Getting Around to It
Setting: The interior of an apartment. Some clothing, a spoon, and several pens lie on the floor. Downstage left is a small table set with chess pieces in front of a recliner.
(Enter Darren. He is elderly, but not frail; he moves slowly mostly shuffling along. He has trouble grasping and holding onto things. He is dress a bit haphazardly. Darren crosses to the dining table and tries to sort through a stack of mail. He fumbles with several envelopes, drops one on the floor. Frustrated, Darren tries to pick up envelope on the floor for several beats. With a determined look, he crosses to the kitchen and exits.)
(Lights come up. Enter Russ, Darren’s son.)
RUSS: Pops. Hey—you alright? (As he crosses the stage, he picks up things from the floor.) You didn’t pick up when I called. Hey, Pops!
DARREN: (from the kitchen) I’ll be put in a second. Stop shouting.
RUSS: I don’t have much time. My lunch break ended ten minutes ago.
(Darren enters, shuffling in.)
DARREN: I don’t like the new telephone. I want the old one back. I want something that has mass to it. Leave that alone. I was going to pick it up.
RUSS: All you have to do is push a button now. It’s alot easier for you, Pops.
DARREN: I don’t want easy. I want—
RUSS: (as he crosses to Darren) You missed a couple of—
DARREN: (waving Russ off) I’ll fix it. Later.
(Russ tries to rebutton Darren’s shirt.)
RUSS: At least let me—
DARREN: Leave me alone. I said that I’ll get it.
DARREN: I can do it myself. (He shuffles past Russ.) What happened to my mail?
RUSS: It’s right there.
DARREN: No, no. (He bends and tries to look under the table but almost falls; Russ quickly grabs his arm.) Let go of me. I’m not a child.
RUSS: You almost fell.
DARREN: I can hold my own self up. (Russ reluctantly lets go and he leans on the table.) I dropped a letter this morning and haven’t gotten around to picking it up yet. Where is it?
RUSS: On the table, Pops.
DARREN: And how did it get there? I distinctly remember dropping it and—
RUSS: I picked it up.
RUSS: Pops, you know why.
DARREN: Because you want to treat me like a child? I’m your father, not some two-year-old.
RUSS: I know that, okay? But you—
DARREN: How am I going to relearn all the things that I used to do with you always coming over here and picking up after me? I can do these things myself. I just need a little time.
RUSS: I worry about you.
DARREN: Don’t. I can do this.
RUSS: I know, Pops.
DARREN: You want some coffee? It won’t take but a minute to fix up.
RUSS: No. I’m late the way it is.
DARREN: You didn’t have to come, you know.
RUSS: I like seeing you.
DARREN: But that’s not why you came.
RUSS: I’ve got to go, Pops.
DARREN: Then go.
RUSS: Call if you need anything—okay?
DARREN: Yeah, yeah. I’ll call.
RUSS: Be careful.
DARREN: I will. Now go.
(Russ hesitates, then smiles and exits.)
(The apartment is empty and slightly more disorganized. Enter Russ and Eunice, a woman in her 60’s. Russ picks up things and tries to straighten up while Eunice scans the apartment. She crosses to the small chess table.)
RUSS: I really appreciate you doing this.
EUNICE: I can only come a couple of times a week.
RUSS: That’s okay. I need all the help I can get. I just can’t keep taking time off and—
EUNICE: How bad is he?
RUSS: Well, it depends on who you ask.
EUNICE: I don’t like surprises, Mr. Campbell. I need to know what kind of needs your father will require …
RUSS: He’s in the middle stages of Parkinson’s. But the doctors tell us the disease is slow-moving. Pops can still get around by himself.
EUNICE: Yet you need someone to check in on him regularly.
RUSS: Not regularly, just—
EUNICE: More often than you have time for. How long has he been living here alone?
RUSS: About two months now. With my new job, I was able to afford moving him closer to me.
(Eunice looks around the apartment.)
