A Good Break


I should have known better. After all, I'm not a kid. I'm a thirty-five year old man with a company to run.

Still, I thought it would be fun. A day away from the office--a sunny day, cold with a groomed layer of new snow. I dug my snowboard, boots and helmet out of the closet and headed north.

The second run of the day turned out to be my last. I caught an edge, went airborne and flew headfirst toward a sheet of hardpacked snow and ice on the trail's border. I wanted to protect my face and put out my arms to break my fall. I saved my face, but broke my left wrist and elbow, right forearm and tore my right rotator cuff. In short, I broke myself.

I'll omit all the gory details, but two days later I was propped up in a hospital bed back in my city. My left arm was casted from below my wrist to my upper arm, with my elbow bent at a ninety degree angle. My right was in a cast from just above my wrist to above my elbow and I had one of those weird slings that immobilized my right shoulder. Basically, I was useless from the beltline up.

My doctor was giving me the "good news"

"Josh, you did some real damage, but I can promise you in a couple months you will be out of these casts and with aggressive physical therapy, in a year you will be back to functioning normally."

The only things I really heard were "casts" and "a couple months."

I was still in a fog when the social worker appeared. She said I would be discharged in a day. Yeah, insurance doesn't want you hanging around a hospital when you can suffer at home.

She said I had two options. She could find a nursing home or try to line up some home care assistance. I envisioned me in a nursing home with a bunch of 80 year-olds and asked if we could work on home care assistance. I was a bit dismissive.

"Look I've got a business to run and can't imprisoned in some nursing home. Just get me out of here and I can manage by myself. I'm a big boy, Miss Adams

"Mr. Jenkins, you do realize that for all practical purposes you are completely incapacitated. I mean you can walk, but you will need assistance with dressing, bathing, eating, and, unfortunately, toileting."

The extent of my condition sunk in. In short, I was screwed. I was tempted to let her have it with both barrels, which is my usual way of dealing with frustration—kill the messenger. But, I guess the painkillers dulled my killer instinct.

I asked her what to do. She said my insurance would cover some home care assistance. She would try to line up a couple people, since I would need help multiple times during the day and have someone available seven days a week.

"Are you married?"

"Divorced," I told her.

"Anyone at home who can help?"

"Live alone."

"Well, let me get to work and I'll see you tomorrow. Is there anything I can do now?"

I thought for a second and asked, "Could you call my assistant at my office and tell her to come down?"

"You mean, Kerry?"

I nodded with some amazement.

"She's been waiting to see you for a while. We had to let the doctor visit and then we needed our time together. I'll ask her to come in now." I noticed her choice of verb over my wording to "tell" her to come in.

In a minute, Kerry was standing by my bed. The look on her face told me I must appear awful.

"Gosh, Boss, you had us all worried," she said. "Thank god you will be all right."

I laughed and said with more sarcasm than she deserved, "Sure, I'll be just fine—in two months and then more months of rehab. So if you think that is 'all right' then you get the prize for Pollyanna of the Year."

"Sorry, Boss, I didn't mean..."

"Forget it, Kerry," I said seeing her dismay. I made an effort to try to be nice. "I'm just feeling sorry for myself. I'm happy you're here. It's nice to see a friendly face."

Kerry blushed a bit. She was the best administrative assistant I ever had and probably the best of any office in the city. She was efficient, intuitive, calm and bright. She managed the shitstream that flowed my way so that I could focus on what was important. I had come to depend on her and she showed loyalty beyond what I probably deserved. I probably never told her how good she was, but that was me, Josh the Prick.

We had a cordial but rather formal relationship. Owning and managing an ad agency meant dealing with lots of egos. Everyone thought he or she was the only reason the agency was successful. Therefore, everyone was on a first name basis and tried to impress me, which really means they were all trying to screw someone else and increase their prestige in the office. My staff were not evil people, but fairly typical of our sort of the barracudas in our business.

I had tried on numerous occasions to have Kerry call me Josh instead of Mr. Jenkins. She just couldn't do it. The best she could bring herself to do was call me 'Boss'.

She was probably six years younger than I, but at times she seemed older. I accepted her sense of propriety and we got along great.

