It was dark, rainy and cold here in New York City. I hated it. I had been living in Honolulu for the last 8 years and gotten used to the beautiful weather there. I also objected to the fact that I was sitting in the back seat of a dirty taxi making my way from Kennedy Airport to a hotel in midtown.
But what the hell it was only for two weeks and then I could return to paradise. I could put up with almost anything for two weeks. I was ordered by my publisher to attend the awards ceremony and receive my acclaim.
You see I am a 58 year old writer and my third book made the top of the best seller list for the year. It sold an obscenely large number of copies, and was made into a movie. Also the movie won an Academy Award.
As the old saying goes, "My shit didn't stink." I was signed to a five book deal for an advance of about $3,000,000 with the movie rights selling for even more, including a percentage of the box office.
I was rolling in clover. Yep, I was a happy camper. And in pretty good shape plus I hadn't broke any mirrors lately. I always said looks weren't everything but it didn't hurt to be widely acclaimed as ruggedly handsome and 6'2". So said my P.R. lady anyway.
My agent and my publisher wanted me to attend the awards shindig, do a few book signings, and make the rounds of the morning television shows. The publicity would do a lot to boost book sales. I got a piece of those sales and even better, my publisher footed the bill for all my expenses.
All it would cost me was a few weeks spent in this terrible weather. It was March, and everyone knows that March was not the best time to visit NYC.
For the records I write under the name Mendon Fishers but my real name is Jack Harris.
I was lost deep in thought about my next book, when the cab slammed on the brakes. Anyone who has taken a cab in NYC has come to expect being bounced across the seat as your driver and another cab tried to occupy the same space at the same time.
This time there was a thump and my driver started yelling. I assumed he was swearing in his native Middle Eastern language.
My driver hopped out of the cab while I was still trying to get back upright on the seat. I looked around for the other cab. There wasn't one.
I found my driver huddled over a shape lying in a puddle of rain and slush by the curb. He had hit a pedestrian. A cop was hurrying across the street talking into his portable radio.
I got out of the cab and walked to the front where I saw the inevitable shopping cart crushed under the front wheel. The pedestrian was a homeless person, one of NYC many faceless people.
The cop was administrating first aid until the ambulance arrived.
The driver kept yelling, "Who pay my cab?' There was nothing for me to do to help. I noticed that the vagrant's processions were scattered on the pavement having fallen from the overturned shopping cart.
Maybe it was the nice guy in me or maybe it was just to keep warm, but either way, I bent over and started picking up the stuff scattered in front of the cab.
One of the first responders walked over toward me. I assumed he was going to help. But this was NYC, all he did was hand me a pair of rubber gloves and tell me not to cut myself. "AIDS, you know."
One of the plastic garbage bags had torn open. I was trying to close it when a framed picture in it caught my attention. I recognized the photograph. It was taken about 10 years ago. There I was smiling at the camera with my arm around my now ex-wife.
I couldn't see the face of the homeless person, but it was a female body and under the filth she looked Caucasian.
"Shit," I thought.
The ambulance arrived and quickly departed with her. The cops started picking up the homeless person's belongs and tossing them to the curb. One was complaining about needing to go through her shit to find any identification.
"I think I know her," I offered. "I think she might be my ex."
The cop and I adjourned to the back seat of the police car and started filling out all the paperwork.
"We were divorced about 10 years ago; the last I saw her was in Rochester, NY. She was leaving the court house after our divorce was granted. She had requested the divorce. No she wasn't cheating but she was an acknowledged alcoholic who wouldn't change." And so on and on the questioning went for almost thirty minutes.
When I finished with the police, I found the cab gone and a limo waiting in its place. I guess someone discovered who I was and riding in a cab was not befitting my status as a famous author. I'll bet someone called my publisher.
"Shit, I wanted to sneak into town anonymously without all the reporters and TV news crews vying for the best picture or question," I thought.