RUSS: Look. Pops is a strong-willed man, very independent. He insists on living alone and—
EUNICE: Even if it means the possibility of serious injury?
RUSS: He hasn’t hurt himself.
EUNICE: Yet. (Beat.) Have you ever considered assisted living or a care facility? Most Parkinson’s patients require some form of assistance.
RUSS: No. It hasn’t come to that. Pops needs—he has always determined his own life. His independence and freedom are all that he has left in life. I mean, it makes him feel good to know that he can still do most of the things he used to do before he was diagnosed. If I put him in assisted care, then I’d have to worry about his emotional and mental well-being as much as the physical. Yes, I do worry about him, but he doesn’t need constant care and he’s happy. And— (Beat.)
EUNICE: And you can only take off so much time from work.
RUSS: Let me get him for you.
(Russ turns to exit but Darren shuffles in.)
DARREN: Hello. And who are you?
EUNICE: (crossing and extending her hand) My name is Eunice and—
DARREN: When I asked who you were, I meant why are you here?
RUSS: Pops. She’s a volunteer from the Center.
DARREN: The old folks’ home.
RUSS: She’s just going to check in on you from time to time.
DARREN: I don’t need anyone to check in on me.
(Darren shuffles to recliner.)
EUNICE: Where is your walker?
DARREN: You told her I need a walker?
EUNICE: People with Parkinson’s, especially in the middle stages, lose function of their—
DARREN: Precisely because they use walkers. If you don’t use your legs, your muscles—they atrophy. I got my own legs, I’ll use them. I just need to relearn how to use them like before. That’s all. Besides, a walker’ll only make my balance worse. So. Is there anything else you need to check on? I’ve got a lot of things to do today.
EUNICE: Your son said that you needed a regular chess partner.
DARREN: He did, did he? (to Russ) And what makes you think I need someone to play chess with?
RUSS: I just thought—you know, you don’t go down to the chess club anymore and—
DARREN: Amateurs. No one there’s been able to beat me in months.
EUNICE: What is your rating?
DARREN: (as he takes a book and notepad from a pouch on the side of the recliner) Nineteen sixty-seven. And it’s current.
EUNICE: You’re not going to ask mine?
DARREN: Didn’t know you played.
EUNICE: That’s why I’m here.
DARREN: Well, then. You can tell me your rating after we play. Grab a chair from the table.
RUSS: (to Eunice) Thank you.
EUNICE: (smiling, and with her voice low as she gets a chair) I’m not going to let him win either.
(Darren is on the floor between the dining table and sofa. He is not injured or hurt in any way, and struggles to get up. He makes his way to the sofa and tries to pull himself up. The telephone rings from the hallway. He becomes frustrated—the more he tries to stand up, the less he succeeds. The telephone rings and rings.)
(There is no sign of Darren. Russ enters quickly, anxiously.)
RUSS: Pops? I tried call— (He sees Darren on the floor behind the sofa.) Pops! (He rushes over and helps Darren up.) I’ve been calling and calling and—
DARREN: (as he stands up unsteadily) Let go of me, Russ. I can stand on my own.
RUSS: What happened?
DARREN: Nothing, I tell you. A couple more minutes and I would’ve gotten up by myself. No need for you to come rushing over like this.
RUSS: Come on. Sit down. (Russ tries to get Darren to sit down on the sofa.)
DARREN: No. At the table. I have to go through today’s mail.
RUSS: I’ll take care of—
DARREN: I don’t need you to take care of anything. I told you I was alright.
RUSS: Did you trip over something?
RUSS: How’d you fall, Pops?
DARREN: I didn’t fall.
RUSS: Then why were you on the floor? Did you catch your foot on the sofa?
RUSS: You could’ve hurt yourself, Pops. Tell me what happened so I can—
DARREN: I dropped my rook. I was just looking for my rook. That’s all. I didn’t fall or trip or anything.
RUSS: Are you sure you’re alright?
DARREN: Yeah, yeah.
RUSS: Nothing hurts or anything?
