The Long Goodbye

My friend Jim’s mother was diagnosed with cancer this spring and at 85 years old she made a decision not to fight the cancer this time (she had fought cancer before). So the family did as she asked and then proceeded to do the other important things, make extra trips to New Jersey to see her, send out the call for cards to be sent and prayers to be requested. People responded to the call. Last fall when my Pa died Jim’s mom sent me a lovely card that touched my heart and made me cry all over again, I still have it – so when the call went out I participated in the card sending just little notes to keep her spirits up.

My friend Jim, who I work with every day didn’t or couldn’t really talk about that with me in the office. I got the information I needed (what to tell friends and clients when the time came, what charities and so forth) from his daughter Lisa, a nurse who works in the hospice industry. Lisa received regular updates from the hospice nurse that came to the house and about three and a half weeks ago she made the decision to go up to NJ (from Nashville) full time. I know that Jim appreciated knowing she was there and he got regular updates. As her journey approached Jim and his wife, Ana, headed up to be with is mother during her last days – they were there for over a week with only a brief return to their home down here for more clothes.

On Friday of last week Dorothy, Dot, or Mom-Mom as she was called, finally left our plane of existence for the kingdom of heaven. Jim and his family planned for the wake and funeral to be on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Dorothy had specific requests that I believe were followed to the letter.

My friend Vera and I drove up on Wednesday afternoon and arrived with enough time to spend a few minutes at the family home before heading to the funeral home for the week. There were some last minute items to be taken care of and Lisa was at the church practicing songs for the service the next day.

There are four children at the moment in the family, all of them great grandchildren to Dorothy. They brought so much life to this event – dancing, laughing, signing. Many a sad tear was turned into a laugh or at least a smile by their antics. I’m glad they were there.

Jim put up a strong front, but you could see the sadness in his eyes that just stayed there. He knew that his family and friends were all around him, but it’s a hard thing to go through. I remember last fall when Pa died and that nothing really made the pain any easier, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. I know he’ll get through this, but I also know it’ll be tough.

The service the next day was at the Catholic Church. Lisa sang powerful songs and was just amazing. David and Jim both gave eulogies and both choked up a bit. The priest had powerful words to say. I saw tears in the eyes of many people around me and felt them run freely down my face. We had the funeral procession to the cemetery where Mark had a nice eulogy as well. Dorothy was buried next to her husband James.

I can’t express in words how beautiful Lisa sang, nor the pain and loss in Jim’s eyes. But I was honored to be there and witness the love they shared for one another, the loss they all felt and the beauty of how they said goodbye.

Ft Lauderedale Trip

My last trip to the Royal Palms was over two years ago and every day I was there it rained, this time all I had was sunshine warmth and handsome bears… what more could a guy ask for?

Friday was rather uneventful for me, swam in the pool layed out by the pool and read from my Kindle. I was tired and in bed before 11:00 and I slept in until 8:30 crazy… that is what I love about vacations, doing what I want and usually that equates to nothing. Jim’s mother passed away in the afternoon so I sent out a few notification emails and made a few calls. I received a few calls to for Jim and Ana from friends that were worried about them, it’s nice to know that I’m an emergency contact.

Saturday I had a Costa Rican for lunch 😉 and that evening I went out to dinner, a meeting and a movie with Michael K to celebrate his AA anniversary. Dinner was at J Alexanders, a nice steak house down there (I think it’s a chain).

We went to the beginners meeting and it was an interesting format. There were very entertaining moments, one guy who said he was 9 years sober and still restless, irritable and discontented ever day said basically that if you didn’t slip you’re not a real alcoholic, it was precious… poor guy really needs to get a program and some help.

We went to see Julie and Julia or whatever and it was very cute.

Sunday was a nice relaxing day, I went for a walk, spent some cash on clothes and headed back to the resort for a quick nap and some afternoon delight.

I got enough sun and relaxation and made some nice new friends. Then I boarded the plane… lol

There was a young thin blonde girl right in front of me and she kept getting up and fidgeting (this was even before we left the gate) and I heard the stewardess tell her that if she felt that strongly about it we would go back to the gate… I had a window seat and she had a clastrophic thing going on and she eventually got moved to my row on the aisle. She apparently is very phobic about flying and had forgotten her Xanax that day so was particularly frightened. The cute guy (married, straight, beared bear) next to me and I did our best to distract her and made conversations with her the entire way. She did finally allow me to open my shade when we were landing. She was on the first leg of her journey and I hope she fared better on the second flight.

Random Thoughts and an important announcement

I’m currently on a US Airways flight from DC to Fort Lauderdale, this is the ticket that I had to use from my Cancun trip that was cancelled last year when My Pa died. It’s rather appropriate that I’m on this trip this weekend as my name was officially changed on Tuesday. I’m very proud to be a Prudlick.

