Danny was my first. He was a decorated soldier from the greatest generation. He had a twinkle in his eye and an Italian last name which to my dismay he pronounced in an American fashion. I wondered if that had been something his family purposely decided to do in an attempt to blend into American society. He was well into his 80s when we met. Danny had lung cancer and he was my first hospice patient. I had recently finished the Medicare training to become a hospice volunteer when Kay, the Volunteer Coordinator sent out an email request for help.
It was a sad email. In addition to Danny’s illness the family also had another sick member. Danny’s wife of 40 years, Dee, was battling breast cancer. Her prognosis was much more favorable but she needed to get to treatment and while she did that I cared for Danny. My care included doing the laundry and making lunch for Danny. Laundry isn’t always part of the deal but I didn’t put parameters on what this family needed I just did what was asked about 2 or 3 times a week.
Most of the time Danny and I just talked. My family had recently gone to Hawaii and guess what – Danny was at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. That was mind blowing. I had just been to the USS Arizona Memorial with my kids and Danny was there at the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He talked about that day a little and showed me his Purple Heart. I didn’t push him, the memories must have been awful. Mostly we talked about his wife, kids, grand kids and his favorite vacation place Acapulco.
His face would light up when he talked about Dee and their many visits to Acapulco. The man was still clearly in love with his wife which was endearing to witness. He had been married once before and had 5 children with his first wife. He was respectful of that union and didn’t speak ill of her but I suspect there was a lot of conflict. Dee always said that Danny’s children treated her well and that she loved them dearly. I didn’t pry.
I visited Danny and Dee for about 2 months. His children took turns visiting from far away states.I once overheard him tell his son that he thought I was pretty. I’m sure he said it loud enough for me to hear on purpose….he had a bit of charmer left in him. He told me that one of his grand sons did a presentation about WWII which included much of Danny’s experience and accolades. I could tell he was touched by the honor. Towards the end when it was too much for him to watch a baseball game on TV I would read him a recap of the games from the sports page of the local paper.
On what I intuitively knew would be our last visit….Danny kissed my hand and said “you’ve been a real peach.”