In the beginning when I had my first best seller, the fame was a real ego boost. By the third book, I was a recluse. The constant violation of my privacy got old very, very quickly.
I pissed off the limo driver when I ordered him to pick up the vagrant's things and put them in the trunk, because we were going to the hospital to check on her condition.
Now limo drivers are the upper echelon of the NYC driver world. He looked as if he was going to tell me where to stick my request, but the two $100 bills in my hand changed his mind.
Bribery always works in the City.
Between the two of us we made quick work of the clean up. But the limo driver warned me that I would be charged extra to clean his trunk after all this crap was removed, typical of NY City.
On the ride to the hospital I sat back in my seat and thought back in time. It had been ten years since my divorce. The Cliff Notes version is simply, "She was up to a quart of vodka a day, I said 'Quit drinking and get help or else', she choose the 'or else' option".
The lawyers made quick work of our joint bank accounts.
It was the second marriage for both of us. We both had adult children from our previous marriages. She had two married daughters. Her older daughter and husband I could not stand. They were both pretentious snobs. Her other daughter, Jackie, was the victim of hard luck.
Their natural father favored the older sister and treated the #2 daughter as an afterthought. #2 (Jackie) was a good kid, but ignored by both her parents. When I married her mother, Jackie and I hit it off. I was the first adult in her family to actually treat her like a person, not as an afterthought. We became buds.
Over my objections, Jackie married right out of high school and soon had three kids. I was never sure who caused the fights but Jackie started looked like a punching bag once or twice a month. She kept saying," I fell down", or "I slipped on the ice" or "I walked into a door." You know, she had all the excuses. He mother would not let me become involved as badly as I wanted to.
Jackie also started to drink.
Well one thing led to another and soon Jackie was divorced and in a treatment facility for her drinking. It took a couple of stays in the treatment centers and about two years of AA meetings but she finally beat her drinking problem.
I paid a few of my old friends some money. They paid Jackie's ex husband a visit. I understand he'll never walk again.
Jackie met her second husband while attending her AA meetings. They were married a few years later. He was a really nice guy. Two weeks before their first anniversary, he had a massive heart attack. He was dead before he reached the hospital.
Now you see what I mean when I said Jackie had some very hard luck.
Anyway I digress; my ex's older daughter and her husband supported my ex-wife in her divorce action. They hired a very expensive, high profile divorce lawyer. Their lawyer struck first and filled all sorts of motions.
I hired a shark that was a really nasty son-of-a-bitch.
Too make a long story short, my side offered my soon to be ex, a 50/50 split. They refused and demanded 70/30. My lawyer smiled and said to them, "You don't have grounds for a divorce. We won't grant one. Let's go to trial."
I almost shit! If I lost, a judge would decide the split, if I won, I got to keep my wife. Talk about a lose/ lose situation.
Anyway you'll love this next part.
We were in court to give our statements under oath. Before the second day of testimony, my lawyer dropped a thick legal petition on their table. He announced to her lawyer that as soon as he won (tomorrow) he was going to file this motion and that was their copy. I could see my wife read the title, "Motion for Involuntary Commitment of an Adult."
I had threatened to have her committed for her drinking problems in an earlier argument. As she read the title, a very scared look came across her face.
They settled that afternoon for a 30/70 split, in my favor that time.
The judge granted the divorce and that was the last time I saw my wife until now.
I was brought back to the present by my driver opening the door of the limo. I heard a security guard yelling at my driver, "Sir you can't park there."
Typical of NYC, the driver paid no attention to the security guard as he helped me out of the back seat. The security guard got in the driver's face yelling about towing and having the driver fired.
My driver asked the guard, "Do you carry a gun? Well I do, so back off before I beat you with it."
The guard retreated back into the hospital. I guess my original $200 tip was paying dividends.
I walked up to the admitting station in ER. The clerk started asking me questions. Again in typical NYC fashion, the clerk started out being belligerent. "What do you mean you don't know about her health insurance?" "How do we get paid?" etc. and on and on.
