Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Another Sad Day
He was a true people person. It made him great as a floor director, telling strangers what to do and when to do it. He loved giving tours of the station to school groups and nursing home groups and everyone in between. His knowledge of the workings of the station and his personality made getting a tour of the station something that all the groups looked forward to.
He had a marvelous voice. Many years spent as a DJ and voice talent honed it to a wonderfully mellow sound that made people listen. We shared the voicing duties at the TV station for years.
But unbeknownst to me, Nick was born with a heart problem. Alone, it might not have ended his life so early, but Nick believed in living his life to the fullest - which for him included drinking and smoking. I know what those things did to me... and they must have done some serious damage to Nick as well. A few years ago, he started having some health problems. An aneurysm. Bad infections in his teeth that necessitated having them all pulled before he could have heart surgery. I filled in for his voice while he was out and once he was recovering well, he got a beautiful new set of choppers. It was nice to see his smile again.
When we moved to this new house, I began shopping at the Publix near here... and there was Nick! Almost every time I went, he was there. He'd tell me about the specials he found and sometimes we'd wander the aisles or the produce section together for a bit before separating again to do our own shopping. We joked that he was my grocery store-stalker.
Then my stalker disappeared. He was rarely at the store when I went. I knew he was having more health problems and was in and out of the hospital. When he did come to work, his voice grew thin and faded. He moved slowly. We worried, but he's always been so self-sufficient that it didn't seem right to pry more than the conversational "how are you doing today?" Sometimes he wanted to talk about it, but most times he didn't. His balance got worse and his son (the very light of his life) presented him with an adjustable cane with a built-in flashlight and horn. I was actually a little envious of that cane - it was so cool! Nick used it all the time, and we could tell he was having a good day when he shuffled around without it.
But he got weaker and weaker. The medicine he was taking made him so tired, yet ironically caused insomnia. He was always cold, always hungry, and never slept. A body can only keep that up for so long. He had an accident, totalling his car, which secretly relieved some of us who thought he shouldn't be driving in his condition. A brief stay in the hospital and he was back out.
A week later, I ran into him at Publix. I was so glad to see him! I gave him a hug, told him how much I'd missed seeing him when I shopped, that I thought of him every time I went to the store and how glad I was to see him there today. We walked together slowly, looking at things on the shelves and chatting. He'd pretty much done his shopping and was waiting for his fish to finish steaming back in the seafood department. Mine was pretty much done too, and after a hand squeeze, I headed off to check out and he began the journey back to the seafood department. I made it to my car, but Nick didn't get back to seafood. Somewhere along the way, he slipped and fell. At the hospital, he was put directly in ICU. No visitors other than family. And a couple of days later, he died.
The funeral was standing room only, with people backed up into the hallways. His brothers and his son got up to talk about Nick. There were some tears, but most people seemed to look at this as a celebration for someone we all knew and liked so much... Nick was Nick right up to the end, with a smile and story about his son or musings on how the Steelers might do this year or just what a good deal that buy one get one free deal on bagels was.
I'm going to miss you, Nick. In my doorway at work. In the hall by the water fountain. In the produce section near the apples and oranges. There's a hole in the fabric of my everyday life that's going to take a while to mend.