"So," she began, stirring a spoonful of sugar into her cup of hot tea. "What brings you down here this time of day?" She took a sip and set the cup down again.
"Actually, Mom called and asked me to come tell you something. They heard on the radio this morning that Teddy was shot and killed at his service station."
Her face went pale and still, eyes open wide, staring vacantly into mine. Her slender fingers encircled the steaming cup before her, as if seeking warmth. She dropped her gaze from me to the tea. "What happened?" she asked, her voice hushed.
"A robbery. All Mom knew from the radio report was that he was counting money at the time. Police are investigating."
Police. The word conjured up images of Teddy on his Seattle Police Department motorcycle during a yearly Seafair Parade, then jumped to memories of him and Sis as high school sweethearts—how he’d tease me whenever he came to see her, his affable demeanor, his willingness to help people, how Sis would look up at him with adulation and, in due time, their wedding one spring morning in 1957.
"Teddy never would have let somebody in if he was counting money. He was careful about those things. It had to be someone he knew that … that … murdered him!" She stirred her tea again and took another sip, then stared out the window as if viewing her world of yesterdays.
When her memories turned verbal, I remained quiet and listened until they ended with, "Want another cup of tea?"
"No. Thanks anyway." I rose from my chair. "I’ve got to get back home and get some work done." It seemed to me that she was taking the news in stride. No acting out as Mom had anticipated.
On the short drive home, I wondered if my sister cried after I left. And what about my mother? How would losing her "favorite son-in-law" affect her? What about my sister’s remaining son, my godson, the boy somewhere in the world aboard a Navy vessel? Thoughts of Teddy’s second wife entered my mind—a wonderful woman both my folks and I kept in touch with since she married my brother-in-law. God help us all.
For the rest of that day, I’d wipe away the tears each time the reality of the morning’s events sank into my brain. I told Mike the bad news when he came home from work. It saddened him. He’d been friends with Teddy, too, and had hand-loaded both rifle and pistol cartridges for him, for moose-hunting and police target practice.
This man’s demise impacted a vast array of folks. His funeral drew family, friends, and police officers from far and near along with less-than-welcome news media. His son, home on emergency leave from the US Navy, made a poignant sight in his white uniform, standing alone at his father’s casket. The lengthy procession that followed shut down traffic along the main route for miles, from the service in Lynnwood to burial at Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery in North Seattle. Flowers placed and condolences uttered, the mourners slowly dispersed, their lives forever changed, as were ours.
In the months that followed, our grief began to fade and life drifted toward normal once again. I kept working on screen prints, and designed wholesale flyers and order forms in preparation of marketing my wall hangings to Scandinavian gift shops.
On the 23rd of February, after he came home from work, Mike and I visited the nearby neighborhood mall to celebrate our eighteenth wedding anniversary. We toasted the event with a Pepsi® and a freshly baked cookie while watching a dwindling stream of shoppers reject the merchants’ offerings.
That little mall became our place of choice to people-watch when a break from our daily duties seemed necessary. The more we visited, the more I noticed how the one- and two-person shop owners were struggling to make a go of it. A new shop would open, and within months would go out of business. I felt sorry for them, perhaps because I’d witnessed my own immigrant father build a custom tailoring business in down-town Seattle when I was young. He let me type letters and billing statements for him when I was in high school. I came to understand and empathize with the hardships of business-building. Watching our favorite little mall lose one shop after another would haunt my sensibilities for hours after we’d been there.
By morning, I was back to my screen-print efforts and Mike back to work. Road construction was slow, due to an excessively wet spring, but the inspectors manned their posts without fail, overseeing whatever outside work could be done in the pouring rain. It wasn’t long before Mike came home after work with hints of a cold: sore throat, runny nose and coughing—incessant coughing, as cigarette smokers are known to exhibit.
He insisted on going to work each day, so I made sure that he dressed warmly and carried a supply of acetaminophen and cough drops. I added a Thermos® of hot chicken soup to his lunch box, and brought him hot water with lemon and honey in the evenings.
The morning of day three, he complained about not being able to breathe well. I insisted he stay home from work, and he made the necessary call. By mid-morning his breathing was decisively difficult. I drove him to the emergency room at Northgate Hospital, alerting the attendant physician that Mike’s cold might be turning into bronchitis.
"Or something worse …" The young doctor ushered us behind a divider curtain where he had Mike sit on the edge of a bed. He checked his blood pressure and heart rate, then listened intently with the stethoscope all over Mike’s chest and back.
When he raised the head-end of the bed up high and had Mike rest against it, I ventured a question.
"Is it bronchitis?"
"No." He took a clipboard from a nurse who entered with it, mumbled something to her, and began to write as she hurried away.
My heart beat faster. "Pneumonia?" Oh, God, please not another hospital stay.
The doctor turned toward me. "Looks like congestive heart failure. I’ve ordered the nurse to start an IV with a strong diuretic in it. He’ll have to be admitted. The nurse will help you with that after she’s got him situated."
"Okay …" My hands grew cold. Dear God, not again! Well, yes, indeed again. I knew I would have to psyche myself up for what might come, to look for the good, the positive, like the hospital being only half an hour away this time and me, not working, would be available when needed. My anxiety calmed.
The nurse returned, got Mike into a hospital gown and into the bed, and started his IV. She turned to me before leaving and said, "I’ll be back with some papers for you to fill out."
She was, and I did. She asked me to wait in the hall by the elevator while she got Mike ready to transfer to the in-patient ward on the second floor. I rode up with them, and watched as another nurse brought him juice and a sandwich.
"You want half?" He held the plastic-wrapped bread with ham and cheese out to me.
"No, thanks. Don’t feel like eating right now. Your breathing sounds better already, I think."
"Maybe so." He coughed several times before saying more. "How long do I have to be here?"
"I don’t know. I’d guess the doctor will be around later and tell you. If you’re okay for now, I’ll go home and check on the dog and get something to eat. I’ll call you later, hopefully after the doctor has been here and told you something. Think about what you want me to bring for tomorrow. Okay?"
"Okay. Drive carefully."
"I will. Talk to you later." I leaned over the bed rail, kissed his cheek and patted his hand. "Bye-bye."