DARREN: I said I’m fine. Now leave me alone, Russ. (Russ studies Darren.)
RUSS: Pops, this is the same shirt you had on three days ago.
DARREN: No, it isn’t.
RUSS: And you never even fixed the buttons. At least let me do that. (He rebuttons Darren’s shirt.) There.
(Russ tries to smooth down Darren’s hair, which is a mess, but Darren swats his hand away.)
DARREN: Will you please stop babying me?
RUSS: You want some coffee?
DARREN: If you’re making some.
(Russ crosses to the kitchen alcove.)
DARREN: Don’t you have to be at work?
(Russ can be heard going through the process of making coffee in the alcove.)
DARREN: There’s no point in you sticking around if you’re going to get in trouble at work. I can make my own coffee.
(Russ appears at the entrance of the alcove wiping his hands on a towel.)
RUSS: Pops, what’s this on the floor?
DARREN: Don’t touch it.
RUSS: I don’t think I want to. What is it?
DARREN: Ice cream. Mint chocolate chip, if you really want to know.
RUSS: How long has it been on the floor?
DARREN: What difference does it make? I’ll get around to it.
RUSS: Putting a towel over it isn’t—
DARREN: I don’t want you cleaning up after me.
(Russ disappears back into the kitchen.)
DARREN: I wish you’d stop nagging me so much. I have a lot of things to do and not enough time to do everything at once, alright?
(Russ enters with two cups of coffee.)
RUSS: Be careful. It’s hot.
DARREN: Coffee usually is.
(Pause. They sip their coffee.)
RUSS: You ought to let Eunice cut this mop for you. And your fingernails. They’re getting long, Pops.
DARREN: And I suppose you want her to shave me, bathe me, dress me, and clean up after me, too. I am not a child. I can take care of myself. I just need a little more time than most.
(Darren opens another envelope. Russ puts his hand over Darren’s shaking ones.)
DARREN: No. I can do this.
RUSS: Pops, this isn’t working out like I thought.
DARREN: What isn’t?
RUSS: You—here, alone.
DARREN: I’m not alone. You’re here almost every day it seems like. And Eunice, too.
RUSS: I talked to the doctors, Pops.
RUSS: They said that you’re going to need—more permanent care in the near future.
DARREN: I don’t care what they say.
RUSS: Come on, Pops.
DARREN: No. These are the same doctors who said I would need a walker. That was nine months ago. And they were wrong.
RUSS: But your muscles—they’re just going to keep getting worse and—
DARREN: Has it ever occurred to you that everybody else, including these doctors, are wrong and I’m right?
RUSS: Be serious—
DARREN: I am. I’ve been proving everybody wrong my entire life. I know what is best for me—not them.
RUSS: (standing up, frustrated) The kitchen is a mess, just like the rest of the apartment. And I don’t even want to think about what the bathroom is like.
DARREN: It’s fine.
RUSS: (overlapping) You’re wearing the same clothes you had on three days ago. Look at you, Pops. I know that you’re trying. And I want you to try, I want you to be able to live like you want. But it’s just not working.
DARREN: (sullenly) It is.
RUSS: Not for me, Pops. It’s not working for me.
DARREN: I’m sorry, Russ.
RUSS: It’s not— (He sits down.) Look. Let Eunice help you with some of the little things, okay? She says that all you two do is play chess—you won’t let her do anything else. I’m glad you’re playing again, I know how much you enjoy it—but let her help out. Just a little. For me, Pops—can you do that for me? It’s not supposed to be like this, Pops.
DARREN: I never meant for you to clean up after me.
RUSS: I know. I know.
(Several days later. Eunice and Darren are playing chess. Darren is properly dressed in clean clothes, his hair combed neatly. They play quietly, contemplatively. Eunice makes a move. She is studying the board and does not notice that Darren has stiffened slightly. He lists awkwardly. Eunice looks up and sees Darren staring blankly.)
EUNICE: Darren? Darren! What’s wrong? Darren—can you hear me?
