A Word From Pat - That Dreaded Phone Call
I got a call from Brookdale a couple evenings ago. This is the Assisted Living facility where Dad resides, set back among the beautiful, towering White Oaks, Maples, Bradford Pears, Dogwoods and Pines on a gorgeous plot of luscious green grass in a section of Asheboro, NC. During the late fall these old timers explode in brilliant reds, oranges, yellows and golds, and in early spring they are ablaze with a rainbow of multi colored flowering buds.
Anytime there is a call and I see “Brookdale” on my caller ID, I immediately freeze internally, wondering if THIS is the call where they are going to tell me Dad has been transported to the emergency room, or that he has passed on. This was even far more a present danger on my mind, as last week Dad had a sharp pain in his chest, and he was rushed to his doctor for investigation.
I couldn’t help but be hesitant pushing “answer” on my phone, as I reacted to “Brookdale” staring me in the face. I mentally prepared myself for a trip to the hospital. On the way I will need to call my sister, Linda, to meet me there. What will we need to bring? How long will we be? What do I tell my wife, Claudia? How do I tell the rest of the family? What words will I use, as Dad is beloved in our family. He has been the Patriarch, and he wore that title proudly. NOW, in an instant, that position was thrust upon me.
Linda and I should have taken more time to prepare for this moment. We had called the VA inquiring about information regarding Dad’s burial at the VA Cemetery, yet we had not made the 45 minute tree-lined trip to Salisbury in order to hand the VA personnel the necessary paperwork proving Dad’s service in WWII. When will we get the time to give the information to them, now? Things are going to start moving very quickly.
Brookdale will undoubtedly want us to remove the furniture from Dad’s room as soon as we can. I was trying to think back how quickly they wanted Mom’s furniture removed, and calculating in my mind how much she had acquired while there. Where on earth are we going to put Dad’s room full? Our basement is full from the items from Claudia’s parents’ deaths and mom’s death. Then there is the fact that I’m 67. Linda is 71. How in the world are we going to transport all the items to my home?
What shall I write about Dad for the Obit in the newspaper? He had such a colorful life, the article could go on for pages:
• Meeting John Wayne in San Antonio when he was 16, and the Duke wanting Dad to come with him to Hollywood to get into the movies.
• His escapades on the streets of San Antonio as a young boy.
• Leaving home and enlisting, and actually serving in the US Army at 14 years old, during WWII, until his mom located him 7 months later at Fort Sill, OK, and drove him home.
• Enlisting 1944 and serving in the US Merchant Marines in the Pacific.
• His love affair with a 19 year old Hollywood starlet whom he met dancing at the Hollywood Canteen (of the movie fame “Hollywood Canteen” on which she was one of the stars), while awaiting orders to ship out to the Philippines, Okinawa and Japan.
• The story of his meeting my mother, and his marriage to her when he was 17 and mom was 13.
• His friendship with President Nixon, and his office in the White House regarding The Small Business Administration.
• His companies supplying Israel with armaments disguised from US authorities and the Arabs, in boxes labeled “farm implements.”
• Mom and Dad taking their 17th trip to Hawaii, after which they were going to get a divorce. Yet instead, Honolulu became the birthplace where they became Christians.
And the list goes on. HOW was I going to include all this in the article? How could I cut it down?
At 91, Dad had lived a long, exciting life. No regrets. He told me many times how much he missed Mom, especially after 73 years of marriage. He would tell me repeatedly how he longed to depart this life and go be with her in heaven.
What kind of casket should we purchase? Linda, Claudia and I had previously talked about putting mom’s ashes in his casket with him. What burial plot should we choose at the VA cemetery in Salisbury? Geeeeezzzz… there is so much we should have done to plan for this moment.
With intense reservation, I guided my finger to the “answer” button… and pushed.
“Hello. This is Pat.”
“Mr. Rutherford, this is Brittany at Brookdale.”
I knew Brittany. She was one of Dad’s Care Givers. She had also been one of Mom's Care Givers before she died.
The day was here, and we were about to get very busy, amidst all the sadness of Dad’s departure.
“Yes, Brittany, what can I do for you?”
Here it is. I braced myself.
“Your Dad wanted me to call you and tell you he can’t get the sound to work on his TV.”