Tuesday, November 20, 2007


[Truth really is stranger than fiction. This is a true story.]

An old man and his two daughters, who were in their fifties, were in a car, heading for Ann Arbor. It was late afternoon.

"Melchorrine. Did I just have a birthday?"

"Yes, Daddy. You were 87. We had a big party. Everyone was there. Do you remember?"

He looked puzzled. Then he leaned forward. "Are we going to get home before dark?"

"Daddy, you have tests at the hospital at Ann Arbor tomorrow. We are staying at the hotel tonight. We'll go back home after your tests are run in the morning.

He shook his head and leaned back against the seat. Then he leaned forward again. "Melchorinne, I don't want to do this. You know that."

"Daddy, you must have these tests run. That hospital in Midland wasn't any help at all. They just think you're old. You weren't getting any better. We've got to get you to Ann Arbor. They helped you at Ann Arbor the last time. You've just got to get better and be all right."

"But I don't want to go! Why couldn't I just take an aspirin or some baking soda? Why couldn't I just stay home? I want to stay home!"

Alice Jean spoke. "Daddy, we want you to have the best care. That's why we are doing it. We love you."

"All right. All right, but I'm not doing this just because you say I have to. This is my choice and my decision. I guess I will go to Ann Arbor to their hospital." He leaned back again.

They continued down the highway. They took the exit and threaded their way through the city traffic. Finally they drove into the parking garage under the hotel. Melchorinne and Alice Jean got the suitcases out of the back of the car. Alice Jean took the suitcases, then stood to see if she would be needed to help.

Melchorinne helped Daddy to get out of the car. She helped him walk to the elevator. They rode to the main floor lobby.

Alice Jean checked them in and got the key to the room. "Come on," she said. "It's on the eighth floor."

Melchorinne helped Daddy into the elevator. She braced him against the wall and held his arm. Alice Jean set the suitcases in the corner.

The door opened at the eighth floor. They walked down the hallway and stopped at 814. Alice Jean unlocked the door and they all went in.

"Daddy, sit in this chair," said Alice Jean. "I'll turn on the TV and you can watch the news. We will get things unpacked."

Melchorinne helped him to sit down in the chair. The news was interesting. He sat for a while. He looked intently at the bright pictures that moved across the screen.

Then he looked around and tried to get up. "I've got to go to the bathroom."

Melchorinne helped him stand up and led him into the bathroom and closed the door behind him.

About two minutes passed. He shouted, "I'm ready."

Melchorinne went in, helped him to stand up, and led him back to the chair.

After a while, Alice Jean said, "It's time for bed, Daddy. We'll help you get ready."

The girls helped him out of his clothes and into his faded yellow pajamas. They helped him into bed and covered him up. They turned out most of the lights, but left the one on in the bathroom so they could see to do things.

By then Daddy was asleep. They turned the TV down low and watched it for a while. Finally they turned it off. They had to get ready for bed themselves. It was a peaceful night.

Morning seemed to come quickly. The girls quickly got up, took care of things, and got dressed.

Daddy still lay in bed, soundly asleep, snoring gently. "Mel, let's go down to the lobby and get something for breakfast and bring it back up here. Daddy is sound asleep. We'll be back before he wakes up."

"Let's do it. We'll hurry." But as soon as they shut the door, he suddenly opened his eyes. He lay in bed for a few minutes, then struggled to get up.

Finally he sat up on the side of the bed. "Melchorinne! Alice Jean! Where are you?"

He pulled the covers off on the floor, and finally stood up. He staggered around the room, holding on to things. Finally he went to the door, took hold of the knob, opened the door, looked around, and stepped out into the hallway.

The door locked itself shut behind him. He turned and tried to get the door open again. He pounded on it weakly, but nothing happened. He stood for a while, leaning up against the door, looking around wildly. Finally he started down the hallway.

He would lean against the wall, then move on a little bit, trying each door he came to, hoping to find one unlocked. But no one would answer the door.

He came to the elevators, stopped, leaned against the wall and looked at them. Then he reached out to punch a button.

The elevator door opened. He stepped inside. The elevator began moving downward, then stopped at the fifth floor.

The door opened. A man and a woman stepped inside. He got out.

Turning to the left, he staggered down the hallway, trying doors, looking for one that was unlocked.

He felt exhausted. He leaned against the wall, resting himself, until he could move on. All this was very tiring for him.

"Here, what are you doing?"

Two of the maids who cleaned the rooms were coming down the hallway. They could see he was in his pajamas and had no shoes on.

"Who are you? What are you doing?"

"I'm trying to get back to my room."

"What's your room number? We'll help you find it."

"I don't know the number. I can't remember. The girls brought me up here. They know the number."

"What girls? Who are you here with? You're not alone, are you? Someone must be taking care of you."

"My daughters, Melchorinne and Alice Jean. They brought me down with them to go to the hospital. I think I have something to do at the hospital this morning, some tests or something."

"You say you can't remember what room you are in? Are you lost? What's your name?"

Daddy studied a moment. "I'm Erick, Erick Butcher."

"Erick Butcher?"

"Edith, you go call the desk. See if there is a Butcher registered anywhere."

Edith came back in a few moments. "There is only one Butcher family registered, and they are black. I don't think they are his family."

"Go call them anyway. You never know about these things."

Edith came back. "They said they aren't missing anyone. He doesn't belong to that Butcher family. I called the desk again, and they have no idea who he might be."

"Say, what name is the room registered in? Is your daughter married? What's her last name?"

"Both of my daughters are married. I can't remember the names. Melchorinne's husband is Ronald. I remember that."

"He certainly doesn't have any identification on him, dressed like he is."

"Mary, you're in charge. Make a decision."

"O.K. Let's take him down to the lobby. Let them take care of things. It isn't our problem."

"I'm cold," he said. "I'll bet you are," said Mary. "You don't have anything on but those pajamas. I'll get you a big towel off the cart." She proceeded to do so.

He wrapped it around himself as well as he could. Then Edith and Mary helped him into the elevator and they started down to the main floor.

The door opened into the lobby on the main floor. About seventy people were scattered around the lobby. A few turned to look, and began staring when they saw this strange sight. Daddy just stood in the doorway for a moment. The towel fell to the floor. His hair was tousled; his faded yellow pajamas gaped open; he was barefoot. More eyes turned to look at this strange spectacle.

Then he saw the girls over to the left, at the coffee shop. "Melchorinne!" he shouted. "What are you doing here!"

By now everyone was staring. The girls left the coffee shop counter and ran to him. They took his arms, hurried him across the floor, and got him back into the elevator as quickly as they could.

At the eighth floor they rushed him out of the elevator and hurried him down the hallway to their room.

"Daddy! What were you doing? What were you thinking?"

"I was trying to find the bathroom."

"But there is a bathroom in here. You were in it. Why would you go outside the room?"

"No there's not! There is no bathroom in here. I looked everywhere. I looked under the bed. There isn't any bathroom anywhere in this room. I had to go outside."

"Oh, Daddy! You'll be the death of us yet!"

"Mel, I was never so embarrassed! I wish we were back home! Help me get him ready. We've got to get him to his appointment. Let's get packed and get out of here! I was never so embarrassed! I wish we were back home!"

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