15. March 2008 · Comments Off on Everything Started so Quietly · Categories: Domestic, General, Veteran's Affairs

Saturday – it’s a work day for me. My weekend is split – Sundays are for a long hike with the dogs and work in the house and garden. Wednesdays are my Saturday, a long day given up to writing, both morning and afternoon. Mondays and Fridays are my workdays with my friend Dave the Computer Genius, doing office admin for his computer repair business, trying to launch the carpet-cleaning business for his friend Jimmy. Dave is a Navy veteran, horrifically overweight, divorced and a good platonic friend and as I said – a computer genius. I’ve known him for about six years, ever since he gave the coup de grace to the computer I bought in Korea to start my writing career and sold me a rehabbed computer to replace it.

Since then, he did work for the company I worked for then, for the company my daughter works for now, referred me to many of his computer clients – and when he discovered last fall that his admittedly serious and chronic health problems were not going to carry him off in a matter of weeks, he hired me to do his admin work, intending to build up his various businesses again. It suited me fine to work for him, two or three mornings a week; he had fitted up the back bedroom closet of the trailer that he owned and currently lived in as a tiny home office, just for me. That was my regular job to go to, on Mondays and Fridays, five minutes drive from home and I didn’t have to wear anything more formal than sweats or jeans. Fridays, he was usually out on jobs, but Mondays were days that we did marketing, and plotted out various mailings and letters for the computer business. He was a night owl – most of the times still asleep when I arrived. I am a morning person, so I was used to this. He had a key in a lockbox, so that I could let myself in.

He had planned a couple of weeks ago, to move again – into a small apartment attached to a house owned by some friends in Alamo Heights, a neighborhood that was closer to his computer business clientele. On Friday, he was out all day, but he telephoned me to ask if I could pack up all the things in my little office and from the bookshelves in the hallway – which I did. One thing about being in the military – good at packing up stuff for moving – and Moving Day was Monday. I finished packing up my office, all the files and mailing materials and stuff, broke down my computer and packed that, took down all the books from the hallway shelves and packed them. By then, it was almost two o’clock, an hour past my usual time; I was out of tubs and boxes and Dave wasn’t back from his afternoon job. I went home to call him – no phone at the trailer. All of his business went through either email or his cell phone. He asked me to come back in the morning, if I had time before going to the radio station; there were some more tubs I could use to pack the stuff in his desk. In the kitchen where I had not thought to look for them. And also, he said he would leave my salary for two weeks work in a place where I could find it.

So I came back this morning, just before nine. His car wasn’t in the driveway – not at all unusual. His Saturdays are like mine – a work day, usually. I didn’t have any reason to go down the hall, since my office was already emptied out, and everything I needed to work on was in the living room or the kitchen. It took barely an hour to empty out the desk, and the drawers, sorting everything into plastic zip-lock bags and layering it neatly in the tub. Well, everything but what looked like a couple of moldy, gnawed barbequed short-ribs in a plastic baggie, buried and forgotten a couple of layers down. OMG, every story about forgetful guys and computer geniuses – it’s true! I was looking forward to razzing him gently about that. I even made a note to point out the disgusting things, on the top of the kitchen trash. But my salary was nowhere to be found. I called up his schedule – oh, he had an appointment at 10 AM. Maybe he had left early and I had just missed him.

And I had also left a handful of computer equipment boxes on the top shelf, not being entirely sure that he wanted to haul them down to the new place, I had asked him about those when I talked to him on Friday afternoon. No, he said – they were for things that he might want to sell as used; keep the boxes and pack them. I had an empty crate still – perfect for the boxes. When I went down the hall to get them, I glanced into the bedroom and saw him lying sprawled on top of the bed, deep asleep. Oh, another one of those mornings when I tip-toed in and worked for hours without waking up the slumbering night-owl. Happened often enough before – I tapped on the door-jamb and said that I was done.

I didn’t tap very loudly, and I didn’t want to go any farther into the bedroom – yeah, we were friends and all, but I have imbibed so many of those Victorian principles about single gentlemen and bedchambers and all that. No, better to go home and call him on the cell-phone, save us all the embarrassment, since he was so deep asleep; night-owl and all. I went home and called his cell number, said that Blondie and I would stop in, on our way to the radio station. She wanted to take me to work this weekend, kill some time hanging out in Huebner Oaks, take in a movie, and I thought that it would give him time to wake up, pull himself together and remember where he had put my paycheck. And besides, Blondie wanted to see my tiny closet-office.

So, we let ourselves in again; I showed Blondie the closet-office, and I saw when we went down the hall again that he was still in the same position. Not a good sign.

And it was what might have been expected to have happened to an obese man in his late fifties, plagued with a colorful assortment of ailments. I didn’t even try looking for a pulse: his arm was cold, his chest was motionless and his fingertips were a uniform bruised blue. We called 911 from her cell-phone; the paramedics took what seemed like an ungodly time to get there, but were very kind when they did. So was the SAPD police officer who arrived sometime afterwards. I think he was weirdly relieved to find that both Blondie and I were calm enough to be of help; to locate some documents in the packed tub of stuff from Dave’s desk with his social on it, the cell-phone number for his next of kin from the computer data-base, to call Jimmy and find out that Dave’s car was in the garage for a suddenly-developed problem on Friday afternoon.

We stayed until the contract medical examiners van arrived, having already spent considerable time on Blondie’s cell-phone. His daughter authorized me to see to locking up the place, and on her instructions, the very helpful SAPD officer let me keep Dave’s wallet and keys. While we were waiting for the medical examiner’s crew to do their job, the manager of the trailer-park came by. It’s a natural nesting place for snow birds, so I imagine that this has happened many times before. The manager was very understanding; a special eye will be kept on the place, until matters are sorted out. Dave’s daughter will come to San Antonio on Monday, but tomorrow, Jimmy and Blondie and I will sort out more of the housekeeping things at the trailer.

So, not only am I now out for a regular job – I am short of a crackerjack computer tech, a hosting service – but most importantly, a very good friend and mentor, in one fell swoop. He tried to teach me everything he knew about computers; I am lucky if I retained about a quarter of it all.

I’ll be a week or so, sorting out all this and trying to keep calm. He had been dead for hours, as I worked away in the living room, packing his desk stuff. I keep telling myself, if I hadn’t come in at all, it might have been Monday before anyone thought anything amiss.

(Later note – as well as being a personal loss, this is a financial disaster for me, at a time when I most particularly needed a paycheck. I have a tax bill coming up, and the entry fees for a couple of literary contests that I had planned to enter “To Truckee’s Trail” in. I hate to bleg… but donations to my paypal tip-jar would be particularly welcome at this time.)

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