I was going to name my post “Stranger things have happened,” but you know what? Stranger things have never happened.
While we were in Hawaii, my father got a call from my brother’s friend saying she had been trying to get ahold of him for a day, but he was not returning her calls or texts. This turned out to be a very ominous phone call, but first, some background.
I am going to have to give a little back story for most of the rest of this post to make any sense. I am backing up to Thanksgiving. For the past few years, I have been having Thanksgiving at my house for part of my family. My little family of four, if we can get the boys home, my mother, father, sister (borderline sister, we’ll call her Aunt TeeTee, because that is what my kids always called her), her male friend of 15+ years, my brother, his female friend, his three sons and any current girlfriends, and his grandson. My Dad’s huge family including seven of my siblings, all live near each other in another city about three hours away. My husband’s family lives in another state, a plane ride away, and we have not had Thanksgiving with them for decades… plus, they are no contact right now. I believe I have mentioned before how many siblings I have, 10. So this particular father that we share Thanksgiving with, is my “step” father, but I hate that term, so we will call him my father (and the other will be called my dad… my dad being the bully–who I still love just as much, of course–my father being the most amazing man that miraculously arrived in our lives when I was six), and this brother is my “step brother,” my father’s son from his first marriage. My step brother will be called Peter and that is actually his real name and I can’t think of any reason to call him anything else. Peter is one year younger than me. So, Peter has an especially unlikeable female friend (on again/off again lover, I am guessing) named Yolanda. She is passive aggressive and very attached to the males in our family. She adores my husband and our boys and my brother and all his boys and she especially adores my father. She is not especially genuine with females. There is always a lot of fake smiles and weak hugs coming from her. Last year at Thanksgiving, I was frantically trying to get about 15 dishes on the table all at once and then I noticed we were out of punch, so I went to the refrigerator and got the container of additional punch and was going to pour it into the serving pitcher, which was sitting on the kitchen table. Just as I was about to pour, Yolanda picks up the pitcher and says, “here, let me hold that for you.” As I am pouring the punch into the pitcher, she pulls the pitcher away and I proceed to pour punch on the floor. Instead of apologizing for moving the pitcher, she says, “oh my, look what you have done, I’ll just clean that up for you.” Meanwhile, I am standing there with punch all over my shoes, and all over the floor in the middle of trying to get Thanksgiving dinner on the table. My mother comes in and asks what has happened. Yolanda “kindly” offers my mother the explanation that I am so frazzled, I spilled punch all over the floor, and by “I,” she means ME! My mother just looks at me, knowing me and how fastidious I am, and knowing Yolanda and what a conniving bitch she is and we just share an exasperated look. Yolanda is wildly going through drawers looking for towels to clean up and my mother goes over to help her since we have lived in this house for 18 years and my mother is well acquainted with everything. As they pull out a couple towels, Yolanda softly says (but loud enough so that I can hear), “this is the most disorganized kitchen I have ever worked in.” OMG. If only she had been doing some work and not making messes. Anyway, that is Yolanda. So this year, neither my mother or I wanted to deal with Yolanda or cooking a big meal for people who don’t do any of the work themselves. Aunt TeeTee had decided she did not want to deal with Yolanda or the rest of them, so she and her male friend made alternate arrangements with his family. We, therefore, decided to go out for a nice restaurant meal. It ended up being just the five of us, me, Blue Eyes, The Peacemaker (our younger son), mother, and father. I chose a lovely restaurant in an old house with gorgeous stained glass windows and a ton of Thanksgiving decorations that my mother was oohing and aahing over the entire time. The meal was wonderful and no one had to do any dishes.
Over the course of the past year, apparently Yolanda has been calling and texting and emailing my father somewhat obsessively, about anything and everything. If Peter is struggling, or “being mean to her,” or she needs advice on buying a car, or whatever, she calls our father. At Thanksgiving, she called my father’s mobile phone twice and texted him. Not sure why my father thinks he needs his mobile phone at Thanksgiving dinner, but I guess that is just me. According to Peter, he and Yolanda had not seen each other for weeks, so we were all a bit weirded out by her obsession with my father. My mother was getting pretty annoyed with the whole thing as well and she is going through one of her seasonal depressions. Blue Eyes suggested my father just block Yolanda’s calls. Of course my father had no idea how to do that, so Blue Eyes helped him, and right there at Thanksgiving Dinner they blocked her number.