Because I’m headed to Ft Lauderdale and not Cancun this ticket is a First Class ticket and I’m sitting next to an elderly gentleman that has an oxygenation machine under his feet. He seems like a nice guy… but all I can see it this thing exploding under his feet, sending him skyrocketing into the atmosphere … I’d die too of course, just being close to the tank as it explodes and sends metal shards slicing through my body. Yes, I’m a bit of a pessimist… or is that a called something else?

I’m looking forward to being down there at one of my favorite hotels, yes – clothing optional – just relaxing by the pool with my Kindle in hand and my eye on the various “sights”.

It’s been an odd week or so, Jim’s mother is in home hospice about to die and he’s been up in New Jersey with other members of his family waiting. I know this is tough on all of them. Jim is quick to point out that it is nice that she’s holding on, even if she’s not conscious as they have an opportunity to say goodbye several times, and just be there with her. I don’t know what’s better the sudden death like with my Pa or this drawn out dying with Jim’s mom. Maybe they both have benefits and detractions. Either way it’s hard to lose a parent. Jim’s mother passed away this afternoon after several months in home hospice.

At the office we’re finally being paid for work we had done over 4 months ago, I think the economy is affecting companies all over and this is one of the ways. I imagine they too are waiting for payments from other sources. Jim has been working on projects while at his mothers so we should have billables to send out at the beginning of the month. August wasn’t such a good month for billables perhaps around $8,700 – usually we bill out $22,000 to $46,000 (the $46k was a really good month).

Suzanne’s Wedding

I’m not a fan of beaches, nor of driving anywhere for 2 or three hours, or of screaming babies on airplanes. But for your best friend, you do things you wouldn’t necessarily do for other people. That’s why I could be found on Tuesday September 8th at BWI waiting for a flight to Norfolk, VA.

Suzanne’s Dad, Chip, planned to pick me up and drive me down to Hatteras (Salvo actually I guess) which saved me from having to rent a car and drive down there myself. I was surprised to find Suzanne’s brother-in-law, Jerry, at BWI and we rode next to one another on the very turbulent plane ride to Norfolk. I hadn’t seen Jerry in probably 10 years or more, but when I lived in Eau Claire he was a regular part of my social network.

The ride down to Hatteras was drowned out in rain, we were afraid the wedding day might have dampened spirits – yet when we arrived it was sunny with a slight wind.

The house was a huge thing, like most of the houses that I saw down there. We were greeted by Suzanne’s Mom, Judy, her sister Eileen, niece Paris, friend… who’s name I couldn’t tell you how to spell, and of course Farley the slobbering bulldog.

It was a relatively slow, relaxing night, we did check out the beach where the ceremony was to be and talked about the upcoming stuff. We did have a lot of fun, silly stories; silly fathers (Jerry) helping their daughters cheat at cards against little old me.

Wednesday, 9/9/09, Suzanne and I had a nice quiet morning reading AA literature, sipping coffee and talking about the program. The women all left to get their hair done and Jerry and I were left to pick up the house. Later we were sent on a mission to get more flowers, which we did finally find.

I’ve known Suzanne a very long time, I’ve seen her at special events before, I’ve seen her holding puppies all full of love, but truthfully, I think she looked the most beautiful in her dress on Wednesday, it wasn’t the dress, it wasn’t the hair – she was just glowing with happiness.

Her man, Paul, showed up with his father around 2 and quickly go into his military dress whites. He was looking pretty sharp. I will let you know that he’s not perfect, he doesn’t like coffee… so he has at least one flaw.

The ceremony was short and beautiful. The dinner as well.

I was glad to head home the next morning, but glad that I had the opportunity to spend time with all the folks that I hadn’t seen in a few years as well as Suzanne and Paul.

Overruling the President, Publisher and Owner.

Pretending to cry on the witness stand: $42,000
Offering to settle for minuscule amounts “to avoid embarrassing Jim in front of his family”: $19,000
Attempting to make profit on a newsletter after years of failure and studies saying it can’t be done: $100,000
Watching you lose this case in front of your employees: PRICELESS

The Players for the Plaintiff’s: Jim and Ana D, their children Mark and David (and Lisa in spirit), cousin Dom, the Attorney Brian, and of course me.

The Players for the Defense: John and Ann S, their daughter Brynna, employees for the firm Lee, Monica and Kim, the Attorney’s and Paralegal.

The Players for the Court: the Judge, the Clerk and assistants, the brilliant Jury.

Supportive Cast: Regina, Carol, Sylvia, Vera, Kate, Gary, Rankine, and a lot of prayerful folks that never gave up hope and kept the prayers coming.

And, as usual, the star of the show, the big G himself: God

Brief History of the progression of the Case: John hoped to find a way to make his newsletter profitable and thought the best way was to fire Jim and not pay him money for work performed. That’s a biased point of view, and this review will be very biased as I was there and I can’t report objectively. OK, really I can, but that’s not any fun.

