The Unforgettable General Oppy
I was mining old Facebook posts for anything depicting my experiences in the Army to help a granddaughter with a school project when I realized I have never told the story of Mr. Oppy.
My first assignment out of Army training was as a medic on a general surgery ward, doing dressing changes, helping to ambulate patients, taking vitals, and so forth.
The staff on the ward decided to give me a special assignment. While they took care of everyone else on the floor, I would be taking care of one particular gentleman in a room at the far end of the ward, furthest from the nurse’s station.
This peculiar and one-sided arrangement was due to the fact that everyone on the ward hated dealing with this particular patient, who had been in that room for many months, with ulcers on his legs that, for some reason I never could fathom, did not seem to ever heal.
And so it was that I was introduced to Mr. Oppy, retired four-star general and long-time resident of the ward.
Mr. Oppy was… eccentric. You could say he marched to the beat of a different drum. Unusual. One of a kind. Unforgettable.
Well, let’s just cut to the chase, shall we? Mr. Oppy was barking mad.
Nobody else on the ward could put up with his nonsense, but I figured he was harmlessly dotty and didn’t mind humoring him.
He had a cleanliness fetish. I would bring in linens for him to wash with, and he would insist that I hold each of them up for his inspection. If he saw a speck or flaw of any kind, I would need to switch in a new one.
I confess sometimes I picked off the speck with my fingers out of his sight and returned with the same cloth, which invariably passed inspection the second time.
Day after day I would lay out a sterile field, wash his wounds with normal saline solution, and pack them with gauze, while listening to him tell rambling stories from his life.
And then, every day, he would insist on my rolling in a payphone that we had on a huge wheeled cart. I would have to swab the entire thing down with alcohol to sterilize it before he would consent to touch it. Once it passed muster, I would withdraw and close the door so he could make a series of super sekrit hush hush afternoon phone calls of great importance.
One day when I came in he immediately wanted to know, “What happened to your wristwatch?”
I was surprised he had noticed its absence so quickly. I explained that I had mistakenly left it on my lunch tray that very day, and that it had not survived a trip through the hospital’s dishwashing machine. This elicited a hearty chuckle.
The next day when I came in he indicated a catalog he had left out for me. “I took the liberty of calling the CEO of Timex yesterday and had him rush me that catalog… There are watches on pages 10, 22 and 31 that I think would look good and are within your price range.”
I picked up the catalog and flipped to the specified pages, which did indeed have the items he claimed, and he discussed each one from memory with an uncanny level of detail.
Yes, quite an unforgettable character, that Mr. Oppy. He was still there in his room when I left for my next assignment, and was sad to see me go. I think he was rather fond of me.
Oddly enough, the feeling was mutual.