April 24th, 1973 & 2013: As the month of April wore on, dad continued to wear out. My last blog mentioned all the rain we were getting in 1973. It created an epic flood, at least for that time period. 40 years later, history repeats its self. By this time in 1973, though, I remember some really nice spring days. Water was rising in the two rivers that separate Pike County, but there was a mix of sunshine too.
As dad's condition worsened, he spent more and more time in Illini Hospital. The hospital is located on Washington Street, not all that far from our house on Prospect Street. From our driveway, to Clinton Street, and North on Clinton three blocks.
I'm not certain, but I recall dad bouncing back and fourth from the hospital and home for a good portion of that month. I can't recall how much time he was able to spend at the hardware store, but I don't think much. I didn't keep a diary in April. But by this time, anyone with any intuition would recognize dad was winding down.
When he was at the hospital, there was one room in particular that dad seemed to be assigned to. It was on the second floor, and it was the most southwest room on the floor. Right in the corner. It was a big, airy, bright room. The windows were big, and you had a good view of the surroundings. Right out the windows was the big, green, hospital lawn. Across Clinton Street was George Webel's big white house. Doctor O'Connell's veterinarian clinic was to the southwest. Across Washington Street was Marshall and Jane Chassion's huge brick house, complete with its own little patch of woods, running along Clinton Street.
This room sort of became dad's room. On occasion, he had a roommate. But most of the time it was just him. There were the two beds. A north and south. Dad was in the south bed, further from the door and hallway.
During his brief, early hospital stays, he was also on the second floor. Also a south room, but located more towards the middle of the building. I think a nurse's station was nearby. This room was smaller and darker. It was in this room I can remember a situation from earlier on in dad's plight. He was sitting in a wheelchair, about to be taken out of the room for tests or something. As they were about to wheel him out, he said something to me, I don't recall exactly what it was, and he teared up.
The big room, where he spent most of his time, belied the worsening situation. As hospital rooms go, it was actually "cheery."
This was the room dad received a steady stream of visitors. Dad had many friends. Dad and his friends often played practical jokes on each other. "If you're going to dish it out, you have to be able to take it," he told me many times.
A couple of years earlier, in January of 71' or 72', the second floor of the hardware store building caught fire. It was in an office we rented out. Water came down through the ceiling and caused quite a bit of damage in the store. Most items had to be individually cleaned. Some were lost. John Blake, a friend of dad's who owned The Bowl, came in the store soon after the fire. Water was everywhere. Blake handed dad a half dozen kitchen sponges to clean up the mess, tongue firmly in cheek.
On this spring day in 1973, at the hospital, I happened to be in the "big room," hanging out with dad. There was a knock on the door. In came Roger Yaeger and Ben Johnson. Yaeger's family owned Floyd's Jewelry. That business was two doors down from the hardware store, to the north. Ben Johnson owned a Massey Ferguson implement dealership west of town. They were good guys. Johnson, in particular, was (and still is) a real character. Ben could tell a joke a day for a year, and you would not hear the same joke twice. Most of them were raunchy.
Yaeger and Johnson came bearing gifts for dad this day. A Playboy magazine and a colorful flower. The flower was in a vase. The vase was an empty Michelob bottle.
The laughter made the room even lighter.