When I was in high school, my best friend at the time (frankly, my only friend at the time) had parents who would become, over the next many years, like my second parents. They were both smart, sophisticated, cultured and willing to spend time with a young guy who relished being exposed to smarter, older, people and who they would treat with respect. As well, the house was filled from floor to ceiling with books. You have to like people who read.
I enjoyed spending time with the mother, Joyce; and the father, Don (pictured). We did all kinds of things together. I even taught Joyce how to polka in their cul-de-sac.
For my high-school graduation present, Don got me an inside, family-only tour of the computer company where he worked by lying and telling them I was his nephew. Yes, I called him “Uncle Don” during the tour, and was thrilled to do it. He died in 1996 of, it turns out, the exact same heart ailment I just had corrected through surgery.
And here’s why I’m telling you this:
After my heart surgery last week, I spent four nights in the ICU. For the fifth night, I was moved to the “step down” floor, where you go when you still need monitoring, but not as much as ICU. As I was being wheeled into my room, a nurse walked behind me. He was talking. His voice was exactly like Don’s. I tried to turn around to see him, but could only turn a small way and saw an apparition walk by: the nurse not only sounded like but looked just like Don. I told my nurse about this and asked him to ask the other nurse to come into my room -- which he did. I explained the odd coincidence and he got a kick out of it.
Because I had just been moved into my new room, they had to start up some IVs. My nurse was having a little trouble, so this other nurse, Mike, stayed to help. At one point, standing over me, Mike reached down and put his hand on my chest. I kid you not, I was possessed of the most amazing sense of relief, as if someone wanted me to know everything was going to turn out well.
Look, I know it’s all psychosomatic, that I so enjoyed chatting with someone who reminded me of a man I both respected and loved a great deal, that it wasn’t Don’s spirit coming to visit. I get that; but I also get that being flooded with that sense of relief made everything feel better.
UPDATE: Joyce died in February 2018.