Saturday, October 3, 2009

Detective Hippo

Yesterday put me into shock. It all started out innocently enough. I asked Patrick, my 80-year-old golf buddy who has cancer, if he would enjoy a cheeseburger and a chocolate malt. He was gleeful at the prospect, as he was so weak he could barely make it to the kitchen most of the time.

"I"ll be over between three and four o'clock on Friday with your dinner." I promised.

On Thursday afternoon, Patrick called to say that his nephew had made arrangements for him to live at the New Mark Care Center, but he would have to wait for a bed to open up. The only drawback was that he would have a roommate.

"I hope I get a woman," he quipped. Patrick has been a single guy his whole life, but he loves those women.

He went on to tell me the directions to New Mark, as well as the phone number there.

On Thursday evening, I was out to dinner with a friend and my cell phone rang. It was around 7:30. I looked at Caller ID and it was Patrick. I decided to call him back later when I got home and did not answer the call at the restaurant.

When I arrived back home, it was a cryptic message from Patrick: "Hi, Stephany. This is Pat. I'll be going to New Mark tomorrow........" Then nothng. It was unlike Patrick not to say more, as he is very talkative. His voice was strong on the message, but there was no good-by, no anything.

Friday morning, I called him to see if he was still at home. The line was busy. I called intermittently during the day, but it was still busy.

Friday afternoon, I drove to New Mark, expecting to find Patrick and was anticipating our usual banter. He was not there. The receptionist said they were expecting him around 3:30 p.m.

I drove to his house. Something wasn't right. His paper was still outside and I knew he was an avid newspaper reader. His car was parked outside, which it had not been the times I took him to his chemo treatments. All the drapes were drawn and there were no lights on in the house. I walked to the back of the house--same story. Dark and drapes closed. His phone was still busy.

Going to several neighbors houses, I asked if anyone had seen Patrick that day. No, they had not.

"Oh, just go on home and mind your own business." I told myself.

"No," said my intuition. "Something is wrong here. Call 911."

Two police officers arrived in their dark blue KCMO police cars. They checked the same things I did.

"We don't have enough evidence to break in," one of them said, "but we are going to call the fire department to bring a ladder. We'll go up on the deck and see if we can get in that way."

By this time, all the neighbors gathered. "I didn't see a light on in Patrick's kitchen this morning when I went to walk th dog at 7 a.m. He's usually sitting there reading his paper at that time," one of them volunteered.

Soon, the fire truck and another police vehicle arrived. Three police officers entered the house. I held my breath.

It was getting chilly and one of the neighbors invited me to stand in her kitchen and look out the window.

Soon, one of the police officers came to us. "He's dead," he said softly.

I sucked in a huge amount of air, stricken speechless by the news.

Then another officer came and wanted my ID. "He died on the bed with the phone in his hand."

Oh my God! He could have died while calling me. Patrick could have been dead since last evening. I didn't want to contemplate those emotional ramifications.

Pulling myself together even though I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, I continued listening to the neighbors as they recounted stories about Patrick. "Let's all pool what we were going to have for dinner and have one big dinner together."

They asked me to join them and I did. What started out as a tragic event turned into a fun evening and I appreciated being included.

I'll always remember the day Patrick died. It's the same day my son, Trent, died. I didn't make it to the cemetery that day as planned. Life had other plans for me.

When I talked later with my friend, Susie, who had been at the restaurant with me when the call from Patrick came, she said, "Lets make a pact. Whenever we have friend in hospice and that friend calls us while we're at a restaurant, we answer the phone, no matter if it seems rude or not."

Good pact, Susie.

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