I saw my latest book face up on her desk. I reached across the desk and flipped the book over so that my picture on the dust jacket was visible. She shut up momentarily and started comparing the picture to my face.
"You're really him, Mr. Fishers?"
She agreed to let me cover the costs by sending a bill to my publisher. (Boy were they going to be surprised when that bill showed up.) I autographed her book for her and went off to find the doctor. Like I said before, bribery always works in the City.
The doctor explained that my ex-wife had hit her head on the curb when the cab knocked her down resulting in her coma. There appeared to be no real brain damage but until she came out of the coma there was no absolute certainty.
"Now that's the good news," he said. "Do you know that she's probably an alcoholic?"
"I did, that's why I divorced her. Her drinking was the reason we divorced. I wanted her to get help, she didn't."
"Her liver appears to be damaged from all the drinking," he added. "It looks as if she's been drinking heavily about 2 or 3 years."
"No Doctor, it has been at least five years since I divorced her over her drinking. So she's been at it at least 6 years, but probably a lot longer."
"Well that makes it even harder. I'm not sure her body can take the stress of detoxification. But anyway we can't start trying until she comes out of the coma." The doctor continued.
"Any more good news," I said sarcastically.
"Yes, I'm sorry there is. We found an area on her left foot that is affected with a staph infection. We might need to amputate part of her foot."
I was given some paper work to sign that allowed them to take the necessary steps to save her. "Hell," I thought. "I loved her once, maybe this would help her."
The doctor walked me down the hall to her room.
There laid the woman I had spent 15 years of my life with. She was hooked up to a variety of monitors. One of the orderlies was trying to wash her feet. He did not look like he was enjoying this assignment.
I could smell her body odor the moment I walked in the room. I did not envy the orderly his job.
I scarcely recognized my ex. Her soft brown hair was now completely gone. She had a bald head.
The doctor saw me looking, "When a patient has a serious case of lice. They shave their head and then bath the person in an insecticide. In your wife's case..."
"Ex-wife," I corrected.
"Sorry, in your ex-wife's case they need to hand wash her two or three times a day until the lice are all gone."
I looked at her. She appeared to weigh well over two hundred pounds, "At least she's been eating regularly."
"No. That's all fluid buildup. We suspect that her kidneys are failing, but the test results are not back yet."
At this point in his explanation the smell of urine over powered the body odor in the room. The doctor turned to the orderly and said, "Get her cleaned up and the bed changed. I'll order a catheter inserted in her."
The doctor and I left the room. He went to the nurse's station, I to the elevators and my waiting car. The sour smell was still in my nose as we drove away. I had no plans to return to that room, ever. I had divorced her and there was no point to bring up old memories. I did save the pictures and a few other personal things for her. They were put in her room. The rest was just glorified garbage and pitched.
My next two weeks in the City were hectic. I spent every afternoon and part of each evening sitting on a folding chair at a table autographing my book for my fans. Actually if it wasn't for the fact that my butt kept falling asleep, I liked meeting my readers. Their brief conversations kept me humble. After all, New Yorkers have a habit of telling it like it is.
Now the mornings were reserved for the TV talk shows and meetings with my publisher and/or agent. Somehow the news shows picked up on the cab accident and my ex-wife was the subject of a lot of their questions. I suspected it was my publicist just doing her job.
The story unfolded and it was spun so that I looked like a lonely ex-husband caring for his addicted ex-wife. I had a very good publicist, that's why I suspected her.
"If they only knew," I thought. I hadn't stopped smiling since the judge signed my divorce degree. Only someone who had lived with an alcoholic can understand the pain watching a loved one sinking into the darkness brought by this addiction.
My publisher was ecstatic, book sales were climbing because of all this free publicity. I was being portrayed as a really nice guy caring for his ex-wife in her "time of need", who had also been an author in another time and place.
