If you have been stopping by this space for a while you may recall a series of stories about Harold, the retired planner from the Midwest. He tried to organize all of his time with care, but life had a way of throwing up little distractions along the way. Then came something he did not plan, a major detour. Links to the original stories follow this unexpected event:
Bill rolled over to take a look at the alarm clock. It was almost 8:30 so he decided to spring into action. He never set the alarm clock. He saw no need. He was retired and had always longed for the time when the alarm clock was not to be used to alarm him out of his sleep. Some days he got up by 7:30 am, other days it was 10. It depended largely on how late he stayed up reading or watching television.
Since he needed to make a call at 9 am, the affable retiree rushed about the house in a rather disorderly fashion, leaving a bit of a mess in his wake. That did not bother him as there would be plenty of time later to clean up the place. Now he was making coffee and giving just the slightest thought as to what he would buy today at the supermarket.
The only thing Bill tried to be punctual at all week was the Monday call to his neighbor, Harold, who lived just a few doors down. The way Bill saw it, old Harold probably relied on the weekly call.
The Midwest planner from down the block seemed to know no one and had little contact with the world. Bill was convinced he was doing Harold a big favor. He did not know exactly how Harold felt about the weekly sojourn to the giant Publix supermarket, however. It must have been a Monday highlight for the newly retired neighbor and new friend.
The quiet neighborhood
A quick glance out the window revealed a perfect Florida morning. Bill loved this area of Florida. In honesty, he settled there because the property values were quite depressed in Sarasota County after the big recession, and he got a good deal in a good neighborhood of old timers, like himself.
Now it was time to help out an old guy who needed a friend, so he called Harold on his AARP phone and waited for his tentative voice to respond. Bill was quite amused as he thought of the same surprised tone Harold had each Monday morning when he answered the phone.
Much to the amazement of Bill, there was no response. He let the phone ring a long time before giving up. “I wonder what the old guy is up to this morning,” Bill thought. So he decided to wander down the street and ring Harold’s doorbell.
As he went up the steps to the front door, a voice called out. “You ain’t gonna find no body at home, young man,” Harold’s next door neighbor called out as Bill chuckled to himself. Not too many people referred to him as “young man.” In fact, no one did. He turned around and walked in the direction of a woman who did seem to be a lot older than Bill or Harold.
Mabel Crockett was well into her eighties but still rather spry. She kept up on the neighbors by frequently finding an excuse to do things around the outside of the house. It was unnecessary as there was an Association to deal with maintenance and yard work, but she liked checking up on things.
“So where is old Harold this morning?” Bill asked in a cheery tone.
“They carted him off pretty early, I reckon,” Mabel said in a deep southern drawl.
“What?” an astounded Bill exclaimed.
“Well I ain’t one to meddle in other folks’ affairs,” she lied, “but I seen that Sunday paper still settin’ there on that landing he calls a porch, so I just took a walk over there. In the back I could see he was, uh, just layin’ there on the ground in that screened in patio. So I went on home, dialed 911, and it’s a good thing.”
“Good thing?” Bill questioned.
“Why, he was still breathin’ when they loaded him into that big ol’ ambulance. Leastwise, I think he was still breathing. The young feller drivin’ that big vehicle said he still seemed kinda fresh.”
“Fresh? That seems a strange way to put it,” Bill said with a rather incredulous tone.
“Well, I guess it was because he couldn’t a been layin’ there too long. Anyways, they said they was taking him over to the general hospital. Right over here a piece,” she said pointing to the south.
“Oh my,” Bill responded with a great deal of concern. He said good-bye to the old woman and rushed to his car.
When he arrived at the general hospital, he went right to the emergency room and inquired about Harold. His questions only got questions in return. “What time did he arrive? What was the problem? Did he come by ambulance or did someone bring him?”
Finally, the woman without the answers invited him to take a seat and someone would come out shortly. By “shortly” she must have meant an hour.
After the long wait, a nurse with a clipboard in hand appeared. “Are you here about the elderly gentlemen who had a stroke?”
“Stroke!” Bill exclaimed as he got all choked up about someone he barely knew.
“Yes,” she said calmly. “Are you the next of kin?”
“A relative perhaps?”
“Do you know who is next of kin or related somehow?”
“Do you know who his doctor is?”
The series of questions went on until Bill finally explained that he was just a neighbor. In fact, Bill did not even know Harold’s last name. The nurse looked disappointed but thanked Bill anyway and went back to her station. Bill followed.
“Excuse me, nurse, will I be able to see him?” Bill inquired.
“No, only immediate family,” she explained.
“But we don’t know if he has immediate family,” Bill said with a sense of urgency.
“I’m sorry,” she said as if she has had to say that a thousand times before.
As he left the hospital Bill realized that the master planner from the Midwest had no plan for this. Although Bill rarely planned anything, he decided he better go home and make one.
Note: The next “Harold story” appears Friday.
Related: The first series of “Harold stories” in order: “Soup and Sandwich,” “The Case With The Missing Egg,” “Come Monday, It Will Be Alright,” “A Tuesday Mystery,” “A Tuesday Fantasy With Harold,” “A Wild West Wednesday,” “A Library Lesson,” “Harold and the Tiny Wizard,” “At The Old Ballgame,“ “The Saturday Schedule.“ Click on any title to jump to that story.