I told her what the social worker had explained to me. I could not remain detached from the business for two months or there would be no business left. Not only would the inmates be running the asylum, but they would also probably turn into cannibals and leave me with nothing but the carcass of an agency.

"Kerry, we will need to set up a remote office for me at my apartment. Have it wired it to the max. I'll work from my laptop and..."

Kerry looked at my immobilized arms.

I realized there would be no working a keyboard in this condition.

"Kerry, you've got to figure something out."

"No problem, Boss," she said smiling. I knew she loved a challenge.

"First, I want to talk to that social worker," she said. "We can't just have some ditz coming in to care for you. Then, I'll work out the details for a highly functioning office. I'll need your keys and be on my way."

I had her look in the bedside table. She found them and other personal effects. She scooped them all up to prevent any possible theft. She waved and breezed out of the room.

For the first time since I woke up after surgery I began to feel a twinge of confidence. If anyone could make this work, Kerry could.

The next day the social worker was back with all sorts of info. She told me Kerry gave her precise instructions on what was needed. I sensed she was a tad put out, but admitted Kerry had great insight.

She had lined up a woman whom she considered the best. She would come by this afternoon to meet me and begin to work on a plan. She was still looking for a second person and hoped to have some progress later in the day. She told me she had convinced the discharge coordinator that I needed one more day in hospital. I would be discharged tomorrow morning.

After a male nurse came in and gave me a sponge bath, put me on the bedpan and took it away, I was dozing when I sensed someone.

Kerry was sitting by my bed working on her iPad.

"Hi, Boss, did you get some rest."

I nodded and asked for an update.

"Right. Well, I checked with the nurses and they said you could move your fingers but couldn't do much with your arms. So, I'm working with Carl to rig up something so you can use your phone and maybe a couple other gadgets. We've got a camera set up for conferencing and Carl installed a new speaker phone in your room. I also ordered one of those beds that tilt up. It's not a hospital bed and the nurses said that would be a lot more comfortable and work just as well. The only one in stock that I could get delivered today is a queen. I checked with Chief and she Ok'd the expenses. By the way, she says hi and promised to stop by later to see you."

"Chief" was our chief financial officer and my ex-wife. We were married for eight years until she felt it was time to let her "other self" free. This was her way of saying she wanted a divorce and was moving in with her girlfriend. It was tough losing a wife, but losing her to a woman took some getting used to. Lola was a minority partner in our agency and a superior financial manager. So, we decided to keep our business arrangement and dump our domestic one. Actually, we've become really good friends since we split. I even like her new lover, Janice.

Since, Kerry could not possibly call the boss's wife by her first name, she started calling her Chief, short for chief financial officer. It stuck and now everyone, including me, called her Chief in the office.

Kerry also had interviewed the prospective care assistant on the phone and checked all her references. She was satisfied and if I agreed after meeting her, she recommended I should hire her.

Later that afternoon, a tall black woman entered my room. She introduced herself as Botwani Alhamis. She had a natural dignity and I immediately called her Mrs. Alhamis. She called me Mr. J.

She was probably about 10 years older than I, but looked younger than her years. She kept her hair cropped close to her scalp and her skin was clear and shiny. With her easy smile and warm manner, I felt I would be in good hands. She came to America ten years ago from Sudan. She informed me she had a younger sister who would be willing to come by on weekends and when she needed to be away. She assured me her sister was reliable. I agreed to hire her and her sister and now had a plan for home care.

The trip from the hospital to my third-floor apartment was stressful and awkward, but after an hour or so, I was resting in my new bed, surrounded by technology.

Kerry had Carl rig up one of those adjustable hospital tray tables so that it was the right height to slip under my casted arms. He had strips of Velcro stuck to the table. On top he had my mobile phone, TV remote, controller for the bed, remote for my thermostat and a new remote. I asked Kerry about it.

She took it and pressed Power. The flat screen TV positioned across the room in perfect position for my viewing popped on and I was looking at my outside door. She showed me how to press to talk to the person and how to buzz someone in. Carl had coded a second release for my apartment door. He had also rigged up the speaker phone, sitting on my nightstand, so I could talk and hear the visitors through the intercom.

