RT - The Stars Don't Shine As Bright Anymore.
Arthur was born on October eleventh nineteen thirty-two at Beth El Hospital (which was later sold and renamed Brookdale University Hospital & Medical Center) in New York. When they were very young children, his mom Gussie (Kohl) and his dad Joseph Stillman came to New York with their parents. His mom was born in Poland and his dad's country of birth was Russia. Arthur remembers Sheffield Avenue as his first address before they moved to Dewit Avenue. His grandfather kept carrier pigeons at the house that he owned and rented out the ground floor.
October Eleventh 1932.
Beth El Hospital in Brooklyn New York
Was where you made your debut
A visit from the proverbial stork
Before dawn at three thirty-two
Your dad was a taxi-driver
And the story goes like this
He created quite a stir
Honking the car horn with happiness
At the news of your birth
He had become a father
Feeling the proudest dad on earth
He decided to name you Arthur
Three score years and ten
From that day in nineteen thirty-two
I try to convey with my pen
All the love I have for you.
He came from Russia in the early nineteen-hundreds
Where birth records of Jews were not kept
He would have been about three years old
His countrys' intolerance was hard to accept
With his parents and brother Louis
They settled in New Yorks' Lower East Side
A new language they had to learn
In a country with opportunities to provide
Freedom to practice their religion
And live in a land where the work-ethic
Was to strive to work hard for a living
Joseph joined the army and served in the Pacific
As chief-engineering officer on an army communications ship
Leaving behind his wife and son without much warning
When his son Arthur was born in Beth El Hospital Brooklyn
This proud dad honked the horn of his taxi-cab at three in the morning
Nine years before I became his daughter-in-law
On January fifth at the Veteran's Hospital in Miami
My hero father-in-law went to his eternal reward
Arthur always says that his dad would have liked me.
Arthur attended school PS 109 on East 45th Street, Brooklyn and remembers the day that his class visited a radio station in Manhattan, where they met the legendary Baseball player Babe Ruth. When I once commented that he had met some famous people, he replied "you know who I'm most proud of meeting... Pauline Attracta Lyons Stillman." At summer camp in upstate New York was where he learned to swim and he remembered the rhyme "hip hip, dominica synica Hanukkah sock the bumble-eye-ya ho" which they recited each morning. With his best friend Aaron, he ran messages to neighbors from the party-telephone line. Growing-up in Brooklyn, Arthur had a beagle that he named Brownie. He told me that suddenly Brownie was gone. His parents didn't explain to him the reason they gave Brownie away, was that Arthur had allergies. In a mail-order catalogue, I found a beagle made of resin that came with four outfits - Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July and Thanksgiving. We purchased the costumes for the other eight months of the year. On the first of each month I sat beside Arthur as he ate his breakfast on a folding tray in the 'Blue Room'- the name we gave the guest room because of the blue sofa bed. He got a great kick out of watching me dress Brownie. When Arthur was twelve years old, his parents moved to Miami which was a huge disruption for him. He lost contact with his school friends and had to make new friends. Not very long after they moved to Miami his parents divorced which caused more anxiety for him as their only child. Following the divorce his mom's health deteriorated and she was hospitalized on several occasions. She never dated or showed any interest in meeting another man in contrast to his dad, who married two more times.
After graduating Miami Beach High school, Arthur enlisted in the Navy. He was supposed to go to Michigan for boot-camp but a lot of military were getting pneumonia there, so he was sent to San Diego, California instead - much to his liking. He traveled from New York to Jacksonville, Florida where he had his physical and was sworn-in. From Jacksonville he was put in charge of five men on a train to New Orleans. From New Orleans they took another train to their destination San Diego. He told me that it took five days to get there adding "I thought we would never get out of Texas." They stopped in Arizona where Native Americans were selling pottery that they made. He told me about the time that he was hitch-hiking in Norfolk, Virginia going home to New York for New Year when a big car pulled-up and gave him a lift. He remembered how nice and warm it felt in that car and on the radio Eddie Fisher was singing 'Oh My Papa'! While he was in Norfolk he saw the USS 'United States' pass by on its 'trial voyage'. He served onboard an oil tanker in the Korean War and made numerous trips to Thule, Greenland - where the sun sets at the end of October and doesn't rise until mid February.
Following honorable discharge on August 20 1954, he worked in Miami roofing houses, he said "that was the hardest work I've ever done." As he had a chauffeurs license, he drove the truck that the workers traveled in to the jobs. He attended Miami University for two years studying accountancy where he wrote a paper on Charles Dickens. In 1956 he replied to an advertisement in the Miami Herald newspaper for summer work, and at the end of the contract was offered full-time employment, where he continued to work until his retirement in nineteen ninety-five. Despite having been top of his class in exams at Miami University each year - much to his chagrin - he did not continue with his studies and admitted "that is the biggest regret of my life."
His dad was in his eighties when he died at the Veteran's Hospital in Miami on Sunday January 5 1986 and his mom passed away in a nursing home on Miami Beach on Monday February 2 1987. In 2005 we visited her grave at Lakeside Memorial Park 10301 NW 25th Street Miami 33172 Block Mt. Zion Division 1 Row 2 space 23 Rest In Peace. I asked him if he cried when they died. He said "no I never cry..." and added "but I will when you die"! He had great respect for his parents and often spent Sundays visiting his dad and his third wife Roselia - who was from Cuba - at their Miami beach apartment. When they lived in Brooklyn his dad had built his own boat. He owned a gas station and rented out property in Miami. Back then in the nineteen fifties, gas was twenty-seven cents a gallon and was pumped by an attendant. The windshield was cleaned, the oil and the air in the tires was checked as a courtesy to drivers who patronized the gas station.