My book tour completed on an up note, I had a contract for a five book deal and two of my previous books had movie deals. My publicist twisted my arm and made me pay one more visit to the hospital.
At the hospital, when they led me onto my ex-wife's floor, I was greeted by a couple of TV cameras, a bunch of print reporters and some very pissed off nurses.
I held an improvised press conference outside her room. There were even some staged photos of me holding my ex's hand and kissing her forehead.
Sue, my publicist whispered in my ear, "If I knew you were going to be such a ham, I'd have brought an onion so you could have cried also."
Then she pinched me so I couldn't laugh and spoil the effect on the news crews.
That afternoon, I flew back to my home in Honolulu. My ex-wife soon forgotten.
A couple of months had gone by since my NYC book tour. I was well on the way to creating another blockbuster (or at least I hoped so) when my phone rang.
I had been taking a break sitting on my deck to get my thoughts in order. The temperature was in the high 70's and the wind was gentling blowing across the ocean out of the west. It was typical Hawaii weather.
My caller ID flashed a NYC number that I did not recognize.
"Hello, Mendon Fishers speaking," I answered.
"No sense using my real name," I thought.
"We'd like to get a statement on your feelings now that your wife has come out of her coma," said the rather rude voice on the other end.
"The news guys have found me," I realized.
"What wife? I'm divorced!" Then I remembered my ex.
I softened my tone. "You mean my ex-wife has recovered from her coma? No one informed me."
"Shit! Shit! Shit!" I mumbled to myself. "How the hell should I handle this?"
"I'm going to hang up now and call her doctor. I need to know her condition," I replied.
I called my publicist, Sue; we needed a plan of action. I explained the prior phone call to her.
There was a flurry of phone calls across the Pacific Ocean as we formulated the plans. We agreed that it would help my image if I appeared to support my ex-wife in her recovery. (Anything to sell more books) I called the NYC hospital and spoke to my ex's doctor, "Your ex-wife had come out of her coma and was responding well to treatment. Her liver and kidneys are recovering from years of abuse. Her mind showed no signs of damage from her interaction with the curb, but it did show signs of damage from her years of close association with her poison of choice, vodka."
His next question floored me, "So where do you want us to send her for her next round of treatments? We don't do alcoholic recovery here."
"How long do I have to find a place?"
"We'd like the bed free by early next week."
"I'll let you know where to send her," was all I said.
I hung up and called my publicist. I was going to drop this mess in her lap. After all this whole fiasco was her idea, I'll say one thing as a publicist; Sue did a damn fine job. It was on all the next day's news shows, "Author's Ex-Wife Recovers". Of course I didn't have a clue as to what was going on. So I called NYC again.
It took a while but Sue, my publicist, explained everything to me, "Mary, my ex wife, was scheduled to be treated in a private Californian rehab clinic. Her stay there would initially be 60 days, at the end of which she would be reevaluated and kept longer if necessary." The bad news was the cost. It would cost me at least $120,000 out of my pocket for the first 60 days.
"There goes the royalty from my next book," I lamented but told Sue to start the ball rolling.
"Mendon, Mary doesn't have a clue who you are. The drinking has affected her mind. She doesn't even remember her daughters," Sue concluded sadly.
Katie and Jackie, I haven't thought of them in years.
I'd better explain. I was Mary's second husband. She married right out of high school and had two children by the time she was 20. By the age of 40, she was a single parent with one child still living with her and one in college. I came in the picture when the younger girl, Jackie, was finishing up high school. Later in our marriage the older one had married and was in the process of carrying on an affair with a co-worker behind her then husband's back.
I got along with the younger daughter. She was a pretty blond with a great personally but school was not her strong point. So high school was as far as she went.
Anyway, when Mary and I divorced, Katie and her now 2nd husband paid all of Mary's costs upfront. Jackie called me and said that she'd always remember me but "Mom is my mother."
So ended my relationship with my step-daughters.
