was not until l cancelled my flight just a day before I was to leave that he contacted me from the hospital. He had had a sudden kidney stone attack and had left his phone at home. Selfishly angry for losing money on the plane ticket, I soon realized that planning anything around Vinny, because of the unpredictability of his condition, was impossible.
I lost touch with him for a while. Then that fall, he reached out to me asking if he could come and revisit, but I told him that I had had back surgery that May and with two bum shoulders just couldn’t handle him. It was a terrible thing to say. I was denying my buddy his fantasy Leather Man and if anybody needed fantasy it was Vinny, but unfortunately I had my own physical realities to deal with.
Now just this past September, while still up in Pennsylvania waiting out Irma, Vinny texted me to tell me that he had had a major heart attack and that the doctors were unsure how damaged his heart was. I offered what solace l could in a text but, again, his timing could not have been worse as I was hurting in my own way. What could I do for him when l was 1500 miles away from my house and could not help myself?
All I kept thinking was how much shit can be thrown at one person in a lifetime, a good person who only wanted a quiet life as a full time high school music teacher and part time musician doing gigs with the best and a partner who gave a damn, while some of the scumbags I’ve known get away with murder.
Next: Terry and Jack, this Daddy’s two boys