I met Arthur at Temple Beth Am in South Miami at a Valentine Day dance in 1994. We dated for a couple of weeks before I returned to London. We kept in touch by phone-calls and in one of those calls he asked me when I was returning to Miami. I told him that I had no plans to return and suggested he come to visit me in London. To my amazement he took me up on my offer and spent a week with me at my studio-flat in Du Cane Court, Balham, a few days after his sixty-second birthday on October 11. He brought a small book entitled 'The Greatest Thing in the World' by Henry Drummond and on his birthday wrote in the flyleaf "the most powerful force on earth is LOVE." Before leaving he purchased a return ticket for me to come to Miami. On my mother's eightieth birthday October twenty-ninth nineteen ninety-four, I boarded that British Airways flight to Miami and to a man who only God could have put into my life.
From the moment he picked me up at the airport in his red Thunderbird, I knew I would not be using that return ticket to Heathrow airport. There was something very special about him. But the night before we married, I got cold feet! We were driving on 1-75 to Miami after viewing properties with his cousin who was a realtor in Boca Raton. I was nervous about making such a huge change. I said "send me back to London..." He took his hand off the steering wheel and pointing his finger said: "you're getting married in the morning." We were married in Coral Gables court house on January 9 1995 and had a church wedding in The Church of the Little Flower, Coral Gables on August 14. He was planning to retire from work at the Miami Herald newspaper and on his days off we looked at apartments and houses in Broward County. He settled on a retirement community in Pembroke Pines as it was convenient to Miami and Fort Lauderdale airports and also the ports as he was planning to take cruises. Each condo in the village is named for a flower - ours is 'The Primrose'. We went on cruises to the East and West Caribbean, and once to Alaska and Bermuda. On our June 2013 cruise to the Bahamas, we were one of three couples chosen to go on stage for the 'Love & Marriage' gameshow - that was a lot of fun. The clubs in the village offered bus trips and we enjoyed overnight trips to The Holy Land Experience in Orlando, The Epcot Center, St. Augustine and Naples. In 2001 when I returned from my mother's funeral he met me at Fort Lauderdale airport. He had stayed up all night watching the television news about a guy who caused a security breach at Atlanta airport when he ran up a 'down' escalator, to retrieve his phone that he had left on a bench on the upper floor. It was just two months after the Twin Towers tragedy. All flights were grounded and my flight from Shannon could not deplane for quite some time. I had to wait several hours before I could get on a flight. I called Arthur with updates. A desk clerk informed me that I was "not a priority" as there were earlier flights that had to be accommodated. Just after three in the morning, I boarded a flight to Fort Lauderdale. It was a great relief to arrive at my destination and find him waiting for me. On the drive to Pembroke Pines, he said "the stars don't shine as bright anymore" - it was a lovely way of appreciating how much she meant to me and showed his prescient nature. I was staying with my sister Nuala in Galway for my nephew John's wedding in March 2006, when in his transatlantic call he told me about a trip that he had booked. He wouldn't tell me where we were going - he wanted it to be a surprise!
It was a bus-trip with the village Reform Temple to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We stopped overnight at The Best Western Hotel in Pooler Georgia. Upon our arrival at Gatlinburg we were informed that our hotel was upgraded to the Bearskin Lodge. Room 217 had a king-size bed, a jacuzzi, a fireplace and a view of the fast-flowing Little Pigeon river. We had the best time of our lives at Dollywood in the 'dry' town of Pigeon Forge. The amusement rides were scary, especially the Sky Rider and the hair-raising Dizzy Disk but a lot of fun. When we came off the Sky Rider, to regain our equilibrium we sat beside a lady on a bench. She commented "you should have seen your faces..." As we walked to each attraction, I couldn't figure-out where the music was coming from until he pointed to the rocks. In the summer of 2003, we spent a week with his bridge-playing friend Bertha at her home in Magnolia, Gloucester, Massachusetts. Bertha was a 'snowbird'- the moniker given to people who come to Florida in the winter from colder climates. She, along with most of his friends called him Artie. I shortened it further by using the letters RT. Despite the fact that he was given just one name at birth, he didn't seem to mind the sobriquet. For my fiftieth birthday, we took a flight to Vancouver for a cruise to Alaska, and nine days after our return home, we went on a ten day tour of Israel with friends from a Baptist church that we had been attending. It was the second visit to Israel for both of us. Arthur had gone in the sixties when he also visited London, and I went with Westminster Cathedral in nineteen eighty-six.
The riverboat cruises on the Mississippi and one on the Ohio river on board the 'American Queen' and the 'Mississippi Queen' steamboats were very special. We booked flights out of Fort Lauderdale to New Orleans where I sampled two cocktail drinks for the first time - a 'Hurricane' and a 'Mint Julep'. In Pat O'Brien's pub we both enjoyed a 'Hurricane' which was invented at that establishment. The paddle-wheel boats brought us to the northern cities along the Mississippi river where we visited Antebellum and Plantation homes. Prior to boarding, there was a welcoming reception of champagne, mint juleps and hors d'oeuvres. Having our marriage vows renewed by the captain and a visit to Graceland the home of Elvis Presley in Memphis Tennessee, were the highlights of one of those trips. The entertainment, cuisine and activities on board was excellent. I also learned a new word when along with five other ladies in the audience, I was picked to dress-up as a 'floozy' and go on the American Queen steamboat stage!