Back to the new book business at hand I gave a few phone interviews and then flew to LA for TV appearances. Again I was still being portrayed as the "good guy" in this ex-wife matter. It had a positive effect on my book sales. So positive I was scheduled for another book tour by my publisher.
I found myself signing books by day and trying to write at night in small motel rooms (OK not so small because my publisher was paying).
If you are ever offered the chance to be on a book tour, refuse! You wake up in one city and go to bed in another. There are gallons of coffee, fast food, rude people, and no rest.
After about two weeks, you don't even remember what city you are in without looking at the schedule.
It's a sad comment on our society, but all the stores and all the malls all look the same. OK maybe the plants are different, or the Starbucks kiosk is located in a different walkway, or there are a few more "high end" stores in richer areas. But all and all, if you've seen one mall you've seen them all.
So here I was in the front of a Barnes and Noble Book Store signing books and forcing a smile on a very weary face, when I spotted a familiar face in the line.
"Shit! That's my former step daughter, Jackie." I looked at my schedule and realized I was in my old home town.
I took one of my cards and handed it to an assistant saying, "See that blond in the red coat about 20 people back in line?"
"OK, hand her this card and say, 'your step father would like you to call him on his cell phone, He'd like to meet for coffee'. She won't recognize the name on this card otherwise."
I saw my assistant hand her the card and deliver my message. Jackie looked at him as if he was crazy and then looked to the head of the line at the card table where I was sitting. Her face went from curiosity, to amazement, to tears. She clutched the card to her chest, stepped out of line and nodded "yes" when she saw me looking.
Sue, my publicist, commented," She's a little young for you, Mendon."
"She's Mary's daughter," was my reply. I could see the light go on above Sue's head and hear the wheels turning. I wondered what stunt Sue was planning next.
A few hours later my entourage and I were sitting in a franchise Italian restaurant waiting for Jackie to arrive. I was sitting in a corner facing the wall with my back to all the restaurant patrons.
I had to sit this way because I didn't want my dinner interrupted by fans. I've had perfect strangers pull up a chair to my table and start discussing my latest book as if it was a true story instead of fiction. Some people were just plain rude.
Our waitress informed me that the rest of my party arrived, but there were too many of them to fit at this table. The next thing I knew we were escorted into a small private dining room and I was attacked by my step daughter and all her children.
My youngest and self proclaimed "favorite" granddaughter got to me first. I thought I was going to be squeezed to death. She just wouldn't stop. Then her older brother pealed her off me and basically took her place.
Finally there stood my step daughter, Jackie, with tears in her eyes and a hanky in her hand. Jackie wrapped herself around me. I put my arms around her and felt her body wracked by great big sobs.
While her face was buried in my shoulder, I whispered in her ear, "Hi honey I've missed you. Your family is looking mighty fine."
"Please call me Mendon. I'll explain later." I added.
"I don't care what you want us to call you; just don't you ever leave us again. You're the only parent I have now." She replied.
"No I'm not, I found your mother. She's the homeless person my cab hit in NY City"
We took our places at the table and started a long overdue family reunion with Jackie's kids. My grandson Bryan turned out to be the assistant restaurant manager in training where we were eating, thus the private room. My granddaughter Ann was sharing an apartment with a girl friend while they both attended a local Jr. College.
And Jackie was living in a small house in the city and working split shifts as a waitress to pay her bills.
I covered my last ten years with her. Starting with my move to Honolulu and living with my sister there, to my first published book and then my rise to fame.
At last I asked about my ex-wife Mary. I wanted to know why she ended up homeless in NY City. Jackie explained that her sister Katie and husband had Mary put in an Adult Care Facility and took control of all Mary's assets.
Mary was in her early 40's when this all happened. But she looked 60 because of her heavy drinking.
Mary lasted two years there but then one Sunday when Jackie stopped to see her mother, she found that the home had not seen Mary for over a month. The police were called but because Mary was an adult and legally in full control of her faculties, there was not much they could do.
