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Authors: Jamie Reidy

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Yet there he was on the phone talking about doing it with my mom!
Ewwww.
The thought of my parents having sex—
still
having sex in their mid-fifties—made me shiver. I was not so naïve to think that my parents had never done it. I knew that they had. Three times. And they had kids named Jamie, Patrick, and Anne-Marie to prove it. I’d rather kneel on jacks for half an hour than joke with my father about his having intercourse. Something needed to be done to prevent this discussion from ever happening again.

“You know, Dad,” I began, as he continued chuckling over the preposterous idea of his needing Viagra. “This is so weird.”

“What is?”

“Well,
Mom
called me two months ago and asked me to send you Viagra samples.”

The startling silence was followed by a quick change of topic. Mission accomplished.

Nonetheless, when Viagra had prompted our first mentions of copulation in fifteen years, I should have realized that Pfizer’s little blue pill was going to change the world. Standing in that urology office two months later, I got a peek at life A.V.—After Viagra.

“Take the first pill one hour before sex!”

Moments earlier, as I had squeezed my way toward the reception counter, I had mentally double-checked that it was, in fact, Friday. Like pharmaceutical salespeople, patients tried to avoid visiting physician’s offices late on the last afternoon of the workweek. After all, who wanted to start the weekend at the doctor’s? In spring 1998, a
lot
of men scheduled appointments with their urologists on Friday or any other day they could manage. Following the FDA’s approval of Viagra, urologists, like American steel mills during World War II, could have stayed open 24/7 and still not met demand.

In this particular office, I had been chatting with a few staff members through the reception window when we heard the urologist’s voice steadily rise to the point of yelling. I expected one of the nurses to run back there to find out what was going on. Instead, they shared a knowing look and just started laughing. When the
doctor screamed out the dosing instructions for Viagra, I blanched at the thought that everyone in the waiting room would now know this man needed Viagra. Little did I realize that the guy had nothing to be embarrassed about.

“If that doesn’t work tonight, tomorrow night take two pills!”
A minute later, the door opened, and the physician strode toward us. He removed his glasses, rubbed the bridge of his nose, and shook his head with a broad grin. Shortly after, the door opened again and would have closed had something not propped it open. I almost fell over when I saw what that something was.

The bottom of the aluminum legs appeared first. The rest of the walker eventually caught up, but its owner took a bit longer to come into full view. I had to give the guy a break, though; it could not have been easy to use a walker
and
pull an oxygen tank at the same time. He was at least seventy, but the tubes hanging from his nostrils made him seem older.
This guy is getting Viagra?

Reading my mind, the urologist assured me that this patient was a solid candidate for it. “I know he looks like he’s ten minutes from the funeral parlor,” he said, in a possible overestimation of his patient’s appearance. “But he’s really in decent shape. No heart problems at all, and he doesn’t need the oxygen, it’s more mental than anything else.”

We watched the man “walk” into the waiting room, prompting a gasp from the other patients. Their thoughts were unanimously transparent: There’s hope for all of us.

I turned to the office staff for an explanation of how such an old man could still be having sex, could still desire sex. “Everybody wants it,” a nurse said with a shrug. And a little blue pill could help them get it.

Standing in a crowded urology office with my mouth agape seemed like an unusual circumstance for engaging in prayer, but pray I did: “Lord, please let me still be having sex after seventy.” As I walked through the parking lot, I laughed at this crazy place at which I had arrived in life. I had to ask myself: How the hell did I get here?

CHAPTER

One

GETTING IN

“W
HAT ARE YOU, AN IDIOT?”

That was my father’s reaction to my decision to get out of the army early. Thanks to the military drawdown in 1994, I was one of one hundred army lieutenants allowed to leave the service prior to completing our four-year active duty commitments. I expected Dad to be surprised by my decision and perhaps even a little upset, but I did not anticipate his questioning my intelligence. That was a bit much, I thought. An idiot?

After attending Notre Dame on an ROTC scholarship, I spent the majority of my three years on active duty at Camp Zama, Japan, hating every second in fatigues. From the moment my mom pinned those lieutenant’s bars on my shoulders, I dreamed of nothing but tearing them off. The instant that became possible, I jumped all over the opportunity, and my dad jumped all over me.

“Uh, no, Dad, I’m not an idiot, it’s just that—”

“Jesus Christ, Jamie, I know you’re not an idiot. But this is a big decision, and it’s not something you should run into half cocked. Have you even thought about this?”

Maybe he really did think I was an idiot. “C’mon, Dad, obviously I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I know what I’m giving up, and—” I would finish very few sentences in this conversation.

“You know! What do you know? You’re only twenty-five years old; you
don’t
know, okay? You have no idea what you’re giving up. Jamie, you are an army
officer
. You have absolutely no appreciation for that. You’re going to be promoted to captain in six months. Before you know it, you’ll be collecting a pension at age forty-two and playing thirty-six holes every day.” Bam! The sound of the liquor cabinet closing was unmistakable, as was the subsequent tinkling of ice in a cocktail glass.

“But, Dad, that’s in seventeen
years
. I don’t want to be in the army for seventeen more days, let alone seventeen years,” I said, bouncing a Nerf basketball off my wall and displaying the very lack of maturity my father had referred to earlier.

“Why the hell not? It’s a solid career. Look at all it’s given you so far: the experience, the discipline, and the travel. You’re in Japan, aren’t you? What would you be doing now if it wasn’t for the army?”

