It was four thirty on New Years Eve and I had much to do.
I’d befriended an eighty-year old Navy veteran a few
months ago. “If you ever need anything, just let me know,”
I said. What was I thinking? He needed everything
under the stars.
I ran to his favorite hoagie shop at five, with his written order.
“Read it slowly,” he counseled. “Long white roll and put
olive oil on first. Don’t be shy with it. Next mayo, then
turkey, lettuce, tomato and black olives.” I winked at him
and said, “Sir, yes, sir.” I saluted him.
At five thirty I picked up a large pizza with pepperoni,
sausage, and black olives. “Make sure it’s regular crust!
I hate that thin crap.”
At five forty I picked up his eighteen shirts from the cleaners.
Then off to the grocery store for peanut butter crackers,
three cases of water, olive loaf, bread, and milk. “Make sure
you check the date on the milk!” he hollered down the hall.
I’d brought my beach wagon to haul it all. By the time I
arrived back to him, I was a sweating mess of a woman.
Rob was sitting pretty in his chair watching a soccer game.
“What the heck happened to you? Sit down! Sit down!”
“Lady, you have to slow down. You’re always running.”
I had company coming for dinner at eight.
When I started to gather my purse, he said,
“What? You’re leaving me already? You’re the only
person I’ve seen all day. You have to sit for a few
minutes, at least until you calm down.”
I placed a seafood order and said, “I can stay until it’s ready.”
He smiled. “Good. I feel better now. Breethe, will ya?”
Twenty minutes later, I was ready to leave. He agreed that
was a sufficient visit. Drive Careful, Happy New Years.
When are you coming back?” I told him I’d be back Monday.
Monday came and my car was in the shop. I called
Rob and got no answer. I text him that I’d see him the
very next day.
This afternoon I drove to see him. Again, no answer on
his phone. I was just hoping he was dressed when I got
there. There was no answer at his door. Surely he was
downstairs zipping around in his electric wheelchair.
I went to the lobby and asked if anyone had seen Rob.
Rose touched my arm and said, “Oh, I’m so sorry. He’s not
with us anymore.”
“Where did he go?” I asked not getting the inferred
message. “He’s gone and he’s not coming back” she
“But I just brought him pizza and hoagie and picked up
his clothes. He can’t be gone!”
Who’d have thought this old Navy guy would break my
heart. He was a big smush. He could sound gruff, then
give a big ornery smile. I overheard him talking to a nurse to
set up an appointment. “Don’t give me a morning
appointment! I don’t do morning things,” he grumped.
The nurse gave an eleven o’clock opening. “You can’t
hear! You need hearing aids. I just got mine and they’re great.”
“What?” he asked her holding the phone closer to his right ear.
She repeated the open slot to him. “I just told you I don’t
do morning things. Give me a two o’clock slot. Then I’ll be
happy.” He made a silly face and stuck his tongue out
at the phone.
I’m going to miss this guy. I should have cherished
our visits more.
I heard his gruff voice in my head. “I told you, you have
to slow down!”