"I figured we'd better keep the remotes attached with Velcro to the table just in case you bumped one. I programmed your phone to speed dial the office, my cell, my apartment, Mrs. Alhamis' phone and Chief's cell. If you want any other numbers let me know. I also set the default to speaker phone. So, you can just push and talk." She also had the power cord attached and plugged in.

I should have been amazed at her ability to anticipate all my needs, but nothing Kerry does surprises me.

I was exhausted and fell asleep with my bed tilted up. I thought I would never get used to sleeping on my back, but fatigue is a great motivator.

I awoke to find Mrs. Alhamis standing by my bed. She was taking my temp with a digital instrument in my ear.

"You know, Mr. J., I am not a nurse, but I can check your vital signs. If something seems off, I will call a nurse at my agency. So not to worry."

I felt comfortable with her assurances. That comfort almost immediately evaporated with her next sentence.

"So, have you moved your bowels or urinated since you've been home?"

I admit to being somewhat squeamish about bodily functions, especially what I still call Number 2. I know it's part of being human, but if I did not have to think about it, I would be a happy man.

I shook my head in response to her question.

"Ok, today we will use the bedpan and urinal. Tomorrow, when you are not a tired man, I will help you to the bathroom. You need to move around anyway. So, now, I think you should do the urine."

Mrs. Alhamis slid on exam gloves from a box she had placed on the table. She pulled down my covers. I was wearing flannel PJ bottoms. I was bare-chested since no clothes would fit over my combination of casts.

She asked me to lift my bottom a bit and then slid my PJs to my knees. I was not wearing underwear. I felt totally mortified. To be so exposed to a woman like Mrs. Alhamis was more than embarrassing.

She acted like it was no big thing. She positioned the urinal between my legs and lifted my penis and inserted it into the neck of the vessel.

"Sometimes it is difficult to do the urine if someone is watching. I will be outside working on my notes. Just call me when you are done."

After a few seconds, I was able to relax and let my bladder empty itself. I called out and Mrs. Alhamis returned.

She moved the urinal away and set it on the table. She then opened a sterile wipe and efficiently cleaned the tip of my penis, pulling back the foreskin and making sure no germs were there. She pulled my PJs back up and covered me.

"No bowel movements now?" she asked.

I assured her I was fine.

She noted the amount in the urinal, made an entry into my chart and carried the bottle to the bathroom.

I heard her in the kitchen and she soon returned with a tray. She placed it on the other hospital table that Kerry had obtained, after rolling aside the one with my remotes.

She fed me tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich, accompanied by a glass of ginger ale.

When I was finished, she gave me two sleeping pills and my other meds and turned off the light.

As she repositioned my remote table so I could reach all my gadgets, she said, "You will sleep well tonight, Mr. J. I see you early tomorrow morning."

She was right on both accounts.

Mrs. Alhamis arrived at 6:30 a.m. She asked me if I wanted to try to walk to the bathroom. Both my bladder and my bowel were all for the idea. She raised the back of the bed until I was sitting straight up. She then swung my legs over the edge of the bed. Letting me rest there until I was accustomed to being upright, she reached for a thick leather belt with large metal loops positioned around it.

"I will put this on you, please," she said. "Then I have something to hold onto as we walk."

Using the belt for leverage, she pulled me forward until my feet touched the floor. I tried standing but immediately felt light-headed. She put two hands in the loops of the belt and steadied me. As she moved backwards, I baby-stepped my way toward the bathroom. A journey I had made thousands of times now seemed to be an odyssey. Finally, we reached the bathroom. She helped me turn so my back was to the toilet.

"I think today you should be seated. Once you get used to walking, you can stand as usual to do the urine."

Mrs. Alhamis kept one hand on the belt as the other pulled the drawstring on my PJs. In a second they were at my ankles and I was standing naked in front of her. Holding me with the belt, she helped me ease down onto the toilet seat. My penis rested on the seat. She placed a gloved hand on it and let it drop below.

"I be back in a few minutes. Please to call if there is a problem."

She left but did not close the door.

I let nature take its course. After finishing I realized I could not flush or use the toilet paper.

I called for Mrs. Alhamis.

"All done? Good!"

She reached around me to grab the back of my belt and telling to push up, helped me stand. Once I had my balance, she discretely wiped me and flushed. She told me to step out of my PJs and we walked back to my room.