Century Village offered activities that we both enjoyed. He played bridge and poker every week. I played a doubles game of tennis three mornings a week and sometimes filled-in in games other days. Arthur worked out regularly in the gymnasium. I attended the weights class and the aquacize class in the Olympic-size pool at the clubhouse. We joined several clubs including 'The Wild Geese Club' and on St. Patrick's Day nineteen ninety-seven Arthur carried the American flag and I carried the Irish flag in the parade from Cambridge 'A' building to the clubhouse. When we reached the turn for the clubhouse he said "we'll do the military turn" I said "what's that" he explained how to make a "square turn." He gave a name to our daily walks; when we walked around the lake he called it 'The Oregon Trail' and when we walked by the buildings, it was 'The Santa Fe Trail'. I joined the Monday morning writer's club which was chaired by Ben who was a retired fireman from New York and I think for my benefit, told stories about some Irish men with whom he worked. I auditioned for the annual repertory show with the song 'How Are Things In Glocca Morra' and was in three shows. I enjoyed the camaraderie and I made some good friends. Fran who was a DAR (Daughter of the American Revolution) was a dancer in the show. She and Murray who emceed one of the shows, got married. When they moved one hundred and thirty-eight miles north to Port St. Lucie, they invited us to visit. We enjoyed a lovely Sunday afternoon with them in their new home and Murray prepared a delicious Bar-B-Que. Arthur loved to swim and we would race each other in the satellite pool by our building. He always won and I argued that the reason was because he was six feet tall. Those days were magical!
I Went To Sleep In Century Village And Woke Up In...
A writing-club assignment March 8th 1999.
I went to sleep in Century Village
And woke up where 'Living Has No Limits'
Hibiscus Begonias and luscious foliage
The Primrose is what we call our unit
Each building is given a name
Synonymous with an English location
From far and near the residents came
For retirement living with recreation
All four-legged animals are banned
But this rule we'd like to ignore
Forced to live without mans' best friend
We park a Cougar outside our door.
We visited my family in County Mayo Ireland in 1995 and 1996 and stayed two nights with our friends Theresa and Jim Thompson in Belmullet. Theresa's family had emigrated to America from there. Theresa and Jim built a summer-home in Belmullet, which is just a few miles north of where I grew-up. Arthur and my mother had a common subject of conversation as her mother and aunt had lived for ten years in Brooklyn, New York in the early 1900's. My mother's aunt (grandma's sister) Hannah Cunniffe was lost in the Lusitania tragedy on May 7 1915. In 2000 we booked a flight to Shannon for my godchild Fiona's first communion. We toured the surrounding counties and saw W. B. Yeats's grave in Drumcliffe, County Sligo. At Strokestown Park in County Roscommon, we visited The Irish National Famine Museum. Arthur bought a clay pipe in the gift shop (his dad smoked a pipe) We also visited the 5500 year-old neolithic Ceide Fields near Ballycastle in North Mayo. We explored Galway and Connemara. When we stopped along the road to take pictures, Arthur did a very funny imitation of an Irish jig! We traveled to Dublin by train but had to return on the evening train, as the hotels and guest-houses were all booked because of some national event that was going on in the capitol. Every December he would wait in the long line at the post-office to mail the Christmas cards to all the family. He always gave money to our mail-man and the cleaning lady of our building at Christmas. I visited my mother in Ireland for her eighty-sixth and eighty-seventh birthdays and also in the spring of 2001. In 2006 and 2007, I traveled to two nephew's weddings in Ireland and in 2005 and 2008 I went to Chicago for two of my nieces's baby-showers. He always met me at Fort Lauderdale airport upon my return. If I had a late night flight I would take a taxi and before going to bed, he would leave the 'butterfly' lamp lit for me in the living-room. In June 2008 he made a special effort to be with me at my sister Hannah's fortieth wedding anniversary in South London. He said "I'm doing it for your sake..." 'Mensch' is a Yiddish word (Hebrew and German) to describe a decent, upright, mature and responsible man.
November eleventh 2002 was the first anniversary of my mothers passing. My sister Nuala and her daughter Edel came from Ireland and I arranged for the Anniversary Mass at St. Boniface Church on Johnson Street. Arthur's seventieth birthday was just one month earlier and although he was not one to draw attention to himself, he reluctantly agreed to a party at Pembroke Lakes Country Club. We invited his poker-playing and bridge-playing friends and my tennis-playing friends along with some neighbors to his three score and ten celebration.
I experienced my first hurricane in 2004 when 'Charley' arrived on August 13 followed three weeks later by 'Frances' on September 5. Hurricane 'Ivan' arrived on September 16 and the fourth hurricane that year was named 'Jeanne' on September 26. Several Caribbean countries were devastated, with more than three thousand two-hundred people losing their lives and seventy billion dollars in property damage. Looking back, I am amazed that we had four hurricanes that year! The following year hurricane 'Wilma' arrived on October 15. Twelve years went by without another hurricane until early September 2017 when 'Irma' was predicted to be a category 5 storm - the largest in United States history - but became a category 4 when it made landfall at Cudjoe Key knocking out electricity for eight days. Arthur had survived hurricane 'Andrew' in 1992 and was well prepared for the hurricane season from June first until November thirtieth. In October 2008 I asked him what he would like for his birthday. He replied "76 kisses"!
