Friday, October 22, 2010

Robert G. Hilts

Late on the afternoon of Oct. 21, 1991, the phone on my desk at work rang. I worked as a secretary in a law firm in those days and calls were announced. My desk was, basically, in the hallway; I shared a space with another secretary and we were positioned for rapid response to any demands issuing forth from the lawyers' offices on the other side of that hall. When my phone rang, my boss and I would make eye contact while I announced who was calling—he'd shake his head yes or no to taking the call.
"Your dad is calling," the receptionist said and put the call through; before I could form the thought that this was odd, there he was.
"Lizzie?"
"Hi, Dad." My boss turned back to the work on his desk.
"Just calling to say hello, ask how you're doing."
Even though I knew, we chatted for a while because that's what he wanted. I told him about the hearing we were preparing for, the amount of work required to get the paperwork in order, the endless typing of motions and copying of pages and faxing of documents. "Dad?"
"Yah."
"Are you okay?"
"Well, Button, I don't know if you've heard, but I've got cancer. But I'm fine. I'm okay."
"Yeah, Dad. Listen...."
"Honey, I've got to go now. Just wanted to say hello. You be good. Oh! And, um, thank you for your letter. It means the world."
I told him I was leaving work in an hour and would be at his house as soon as I could be. He told me no. He ordered me not to come. "I love you. Okay?"
"Okay."
"Okay, then. Bye bye, now."
"Bye, Dad. I love you."
My cubicle mate had gotten up when I said hellp, closed the doors of all the lawyers' offices then disappeared down the hall.
After I'd cried and sobbed and cried some more, I stood up and opened my boss's door. But I stayed at work, very late, because I am my father's daughter and work has always been a kind of haven. Then I went home and got in bed and waited for the call that came at 4:30 the next morning.

Today is the 19th anniversary of my father's death.
I miss him, of course; it doesn't take the anniversary for that happen.

17 comments:

El Mullen said...

A beautiful, sad moment, beautifully written. I suspect your Dad would be proud.

Elizabeth Hilts said...

Aw, El Mullen. Thank you.

Lisa D. Kastner said...

I'm sorry for your loss. My father had a similar talent for "drive by information" and I usually responded with a deer in headlights look, not really registering what he said until later.

I hope that you have fantasmagorical memories of him that will get you through the rough patches.

As always, my love and admiration.
oxox
Lisa

Elizabeth Hilts said...

I do have fantasmagorical memories of him. He taught me almost everything I know about getting through the rough patches.

Thanks, Lisa.

Ioanna said...

Elizabeth, what a nice post to commemorate your father.

ajoconnell said...

What a beautiful post.

Elizabeth Hilts said...

Thanks Ioanna and AJ.

Anonymous said...

Didn't realized we'd had such a similar experience. Brenda told me as they were wheeling her out of her room for another test over her shoulder.

P.S. RG is so proud of you. Me too.

MahoganySpaBaby said...

Elizabeth: Beautiful - Thanks for sharing this with us.

Anonymous said...

My throat's all tight. It's good I don't have to speak. You beautifully painted a picture of your last words with him. I'm sorry he isn't still here to give you a hug and say he loves you. So, I'll send you a hug. Truly second or third best, but all I can do. Jane

Pat said...

Wonderful job in capturing the complex and wonderful father/daughter relationship. Thanks for sharing from your heart. Pat

Donna said...

How lovely.

Deb Konkos Aplin said...

Liz: your tribute to your dad is lovely. I had a very similar circumstance. It was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, 2006. I worked as an Admin. for a large group of risk analysts and a boss I adored at GE in Norwalk. I used to work late in the evenings too as I am also my father's daughter who loved to work. The call came directly to me. It was early afternoon--I took the call. My dad said "Debbie, I just got back from the doctor---I'll be dead by Christmas".."can you call your ex Michael and ask him to come with you for Thanksgiving so we can settle some financial affairs (my exhusband and I reunited after this and remarried in Dec. 2007)...I got off the phone, went into the conference room and cried with my coworker sitting next to me, another admin. who sat in the hallway with me. That was the beginning of dad's pancreatic cancer decline. He was lucky at first, responding to a drug used in trial for four months, but it attacked his skin and they had to take him off the trial as he developed a severe infection from the skin ulcers it created.....I was with him in the end because of that call I received...he died May 10th, 2007--less than five months later. My heart goes out to you today and God Bless you. I love you. Deb

Piper said...

oh elizbeth.that was lovely.it made me so sad. I can see his face.xo piper

Elizabeth Hilts said...

Piper, he had a wonderful face, didn't he? Thank you for reading, thank you for commenting.

Aneta said...

I know this might sound cruel, but to me it is unimaginable: to put work before the dignity of death. What kind of a culture is that?! I suppose you did what your father expected you to do, but still... I respect that you are disclosing a delicate part of yourself in this post, so I will keep the rest of my thoughts to myself. I wish you happiness.

Destenie said...

Amazing, Hilts. Sorry for your loss..