Monday, July 7, 2014

Bad news travels ( July 23, 1980)

 How do you tell people bad news?
 I'm certainly no master at it. Harold called this morning-- at his usual time of 4 a.m. I woke, spoke, then listened as the phone fell out of his hands. Maybe I should have waited for him to sober up, but who knew when that was or if I could get a hold of him again in time. We couldn't find Richi to tell him about Aunt Florence-- his drinking took him from one street corner to another, a regular wino whose route through the local ghetto I didn't know.
 But Harold called often enough in the early morning for me to deliver my news, and all I could hear through the fallen receiver was the repeated word "Christ!"
 Harold and Richi were both close to the woman, going there often in the years before and after Grandpa's death, fishing from her dock on the bay, or helping to fix her store. Richi's name had been one of the last words on her lips.
 "When did this happen?" Harold asked later, after he had managed to regain the phone, then changed the "when" to "why" and I had no answer.
 "I don't know, but the wake's today."
 I remember Alice saying she had dreamed of Grandpa calling her the night before she died. Had Florence dreamed that, too?
 Billy took the phone and told me Harold didn't need to hear such news just then. "He's got problems of his own."
 "But how's he going to feel if he misses her being buried?" I asked.
 Billy said nothing. Harold took back the phone, telling me they had to go now, wishing me a gentle "Good night" with a softer "Thank you" hidden behind the words, as he was glad I'd been the one to tell him.
 I wasn't. I hated being the messenger of death.

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