Ice Cream & iPods – for The Vinyl Cafe

[This is a letter that I sent to Stuart McLean at the CBC radio show ‘The Vinyl Cafe‘]

Dear Stuart,

The Vinyl Cafe has been on my mind a lot these past few days. My wife has finally convinced me to write this letter.

I was in the hospital every afternoon this past week for my latest round of treatments. I shared a room during my stay on the Oncology Ward with a three older gentlemen. During the course of the week different patients came an went, but Cliff, one of the fellow patients, was there the whole week with me. While I was around each afternoon, Cliff was never alone. His wife, Pearl, stayed with him during the day and was kind enough to go get some of those little plastic ice cream cups for us all from the fridge down the hall. It must have been at least 25 years since I last ate an ice cream out of one those little cups with the cardboard peel-off lids. The only change those cups have undergone in the past 25 years is that they do not ship them with those little wooden spoons anymore. The good news is that the taste is exactly like I remembered… cool, creamy goodness, laced with enough sugar that they cannot help but taste wonderful. Cliff, Pearl and I sat around enjoying, or eating one of life’s simple pleasures while our other roommates enjoyed an afternoon nap.

While I was lucky enough to be an outpatient, Cliff was in the hospital 24/7 while he was recovering from the radiation treatments he had received for a brain tumour. I wish I could tell you that this was his only health problem, but he also has inoperable cancer in one of his lungs. In spite of these problems, he is hoping to go home in the next few days, once his hospice nurse arranges appropriate home care for him. He misses sleeping in his own bed. Pearl would like to take care of him on her own at home, but both she and Cliff are around 85 years old and she just isn’t as strong as she used to be.

Friday was my last treatment and when I arrived, Cliff and Pearl were quietly sitting together. I greeted them and they asked how I was doing. From the look on their faces, they seemed a bit low, so I offered to go to the fridge down the hall to get some ice cream for everyone. Pearl thanked me for my offer, but told me that she had already been to get some but it appeared that they were out of ice cream today. Sometimes life just isn’t fair.

We chatted for a bit, and soon my nurse arrived to hook me up to my IV for my treatment. While I had a few moments to myself, I wracked my brain to try to think of something that might cheer Cliff and Pearl up. Then an idea came to me. My routine had been to talk with my fellow patients upon arrival, then read a chapter of my favourite book (“Marley & Me – Love and Life with the World’s Worst Dog”… I highly recommend this book), then do a bit of work on my laptop computer. I also had an iPod with me that I hadn’t been using. Along with all my music on it, I also have virtually all of the Vinyl Cafe stories that have been released onto CD, on it. I could think of at least on thing that would put a smile of both Cliff and Pearl’s faces – “The Blood Pressure Chair” story. I found the story on the iPod and asked if they wanted to hear a really funny story by a great story teller. They said they would, so they each took one of the ear pieces and sat their soaking up the experience. It was amazing and wonderful to see their faces light up as the story unfolded for them. Eventually I could hear Cliff chuckling softly to himself with a wide grin on his face.

Near the end of the “Blood Pressure Chair” story, some visitors arrived for him, but he was too engrossed to leave the story, so Pearl and I chatted with his visitors while he continued to snicker to himself. I’m not sure which story he moved onto next, bit it was about a half hour later when he asked me how to pause the thing so he could say good-bye to his visitors. By the end of my treatment, I’d decided to leave my iPod with Cliff so he could listen to and enjoy the rest of the Vinyl Cafe stories stored on it. I figure that if someone can survive radiation therapy, I’m sure he could survive or even thrive with a few more hours of “Vinyl Cafe” therapy. I’ll go back in a couple of days and ask him which were his favourite stories. Thank you for sharing Dave, Morley and the rest of the gang with us.

Rich McCue

Victoria, BC

One comment

  1. Rich, Thank-you for your posting. I have just returned from a 3 month stint of working as a social worker in Nunavut and brought the cd’s of vinyl cafe stories and listened each sunday to the program. CBC radio 1 is one of the only links to the rest of the country while away. I have a blog under bonnieupnorth on

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