Early last week I received an email from a colleague that said, “Hi David. I wanted you to know that I am in your hometown of Murfreesboro tonight (for a work-related dinner)…What a wonderful place!”
She’s right about the last point. I’ve written about the wonders of growing up in Murfreesboro before on More to Come….
I suspect she had driven past the Rutherford County Courthouse all decked out for the Christmas holidays on the town square, and I suggested she drive by 407 E. Main Street to see “the old home place.” (Photo below – our old home is the one on the right.)
Little did I know that I’d be driving by those same sites in just a few days. But life has a way of intruding on the best-laid of plans. (So who cares if I haven’t bought the first Christmas present?)
On Thursday, my phone lit up at work as both my sister and brother called multiple times within about ten minutes and I feared something was wrong. I soon learned. My 89-year-old father was in the hospital after suffering shortness of breath – not something you want to hear about a loved one who had a heart attack three years ago in the same week that Candice had her hip replacement. He again had heart issues and anemia. I quickly made the call to fly to Tennessee for the weekend.
When I walked into St. Thomas Rutherford Hospital’s ICU unit, my father – surprised to see me – used a line that he told others who asked how he was doing.
“Well, this is certainly a revolting development!”
My sister Debbie posted that line on her Facebook page (the modern-day mother who keeps everyone up-to-date on the family goings-on). Various cousins responded that their parents or aunts or uncles had used the same language. Must be a hand-me-down through the Bearden-Brown family. I think I’ll use it myself in the future.
I’m glad I was able to come for multiple reasons. First, I’ve seen Daddy improve each day. The doctors say they will release him tomorrow and we’re making arrangements for his transition home. He did have some damage to his heart, but nothing that he can’t handle.
Secondly, my three siblings – Debbie, Carol, and Joe – were carrying the entire load of watching my father, being his advocate with the hospital, and trying to keep their own responsibilities during a very busy season. I was able to come and stay at the hospital for 12 hours on Saturday, and felt I was giving all these wonderful people a bit of a break. I don’t thank them – and my in-laws and nieces and nephews – enough for all they do for Daddy on a regular basis, much less when he has a health scare. This was a small way of saying thanks.
Then, I stayed at Dad’s house when I wasn’t at the hospital, which gave me some space to come down after hours at the hospital. While there, Candice sent a text asking me to “look around and see if you can find something he needs for Christmas.”
New suspenders? Nope.
Books? Well, maybe…he obviously enjoys them and he always reads what I send him. But this is just one room of books in his house. There are others.
I think we’ll have to keep working on that question.
Most importantly, I’m glad I came because I got to be with my father. He’s hard-of-hearing, so conversations tend to be short and loud, but this morning we pulled out our various newspapers and Daddy – the unreconstructed Southern liberal – came out.
We talked about the immigration debate after he read one of his favorite local columnists – – in the Nashville Tennessean. He talked about how he was helping out a “working poor” family here in Murfreesboro, and we discussed the problems they are facing. When we talked about how corporations were driving so much of the agenda in America these days, he said, “I’d hate to be some of those people on the Judgment Day.”
Then we talked about my mother – the love of his life – in an unusual way. He was reading an article called Four Rules of Business You Can’t Afford to Forget, and he said, “This is Helen.” The rules?
- Be on time, every time
- Do what you say you will do
- Finish what you start
- Say, and mean, “Please” and “Thank You”
He said mother always pushed us to finish what we started. She wouldn’t let us drop something if we said we were going to do it. And she was adamant about saying “please” and “thank you.” In fact, when Daddy turned to Debbie yesterday and said to her, “Open this packet” I said, “Has ‘please’ dropped out of your vocabulary?” Debbie responded, “If mother was here he would certainly say ‘please’ more often!” At age 89 perhaps you get the occasional pass, but I was reminded of my rule “don’t be a grumpy old man.”
Finally, we were able to be together on Pearl Harbor Day.
When the nurse came in this morning, she couldn’t remember the date to write on the board in his room. Daddy told her, “It is Pearl Harbor Day.” He then proceeded to tell us that he and his sister – my Aunt Mary Dixie – were at Peabody listening to a performance of Messiah. When they came out, they learned about the attack at Pearl Harbor and their lives were changed forever. Both were WWII veterans by the end of the decade.
I enjoyed sharing an article with Daddy that was in today’s New York Times as part of a series about why Giants and Jets fans should skip today’s football games (something I’ve done for the past year without missing a beat). Tom Coffey, a staff editor in the sports department, suggested that fans use the time to “remember.” I loved his last line:
Sunday afternoon seems like a good time to think about the sacrifices made by the men and women who died that day, and to reflect upon the wisdom of a statement that originated with Marv Levy, the longtime Buffalo Bills coach, that is still uttered in the sports world, albeit far too infrequently: No game is a must-win. World War II was a must-win.
While I never want my father to face additional heart issues and wind up in the hospital, there is so much for which to give thanks this weekend – especially for the supportive thoughts and prayers from family and friends.
More to come…
Image: Tom Brown in front of Murfreesboro’s City Cafe