|Beebe Hospital this morning - Wayne is on the third floor to the right|
This morning I visited my friend Wayne "The Cajun" at the Beebe Hospital.
|Wayne at 2013 Bloggerfest with his Dr. Spo custom made shirt|
I have not seen Wayne for several. The last time I saw him he was in the hospital. This time he went in the hospital again after a short stay at his apartment in Rehoboth Beach.
|Wayne with my longtime (60 years) friend Ed in 2009 who is also gravely ill (only expected to live three weeks) with liver cancer - (update: Ed (Cage) died 4:00 AM January 27th, 2015)|
Wayne has been ill for sometime. Up until about two weeks ago, before I left on my trip to California, he's been able to post on his blog "On Transmigration." The blog I encouraged him to start as a means of dealing with the breakup of his longtime relationship (thirty one years) with Tom N.
|Me, Tom N. and Wayne at the Georgetown Airport Grill - 2005|
Wayne initially dismissed the idea of blogging as a means of self therapy and to help him deal with his loss. But eventually he became a regular blogger. His wit, intelligence, humor and (sometimes) biting sarcasm is a regular feature in his blog posts. I always looked forward to reading Wayne's blog. He never failed to bring a smile to my face with his latest adventures as a host at a local eatery in Rehoboth Beach or his routine encounters with rude and aggressive female real estate agents stealing his parking spot or rude and aggressive moms insisting on bringing their
|Wayne at the job he loved and was good at - host at Dos Locos - NO STROLLERS!|
|Wayne hosting a party at his house on Old Landing Road - 2005|
I liked Wayne immediately. I liked him not in a romantic way but in a "I like you!" way. Wayne was funny. He had that edge, that Paul Lynde type of humor (you all know what I mean). Biting sarcasm with a smile (or a sneer depending on where you're at on the receiving end).
|The Wayne Sneer|
When Wayne and Tom broke up Wayne was at a loss. The blog helped but he needed to get out. He said he would like to "get out" (go out to restaurants) but didn't want to dine alone. I told him that anytime he wanted to go out I'll go with him. You know me, I love to go out. Bill doesn't. So within a few months time we developed a regular meet up at the Purple Parrot in Rehoboth Beach on Sunday nights.
First it was just me and Wayne. Then other friends started to follow. At one time there would be as many of eight of us at the table at the Purple Parrot, on Sunday night, Prime Rib Night. I rarely took of the Prime Rib (too much meat for me, a phrase you probably never thought I would say) but I did get the "Wimpy", a so called small hamburger (actually quite large). I pigged out on the Wimpy with bacon and cheese, onion, lettuce, tomato and even horse radish sauce. Washed it down with either a couple of glasses of wine or a margarita or two. Ah, those were the days.
|Paul, Will (the bartender) and Wayne at the Purple Parrot - 2009|
Oh sure, we had our disagreements. How could that not happen when two friends get close? The one time our relationship was strained (and I wrote about this in a blog in this very spot years ago) was when the waiter forgot to bring my Wimpy. Everyone else had finished eating and there I was, laughing and enjoying myself, working on my second glass of vino, when someone asked "Where's your Wimpy Ron?" I had forgotten all about my order. Someone called the waiter over and informed him he "missed one." He was very apologetic and said he would put my order through immediately. At that time I didn't care whether I got my order or not because I was buzzed on the wine. But I got angry when Wayne shot off a remark "Oh get over it Ron!"
|Wayne and our sometimes contentious relationship|
Now you have to understand the context of where Wayne is coming from. He was (and probably still is) very protective of waiters (and waitresses). To Wayne they can do no wrong. What made me angry was that I WASN'T upset and I certainly wasn't upset at the waiter. Heck, here he is, a young good-looking gay guy (the waiter) having to deal with a table full of Old Gay Guys having a good time and he misses one of their orders? I don't know but he might have been as resentful as a different waiter a few weeks before who dissed us when one of us questioned an order. He said something to the effect "It's hard keeping straight what you old queens order" .
|Wayne as a Mississippi River Boat Gambler|
I remember at the time we were all caught speechless by his rude outburst. We couldn't believe what we heard. Of course the air in our Good Times balloon went pffft. A few minutes later the waiter, now contrite came back and said "I apologize if I offended anyone with my earlier remarks." Obviously someone (the management) told him to "apologize" (his heart wasn't in it) to us. Of course Wayne stood up for him immediately. I was offended by the waiter's remarks (me, and OLD QUEEN?) but not pissed off or real angry. I had entered Old Queen Territory years ago.
