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Alan D Busch

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The Last Time (excerpted from my book Snapshots In Memory of Ben)
By Alan D Busch
Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Rated "G" by the Author.

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Dear Readers,

I have posted the following piece at some risk. It is the second chapter of my book SNAPSHOTS IN MEMORY OF BEN. Please read it with care as it embodies my personally profound tribute to Ben, my child, my son, my first-born son. If after you have read this chapter and think it meritorious and compelling, please navigate to my book page here at authorsden.com and purchase a copy of my book.

Thank you,

Alan D. Busch

Ben's dad and author of this memoir.



 

SNAPSHOTS, In Memory of Ben

THE LAST TIME

"Got firt di velt"-God runs the world-

a profoundly simple

adage, asserts the primal truth that

God has never nor will He ever abandon His

creation and, in fact, creates the intricate and

seemingly bizarre circumstances in which we often

find ourselves.

“Happenstance”-some might call it-but it

was for me an act of divine kindness that

became the last time I’d spend with my son

Benjamin, Wednesday morning, November 22,

2000.

Forgetting to set his alarm the night

before, Ben woke up late for work, got dressed

hurriedly and ran to catch the Chicago/Metra

bus that would ferry him to the Skokie Swift

train line. As fortune would have it, he spotted

my car parked at the dry cleaners opposite his

house on the other side of the alley and caught

up with me just in time. Had I not dropped off

my dry cleaning that morning, I might not have

seen him again. As I turned to leave, there he

was waiting behind me with a broad smile of

anticipation, his rather robust figure well

insulated from the cold winter winds. Ben was

never one to be fancily attired, but as a downtown

bicycle courier working the Chicago winter shift,

he always outfitted himself, as counseled by

his mother, in layers.

“Dad, can you give me a lift to the train?”

he greeted me.

“Hey! Good Morning, Ben. Sure. No problem.”

His mom and I divorced in January of 2000.

Since moving out of the house in August of

1999, there had been times when I did not see

him as often as I would have liked. As a matter

of fact, I missed all three of my children, but Ben

…well, Ben was special-not that Kimmy and Zac,

his younger siblings, aren’t special too, but Ben

was our bechor, our first-born son.

The birth of the bechor places him in a

unique position. That fact alone distinguishes

him from his siblings. As happens in many

youthful marriages, the bechor arrives at a

time when, not too many years before, his

mother and father were the children of their

once youthful parents. We set him apart from

his younger siblings-not because we love him

more-but only that his childhood begins when

ours ends. Should he predecease us, a part of

us dies too ... the remnant of an earlier time in

our lives, faint tracings of our own childhood.

There was another reason for which Ben was

special, one I wish had never existed. As his

father, I lived in constant dread for his sake.

You see, Ben had been a diabetic since 1988 and

especially prone to hypoglycemic insulin shock

in the early morning hours. I had always

tended to Ben in moments of diabetic crisis,

but now that I was no longer at home, the

worriment shadowed me. Regretful whenever I

had not seen him for several days, any

opportunity to be with him delighted me even if

only for a few minutes.

“Door’s unlocked, Son.” I said over the top

of my truck while fiddling with my keys. It was

a five minute drive to the train.

“How are you, Ben?” I asked, as I made a

left turn from the lot.

“Fine, Dad. You?” he responded almost

perfunctorily.

“Okay. How are you?”

“Good.”

“You feeling good?”

“Yup.”

I turned into the parking lot of Chaim’s

Kosher Bakery and Deli across from the train

station. Ben was checking the latch on his

messenger bag.

“Ya got it?” I asked.

“Yea,” he answered.

“Do you have money on you?” I badgered

him.

“Yes, Dad,” he humored me with patient

intonation. “Seeya later!”

He got out. Traffic was heavy. I watched him

cross the street as if he were still a child.

“Be safe!” And off he went my little boy

turned twenty-two, all six feet, two inches,

two hundred twenty five pounds of him.

Later that same morning, business at the office

was brisk. The phones were ringing off the hook,

just another busy day at work like any other. If

only it had been! It was just before noon when

I answered the next call. I heard the voice of a

stranger.

“Mr. Busch?” he queried.

“Speaking,” I reluctantly admitted for I knew

he was not the bearer of good news. Parents

just know these things.

“Mr. Busch. My name is Dr. Ibrahim Yosef,

chief of emergency surgery at Cook County

Hospital.”

“Yes, doctor,” I responded, shaking.

“Are you the father of Benjamin Busch?” he

asked.

“Yes, I am,” girding myself for the worst.

“Your son has just arrived here in the

emergency department, the victim of a nearly

fatal traffic accident. He has sustained massive

and critical injuries that require immediate

surgical intervention.”

