“Group is more like traditional group therapy. Both Dr.Weisenthal and Shelly are there to direct traffic. It’s sort of like a free form, stream of consciousness “How are you?” type of meeting. The point of it is to get us to work on some of our issues.” answered Wally.
“Does it work?” asked Garry.
“Who knows? It usually makes for some interesting sessions though,” Wally answered. “Occasionally someone will have a meltdown. That’s basically the reason Dr. Weisenthall and Shelly are there.”
“How about classes? How does that work?” asked Garry.
“It’s sort of like school. At times it feels like a cool alternative school and at other times like a university seminar,” said Wally.
“You’ll see what I mean in a few minutes. Group only lasts for about forty-five minutes and then we can go out for a smoke break.”
“You have classes as well as group here?” asked Garry.
“Yeah, group is more along the lines of group therapy. Wally opened the wrapping on a chocolate bar that he had bought at the hospital canteen.
“I can’t go without my mid- morning snack,” said Wally. “That’s probably why I’m so fat.”
“You aren’t that fat,” said Garry trying to keep the conversation on the positive side.
Wally laughed out loud. “You are too kind my friend. I used to be in great shape when I was a teenager. At that time of my life I used to play hockey, football and baseball. I’d also go to the gym to lift weights.”
“Why did you stop?” asked Garry.
“Well, at a coffee shop near my high school I made friends with some stoners. They seemed to like me and soon I was going over to their houses and going to their parties. They were stoners to the core and smoked grass practically every day. In a short time, I picked up on their habits. The more weed I smoked, the less motivation I had for sports. My weight also started to climb because marijuana gives you the munchies. A short time after I got sick and was diagnosed by a psychiatrist as having schizophrenia.”
“You said that they have classes here too. What’s the difference between group and classes?” asked Garry.
“So back to your grandpa. How old was he when he retired from the Fisheries Department?”
“Seventy-two years old. Grandpas would never say that he retired though. That was the official party line story but it’s not what really happened,” said Wally. Old Winston would tell you that he was forced to retire. You see the government had wanted to get rid of him for several years,” answered Wally.
“Why was that?’’ asked Garry.
Wally laughed. “It will cost you three more Marlboroughs and about an hour of your time to find out.”
“You really like my Marlboroughs, don’t you?” asked Garry.
“Yeah, I like the taste of them and it’s the brand that my hero, Lemmy Kilmister smokes. You can’t buy them in Canada. I don’t know why,” said Wally.
“I don’t believe it. Another similarity. We both like Motorhead,” said Garry. “And I suppose your favorite drink is Jack Daniels mixed with Coke?”
“What else? Except they don’t let us have any alcohol around here. Apparently it doesn’t mix too well with the medications they give us.”
“Well, I’ve got enough of your favorite cigarettes to keep you talking for an hour. So let’s hear more about Winston Standfield,” said Garry buttoning up his navy blue windbreaker.
“We’ll have to postpone story time until the afternoon,” said Wally getting up from the bench. “Group starts in five minutes and it’s mandatory for all patients on the ward. We have it twice per day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon.”
Garry made his way down to a long table in the hall. He was happy to see an assortment of beverages ranging from bottled water and fruit drinks to tea and coffee. He also found his favorite artificial sweetener, Sugar Twin Original.
Garry made himself a coffee, opened the door and stepped into the courtyard. He felt a strong gust of wind and noticed that the sky was somewhat overcast. As he walked towards the courtyard’s long bench he could see Wally Standfield wearing a blue lumberjack jacket and a Winnipeg Jets baseball cap. Wally was color coordinated except for a pair of Converse running shoes. The runners made Garry think of the late Kurt Cobain from the band, Nirvana.
“Hey, buddy,” said Wally. “Is it windy enough for you? By the way could I bum another Marlborough from you?”
“Sure,” said Garry offering Wally a cigarette from his pack. He also took up one for himself and gave Wally a light from his Marilyn Monroe lighter.
“I love the fall,” said Garry. “It’s beautiful the way that the leaves change color.”
“Yeah, me too,” said Wally. With his stocky, bifocal glasses and the casual way he was dressed Wally bore a close resemblance to Michael Moore, the documentary film maker.
“I’m really interested in hearing more about your grandfather,” said Garry.
“Oh, yes, Winston Churchill Standfield,” said Wally with a chuckle. “He’s quite the man indeed.”
“That sounds somewhat like how Hamlet described his father,” said Garry.
“You like Shakespeare?” asked Wally.
“Yeah, I read a lot, even the old classics.”
“My, my,” said Wally. “We have another thing in common.”
Todd Finlay finished up his interview with Garry. It was getting late and Todd could see that Garry was getting very tired. Todd picked up his yellow legal pad and pen and wished Garry a good night’s sleep.
The next morning Garry was awakened by the day shift nurse, Shelly Grover.
“Sorry to wake you up so early Garry. I’m Shelly Grover, one of the day shift psychiatric nurses. How did you sleep?”
“Very well. I probably could have slept a few more hours yet,” answered Garry.
“I know. It sucks but we have to give all the patients on the ward their morning meds starting at 7:00 AM. You happened to be third on my list of rounds,” said Shelly.
As Garry took a handful of meds he took a big gulp from his Styrofoam cup of water. “I wonder what cocktail of meds Dr. Weisenthall has come up with for me,” Garry wondered.
“I should have a chance to visit with you sometime this morning Garry. Right now I have to wake everybody up and give them their meds. I’ll see you later today. Do you want to get yourself a coffee and then go out for a smoke?” asked Shelly.
“Yeah, that sounds like a plan to me. I’m still feeling a bit groggy,” Garry replied.
“I think your friend Wally is out in the courtyard right now.”
“My friend, Wally. Word sure does get around fast here.”
“I just read about it in the log book when I started my shift,” answered Shelly. “It’s standard procedure.”
“Wow, I’m impressed. This place is run very efficiently, isn’t it,” Garry noted.
“Indeed it is. I think you’ll find the help you’re looking for here Garry,” said Shelly as she left Garry’s room.
“That’s good to know,” replied Garry.