She settled me in bed and left only to return with a basin of warm, soapy water. She gave me a sponge bath. She maintained her smile all through her work.

I was embarrassed both for me and her, as once again she pushed back my foreskin and wiped my tip with the washcloth.

"I'm sorry you have to do this," I said. "It can't be comfortable having to wash a man like this. I mean, down there."

She chuckled.

"No problem, Mr. J. A man's penis is just part of his body. Like anything we get used to it. I tell you a little secret. My husband, Innocentus, he has a penis like yours. So many Americans have the cutting. I don't understand, but then I was not born here. "

She finished my penis and washed my scrotum. In any other circumstance having an attractive woman touching me in an intimate way would have resulted in an immediate reaction. Fortunately, nothing happened.

She helped me pull on clean bottoms and settled me back in bed. Chief had dropped off a half-dozen pair of sleeping bottoms before I arrived home. With my remote I adjusted the thermostat and increased the temperature. Since I was bare-chested, I wanted the apartment warm.

After breakfast, Mrs. Alhamis said she would be going.

"I have been thinking about the shower," she said. "Your hair will need to be washed soon. I can't get your casts and bandages wet, but I think I have an idea. When I come tomorrow, we try. Ok?"

As she was leaving I heard Kerry coming in.

"Hey, Boss, felling better?"

I assured her I was. She proceeded to bring me up to date on my agency.

She read me all my emails and I dictated responses. She reviewed the phone calls and took notes on how to respond. There were certain calls I needed to do myself. Kerry punched the numbers. She took notes as I spoke to clients and some of my staff.

Before long it was noon. Mrs. Alhamis would be coming back soon. It was timely because I had to pee really badly.

Kerry was finishing up a set of notes when Mrs. Alhamis came in. Kerry had given her a set of keys so she didn't have to be buzzed in.

"Hi, Miss Kerry. Getting lots of work done?"

Kerry assured her we were doing great.

"Now, if you can excuse us, please," said Mrs. Alhamis, "I need to take Mr. J. to the bathroom to make the urine."

Kerry turned five different shades of red and practically bolted from the room.

Mrs. Alhamis looked at me. "She's a little shy," I said.

This time Mrs. Alhamis asked if I wanted to try peeing while standing. I agreed since sitting and getting back up was difficult.

She positioned me in front of the toilet, lifted the seat and reached around in front.

She loosened the drawstring and my bottoms fell to the floor. Thankfully, she had closed the door. I didn't want Kerry to inadvertently see this scene.

"Mr. J., I think I should be holding the penis or else we might be watering the floor."

With one hand on my belt and the other gently holding my penis, I let a strong warm stream flow into the bowl.

Finishing, she shook loose the final drops and cleaned underneath my foreskin with a wipe.

She pulled my PJs back up and we made the slow trek back to bed.

Thus was the pattern for the next days. Mrs. Alhamis arrived at 6:30, got me ready for work by 8:00. Kerry arrived and we worked to noon. Mrs. Alhamis came back at noon for a pee break and lunch. Kerry and I worked until three. I usually needed a nap and that allowed Kerry to head back to the office. Mrs. Alhamis came back at 5:00. Did another bathroom run, fed me dinner and tucked me in with my meds and remotes.

On weekends her sister, whose name I couldn't understand would take her place. I started calling her Charlotte, after Mrs. Alhamis said her sister was trying it as an American name. Charlotte was younger and not as confident as her sister, but she took good care of me.

Our routine improved when Mrs. Alhamis figured out how to wash my hair. She bought a poncho. She also got a special tub chair. After undressing me, she helped me get into the tub, draped the poncho over me, leaving my head exposed and used the shower head on a hose to wet my hair. She shampooed me and then rinsed off with the hose. She also discovered it was easier to shave me in the shower and then tucking the poncho up into my belt washed my lower half and managed to give me a semi-sponge bath on my upper half to help me from reeking like a over-ripe banana.

It was a relief to have clean hair and it felt great to have a semblance of a shower.

After about three days, Mrs. Alhamis was easing me back into bed after my shower. I was still naked. She looked at me and then averted her eyes.

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