We volunteered at Memorial Hospital West for twelve years. Arthur volunteered to work in the kitchen where he helped ladle the soup and carry trays of special diets to the floors and the emergency room. I worked at the information desk answering the phone, directing people to the various departments, picking-up specimens from the Breast Clinic to the Lab, delivering flowers to the patients and discharging patients in wheelchairs. I also volunteered in the HR department and the Administration Office. We enjoyed helping out and the annual appreciation luncheon that always had a 'theme' at the Signature Grand in Davie, was a lot of fun. On two occasions a 'friend' came by the desk and told me that I looked tired. When she said it the second time, I told Arthur. He replied "the next time she says that, tell her ...and you look so rested" - he never let things upset him and always had a witty response for any pejorative remark. As we walked to the elevator with a curious neighbor she asked: "Arthur, why did you marry her." Quick as a flash he replied "for her money" to which she opined "ah... I don't think so...poor little Irish girl." His poker playing friends liked to gamble and we went to the Hard Rock Casino to play the slot-machines and Calder Race Track where we made small winnings on the hotshot machine. Arthur told me about the horse 'Tim Tam' that he put a bet on in the 1960's and won big. He had a curiosity about all religions and particularly Buddhism. He attended the catholic church with me for a while. He told me about the time Pope John Paul II came to Miami, in September 1987. Arthur was on a balcony at work with his co-worker and friend Joe Quinn. Joe told him to hold up his wallet for the Pope to bless it as the Pope-mobile passed by! He liked to shop for groceries but hated mall shopping. Sunday and Wednesday were the days he shopped and when he came in the door with the groceries from Publix supermarket, he would shout "grocery boy." One day he told me "I took the scenic route and passed by a church that looked like the little church in the dell." We attended that church for a few years. A group of village residents formed a bible-study and we met each week in our apartments. Harold who was a Messianic Jew and the most knowledgeable person on the bible that I have ever met, led the group and once a month we all went out to dinner. Arthur liked to sing at karaoke in the clubhouse and on cruises. His favorite was the Jo Stafford song 'You Belong To Me'.
On January 18 2014 he said something that surprised me. I don't remember exactly how he said it but it was something like "if I get old put me in a nursing home." It made me cry and he was so sorry after saying it, he said, "that was stupid of me." After lunch he was very chatty and told me about his first car. His dad bought him a 1936 Oldsmobile for thirty-six dollars in 1949 or 1950. In 1959 he bought his first car, a brand-new frost-blue Chevrolet Biscayne with radio and manual gear change. He always had American cars until 2003 when he bought a Honda Civic. I suggested a two-door but he decided on a four-door so that we could drive our neighbors. Several years before, when a neighbor was in the back seat of our two-door Cougar, she had such a hard time getting out, we thought we would have to call the paramedics. He was the most kind and humble person I have ever met. I wanted him to go on the non-profit all expenses paid Honor Flight for Veterans who served in a war to Washington DC to view the war memorials, but he didn't want to. He helped several new neighbors move into the building and told them about the village rules. When I mentioned that they never showed any appreciation, his reply was "I didn't do it for recognition..." He was a remarkable man who did not possess one iota of vanity. Throughout the years he donated to charities and the Veterans Organizations - that was his modus operandi. In 2012 when my brother Tony died, Arthur donated to the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at Miami University. One of the bye-laws in the village stated "no four-legged animals allowed" Arthur joked "we could get a three-legged dog" He sometimes would burst into a song "Bell-bottom trousers, coats of navy blue, she loved her sailor-boy and he loved her too." He had silky-soft skin and when I commented on it, his reply was "its all that gefilte fish that my mother fed me in Brooklyn..." When we saw the blood donations bus outside Walmart offering a free movie-pass, he asked "what movie do you think they see?" I replied I've no idea, he said 'Dracula'. He had a wonderful dry sense of humor and a brilliant mind. He always watched the CBS program 60 Minutes and when each of the presenters had introduced themselves, he would add "and I'm Arthur Stillman" - that gave me a laugh every time. He would find the best TV movies for me to watch. One time I answered the phone but no one spoke, when I told him he said "it was probably one of my girlfriends" to which I replied "you had a full life." He said "yeah...but it really didn't start 'till I married you." Most mornings during the week he would sit in the lobby of the clubhouse with a group of men who called themselves 'The Harvard Club' and discuss the news of the day. One morning a lady walking past collapsed, he ran to the security desk to get help.
Arthur felt unwell on Friday August 5 2011. He didn't want to go to the Emergency Room saying "its too busy there on a Friday." At 2:15 pm, I called his doctor's office and got the on-call number. A young female voice told me that the doctor was out of the office for the day. I told her that Arthur's blood pressure was 80/40 and his pulse was 50. When I asked to speak with a doctor, I could hear her relate my question to a female in the background who told her to tell me to have the blood pressure checked at a fire station. I asked her if she had made a note of the readings. She said "what readings" I said the blood pressure and pulse readings that I gave her. She didn't reply but repeated the question "do you live near a fire station" and when I said we do, she said we should go there to have it checked and she hung-up the phone. Saturday morning at 9 am Arthur's blood pressure reading was 144/72 pulse 48. I called the doctor's office and asked for the on-call doctor to call us. At 9:30 am the on-call doctor called back and told me that I was taking the blood pressure too often. He asked "how old is Arthur?" and when I told him he said "that's normal for his age!" At 3:15 pm it was 138/68 his pulse had dropped to 44. I called the office number for the third time and spoke with an associate who said he would have the on-call doctor call us. Within fifteen minutes the doctor called and said to go to the Emergency Room.