Now, that brings us back to Hawaii. My father and mother were in Hawaii with us since this was a corporate retreat and my father has been my husband’s CFO since 2001. Technically he is mostly retired, but we never leave him out of anything good because he is part of our company’s success, and he was also my watchdog all those years ago when my husband hired a rather awful secretary (Monica). My father helped scoot her big ass out of the office. My mother and father approach us at the pool and my father looks upset. He says that Yolanda has called him using Peter’s mobile phone, so my father thought it was his son, and answered it. She said to my father, “I have been trying to get ahold of you for over a day now, but you are not returning my calls or texts.” My father does not tell her why, but really just wants to know what she is calling about. She tells my father that Peter has been in the hospital for two days. She had called to speak with him and he had sounded so sick and lethargic that she had gone to his house to check in on him, thankfully! Yolanda, is a nurse. When she got to Peter’s house, he was jaundiced, and running a high fever. He could hardly breathe and was having chest pain. She rushed him to the hospital and he was then being treated for pneumonia, which had been brought on by his compromised immune system, because he has leukemia. We all sat there in shock. He was a healthy fifty year old man just a few weeks ago.
Peter has now received 14 days of intensive chemotherapy treatment for his leukemia. He is on a brief break from the chemotherapy treatment while his body, hopefully, starts re-building healthy blood cells. Then they will start another round of chemo. The plan is to keep him in the hospital for at least another three weeks to a month, until they have completed all the chemo. We returned from Hawaii late Thursday night and planned to visit Peter, with my parents, at the hospital on Saturday. As it turns out, Peter is at the very same hospital where my husband’s eight year affair partner works in the Labor and Delivery department. I KNOW!!! At first, I contemplated not being able to visit him, but then, I got over myself. We headed to the hospital and planned to be in and out of there before Camilla’s shift (at least the shift we think she will be working). We parked our car in the very same parking lot we had sat in on our reconnaissance mission. We entered the hospital through the front entrance, holding hands, both of us shaking, neither of us wanting to be anywhere near her. We headed down the hall, made a right, and went straight to the elevators that would take us to Oncology, on the fourth floor, where Peter’s room is. As we get off the elevator on the 4th floor, we took a look at the directional sign, and wouldn’t you know it, to the left is Oncology, and to the right…. Labor & Delivery, are you kidding me.
I felt like my feet were cemented to the ground. My husband steered me towards Oncology and we found Peter’s room. My parents were already there. I barely recognized my brother. My brother’s full and normally clean shaven face now has bone structure not previously visible. He has a beard and he oddly looks like Ben Stiller in Walter Mitty. I don’t know how much weight he has lost, but he looked small and fragile. The chemo has taken quite a toll already. He has a horrible rash around his chest and neck and on his legs. It is hard for him to speak, and nearly impossible for him to eat. When the nausea doesn’t get him, the raw throat and esophageal pain does. He took a couple bites of soup while we were there and then had a fit of hiccups and it was too painful for him to continue eating. A couple times he just dozed off. His spirits were pretty good, considering. I cannot imagine sitting in that hospital bed all day much less living through the pain and the unknowns he is dealing with. Two of his sons are living out of state and have not been to visit. The other takes care of everything around the house including their dogs. Visitors straggle in throughout the day and Yolanda has been visiting and checking up on the hospital staff when she is not at her own nursing job at a different hospital. We stayed much longer than anticipated. When we left, I gave him a kiss on his forehead and he was on fire. We promised to come back this coming week. I can’t imagine spending Christmas in that dreary room. I guess at this point he is just hoping he gets out of there before next Christmas, or gets out at all.
We left his room and headed back out to the elevators. I needed to use the restroom, which was actually on the floor between Labor & Delivery and Oncology. I contemplated looking elsewhere, but I really had to go. When I came out of the stall to wash my hands, there was a 50-something woman who worked at the hospital washing her hands at the other sink. She stared at me in the mirror. She did not look familiar. I smiled at her as I finished washing my hands. She did not smile back and she continued staring at me while she washed her hands three more times. As I was drying my hands on a towel, I glanced back in the mirror and she was still staring at me. She glared at me as I walked out the door. It was a very strange experience, but strange is what my life is all about these days. I am honestly very happy we did not run into Camilla. I hope we are as lucky next week when we go back for another visit.