Then it was my turn, I explained how I found Mary while in NY City and the condition she was in then. I discussed her alcoholism, her liver and kidney damage, the coma and the memory loss.
Things became very quiet at my end of the table as I continued my tale.
I talked about the treatments Mary was undergoing and the fact that the doctors were optimistic about her recovery. All of them wanted to see Mary, but I explained that visiting her was not permitted for at least the next few months and then we could only visit with the doctor's permission.
My publisher's assistant spent part of the evening rearranging my schedule. When she got done I was set to meet my family for breakfast, and then board a private jet for our next stop which would realign me with my schedule.
It was agreed that I would return to see them when my tour was over.
As we were leaving, I took Jackie aside. "I need a Personal Assistant to help me with this tour and my next book. I'll double what you are making waitressing." She hesitated.
"Jackie, I can afford to fly you back to visit your kids or fly your kids out to visit you. Plus I'll need you when they say your mother is ready to leave the treatment center. Please accept, I don't want to lose you again"
With tears in her eyes, she accepted. She then ran to share the news of her new job with her family.
The next two weeks were busy for both me and Jackie. I was back on the 10,000 city (or at least it seemed like it) book tour. Jackie had to quit her job, pack up her apartment, put it temporarily into storage and tell all her friends her new Hawaiian address and phone numbers.
She had the most work to do; I just got a sore buttinski and writer's cramp from signing all the books. Financially speaking a nice problem.
When Jackie was ready, I had tickets reserved so that she could catch up with my tour. I talked to her about her upcoming travel and found out that her kids were not taking her to the airport, because they were all committed to other actions during that day. They were saying goodbye the night before.
I changed Jackie's flight. I chartered a night flight that allowed her kids to come to the airport and say goodbye. I even arraigned for a limo to pick them all up and take them to the airport then home. I later found out that it was a tearful goodbye.
Jackie is one of those people that everybody likes. She's cute, crazy, and always happy and will talk your ear off. From the minute you meet her, it seems as if you have been her best friend forever. Those attributes captivated the flight crew and gained her some new friends.
When I got to the airport to pick her up, I found her in the crew's lounge having coffee and snacks with her new friends. Someone on the crew recognized me, "Mr. Fishers, May we offer you some coffee?"
"Don't you call my Dad Mr. It's Mendon to you guys," Scolded Jackie.
I smiled and nodded, but refused their offer of coffee explaining we had a long drive and a busy day ahead of us tomorrow. They helped carry Jackie's luggage out to the rental.
It had been a hectic book tour. I was bushed and couldn't wait until I was home and able to climb into my own bed. The beds in the various hotels were all very comfortable, but there is just something about getting into your own bed that can't be beat.
After landing in Honolulu I had Jackie walk out of the terminal and grab a taxi with enough room for our entire luggage, while I went to the luggage carousel. I grabbed a Sky Cap and between the two of us loaded the entire amount of luggage on a cart. It was a big load.
Jackie showed up and guided the Sky Cap and me out to our ride. The poor driver saw the amount of baggage on the cart and started talking on his two way radio. After he finished his conversation, he walked over to us, "It will be about 10 minutes before a larger van arrives to carry your luggage."
I gave the Sky Cap $50.00 and he agreed to guard our baggage until the van arrived. We got in the taxi and started home.
Now my house is in a gated community on the side of one of the hills overlooking Honolulu and the ocean. When I first moved to the island, I thought I'd buy something on the ocean front near Waikiki, well the only available property on the ocean started at $20,000,000! I like beach front property, but not that much. So I bought on a hill side.
Jackie was impressed as the taxi wound its way up the hill. The beauty of the island was more evident the higher we climbed. She ran her mouth all the way up until we entered the gates. My house was the nicest one on the hillside. It so impressed Jackie that she got very quiet.
My house keeper, Iolani, was waiting at the door to greet us. I introduced her to Jackie and off they went chattering away leaving me and one of the gardeners to await the arrival of the luggage.
