Robin Amy Bass

THREE YEARS AND SIX MONTHS

It took them three years to tell me I had six months to live.
It’s so hard to believe that’s the answer they’d give
on a cold piece of paper that began with, “Dear Sir,”
Less than one hundred words to say what would occur.

After hundreds of tests I had six months or less
What to do with this time – it was any one’s guess
But the letter was short and there in paragraph three
Said they’d put things in order if they ever were me.

And they didn’t know how they had seen it so late,
All these experts, perplexed, as they decreed my fate.
I remember at first when I knew things were wrong
and I went to get help – how I sat for so long

till a man in a white coat came and asked me my name.
And he took out a chart and he wrote down the same.
Then he sent me to sit on an old yellow chair
And said, “Well it’s probably nothing – just make sure and sit there.”

Chorus…

And so I sat waiting patiently
Old yellow chair – sit waiting patiently;
There’s probably nothing wrong with me!

Verse:

Still my wounds go unnoticed, ignored and I really resent
when they finally assess and a verdict is sent
by a white coated expert who says, “I represent
a government branch of divine sentiment.
All your ailments add up to just thirty percent
of the total summation of what you have given.
Be thankful young man that you are not bed-ridden
because we don’t have a bed and we don’t have the dough
and the research we’re doing doesn’t tell us you know,
that there is a connection between that and what’s here
on your chart – we will send you a paper – OH DEAR,
it is Christmas time here – look like it’s going to snow.
It’s my turn play Santa on the ward HO HO HO”

Verse:

I’m no stranger to death – I have seen my friends fall
but it wasn’t like this – no, it wasn’t at all.
I’ve caught shrapnel and gut wounds; stared death in the face
But somehow I managed to get out of that place.
I was not hailed a hero – when I came back to the States
and I’ve learned to accept that it may not be my fate.
Still my body and mind are not on the same page
and I just can’t accept it’s some bureaucrat’s gauge.
Then some know-all-it-kid quips, “Chalk it up to your age.
It’s the stage you have reached that is causing decline.”
And a white-coat-come-up, up and says, “Sir, you’ll be fine”.

See it just gets my goat and I start to resent
When they mention, “support groups” and I’m told I should vent
to the others just like me, when the experts all say
“There is nothing we see here – can you come back in May?”

So I just bide my time – it is free after all
and for Easter I go down and I visit the Wall
and I see names of brothers – some who stood by my side
and I can’t tell it all – what I’m feeling inside
and I’m asking myself why it’s them and not me
and I wondering which of us really is free
and I pay my respects and I do what I should
I will act like a soldier; I will make “US” look good

So I sit, and I wait, and I count up my sorrow
till another white coat says to come back tomorrow.
So I do it again until the end of the week
and I just hold my tongue – I am too scared to speak

And about three weeks later – someone moves the chair.
A nurse in a white coat – says “you over there –
go into that room and take off your clothes;
it’s probably nothing – then again no one knows.”

So I’m waiting again on that cold tabletop
and I try not to cry but I just cannot stop.
And eventually, after they’ve probed quite a lot
a WHITE COAT comes inside and he stands on the spot
where my bucket of tears has grown into a lake.
He said “here’s a pill and make sure that you take
three a day for a week. Now, get dressed and go home.
If we find something out, we will make sure to phone.”

So I sit by the phone – but it never does ring.
And I say to myself – this must be a good thing
‘cause if something was wrong they would call right away
and if things are all right – there’d be no need to say.
and the pain I am feeling – IT IS JUST A MISTAKE.
and it hardly is there from the pills that I take.

But the pill vial grows empty and again I go back
but they seem to ignore me – no one picks up the slack.
When I try to explain to the nurse – she looks up.
and just waives me away. “SIR – NOW, DON’T INTERRUPT.”

That’s the way that it went for the next thirty-six;
It was all in my head or they just couldn’t fix.
But they stole all my hope at a slow steady pace
till one day, I found out, I was in the wrong race.

I went looking for help ‘cause my life weighed a ton
but they just made things worse by the time it was done.
And my problems – they told me, “No problem to fix.”
But I drew the short straw in a bag of long sticks.

First, they said they would call – then they said they would write
(I never found out why they always wear white)
and they always look neat and they always look clean
and my names on some line that is stuck in between
a chart that’s misplaced on a file in the back
while a white coat gets hungry and goes out for a snack.
It’s the strangest sensation to be put on some list
and then treated as if you just DID NOT EXIST.

Now, I’d always been brought up to do things by myself.
And though I was poor, I had no use for wealth
But they stole everything – by the time they were done
That every dream I had dreamt, in the end it was gone.

So I said what the difference if dreams don’t come true.
I will just deal with facts – that must be easy to do.
But the truth they just told me – it was all in my head
and perhaps I had just gotten up on the wrong side of bed.

So I went for a walk and I looked at the sky
and honest to GOD thought, “Why does everyone lie?”
If they don’t want to help me, why can’t they just send me home?
And to hell with these do-gooders, ‘cause they promised to phone.

It took them three years to tell me I had six months to die.
They took their sweet time – I will never know why.
But they said this disease – IT IS SO DAMN OBSCURE.
We’re not sure what is broken – but we don’t have a cure.

Now I don’t want to sound like a man who complains.
But there just comes a time when you can’t accept pain.
But I don’t know why the white coats get to make up the rules?
But they’re sadly mistaken if they think they’re dealing with fools.

Chorus…

And a White coat saunters in – and another one shuffles out
and they make another notation – never say what it’s about…

And they bring in a consultant who they call a specialist.
And they murmur to each other as they pass around their list.

‘Cause if I’m going to die I am taking them down.
I don’t think it’s fair! That when I’m not around
they sit on their laurels and laze in the shade:
when I’m stuck with this life sentence, they all have made.

When I asked them for answers – they just looked at the ground.
And they said, “It’s not your fault – but still we’ve found
that your horoscope sign says you were born without luck.”
So I just bought a gun – they had best learn to duck.

So I go in the back yard and I pick up my gun
and I shoot at my targets till you can’t see the sun.
When the neighbors all ask me, “I just do it for fun.”
And before I am through – I know the answer will come.

And we’ll all know the reason; they ignored all my cries.
And if some of them don’t – well I’ll just show them why
If they ask, I will tell them – in a blink of an eye.
“It took you three years to tell me – now you’re going to die.”

Another Chorus…

And a White coat saunters in – and another one shuffles out –
and they make another notation – never say what it’s about…

And they bring in a consultant who they call a specialist.
And they murmur to each other as they pass around their list.

Then I think to myself that it won’t change a thing
if they stay or they go, if I shout or I scream,
if I laugh or I cry if I whisper or speak
it’s Ironic perhaps, but I just turn my cheek

And the gun I am holding, I turn inward instead.
Yes I just cock it back and I point to my head
I took them three years to tell me what this all is about
and if one had just helped me, who knows how it’d turned out

It took them three years to tell me, and it’s really a shame.
If someone had just seen that this isn’t a game
and perhaps I’ll make headlines, that’s as good as it gets
but the truth in the end they will likely forget.