In one of Florida's heaviest rain-storms, I dropped Arthur at the entrance to the ER and parked the car. I had to drive quite a distance for a parking space and despite having an umbrella got soaked from my knees to my feet. Arthur was waiting for me at the entrance so we rushed in, checked with the security-guard and filled-out the mandatory form to give to the nurse at the desk. She told us that "Arthur's notes are not down yet" so to take a seat and she would call him. Ten minutes later Arthur's name was called. He was brought into a small room where a nurse took down his medical history, a technician drew blood and an EKG was taken. A wheelchair was brought for him and he was taken to room 1, where he was put on a heart-monitor. Shelley who was the nurse assigned to him, put him on oxygen. John inserted a cannula in his left arm and the crash-cart was brought into the room. His pulse was 40 on the monitor. Shelley explained that because his pulse was low she was giving him IV Atropine. After about forty-five minutes the doctor came to see Arthur and told him that he was in second-degree heart block and that he would need a pacemaker. He said a cardiologist would insert a temporary one for the weekend and that a permanent one would be placed on Monday. I asked him if it would be under general anesthetic and he said yes. An X-ray was taken of his chest. There was excitement when a baby was born in a car outside the ER and the doctor attending Arthur, assisted with the delivery. On the TV there was a story about a volunteer at Memorial Regional Hospital who was 101 years old! Those two events gave me a good feeling about Arthur's recovery. At 7 pm the night-shift came on-duty and Patricia was Arthur's nurse. She said that he would probably be in the ER overnight and the cardiologist would see him in the morning. At 7:20 pm Arthur told me to go home and get something to eat.
I had just finished eating when the landline phone rang at 8:15 pm. I was very nervous about what I would hear when I picked it up. It was Patricia to inform me that Arthur was being moved to room 2026. I was delighted because it meant that he would be able to lay on his right side which is the way he always sleeps. The next day I called the hospital at 7:30 am and asked for room 2026, only to be told that a Mr. Graham was in that room. Again I was fearful of what I would hear but after a long wait was told that Arthur was moved to ICU. I spoke with nurse Michele who reassured me that he was fine, he was in room 2045 and the only reason he was moved to ICU was so that they could monitor him more closely. After breakfast I visited him and he told me the name of the doctor who inserted the temporary pacemaker. He also told me that the ER doctor said that he could see signs of this in the EKG's from Arthur's primary-care doctor's office - I found that very disturbing!
Monday August 8, I arrived at Arthur's room just before 9 am. We didn't know what time he would be going for the pacemaker until 11:30 am when two young men in scrubs came to take him to the operating-room. They told me that Arthur was singing in the ER on Friday when they were putting in the temporary pacemaker. I accompanied him to the Cath Lab preparation room on the second floor. Nurse Cindy prepped him which included shaving his chest. The Electrocardiologist asked me "how did this come about?" I explained that I take Arthur's blood pressure every morning, as he is on three medications for it, and that the reading was very low on Friday last and his pulse was also low. He explained the procedure to Arthur and said that he didn't see any problem but added "there's always a risk with every procedure." I walked behind the bed as he was wheeled to the entrance of the operating room. The two young men in scrubs got a good chuckle as I leaned over the protective railing to kiss Arthur and wish him "Good Luck and God Bless." A nurse showed me to the waiting-lounge. With Arthur's hat in my hand, I took out my rosary-beads and prayed. I knew that the procedure would take about forty-five minutes so after an hour passed, I walked along the corridor and met a nurse. She asked if she could help me and I said that I was waiting for my husband who was having a pacemaker placed, but that it was taking longer than I expected. She called the operating-room and was told that he was doing fine and would be out shortly. I kept a close watch on the 'star-track screen' in the waiting-lounge for his name to come up. As a volunteer was leaving the desk, she announced that the telephone was accessible to the waiting relatives and that a nurse or doctor may call for a relative when the patient is out of the operating room. Three times I answered the phone but it was for other patients. I was on my sixth rosary when nurse Regan came for me. As we walked to the consulting room I asked him how Arthur was and he replied "he's fine." When I mentioned that it had taken longer that I expected he said "the doctor will speak with you."
The Electrocardiologist was waiting at the door and as Regan was leaving, he asked him to stay. The doctor shook my hand and reassured me that Arthur was fine, but there was a problem when he removed the temporary pacemaker - it punctured the heart causing bleeding in the heart cavity. He said that he was able to "plug it" and inserted a chest drain "a pig-tail" to drain the blood from around the heart. He said that a 'critical-care team' and a heart surgeon were put on standby. Regan comforted me with his arm around my shoulder as we walked to the preparation room where I waited for Arthur to return. He was semi-conscious and looked pale as he was wheeled back at 2:43 pm to the cubicle where he had been 'prepped'. His nurse Cindy did a great job taking care of him and it was such a relief when Arthur called my name. He complained of pain and said "it was worse than I thought it would be" He knew something went wrong. About an hour later Cindy and another nurse wheeled Arthur back to room 2045 in ICU. He had asked when he would be going back there.
