June 20th, 2005

guyster tat2

There's not enough sorry in the world to mend a job not done.

Sometimes I just don’t see it coming, and after more than three years, you’d think I’d have better radar. I was watching the premiere episode of 30 Days, Morgan Spurlock’s new series on FX, with Joe next to me on the couch. Morgan and his girlfriend were documenting the grim rigors of living on minimum wage, and at one point, she got a urinary tract infection, which necessitated a trip to the emergency room.

At one point, Morgan interviewed her ER doctor. The doctor shook his head at the state of modern health care and said, “If someone comes in here with a heart attack, they get the best treatment possible, but there’s no room for preventative care.” I didn’t hear much after that.

After the show’s credits rolled, I turned to Joe and asked, “Why didn’t I just take Billy to the hospital?”

For a split-second, he started to roll his eyes then stopped short, his compassion taking charge. “Because there was no way for you to know someone his age–”

“But he told me.” The words caught mid-throat.

“If he thought it was bad enough–“

“No! That’s not how it worked.” I didn’t go into a full-blown breakdown, not like I am now, but only because he’s already seen it before and there’s nothing he, or anyone else, can do about it. You see, I ignored Billy when he said repeatedly, “Gosh, I’m short of breath,” and “Ow, I’ve got chest pains!” and “I think I’m having a heart attack.” For a week, I ignored his concerns. One ear and out the….

I’ve spent over three years listening to people’s rationalizations of why I didn’t act on his pleas, and sometimes I even nod in agreement, but I know better. I was there, and those rationalizations are in the abstract. But Billy isn’t an abstract to me, he’s Billy, my baby, my guy, my Guyster.

I knew him better than anyone ever knew him, and I knew what my job was, and I knew that he wouldn’t have asked to go to the hospital because he had no insurance and he was broke, and his deepest instinct wouldn’t have allowed him to impose on me or anyone else.

It was my job, my duty to take him by the hand and say, “Honey, we’re going to the hospital right now. Let’s bring some magazines cause it might be a long wait, but we’re going now.” And he would’ve followed me, I know that, all the way concerned about how we’d pay for it, but he would’ve gone.

If I’d just taken one of his not-so-silent cries for help and done something, the last three years would’ve been filled with kisses and laughing and fights and dancing and most important of all, Billy would’ve begun fulfilling some of his dreams.

I’m sorry, Guyster, I’m sorry I let you down when you needed me most. I’m sorry I ignored you.

I love you Bill Ledbetter.