The beginning of last December began on an uncharacteristically positive note for Bobby. One night while I was at my mom’s place taking her dog Kiki (a combination Shi tzu and Maltese) for a walk, Bobby called me on my cell phone. Klaus had taken him to a union meeting and there Bobby spoke with someone who had a big job in Manhattan to start later in the month For the first time in many months, Bobby would be working on a union job again. The work would be steady and Bobby declared that it would give him a chance to afford his own apartment and get on his feet again instead of paying $350 a week on motel fare. While I was glad to hear the news, my cynicism tempered my optimism.
On December 16, my wife, my mom and I were attending my cousin’s wedding reception. Around 9:30 p.m., I felt my cell phone vibrating in the inside pocket of my suit jacket, and when I took it out, I saw the babysitter’s cell phone number in the caller id. She assured me that everything was alright with my two kids, but that my brother Bobby had called from a gas station pay phone saying that he had no place to stay and that he was freezing cold. The babysitter told him that she would call me and that he should call her back in a few minutes. I instructed her to tell him to take a taxi to my house and that the taxi could be paid out of money out of the cookie jar in the kitchen (don’t any of you people get any ideas!) and that Bobby could spend the night on the couch in our basement tv room. About a half hour later, the babysitter called me back and informed me that everything was going to plan.
I broke the news to my mom while I was dancing with her and we all left shortly afterwards. Mom wanted to stop at my house before going home because she wanted to see Bobby first. When we got there, nothing prepared me for the awful smell of that hung heavy in my basement. It was that eau de hobo odor that one normally only experiences when stuck in a NYC subway car with a homeless person sleeping on one of the benches. In addition to being homeless and smelling badly, Bobby was very sick as well.
Mom told him that after spending the night with me, he could stay at her place (an apartment in a senior citizens complex a couple of miles down the road from me) for a few days so that he could get well and save up enough money from work to get a room. The next morning, while I was laying in my bed half awake, I heard my children come running down the stairs from their bedroom on the second floor. Hearing the television on in the basement, they must have assumed that I was down there, because they opened the basement door and descended the stairs calling out “Daddy!” Then, after a moment of silence, I heard one of my kids go “Ewwwwwwwwww!” They had smelled their Uncle Bobby.
Later that evening I drove Bobby down the road to my mom’s place. He told me that he was coughing up blood and gunk in my slap sink in the basement laundry area all night. When I got home later and looked in the slap sink, I could see dark spots and chunks of things I could not identify and did not want to lodged in the drain. During the course of the week, Bobby’s health marginally improved and he managed to drag himself up to go to work in the city every morning. On Christmas Eve, the following Sunday, mom treated my wife, kids and I to dinner at the Red Lobster while Bobby rested at her apartment. Mom was supposed to come over to our house for Christmas dinner the next day, but the next morning she called and told us that she was sick and would not be able to attend. I stopped by to pick up the ziti, meatballs and sausages she had prepared, and while she was clearly congested, she was still active.
On Thursday the 28th, Bobby had left a message on the voice mail of my cell phone. While he was getting ready for work that morning, he found that mom had fallen. When my train home reached the Hicksville station, I drove straight to my mom’s house. She was lying in her bed, very congested and looking awful. I did a cursory exam of her legs and bent them and determined that nothing was broken. I mulled taking her to the hospital, but decided to give her another day of rest to see if her condition improved. On Friday evening, while I was still at my office, I called Bobby’s cell phone, assuming he was back at mom’s place after a day’s work, and got his voice mail. I left a message and then tried calling my mom’s phone number. The phone rang without answer, which told me two things, Bobby was not there and my mom was not in a condition to answer the phone.
When I got to Penn Station at 8:30 to take the 8:42 train home, Bobby called me on my cell phone. He told me that he had just left the check cashing store and was waiting to take a bus to Walmart to buy a couple of pairs of pants. I thought it odd that he would do such a thing with mom being home alone sick and bedridden. Bobby said that mom seemed better in the morning and that I did not need to worry. Nevertheless, I told him that I was going right over to see mom when I got to Hicksville to make sure that she was alright. I assumed that he would return to mom’s place after he purchased his pants.
An hour later, I drove over to mom’s apartment. Bobby had not returned. Walking into mom’s bedroom, I was horrified by what I saw. Mom was laying half on the bed on her back, with her legs dangling over the side. She was wheezing terribly and was barely coherent. She told me that she wanted to get up and use the bathroom. Because of her weight, it was very difficult to lift her up. I called Bobby’s phone and got his voice mail again and left a message. Slowly, I was able to assist mom to the bathroom. I called my uncle, her brother, and informed him of her condition. He agreed with me that mom needed medical attention. Because it was hard enough just to help her across the bedroom to the bathroom, I did not want to take the chance of walking her by myself to my car outside to drive her to the emergency room, so I decided to call 911 and have an ambulance take her to the hospital.
The response time for the Nassau County ambulance and police was commendably fast, and when they took mom away to transport her to the hospital, I made another call to Bobby’s cell phone and left a second message informing him of what had happened. I left the door to mom’s apartment unlocked because I did not know if Bobby had a key for the door. After bringing mom’s dog Kiki to my house, I drove to the hospital and remained there until 3 a.m. to make sure mom was being adequately cared for. I was informed that mom had pneumonia. The next morning I went to my mom’s apartment because the hospital asked me to bring in her bottle of Paxil. When I got there, I saw no evidence that Bobby had been there, and there were no messages from him on my voice mail. I did not know what had happened to him but I knew he said he was supposed to work that Saturday to make up for Christmas. However, as I could not leave my mom’s apartment unlocked all day, I locked the door behind me when I left for the hospital.
Since my wife had taken the week off for vacation, she was able to stay with the kids while I returned to the hospital again that night after we had spent the day doing some shopping and eating out for dinner. Mom was coughing badly, but even more worrying to me, when she tried to talk to me, nothing she said made any sense. She did not seem to comprehend where she was or why, and she frequently tried to get up out of bed to go to the bathroom. I had to constantly remind her that she had IV’s hooked up to her along with a catheter, and that the hospital staff could bring her a bed pan as needed. Around 10 p.m. on the night of the 30th, mom seemed to finally be settling back to sleep. I decided to take another drive by to her apartment to check on things before going home to what I had hoped to be an early and good night’s sleep. There was still no word from Bobby. As I drove up to her apartment and was about to turn into the guest parking spot next to the parking spot for her apartment, I noticed that her car was not there.
(Don't worry, we're almost at the end!)