I tried to speak but could not.

“Mr. Busch,” his voice slightly louder but

noticeably more strident, “I suggest you come

to the hospital right away!” he underscored, his

tone now emphatically urgent.

“Suggest!” I mumbled to myself, having

gleaned the ominous meaning of his words. I

foresaw how this day would end. Call it

intuition if you like.

“Doctor, yes … ah, ah, ah alright. I’m leaving

now.” I hung up.

A myriad of thoughts filled my head as I

sped away to the hospital in a state of

controlled desperation. The doctor’s voice

convinced me that the dreaded day I

anticipated for years had arrived. Fortunate

enough to find parking two blocks away, I

raced to the emergency department.

“I’m, I’m … Mr. Busch, my son Ben, doctor

called me …” I sputtered to a nurse with whom

I nearly collided.

“Follow me!” she commanded, grabbing me

by my shirtsleeve and running.

“Dr. Yosef! Dr. Yosef!” she shouted down the

corridor upon spotting him.

“Mr. Busch, Ben must have immediate

intervention. Do you authorize …” he hurriedly

asked.

“Yes! Yes! Anything. Do everything! Please!”

I responded curtly. The doctor turned and

scurried away.

“Mr. Busch, do you wish to witness the

procedures?” the nurse asked me calmly. I

remember that about her. I guess such people

have to be cool under fire.

“Yes, please!” I responded.

She escorted me to an observation area with

nothing more than a glass panel separating me

from my son.

Standing by my father, together we

witnessed a fiercely desperate scene unfolding

no more than ten feet from us. I turned my head

momentarily to check on my dad and beheld a

“stranger” praying fervently for the life of my

son. While holding his arms overhead with the

palms of his hands flattened against the glass

partition, his body slightly angled outward and

feet spread apart, appearing as if he were about

to be searched by the police, he pled with The

Almighty for His immediate intervention.

“Hold on Ben! Fight back! Please fight back!”

my father, a sensitive though doggedly

determined man, called out once, twice,

thrice during Ben’s waning seconds, while

there was yet a spark of life aglow.

Open heart massage ... failed! Oxygen mask

… failed!

Encircling Ben around the operating table,

the trauma team’s pace quickened, its options

and time running out.

“CLEAR! AGAIN! CLEAR!!” the surgeon

commanded. Ben convulsed. Electric shock ...

failed!

A dark cloud smothered the din. The

frenzied pace quieted. The equipment was

switched off. The surgeon turned to face me.

His wearied face bespoke what I had seen with

my own eyes. He shook his head. The embers

of life had died within Ben. He had come into

this world only a short while before. I was

there then and here now.

Certain moments, seconds in time, seem to

vanish. Perhaps when the harshness of life

numbs us, we “freeze” in time for a brief while.

You’ve seen this before when someone stares

blankly into space-as it were-but invariably

snaps back to the present. Perhaps you have

experienced this, too.

“Mr. Busch … do you wish to remain with

Ben?” a nurse quietly “awakened” me.

“Yes, of course, Miss” I muttered, surely

dazed as if there could possibly be any other

response.

“Grandpa,” she addressed my father,

gently taking hold of his arm. “Only the dad

may stay with Ben,” she motioned him away

and drew the curtain around the circumference

of the room.

We were alone. I placed a kippah on his head.

“Thank you for being such a good son Ben,”

I spoke, barely audibly while kissing his

handsome nose.

I looked at his face for the last time.

Several of his facial features wonderfully

defined him as himself. Ben’s earlobes angled

out slightly. The epicanthic appearance of his

eyelids made his eyes appear to be almond

shaped. He inherited his blue eyes and blonde

hair from his mom. His sparse growth of beard

he inherited from me! He once remarked how

alike we were in this respect although I

suspect he secretly coveted a heavier beard. His

prominently sculpted chin finished the work his

boyishly round, dimpled cheeks had begun, and

it made no difference to me even when they were

bewhiskered. I never tired of kissing them.5 A

gentle rise defined the shape of his nose. His

bottom lip was full, his eyebrows heavy with

his straight upper eyelashes angled downward.

Ben was a handsome lad, but of much

greater importance than the wonderful shape

of his nose, his sparkling blue eyes or his

dimples was his nature as a loving and

considerate son. His mom characterized him as a

“peacemaker”-the kind of person for whom shalom

bayit6 was an inherent feature of his personality.

With precious few minutes left before

the attendants arrived, Ben slept while I …

I hovered over him:

“lo ira ra ki Ata imudi …” I whisperingly

sang the 23rd Psalm. We spent about fifteen

minutes together.

“Mr. Busch,” the nurse announced her

presence, drawing the curtain open.

“The gentlemen are here,” she informed me.