Day one was pretty boring, we waited around for a judge and courtroom most of the day. Around 3:30 we were rewarded with both and then a jury was selected. The Judge I found to be very nice and professional. Shortly after the jury was picked I was told to leave as I was one of two potential witnesses on the list. I had been subpoenaed by the Defense.

The rest of my observations (outside of my own testimony) occur from what I saw before or after each day and what I observed through the windows of the court doors or on the faces of jurors or participants of the case.

I sent brief updates to D family members on day one and one of the recipients asked for more information on what everyone was wearing so I happily obliged on Day 2:

“Jim, Ana, David, Mark, Dom (Jim’s cousin), Brian (the attorney) and I are here and looking sharp. Jim, Brian and I are in black suits with soft colors accented by striking ties. Ana Maria is looking lovely in her stylish ensemble and black throw.

John, Ann, and lawyers are here as well. They all look grumpy to me. John is wearing a grayish suit and his lawyers are also in black suits with dull colored shirts. Ann is wearing a black sweater over an embroidered shirt and slacks.

Members of the jury are in the waiting room with all of us.”

and

“His lawyers can best be described as the frumpy one with bed head and the escaped circus act guy with the shaved head. At least our guy is handsome and has good hair.”

I watched Jim being questioned by his attorney and then later by the opposing counsel and all I could tell about anything was that Jim remained calm through what I could see. His testimony was I think over 2 hours.

Later, I was called by Brian the attorney for Jim and was asked several questions. I was very nervous, which is silly as I had prayed a lot and only told the truth, but I was shaking up there. On the redirect John’s attorney asked me about my resentment towards John and I said that it was still there and I was still praying about it, both of which are true.

After my testimony the Plaintiff’s side rested and lunch was called.

Kim was called for the Defense and wasn’t up there very long… it was the end of day two the Plaintiff’s side appeared very upbeat and the Defendants were all rather down trodden looking… some (maybe even me) were pretty sure we had won outright, but I knew there was still the next day for court.

“Jim and Brian are once again in darksuits with pleasant ties. I realized this was the last business day before labor day and am wearing off white slacks and shirt with a purple patterned tie. Ana looks simply stunning and has repeated the black throw look from yesterday – she has enough style to pull it off.

John’s attorneys, the frumpy one with bedhead and the escaped circus freak with the shaved head, are in dark suits but common ties. John appears to be wearing the same drab gray suit he wore yesterday. Ann and Brynna are both wearing pleasant outfits.

Spectators that are here today include Lee, John’s wife and daughter, Jim’s wife and son David.”

Today’s testimony started around 9:00 and I had my Ipod with me, the day before I had tried to read from my Kindle but couldn’t concentrate, so I put an AA speaker pod cast on and relaxed the hours away. Today was John’s turn on the stand and he was up there a long time just like Jim. There was at least one break during his testimony and he came out looking all smug so I glared at him as best I could… Jim’s lawyer finally got to redirect and they were up there even longer… then before I knew it it was lunch and they were coming out. Ana came out first and she didn’t look happy at all.

John came out and looked at me and said with his evil smile: “It’s over.” He and Ana were near the restrooms and he told her “I’m sorry that you had to be embarrassed that way Ana..” or something and she had a not too lady like retort… you go girl! At lunch the attorneys had administrative duties with the Judge about jury instructions and I heard from our side some doubts about how we did today. I continued to tell folks that it wasn’t over until the fat lady sang and we had to wait for the jury to return a verdict. We all said our prayers tried to turn it over to God.

We returned to the court, the Judge instructed the jury on law, the verdict rules and evidence. Then Brian gave his closing statement and I heard all kinds of things that I knew and agreed with of course I’m on his side.

Then the Defense guy went up there and I heard him tell outright lies and fabrications about Jim and our company and it was a very difficult thing to sit through. I am almost glad that I didn’t have to sit through the actual trial it would have been hard to listen to this slander all day. I don’t know how Jim’s family managed to not burst out in anger at some of it.

A law in Maryland gives our side a chance at a last rebuttal at the Defenses closing arguments and he did.

The jury was excused around 3:20 and we waited. At 4:52 we were informed that the jury had a verdict and we all filed into the court.

They found for Jim and it was just a huge relief and I’m glad that this part of the battle is over. Now there will likely be some legal wrangling from John’s side, but I’m hopeful the ruling will stand based on rulings of the Judge and the verdict of the jury.

I was in the middle of this particular dispute during it and it was hell then, these three days of trial were also very unpleasant… but the verdict, victory and vindication make it all worth while.

All told: $206,670 plus the right to argue attorneys fees (that’ll be in a motion later). If the argument is won on attorney’s fees it will apply to any and all appeals that are won by Jim’s side.

some math below
Originally owed to Jim, $161,200
Jury states he now owes $206,670
that’s $45,470 more

Plus his own attorney fees, possibly Jim’s attorney fees, lets assume approximately $300,000

his staff sitting in court all day not doing billable work? well I’m not sure how much that also costs him.

He should have just paid the amounts owed from the get go but he got very greedy.