(Darren is quiet and staring.)
EUNICE: Hold on. It’s okay. I’m going to call for help. Hold on, Darren. Everything’s going to be okay.
(Eunice lets go of Darren but he tilts dangerously and almost falls over. Eunice reaches for several throw pillows on the sofa and props up Darren. She rushes for the telephone in the hallway. Darren moves, his head then his arms; he notices the pillows wedging him into the recliner, removes them and tosses them onto the sofa. He calmly begins to study the chess board as though nothing happened. Eunice enters as Darren makes his move.)
EUNICE: (surprised) Darren—
DARREN: (looking up) Check.
(Eunice crosses quickly to Darren.)
EUNICE: Darren, what happened? Are you okay?
DARREN: Yes, of course. It’s your move—you’re in check.
(Eunice examines him closely.)
DARREN: What’s the matter with you? There’s nothing wrong with me, Eunice.
(Eunice looks at Darren.)
EUNICE: You had a seizure.
EUNICE: We were playing and I looked up and—and you seized. I called nine-one-one and Russ. They’re on their way.
DARREN: Why’d you go and do something like that? It’s obvious that I’m perfectly alright.
EUNICE: Darren, I’ve never seen anyone with Parkinson’s seize like that.
DARREN: Because it doesn’t happen. I didn’t have a seizure.
EUNICE: This is not the time to be stubborn.
DARREN: I’m not being stubborn. You don’t think I’d know if I had a seizure or not? I’m telling you, I’m fine. Now, get out of check.
(Two Paramedics are packing up to leave. Darren is sitting on the sofa with Eunice. Enter Russ.)
RUSS: (out of breath) Pops! You okay? What’s going on?
DARREN: A whole lot of nothing.
EUNICE: He had a seizure.
DARREN: No, I didn’t.
PARAMEDIC #1: (overlapping) He seems to be alright now. All of his vitals check out and are normal. But he needs to be checked out at a hospital.
DARREN: I’m not going to the hospital. There’s nothing wrong with me.
(Paramedic #2 talks to Russ off to the side.)
EUNICE: Even if there’s nothing wrong, you still need to have your doctors look over you, Darren.
RUSS: I’ll make an appointment.
DARREN: I’m not going to the hospital.
RUSS: You had a seizure, Pops.
DARREN: Is that what they told you?
DARREN: How do they know?
EUNICE: They’re paramedics!
DARREN: But they weren’t here when it supposedly happened.
RUSS: Eunice was. So you’re saying that Eunice just made up—
DARREN: I’m not saying anything except that I didn’t have a seizure. I just dozed off.
(Pause. Eunice sighs and gets up.)
EUNICE: I have to go. I’m already late. I just wanted to stay with him until you arrived.
RUSS: Thank you for taking care of him during all of this.
EUNICE: (to Darren) I’ll come by later, okay? We’ll finish our game.
DARREN: You might as well resign now.
EUNICE: Not a chance. (She crosses to Russ and takes him aside.) You’re going to make that appointment?
EUNICE: I know what a seizure—
RUSS: Hey, hold on. I believe you, Eunice. Pops is just pigheaded about his—you know.
EUNICE: Yes, I do. (She looks at Darren.) He has a lot of courage. Stubborn, but …
RUSS: And too much pride.
EUNICE: Yes, that, too.
RUSS: I’ll call you and let you know when he’s scheduled to see his doctors.
EUNICE: Thank you. Goodbye.
RUSS: Bye, Eunice. Thanks, again.
Darren and Russ sit at the dining table.
RUSS: Pops, we need to discuss you getting some help.
DARREN: You want to send me to a—
RUSS: I don’t want to send you anywhere.
DARREN: I don’t need any help.
RUSS: But I’m helping you.