I sent email to my sister Julie in Ireland, to say that Arthur was critical and she called me on Tuesday morning. She asked me if I would like her to come over and I said yes - I needed all the support I could get. Sherri was his nurse today, she and another nurse said they "had never seen this happen in their thirty years of nursing, Sherri said "he's a lovely man, he thinks outside the box." The doctors visited and asked the nurse how much fluid had drained since his return from the operating room. She didn't know as they had not been measuring it, adding "there were no orders for that in the notes" - both doctors were surprised and went to check the notes. From my nursing experience if a patient has a drain-in-situ we always measured the fluid output. "Nurses are trusted with the most precious thing on the earth: the life, health and happiness of other human beings" - Isabel Adams Hampton Robb 1st American Nurses Association President.
Wednesday morning I got phone-calls from my sisters Julie, Nuala and Dorothy in Ireland. It was great to get those calls as I felt very much on my own. In the hospital lobby I met Arthur's poker-playing friend Billy who ironically was visiting his doctor for his pacemaker check-up. He told me that in 2001 when he had his pacemaker fitted that he felt like a new man. Jim the ultra-sound technician excitedly told us "I have never been called to the operating room before, its usually after the operation that I'm called." I said "I'm sorry that it had to be my husband to be the patient." He just smirked. The cardiologist's nurse-practitioner came to remove the "pig-tail." It was very emotional to watch her remove approximately eight inches of drain from the heart cavity. As with all the other medical procedures that he went through over the years, including cataracts, numerous surgeries by his dermatologist including Mohs surgery and several bouts of trigeminal neuralgia - Arthur endured it all with a sangfroid attitude. His first cataract was so large, his ophthalmologist described it as "like a slab of concrete..." and refused to operate as, in his opinion, removing it would not improve Arthur's sight. So we found an ophthalmologist who also said that he didn't think his eyesight would improve by having it removed, but he agreed to operate. The surgery lasted two hours and when I took the bandage off the next morning, Arthur looked across the lake and said "I can see the birds on the edge of the lake..." He proved both doctors wrong.
It was very comforting to get calls on Thursday August 11 from Julie in Ireland and my brother Miko in London early in the morning. When I told Arthur he said, "its nice to know that so many people care for me..." He was such a humble man. Sherri was his nurse today and she had the best news for me. She said that Arthur may be going home tomorrow. I sent email to Julie to let her know so that she could decide if she wanted to book a flight. When I called the hospital on Friday I got the great news that he was moved to a regular room 2020. Throughout his stay in the hospital he remained very positive and just accepted his situation. His dry sense of humor and the fact that he could laugh at himself endeared him to a lot of people. When I told him that the cardiologist mentioned the fact that this happens in only 5-10% of cases he said with a laugh "it would happen to me." The physical therapist came to assess if he would need physical therapy at home and decided that he would not. I wheeled the IV stand as we walked along the corridor and he did great. As we passed by the crash-cart, he commented "the karaoke machine!"
Sunday August 13 - this was the day I got to bring my RT home. Debbie was his nurse today. We had to wait for the doctor to write-up the discharge papers so I went home and waited by the phone. At 3:20 pm Arthur called to say "the doctor was here, he's getting the discharge ready...are you coming in?" I said "I'm coming right now..." At the East entrance to the hospital, I met a doctor from Arthur's primary care doctors office, who was visiting hospital patients. He was eating an ice-cream cone. While we waited for Debbie to remove the cannula and the heart monitor, a dove alighted on the ledge outside Arthur's window. It remained there preening itself for a long time. Thankfully Arthur made a full recovery and on October 18 we went on a two-day bus trip with the New Jersey Club to the Epcot Center in Orlando, where we had the best fish and chips at the English pavilion. He always had a great appetite and enjoyed checking-out all the new restaurants. My first time eating Thai food was when his friend Terry invited us to a party at a Thai restaurant in South Miami, that she gave her granddaughter and her husband Marc when they returned from their Caribbean honeymoon. Arthur felt like a new man and returned to participate in all the activities that he enjoyed in the clubhouse. His poker-playing friends tried to persuade him to sue the hospital for the mistake, but he wouldn't saying "they saved my life..." He was thoroughly organized and kept a rigid routine. He always turned the kitchen calendar on the last day of the month and we associated it with the beautiful piano instrumental 'Last Date' from the 1960's by Floyd Cramer. Jokingly I told him "you are almost perfect" He replied "they're was only one perfect man." I expected him to tell me about some great historical figure in politics or the armed services. He kept me guessing for a while before giving me his answer: "Jesus."
On February seventeenth 2018 he complained of back pain and asked to go to the Emergency Room. He was diagnosed with fractured first lumbar vertebrae and kept on bed-rest for a week. The doctors considered doing the Kyphoplasty procedure but then they determined that it was an old fracture and that treatment would not be beneficial. On February twenty-third he was discharged home in a wheelchair. He could not walk and had very little appetite. After the follow-up visit to his primary-care doctor, his doctor called and said "you know Arthur is a changed man...he may not survive this..." I said "but, no one dies from a fractured vertebrae." He said "no, but he's very weak and he could fall or catch pneumonia..." I thanked him for the call. He ordered a physical therapist, occupational therapist, and a health-care aid. A male nurse visited twice weekly from his doctors office to check his oxygen, sugar and vitals, which were good. He walked with a walking-aid but had to have someone accompany him as he was very unsteady. He remained mentally alert so much so that he refused to walk out on the catwalk with the physical therapist one very windy day. She was insisting that he go out and I had to say "don't force him if he doesn't want to go, as he is fearful of falling ..." Thank God he did not fall. Medical 'professionals' with autocratic attitudes lack any understanding of the dignity that those in their care should be granted. I was sitting on the side of the bed and realizing how weak he had become I couldn't stop crying. I asked him how bad the pain was (he had asked his doctor for a strong analgesic but the doctor wouldn't prescribe) he replied "not as bad as my father's belt" - that was the first time that he mentioned it. He smiled at me and said "don't cry; be strong" and added a little later "everyone goes through this..." He was such a pragmatic man. During the last five weeks of his life when he was suffering severe pain from the fractured first lumbar vertebrae, he often said "sorry to have to put you through this..." I reminded him that he had good doctors (he had five) Without hesitation, he replied "they're not as good as you combined" - that was how wonderful this man, who was my husband, appreciated me as his wife. I was truly blessed that Valentine night that I met him in 1994.