When the luggage van arrived, Iolani and Jackie by some telepathic miracle showed back up. They had decided on a bedroom and bath suite for Jackie at the opposite end of the house from mine. Her suite was in the same wing as all the guest bedrooms. My master bedroom was all alone overlooking the city and the ocean beyond.
Iolani and Jackie gloomed her luggage and departed for Jackie's bedroom to get started on the unpacking. My unpacking was very easy. Most of my clothes went right in the laundry. I think only my shoes and belts didn't need to get washed. The next thing I did was shower and change into a t-shirt and shorts. Home is better than good.
At lunch Iolani said "we are off now because Jackie does not have any clothes suitable for the Hawaiian climate. The two of us are going to the Ala Mona Mall, so pony up with your Gold Amex card." I did as I was told and they vanished as I'm sure a chunk of my estate would soon go into another's coffer.
I knew I was in trouble because Iolani was a spender, especially when it came to spending my money. I spent the rest of the afternoon transferring all my writings on my newest book from my laptop to my home network and then backing everything up. I then caught up with my e-mail.
It was almost dark before the women returned. Strangely they only had a couple of shopping bags between the two of them. I was stunned but happy until Iolani informed me, "The truck will be delivering the rest of the purchases tomorrow morning." Then she quickly bailed to her home and family.
Jackie and I went down the mountain into the city for dinner. We decided on Italian so I drove us to Auntie Pasta's where we ate in comfortable family style.
The next day started our routine. We were both up and dressed by 8:00 am. The coffee that Iolani set up the night before was ready to go by the time we were. Iolani arrived at 8:30 and stared breakfast. Jackie and I discussed our plans for that day.
After breakfast I locked myself away in my office because on average I tried to write for at least three to four hours a day. My writing was not to be interrupted.
Jackie was to sign on a PC in her little office and answer all the email she could and make further arrangements where necessary. She was also in charge of answering the phone.
This arrangement worked for us. Jackie was a smart woman and resolved 95% of her tasks without any help from me. The only things I really had to do were corrections demanded by my editor. If I could have figured out a way, I would have had her doing that also so I could devote more time to writing.
I liked the writing but not the correcting. I couldn't help it if some of my time lines went off. Let's face it; I guess the fact that some of my characters had children before the character was born might confuse some of my readers.
It was about a month later when my comfortable routine was interrupted by Jackie knocking on my door.
"There's a doctor on the phone. He wants to talk to you about Mom," Her voice sounded scared.
I took the call fearing the worst.
The first thing out of the doctor's mouth was, "I'd like to discuss Mary's treatment with you. How soon can you be in my office?"
"I live in Hawaii!"
"So, I'll ask again, How long before you can be in my office?"
"Shit doctor, you're 4,000 miles away, I have a book in progress and deadlines to meet. Can't we do this over the phone?"
"No," the bastard replied. "She's making progress and I want her to meet you again."
"OK, I'll have my PA set the trip up and get back to you. Oh by the way should my PA accompany me?"
"Why shouldn't she?" he asked.
"She's Mary's youngest daughter."
"Good point, I'll make the decision whether or not to let them meet after I talk to the daughter."
I hung up and planned to walk down the hall to Jackie's office. When I opened the door to my study, I discovered Jackie outside sitting on the floor with her knees drawn up to her chin. She had that scared little girl face.
I dropped down next to her and said, "It wasn't bad news. She's making progress and he wants her to see me. Please set up a trip for us."
"Us?" she asked.
"You don't think I'd deprive you of a chance to see your mother?" I replied. "So get started. The sooner you make the arrangements, the sooner we'll be there."
With tears in her eyes and a smile on her face, she ran back to her office.
At lunch she said, "Is tomorrow too soon to leave? I've got all the reservations made."
"No hun, I'll have Iolani start packing this afternoon," I answered. Her face lit up like a 1,000 watt light bulb.
