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The phone call

Ordinarily when the phone rings with an unknown number, I don't answer. I figure if the caller has a legitimate reason for calling, they'll leave a message; if it's a salesperson or a wrong number, they won't. It works well for me; I get almost no nuisance calls. But when the phone rang this morning, the 412 area code looked familiar, so on a whim, I picked up. When the caller said he was Sergeant something-or-other from the Pittsburgh Police Department, I knew what was coming. "The neighbors spotted newspapers piling up... we forced entrance... found your father in his kitchen..."

My father is dead.

He probably died a few days ago, according to the Allegheny County medical examiner's office, who now have the body—and the will, which was conveniently lying on the dining room table—and the house keys. The Humanity Gifts Registry is supposed to take care of the body, although my aunt Deirdre says they're very picky, so it's not a sure thing.

I had a good cry after I got off the phone. Oh, it wasn't a surprise... he was 85, and didn't take care of himself. But it's just so sad. No longer can I call him up and hear his cheerful voice. No longer can I ask him obscure questions about history and get entertaining answers. I had talked with him only a few weeks ago on his birthday, and he sounded as alive and as mentally sharp as ever. And now... he's gone.

Donald Baird

After about ten minutes I pulled myself together and went into "just get through it" mode. I started making phone calls and sending out emails. Soon I was deluged with replies from friends with good advice. I'm not being sarcastic here—as his executor, I need all the advice I can get, and I'm grateful for my smart, savvy friends Judie and Holly, who have already thought of many things that I wouldn't have. For example, Judie told me to increase my cell phone plan from 200 minutes to unlimited—and a good thing, because by the time I got around to doing that tonight, I had already used 244 minutes, probably 95% of them today alone.

It's almost 1:00 a.m. now, and my head is spinning with all the complications I face. I'll have help, but it's still overwhelming. I was going to leave tomorrow and head for Pittsburgh—an 1,800-mile drive from here in northern New Mexico—but I've decided to wait another day. I can't drive on six hours of sleep, which is all I'm likely to get tonight.

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