The morning of Holy Thursday he was not able to eat breakfast so I fed him his favorite Cheerios and half an english muffin. Around 11 am he told me that he needed to go to the hospital. I asked if he wanted me to drive and he said yes, but a few minutes later said "no...you better call the ambulance" The village nurses came and took his vitals which were good. The paramedics strapped him on the gurney and brought him to Memorial Hospital West. I had asked him if he wanted me to go in the ambulance with him but he said "no...take the car"- he knew that I would need the car to get home again. When I got to his room in the ER, he complained of pain in his abdomen. I asked when the pain came and he said "in the ambulance" The x-ray didn't show any abnormality, so I came to the conclusion the strapping on the gurney caused pressure on the fractured first lumbar vertebrae, as he had lost a lot of weight in the past weeks. We waited all day for a bed and at 9 pm he was admitted to room 4716. I asked if he wanted me to stay the night at the hospital but he said "no, go home and get a good nights rest." I went to bed around midnight and didn't think that I would sleep but I didn't wake-up until 4:45 am. I firmly believe that he woke me up as he was transitioning to the next life. In ancient Hebrew the word for time is ET. At 5 am the phone rang. It was a nurse from the hospital to say "Arthur is unresponsive, do you want us to resuscitate?" I told her that he would not want that as we both have living-wills. She said "well...you'll have to tell that to another nurse as we need two verbal messages." I waited for what seemed an eternity for the nurse to come to the phone, and I repeated what I had told her colleague.
I rushed to the hospital but was just ten minutes too late. Arthur had passed at 5:15 am on Good Friday and Passover March 30 2018. I had lost the love of my life and felt totally heartbroken. Rosemary was just coming on duty. She was the volunteer-supervisor at the information desk, who always joked with Arthur in Spanish when he came to pick me up on Thursdays. She spent a very long time consoling me and made me feel that I was now part of her family. Several years earlier his dad passed in the month of January, his mom in February and now the month of March had claimed my beloved RT. We were both born on a Tuesday sixteen years apart. He was born in the third last month of the year and he died in the third month of the year, on the day that James Joyce called "Frightday."
"You BECOME" the horse said to the rabbit. It doesn't happen all at once it takes a very long time. Generally by the time you are REAL most of your hair has been loved off and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But those things don't matter, because once you are real, you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand" - from the children's story 'The Velveteen Rabbit'. "Life is a fairly well written play except for the third act..." - Tennessee Williams. The Saturday night before Palm Sunday Arthur said "tomorrow is Palm Sunday, would you like to go to church" He knew that I liked to get the Blessed palm every year. I said "if you don't mind being left alone..." But on Sunday morning he changed his mind and didn't want me to go. My friend Rosemary brought me to church on Easter Sunday and as I got out of her car, there, on the ground was a palm-cross - he had made sure that I got the Blessed palm!
My friend Ronnie who was born in Brooklyn the same year as RT told me about the surprise that her family gave her for her eighty-fifth birthday. They sent a message to the White House requesting a greeting to be sent to Ronnie on her birthday in April. She suggested that I do the same for RT's birthday on October 11 2017. I sent email and regular mail in August and was disappointed when his birthday came and there was no greeting from the White House. Thankfully he was not disappointed as I hadn't told him that I sent the request - it was to be a surprise. I didn't check the mail on Good Friday, but when I picked-up the mail on Holy Saturday - there was the birthday greeting from the President!
Before you passed to eternity
On that morning at Memorial Hospital West
Your last words to me were
"Go home and get a good nights rest"
Each day since I lost you
Words can't describe the sadness
That I feel since March thirtieth
Our home now has an emptiness
The Lord called you from this earth
On Good Friday and Passover
Rest in peace dear RT
Gone but in my heart forever.
