I couldn’t wait for the week to end. The brisk pace having peaked late Wednesday, I’d knocked down final barriers on Thursday to set up a stress-free Friday. It would be court at 10, the office and food to Helen by noon, and then… (drum roll) … the weekend.  But as they say: People plan and God laughs.

Court ran quickly last Friday, as did the office pit-stop. Bounding to my car — only a quart of mushroom barley and a drop at my aunt’s separating me from the weekend I’d chafed for — I made a mental note. “No sense confirming to Walt that I’d be there”, I figured, “Until I’m done with Aunt Helen.” (Then, I’d deduced, there’d be a firmer grip on timing).

I pulled up to her house — the home she’s clung to since Nixon held the White House. I parked and walked in — no more knocking. (Ed. Note 1: With her increasing immobility, this protocol had ceased. She’d acceded to letting us just enter. Her pride, of course,  had rejected both Marv Baskin’s cane and the Hal-purchased walker. Sachel in her second century convinced her that if she heard a noise it would ONLY be one of The Boys.  As such, from wherever she was, upon hearing our entry, she would wade through her maze of strategically placed chairs, push off from one to the next, and meet Saint Harold or Just Bruce at the step’s top).

“Aunt Helen,” I announced, breaking the plane of her sanctum.
No answer.
“Aunt Helen – I brought soup.”
Still no noise.

Three steps later I saw her … prone on the floor in the kitchen. She was breathing, but barely and semi-conscious. What to do?

I called 9-1-1.  And Carrie. And my brother.

EMS appeared … and a uniform. Taking information and then my aunt, they carried her out as I locked the front door.  No matter.
By the time they’d secured her in the back of their truck I was driving down Cedar en route to the hospital.   Passing Taylor Road, I was, speaking to H,  when the siren screamed by. “Sort of funny,” I told him, as I moved to the curb, “This may be the only time in her life she drove in a car moving faster than mine.”

Catching up with her in triage, I was comforted by the care she was getting.

“Your aunt may have had a stroke,” they advised as they warmed her body, monitored her being and touched all bases.

(Ed. Note 2: I’m still an idiot. Looking at my watch, noticing the time, it occurred to me — if only for a second — that maybe I could call Walt and ask that they “blind me out”— that I’d speed to Aurora).

(Ed. Note: 3: I didn’t act on the above thought — either because I could picture Carrie later saying “Really?”, or with an eye on the distinct likelihood that had I run out to play poker at that moment —even as she slept peacefully — my father would have shot down from heaven faster than he would have bound out of his apartment to jump in Paul Podell’s car for gin games, and given me “that look”).

Alas, I did nothing of the sort. I stayed for a while, cried for a while, and went home. I am 66, I am….and perhaps growing up.

It was a weekend sans rhythm. A couple meetings,  on Friday, a little work, a lot of Carrie, a walk – NO TWO – yet as for Aunt Helen: “No soup for you!”  (What?  Too soon?).

How odd it was Saturday, not going to her house. How weird it was, not interrupting daily regimen (if ever so briefly) to scoop up food, schlep to her home, kibitz a bit, and then kiss her and run.  How flat!

Carrie and I were down there yesterday. The guts of the day.

She was up, only barely. She knew who we were. Only barely.  Yet she smiled.

“Do you know where you are?” the doc asked her. “Do you know what month it is? “Do you know what this is?” (he was holding a pen). They would pivot and leave.

Carrie knelt by her side.  My aunt’s eyes were open.

“Aunt Helen,” I inquired, “Do you know how to get to Carnegie Hall?” (The lady didn’t hesitate.  Not for a bit.).  “Practice, practice, practice” she mumbled, still smiling.

She slept away Sunday, in respite and quiet. I read by her bedside, but her eyes remained shut.

I drove home up Cedar — the road often travelled.  I passed by her house; it looked dark and empty.  No reason to stop, I knew.  No food to bring.  Nor a light bulb.

No, on this day it was just a house — and not a home.

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