He did have a point there. A point, I might add, that he had managed to work into every conversation we’d had since I began active duty. Yeah, as an English major—and
a not-so-motivated one, at that—my postgrad job prospects had not been so hot. I probably would’ve ended up at some northeastern prep school teaching English and coaching wrestling for about $1.37 per hour. Before taxes. So, in hindsight, the army had definitely been a “great place to start,” but its usefulness had come to an end.

“Fine,” my father spat. “It’s your life, and you can do with it what you like. Speaking of which, what are you going to do?”

“What do you mean?” I asked, crushing the Nerf in my fist.

“When you get out.” At this point, he raised his voice and slowed his rate of speech, enunciating each syllable as if speaking to a foreigner. “What are you going to do for a job when you get out of the army?” Bam! I could picture him pouring the second drink, more vodka than tonic.

A smart guy would’ve been ready for this question. A smart guy would’ve rehearsed his answer over and over until he had it just right.

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?” I still get a bit weak-kneed when I imagine the look on his face as he turned to Mom in disbelief. “He doesn’t know.” Dad paused at this point, possibly searching for the nitroglycerin tablets to prevent his second heart attack.

“You don’t
know
? You just made the biggest decision of your goddamned life, and yet you
don’t know
what you’re going to do next?”

That would have been a good time to say something reassuring, something to indicate that this decision had been made by a mature adult after a great deal of objective analysis.

“Jeez, Dad, what are you getting so worked up about? It’s really not that big a deal.”

Strangely, he did not seem reassured. “I … I … I can’t talk to you. Normally, I’d say, ‘I hope you know what you’re doing,’ but, ha-ha, you’ve already made it pretty damned clear that you don’t. Here, talk to your mother.”

I almost cried tears of thanks.
Mom
was getting on the phone! She’d understand what I was going through. She’d appreciate my throwing caution to the wind. Mom would make it all better.

“Do you
really
not know what you’re going to do?”

“Oh, I’ll be fine, Mom. Don’t worry about me. I’m just going to wing it, and we’ll see what happens.”

Without going into all the boring, profanity-laced details, suffice it to say that “winging it” was not a concept with which mothers—mine, in particular—were comfortable. Moms prefer a specific flight plan and a destination.

Thankfully, the latter was one thing I
did
have. I may not have had any idea what I’d be doing once I got there, but I knew where I was going: Chicago, home of my girlfriend, Katey.

In fact, that was the only certainty in my life. I was head over heels in love, and I had promised her,
guaranteed
her,
that I’d move to Chicago after spending a leisurely June at my parents’ house forty-five minutes north of New York City.

Alas, my father had a different plan for his eldest son’s first thirty days back in the States. The grass was at least a foot high, the dining room needed to be painted, and the leaves from the
previous
autumn had yet to be raked.

“Why doesn’t Patrick mow the lawn like I used to have to do?” I whined, referring to my teenage brother.

My dad shook his head. “He’s allergic to grass.”

“Allergic to grass? Dad, he plays on the football team.”

I didn’t win many arguments that summer, but I did mow, paint, and rake my unemployed ass off. All in addition to the daily dose of grief I got from my father concerning my lack of direction or paycheck.

Dad was not a big fan of his twenty-five-year-old son’s sleeping past eleven o’clock each morning in a bedroom still decorated with the athletic and beer posters I had hung in high school; such behavior did not provide my two younger siblings with the sterling example of go-getter-ness he desired. Before getting into the shower every morning, he’d come into my room and shake the bed just enough to disrupt the coma. Twenty minutes later, as he left for work, he’d throw the door open, turn on the lights, and begin his daily “pep talk.”

“Hey, GI Joe, how about you look for a job today?” he’d ask, not waiting for a response. “It’s been three weeks, and you haven’t had one interview. I hear McDonald’s
is hiring: fun, food, and friends. At least mow the damn lawn, would ya?” Twenty-five years after leaving the Bronx, his accent was still strong.

For his coup de grace, my loving father would yank the covers off me on his way out the door to a job that most certainly involved kicking puppies. He left the bedroom lights on, of course. That month, I learned a lot about my ability to sleep while shivering and squeezing my eyes shut tight.

The torture didn’t end there, though. From his office, he’d call the house over and over again, knowing that the phone was located close enough to be annoying yet too far for me to answer without getting out of bed. In any other American home, an answering machine would have limited my suffering. Not in the Reidy house. Maintaining their perfect record of ignoring techno-logical advances—we had been the last family on the block to get cable, a VCR, or a video-game system—my parents owned no such newfangled gadgetry. As a result, the rotary-dial phone would ring for as long as Lord Vader liked.

On one of those fun mornings, my career in pharmaceutical sales got started.

Having already suffered through several “ringings,” I finally got up and staggered to the bathroom. As I turned off the faucet, the phone began ringing again. I sprinted toward it, pleased to show my dad that I had gotten up before noon. After about eight rings, I picked up.

“Hello?” My voice sounded as if I had just awakened after drinking until three
A.M.
What a coincidence.

A man who was not my dad said, “Oh, good, I didn’t think anyone was home. The answering machine didn’t pick up.”

“Really? That’s weird.” I pegged the guy for a telemarketer, and saw no reason to ration the sarcasm. “Can I ask who’s calling?”

The guy cleared his throat, embarrassed. “Oh, sure. Sorry, I should have introduced myself up front. I’m John Dryer with Orion Recruiters. I’m trying to get in touch with a Jamie Reidy.”

I stood up a little straighter. “That’s me.” Before leaving Japan, I had floated my résumé to Orion Recruiters, a firm “specializing” in placing junior military officers.

“Oh, great! Well, we received your résumé, and I’ve gotta say that you are very impressive on paper. Let me ask you: What do you think about pharmaceutical sales?”

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