It was the type of day befitting the sadness that permeated every hour.
I don’t know if you remember PJ from Cal State and Grossmont College, but he retired about a month ago, mostly due to his longterm illness, but also because of State budget issues impacting his retirement package.
I went to his retirement party and all things considered, he looked great, had his usual broad-faced smile and was standing the entire time, laughing, eating, drinking and genuinely having a great time. Lots of hugs going around. I’ve known him for about 20 years, and he never struck me as a hugger. But he hugged me at lunch a few weeks earlier, and he hugged me several times at the party. His wife, Christine, was clearly happy and content looking at him enjoying the night and all the people who had shown up to celebrate his accomplishment.
He talked about teaching part-time and traveling with Christine to visit the kids up in Seattle and in general relaxing after 30+ years of teaching.
So I was taken aback yesterday when I got a call from a friend of Christine’s telling me that PJ had taken a turn for the worse and was now in hospice. I asked if I could come and see him, and she said that he’s heavily sedated, so no, visitors weren’t allowed at the moment. Check back tomorrow.
When I got to the office today, I called Margaret and she said that the hospice was allowing limited visitation and that I should come over this morning because they weren’t sure how much longer PJ was going to last.
I put your car up for sale a couple of days ago – obviously hard to part with – but as you and I had talked, we suspect it was dropped at birth. And although it’s been running fine these past three years, the valves are making noise, and there’s an occasional wheezing sound coming from the center vents when I shut the car off, so it’s time to let her go.
So I got a couple of calls on it and for the first time in probably two months, I backed the car out of the garage this morning and headed to work.
It was very appropriate, and comforting, that I’d have your car with me, on your birthday, to visit a friend who is near the end.
I met Christine, and a nurse, at the door of the hospice. I’d never been in one before and wasn’t sure what to expect. Much, much nicer than I expected. Very clean. Didn’t have that hospital smell. There were about four other residents there besides PJ.
We sat in the kitchen with her son and his wife. They’d flown down from Seattle last night. We talked briefly, then the supervisor, Laura, came in and introduced herself. A few minutes later the nurse came in and said that I could visit with PJ.
It’s always difficult seeing someone who was once so active and vibrant balled-up in a chair, seemingly unaware of who is in the room. But when I touched his arm and spoke to him, his eyes suddenly opened and he looked at me, briefly, then closed again. And when I grasped his right hand, he squeezed it. So at least, I think, he knew that someone had come to visit.
On the way to the hospice, Philippa called, sobbing, and I thought that something had happened to her husband, Albert. But it was her dog, the one that’s been sick for some time, that had suddenly passed away in front of her. I felt so bad for her. Those dogs are such an important part of her life. They still have Mocha, fortunately.
So you can see why it’s been such a sad, gray day.
I know I say it a lot, but I miss you, I miss you, I miss you.
And of course, I love you deeply.
Happy birthday, again.
Hugs and Kisses