We caught an 8:00 am flight to the main land the next morning.
After we landed in LA, I arranged to have our luggage delivered to our hotel and grabbed a Rent A Car. Jackie and I started off on the long drive north to the clinic. Jackie got quieter the closer we came to arriving at the sanatorium. When she saw the wall and the gate, she started softly crying.
The doctor met us at the entrance. He was in his mid 50's and casually dressed in a pair of jeans and a golf shirt. As I looked around I noticed all the people were casually dressed. The only giveaway was the electronic badge the doctor wore. I noticed that only some people wore the badge. My guess, that later proved correct, was that only staff had a badge, guests didn't.
During the introductions the doctor handed Jackie and I visitor's badges. He began...
"Hi, I'm Bill Kelly. Please join me in my office and we'll discuss Mary's progress and further treatment." Jackie was openly crying by now.
Bill started, "Jackie you can stop crying now. I'm not going to give you any bad news. You're Mom is doing very well considering how much she abused her body."
"Health wise she's doing as well as can be expected. We estimate that she has been an alcoholic for most of her adult life. The woman you both knew is not who she actually is. Her personality was affected by her drinking, "he continued.
"Now physically, her body has healed as much as can be expected. Both her liver and kidneys are functioning at a reduced level, but if she stays away from alcohol, she can have a normal life. We have got her weight to near normal."
"Mentally, now that's another question. And that's why we are here today," he added.
"She is showing reduced brain function. The old saying about drinking killing brain cells applies to her. At present we have her functioning as an adult. She can feed herself, dress herself and complete basic functions. But she has no memory of past events. So far as she's concerned, her life started one morning when she woke up here."
Jackie reached over and took my hand. She started squeezing it a little too hard for my comfort.
The doctor noticed but he kept on talking, "We found two framed photos in the items that were sent to us from NY. Now that I've met you Mendon, it is a photo of you and Mary at a formal event. The second is of you, Jackie, and two small children."
"We put both pictures on the desk in Mary's room. She ignored them until about two weeks ago. On that day we found her sitting in her chair holding both pictures to her breast and rocking back and forth. I talked to her about the pictures and all I got from her was, 'They must be import to me but I can't remember why'. That's why I called you. We need to see if we can jog her memory, and that's where you two come in"
We spent the next hour discussing strategy and what Mary's reactions might possibility be. At one point all the coffee I had drunk wanted out. Bill said he'd join me.
When we were standing at the urinals he asked, "OK Mendon, what is the problem. I can see that you're not thrilled."
"I hate her Bill. I would have been perfectly happy to never have seen her again. You see my publicist in New York promoted this whole thing to boost book sales. The only good thing that has resulted from all this is that I have Jackie living with and working for me."
"I guess we have a problem then, don't we?" he said and walked over to the sink.
"Can you pretend for a little while longer?" he asked.
"I don't see any other choice," I replied.
"Thanks. I'll work out an exit strategy for you when the time appears right."
It was back to his office and another round of discussions. We broke for lunch at noon.
We were sitting in a cafeteria that was shared by the staff and patients when I noticed a very frail little old lady heading my way. She was wearing a plain house dress and flat shoes. Her hair was short and completely white.
"Another fan," I thought. "I guess I have them all over."
As she got closer, she started to look familiar to me, "Excuse me but do I know you? They tell me my name is Mary."
I heard the sound of silverware hitting the floor and then Jackie's voice, "Mom is that really you?"
Jackie lost all control and grabbed her mother and broke down in tears. Poor Mary just stood there. I realized Mary didn't have a clue what was going on, but liked the attention.
Bill injected himself into the reunion and walked all of us back to his office.
Mary and Jackie never let go of each other hands for the rest of the afternoon. I stayed out of the conversations and sat in the rear of Bill's office, trying to be invisible.
When Mary started showing signs of greater confusion, Bill suggested that she return to her room and rest. Mary would not let go of Jackie's hand, so we all walked to her room together.