|Wayne and Violet at the Purple Parrot - 2010|
This was just the first time a young gay guy pointed it out to me. But, and I apologize for the long paragraph here) I wanted to put into context my "words" with Wayne that night the waiter didn't bring out my Wimpy. Wayne saw a different side of me that night that not too many see, the Don't Fuck With Me Ron. Not the usual Easy Going Ron that is Taken For Granted. He saw the ugly Ron. That night our relationship was altered a bit. A mutual friend of ours who was there that night said "Ron, if you want to have friends you can't do THAT." Well, you know what I say to THAT. "THAT" is me, you get the good and the bad with me if you want to be my friend. But one thing you don't do is belittle me and embarrass me in front of my friends without getting IT right back in your face. I've always been a firm believer in if you can dish it out you should be ready to take it.
|My late friend Big Bob (McCamley) and Wayne at the jewelry store where Wayne used to work|
So there, I took too long and used too much verbiage to make . . . what point? The point is Wayne and I had a friendship and we understood each other and our limits, our weaknesses and our strengths. The Wayne I've known over these past ten years (hard to believe it's been ten years) is one of the most unique individuals I've ever known. All the adjectives I've used before apply: talented, witty, intelligent, humorous, self deprecating, generous. Oh he has his negative side too. He is a contrarian. I could say "Wayne, it's raining outside" and he would say "What did you think it was doing? Snowing?" That is Wayne, love him or leave him.
|Wayne and his co-worker Cheryl at the jewelry store where he worked - 2009|
I don't do well with sick people. I don't know what to say when they're sick. Wayne has been very ill for the past year. He's been in and out of the hospital. He lives alone. Thank goodness he has his good friend Linda from work looking after him. I don't know Linda. I meet her once when I visited Wayne during one of his earlier hospital stays this summer. She struck me as being an angel. There are angels among us. I'm not one of them, that's for sure.
|Wayne and some of his girlfriends at his house on Old Landing Road - 2005|
Wayne has been in the hospital since before I left for California. He has been blogging during his previous hospital stays. This time he has not. Of course I knew his illness has gotten worse.
On this gray, cold, windy, winter morning I gathered my courage and drove down to Beebe to see Wayne. I've called twice in the past week to no answer on his phone.
|Wayne at his new home after he moved out of his Old Landing Home - 2006|
The parking lot at Beebe was full as usual. I parked at the far end and walked the length of the hospital parking lot, with the cold wind beating against my face to the reception desk inside. I asked the lady at the reception desk "Is Wayne Juneau still here?" She looked at her computer and said "Yes." I said "I think he's in room 316." The man sitting next to her corrected me and said "He's in room 314."
|Wayne cleaning the glass on the front door of Dos Locos prior to opening|
She asked to see my driver's license. She asked me if I had recently been to Africa or been in contact with anyone who had Ebola. I answered "No." She also asked me "Do you have any flu-like symptoms?" I also answered "No."
She made wrote Wayne's name down on a label with his room number and handed it to me to place on my jacket. She asked "Do you know how to get to his room?" I told her I did. Just to be sure she said "Down that hallway to the right and then the first left to the elevators."
|Me, Barbara (my neighbor) and Wayne at the Henlopen Oyster House last year - last time I dined with Wayne|
From my previous visits I knew Wayne would be on the third floor (the hospital only has three floors) and at the farthest end of the building.
I walked the long walk to the elevator. The doors open. A young man with white coat and pants was already in the elevator with a cart and a smile on his face. He asked "Which floor?" I said "Three". He pushed the button and "3" lit up.
|Wayne at the Giant grocery store - he loved his fresh veggies!|
The Man in White with the Cart gets off at floor 2. I'm in the elevator by myself now as the elevator ascends to floor three. The doors open with a quiet "swoosh". I step out and look for the signs to see which direction I go to Wayne's room. I always get mixed up in hospital corridors. I never seem to get my bearings. I see the sign on the way pointing to the left "Rooms 307-320". I head that way down the gleaming, waxed floors of this hospital wing, passing both hospital employees and visitors during my mission.
|Wayne and me - goofing around|
I come to the nursing station next to the door that is closed to room 314. I ask "Is Wayne Juneau in this room?" One of the women says "Yes". I ask "Can I go in?" She says "Yes". I push the door open a bit and see that the room is dark. I am hesitant to go in. I look back to the nursing station where four or five women are engaged in an animated conversation, seemingly oblivious to my sad visit. I guess they're inured to folks like me coming to visit a very ill patient. I don't fault them, I don't pass judgement. They are doing their job, taking care of their patient, a fellow human being and a friend of mine.