DARREN: It’s not easy trying to—I’ve had to relearn everything, Russ. It took me forty-five minutes to brush my teeth this morning. Then I dropped my toothbrush and—
RUSS: And that’s why you need—
RUSS: Pops, I can’t do this anymore. You don’t want to—you won’t accept any talk of any assisted living arrangement. I understand that. Truly, I do. But you have already accepted it, Pops—me. I’m your caretaker. I’m the one who assists you. Every day. And—and I’m overwhelmed and underqualified for this. I’m barely hanging on and—Pops, I want to be your son again and not your nurse and nag and adversary. I just want to be your son again.
DARREN: I’m sorry.
RUSS: It’s not your fault. It’s the disease—not you, Pops.
DARREN: I dropped the toothpaste—
DARREN: (overlapping) I dropped it almost two weeks ago. I’ve been brushing my teeth with—with tap water for two weeks now and— (Short pause.) I’m ashamed, Russ.
RUSS: You have no reason to be.
DARREN: I try and try and—the harder everything gets.
RUSS: I want your life to be—
(Eunice enters the apartment.)
EUNICE: Oh. Excuse me. I didn’t mean—
RUSS: No, no. Come on in.
EUNICE: If you two are busy, I can come back later.
RUSS: We were just discussing—
DARREN: A different living arrangement. Russ is moving in with me.
DARREN: I’m kidding.
EUNICE: So what have you decided?
DARREN: Decided? Russ was only telling me what I need—
RUSS: That’s not true.
DARREN: You didn’t tell me that I needed someone here on a more permanent basis?
RUSS: Yes, but—
DARREN: Well, Eunice likes it here.
DARREN: (overlapping, to Russ) Unlike you.
RUSS: I never said that.
EUNICE: (crossing to them) Wait a minute—
DARREN: Just as well. I raised you once and I don’t plan on doing so again.
RUSS: What are you saying, Pops?
EUNICE: Yes, I would like to know, too.
DARREN: I’ve been a burden.
DARREN: (overlapping) I didn’t realize it before, but—
EUNICE: You’re not a burden to anyone, Darren.
DARREN: (looking at Eunice) I can’t comb my hair. Russ has to pick up after me and you have to button my shirts. If I can’t do anything for myself, what does that make me then? A burden.
EUNICE: (sitting down next to Darren) Russ helps out because he loves you and cares about you.
DARREN: And you?
EUNICE: I like the challenge. (She smiles.) On the chess board. (Patting Darren’s hand) I don’t mind looking after you either.
DARREN: But I don’t want you to.
RUSS: So we’re just supposed to let you live like this? Asking for help doesn’t mean that you’re helpless, Pops.
DARREN: (to Eunice) So there’s no way we can persuade you out of retirement? You can help me improve me chess game.
EUNICE: (laughing) So you can beat me? No thanks. (Beat.) I could come by every day, except on weekends, if it’ll help. I can cut back my time volunteering at the Center and spend more time here. But—
DARREN: But what?
EUNICE: No more stubbornness out of you.
DARREN: What does that mean?
EUNICE: You will have to let me—let us—do more for you and—
RUSS: Let her finish.
DARREN: Yes, father.
EUNICE: We’ll let you do the things you can do, and the other things—we’ll do them for you.
DARREN: I can still do plenty.
EUNICE: I know.
DARREN: More than you think.
RUSS: We know.
DARREN: You two want some coffee? I can fix up a pot in a flash.
(Russ and Eunice look at each other.)
DARREN: Okay, okay. Will one of you make us some coffee then?
EUNICE: (rising) I will.
DARREN: Thank you.
EUNICE: Thank you, Darren.
(Eunice exits into the kitchen alcove.)
RUSS: You did good, Pops.
DARREN: I should be thanking you, too.
RUSS: Everything’s going to be alright.
DARREN: I know.
RUSS: I was wondering how long it would take for you to get around to it?
DARREN: Around to what?
RUSS: Asking Eunice to stay and help out.
DARREN: (smiling) I have alot of around to its.
RUSS: Yes, you do.
DARREN: And more time to get around to them now.
RUSS: I’m glad, Pops.
DARREN: Me, too.