I had no sooner posted “Lilies of the field” than the course of our day changed dramatically.
Just after noon I heard Tim start down the stairs. He had reached the bottom, steadying himself with the railing per our family maxim, “one hand for the boat,” when I started down. As I passed him, headed for the kitchen, I said, “Good morning, Tim!” and “Jerry’s going to make us Eggs Benedict for lunch.” He didn’t answer and as I reached the kitchen I heard a thud behind me.
Tim was lying flat on his back on the floor, conscious, eyes open. He immediately said, “I’m fine” but his head and shoulders were jerking. I pushed the button on his lanyard just as Jerry pushed the button on the LifeAlert main unit. This time–“Yes, it is an emergency!”–they sent out the paramedics.
Other than a bump on his head, Tim seemed fine but it made sense to have ER double-check. . .
Now, seven hours later, Tim has had an EKG, blood work, a chest X-ray, a CT scan, a diagnosis: “single syncope episode,” and–finally–a hamburger, his first food of the day. He has been admitted for more tests and observation.
Throughout the long afternoon he was calm and amiable, answering repetitious questions, telling the nurses his favorite “twin” joke (Denise and “Denephew”), reading his newspaper and working on the crossword puzzle. He wasn’t anxious, wasn’t restless, wasn’t cold, wasn’t hungry. (I was all of them.)
When they told him he was going to be admitted, he reminded me casually he doesn’t want those “heroic measures, is that what they’re called?” He said if he doesn’t make it out of the hospital to contact the rabbi about washing and disposing of his body. He said to notify the AA group and a friend in Los Angeles.
He gave us instructions about his book collections, his paintings. “The copy of my book IBM-IRD is on the stairs. It’s for Barbara in AA.” Still, the mood was light.
“While you’re giving out final wishes,” I said, “let me see if I can work the video on my Smartphone and you can give your kids your last remarks.” I aimed my phone at him, sitting up in bed, his upper half draped in a drooping hospital gown.
I click on the video. “This is Memorial Hospital, April 25, 2013,” I say. “Here’s Tim Reynolds. Tim, what are your last words?”
He has a cup of water in his hand. He holds it up. “Hello gang. I’m off–and it’s this damned water that did it.” He takes a sip, places the cup on his bed stand, turns back to the camera. “That was H.G. Wells’ farewell.”
They have him on the gurney on the way to his room before he remembers. “Did I say H.G. Wells? It was W.C. Fields.”
“Do we need a ‘take two’? I ask.
“That was just practice,” he said.
When we got home, I checked his inscription to Barbara in IBM-IRD. It says, “From one drunk artist to another. Tim”