I stepped away. I know they covered Ben’s face,

but I couldn’t watch that.

I don’t think it was more than a minute later

when Rabbi Louis flew in by taxi and took

charge. Frankly relieved, his timely arrival

assured me Ben would be interred in accordance

with Jewish tradition.

A nurse approached us. Seems that a group

of Ben’s friends had arrived moments before and

was waiting at the front desk. What I did not

know was that they had picked up Zac-Ben’s

younger brother-on their way to the hospital.

Rabbi Louis and I went to receive them.

Cook County Hospital is frenetic. All manner

of people: ambulatory patients attached to

mobile drips, trauma patients being rushed to

surgery strapped atop gurneys, doctors, nurses,

visitors, paramedics, police officers and sheriff’s

deputies jam its hallways. Upon reaching the

front desk, we were informed that hospital policy

forbad non-family members from visitation. I

thanked them, but we had to leave Ben’s

buddies behind.

Trudging through the corridors with Rabbi

Louis and Zac on our way back to the emergency

department felt as if we were changing classes in

high school. Almost predictably, we were

stopped-not by the assistant principal-but by a

burly security guard.

“Gentlemen, may I see your passes?” he

requested, holding out his rather considerable

hand.

“Officer, we haven’t any. We were just

returning from …”

“You’ll have to return to the front desk and

get them,” the officer—a sergeant in rank—

interrupted Rabbi Louis.

“My friend’s son has just died!” pled Rabbi

Louis, who sought but could not find the guard’s

better angels.

“Sir, you will need to return to the front

desk!” the officer repeated unequivocally.

Despite Rabbi Louis’s vociferous objections, his

protestations, he wisely concluded, had fallen

on deaf ears. The guard refused to budge. Back

we trod to fetch the passes.

Meanwhile, Ben’s mom had arrived from a

much farther distance than I. This time, passes

in hand, we did make it back when moments

later the time came to convey the awful news to

Ben’s mom. Rabbi Louis, in his goodness,

offered to stand in for me, but this was my

duty. Accompanying me together with my

dad on either side, our arms linked, we

reluctantly crossed the hall to a small lounge

wherein she sat.

Letting go of their arms, I approached her

haltingly. As she lifted her eyes to mine, it was

clear that she knew. Yet I glimpsed a glimmer

of unforsaken hope in the desperation of a

mother, whose extremity of circumstance

merited a nes, a miracle.

“Ben is gone!” … I cried out, placing my

forehead atop her head. Within the shadow of

a moment came forth an utterance of primal

pain so horrifically terrifying I suspect a

bereaved mother alone is capable of making

it-a sound that seemed to wed the frighteningly

excruciating moan of Ben’s hypoglycemic

plunge to his mother’s pleadingly guttural

groan that she could no longer push her soon

to be firstborn Ben into the world. I shall never

forget the sound of near matricide.

What more can one do in a moment like this?

Though Zac, my dad and Rabbi Louis were

present in the room with me, I recall nothing of

their reactions to my announcement. It was as if

she and I were alone in this sanitized lounge,

the small sofa, chairs and lighting of which were

unremarkably sterile.

I left the room to tend an urgent matter. I

found the surgeon standing in the hallway just

several steps away.

“Doctor, thank you for all you did trying to

save my son. There is something I have to tell

you.”

“Yes?” he responded, seeming like he had

something else to say but couldn’t.

“My son is a Jew. I expressly forbid any

autopsy,” I said softly but firmly.

“Yes, of course, I understand,” he seemed

to acknowledge intuitively.

While we spoke, I discerned in him a

genuinely heartfelt sympathy for my family.

Several months later, in a preliminary deposition

to a lawsuit my family had filed against the

company whose driver struck Ben, the surgeon

testified he had been worried about my dad

while the latter bore witness to the desperate

futility of those several minutes.

After six hours, there remained nothing more

we could do. Zac and his mom had left

already with my father. With Rabbi Louis, whose

companionship insulated me from the icy winds,

I walked back to my truck. How thankful I was

not to have to go home alone! While the engine

warmed, Rabbi Louis contacted a mutual

friend, Reb Moshe, a chaplain in the Chicago

Police Department, to inquire whether he could

expedite Ben’s transfer to the mortuary. After

several minutes had passed, I drove Rabbi

Louis home.

That Wednesday, the eve of Thanksgiving 2000,

ended quietly together with my world as I had

known it just hours before. A drink or two later,

I fell asleep that night in my apartment. Tomorrow

would be a busy day.


 

Alan D. Busch


 


 


 


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Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 2/19/2008
Excellent addition, Alan; very well penned!

(((HUGS))) and much love, your friend in Tx., Karen Lynn. :)




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