In June 2016 we had decided on cremation for both of us with The Neptune Society. Our doctor's office manager Donna - who lost her husband in December - told me about the veteran's burial that she had for him. I contacted The South Florida National Cemetery in Lake Worth to have a veteran's burial and after several correspondence and proof of honorable discharge from the Navy, the date for the ashes to be interred was June 14, which is Flag Day. My friend Nora and her husband Marcelo drove the fifty-two miles in very heavy rain until we reached Boynton Beach, where there was bright sunshine all the way to Lake Worth. As we drove up to the 'Committal Shelter'- the area where the ceremony would take place - two Navy personnel saluted. The ashes was received by a young female navy cadet and the flag - which the Neptune Society had provided - was received by a Naval Officer. Arthur's longtime friend from work Joe and his wife Jackie had sent a beautiful bouquet of red, white and blue flowers with a card that read "Fair winds and following seas" and I had brought a blue and white bouquet to represent Israel. The ceremony was very emotional as the two Navy members did the traditional thirteen folds of the flag and a bugler played Taps. Each fold has a meaning: 1. The symbol of Life. 2. Our belief in eternal life. 3. To honor and tribute of the veteran departing our ranks, and who gave a portion of his or her life for the defense of our country to attain peace. 4. Exemplifies our weaker nature as citizens trusting in God: it is to Him we turn for His divine guidance. 5. Acknowledgment to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur " Our country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right but it is still our country right or wrong." 6. For where our hearts lie it is with heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands one nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all. 7. Tribute to our armed forces, for it is through the armed forces that we protect our country and our flag against all enemies. 8. Tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we may see the light of day and to honor our mother for whom it flies on Mother's Day. 9. Honor to womanhood for it has been through their faith love loyalty and devotion that the character of men and women who have made this country great have been molded. 10. Tribute to father for he too has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since he or she was first born. 11. In the eyes of Hebrew citizens represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. 12. In the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies in their eyes God the Father, the Son and Holy Ghost. 13. When the flag is completely folded the stars are uppermost reminding us of our national motto: 'In God We Trust'. Arthur now rests alongside his fellow Heroes at The South Florida National Cemetery in Lake Worth, grave 399 section 34F.
South Florida National Cemetery.
It is the most peaceful place
To visit those who gave their lives
In battle and those who lived to old age
By their sacrifice our freedom derives
Located in Lake Worth Palm Beach
This three hundred and thirty-eight acres of land
Is 'home' to those who served this country
At their Commander-in-Chiefs' command
Each time we visit our beloved husbands
The sweetest birdsong is heard there
One day Jackie and I will be re-united with
Tom and Arthur - but not too soon is our prayer.
On a headstone in Ireland: "Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal." "Only in the agony of parting do we look into the depths of love"- George Eliot. "Sometimes when one person is missing, the whole world seems depopulated"- Alphonse de Lamartine. "When you are sorrowful look again in your heart and you will see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight"- Kahil Gibran. "Who can say what it is that makes a man die: A sad heart that no longer wishes to go on beating"- Ernest Lehman 'The King & I'. "Real friendship or love is not manufactured or achieved by an act of will or intention. Friendship is always an act of recognition. When you find the person you love, an act of ancient recognition brings you together"- John O'Donohue. "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience" - Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. "We are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little life is rounded with a sleep..." -William Shakespeare's 'The Tempest'. "Unable are the loved to die. For love is immortality..." - Emily Dickinson.
This poem is by David Romano:
When tomorrow starts without me
And I'm not here to see
If the sun should rise
You find your eyes
Are filled with tears for me
I wish so much you wouldn't cry
The way you did today
While thinking of the many things
We didn't get to say
I know how much you love me
As much as I love you
And each time that you think of me
I know you'll miss me too
But when tomorrow starts without me
Please try to understand
That an angel came and called my name
And took me by the hand
And said my place was ready
In Heaven far above
And that I'd have to leave behind
All those I dearly love
But as I turned to walk away
A tear fell from my eye
For all my life I'd thought
That I didn't want to die
I had so much to live for
So much yet to do
It seemed impossible
That I was leaving you
I thought of all the yesterdays
The good ones and the bad
I thought of all the love we shared
And all the fun we had
If I could relive yesterday
Just even for a while
I'd say goodbye and kiss you
And maybe see you smile
But then I fully realized
That this could never be
For emptiness and memories
Would take the place of me
And when I thought of worldly things
I might miss come tomorrow
I thought of you and when I did
My heart was filled with sorrow
And when I walked through Heaven's gates
I felt so much at home
When God looked down and smiled at me
From His great golden throne
He said "This is eternity
And all I've promised you
Today your life on earth is past
And here life starts anew
I promised no tomorrow
But today will always last
And since each day is the same
There's no longing for the past
You have been so faithful, so trusting and so true
Although there were times
You did some things
You knew you shouldn't do
But you have been forgiven and now you are free
So won't you come and take my hand
And share my life with me."
"Glory Father, we thank Thee for all the blessings which Thou has redeemed him from this wicked world and brought his sorrows to an end, and as we trust, has taken his soul home to Thee" - Amish Burial.
Mark Twain wrote: If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race, ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, had always been heard of. He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. All other forces pass but the Jews remain. What is the secret of their immortality?"
I wrote this poem for Arthur's birthday in 2015 and Rabbi Steven Newman read it at 'A Celebration of Life' memorial service on April 29 2018. Both Rabbi Newman and Pastor Dill who is a pastor in the village gave a wonderful eulogy. It was the first time that a Judaic/Christian service was held in the Village Reform Temple. I found the elegiac expressions of those in attendance comforting.
Many happy returns to my husband Arthur
Another year older and wiser
He shares the same date as my father
And the same month as my mother
His dad honked the car horn
Outside the hospital when he was born
As each birthday comes around
My love for him is more profound
He never ceases to amaze me
With his knowledge of history
His favorite music is Mozart
Some of his friends call him Art
He is my walking encyclopedia
He is like a self-reliant multi-media
I tell him that he has the PS syndrome
Like a perpetual student in his dorm
'Mushroom' is a name he goes by
That is because he is a 'fun-guy'
What Aristotle and Kant had to say
Interests him idle chat is not his forte
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