|Harvey, ? and Wayne at the Purple Parrot - Wayne liked this waiter whose name I have forgotten|
I look over to the women at the nurse's station again and ask "Is he sleeping? I don't want to disturb him." She said "You can go in" then she gets up and goes in herself and I hear her ask "Wayne? You have a visitor." I hear Wayne give a slight groan and say "Give me a minute".
|Al (died three years ago), me, Don and Wayne at the Purple Parrott - 2010|
I wait by the his door which is slightly ajar. I see a light go on. After about a minute I ask from behind the door "Wayne?" Then I walk in.
Wayne looks at me and says "Oh, it's you. How are you?" Automatically I say "Fine, how are you?" and immediately I grimace because that is the ONE thing I did not want to ask him because, obviously, he is not doing well.
I look at him. He has propped himself up on his adjustable bed. He is gray (ashen) and tired. Very tired. But he is lucid. His normally shaved head has a white fringe around it.
|Wayne at his second home since he moved from Old Landing Road - 2007|
I don't know what to say. Usually, I would tease him about something like "When are you getting out of here?" or "You're going to miss the Super Bowl sleeping all the time" but somehow anything I say seems inappropriate at this time. Very inappropriate. So I say nothing.
There is an uncomfortable silence for a few seconds until I say "I just got back from Los Angeles." Leave it to me to talk about myself. Wayne weakly says "Good for you." I want to tell him more about my trip but, again, inappropriate. Very inappropriate.
|Me and Wayne at the Filling Station in Lewes - I'm doing my rabbit ears thing again|
I see food on his tray. Fresh grapes, a couple of bananas, and a bottle of some kind of liquid. I stand up to see what is in the bottle . . . . green tea. I ask him "Where is this from?" He says "Linda brought it." I asked him "Can you taste anything?" He says "Nothing, I have no taste."
I ask him "Are you being fed intravenously?" He pulls back his hospital smock to show me the tubes going in a portal in his chest. I can see he's tiring quickly with my inane attempts at conversation.
He tells me that a "Roger" died last week. He asked me if I knew him. I told him I didn't. He told me that "Roger" was involved in different gay community outreach programs (which I forget now). He said "He was was down the hallway. He also died alone."
Wayne then says "If you don't mind Ron, I would like to go back to sleep." He says this in a kind way, not at all dismissive.
I stand up and put my hand on his wrist and say "Wayne, I want you to know a lot of people care for you." He opens his eyes slowly and says "Oh sure" like he didn't believe me. But there are many who do like and love Wayne.
I squeezed his wrists again and turned around to leave, trying not to babble with the gurgling sounds of sorrow as I left his room. Tears welled in my eyes.
Don't misunderstand me here and my narrative of my visit to my friend Wayne. I'm only trying to give some dignity to this one human being who is a friend to many. Another friend who was an integral part of my life.
I managed to get out of the hospital, the wrong side where I took this picture at the beginning of this blog. Wayne is in one of those top rooms.
On this gray, cold, windy, wet winter day with the threat of a major winter snow storm north of us, I stopped at the Food Lion in Lewes is look for Stacy's Pita Chips. The store was crowded. With mostly older folk, me included. Proving once again, that life goes on.
My only consolation this morning folks and for those of you who know Wayne personally, is that he doesn't seem to be in any pain and he is lucid. He is just very tired. Very tired. I just wish he had someone with him. And that folks is my greatest fear. I do not fear death, not at all. I only fear the pain and, more than the pain, the fear of dying alone. At least Wayne isn't completely alone. His friend and co-worker Linda is with him and the folks at Beebe are taking excellent care of him. But still, when your time comes you want to be with . . . . well, you know.
|Me and Wayne at Old Time Photo|
January 29, 2015
As an update to this posting, Wayne has posted on his blog today. He's had a recovery from his recent bout of illness. I hope he is on his way to recovery. Wayne "The Cajun", no on has ever accused him of being weak.
Wayne died February 8th, 2015 at the Milford Hospice, at 12:08 A.M., the first day of Mardi Gras. What irony; Wayne who so identified himself with New Orleans and Mardi Gras died on the first day of that holiday that was unique to his personality.
I hope Wayne is at peace now and having "a few" for us.