Wednesday, March 4, 2009

lost and found

When some despicable grifter of a woman in St. Louis decided to target despondent family members in the waiting area of St. Anthony's Medical Center, she couldn't have possibly known how it would ultimately rattle the cage of yours truly 900 miles away in Washington, DC. My guess is she has never heard of the butterfly effect, but the series of events her flapping criminal wings set in motion left me tossing and turning and crying in bed (later on the couch) last night as I came to grips with the fact that March would not be coming in like a lion but like an entire pride of famished lions this year.

The phone call from home that I'd been expecting and dreading my entire adult life kicked it off. I make it a general practice to pick up any time my mother calls. Being so far from home has instilled in me a degree of morbid paranoia: I'm almost certain that I'll miss the chance to say goodbye to a loved one some day. So on a carefree day off work, thanks to 6 inches of snow burying the District, I noted my mother's name on the caller ID and even suggested to my friends, all with snow day beers in hand, that I always take her calls since "you never know." Here's how she opened: "Will, I don't know how to tell you this, and there's never a good time for bad news..."

Naturally a preface like that removed the feeling from my legs, so I planted myself on the couch to let the rest wash over me. Unfortunately I'm pressed for time, what with a plate full of work to knock out before catching a flight to St. Louis tomorrow, so my dramatic and sensational proclivities need to be kept at bay for now. Besides, the AP already penned the gist of it like this:

Man's car stolen after heart surgery at hospital

The Associated Press Wednesday, February 25, 2009; 4:28 PM

ST. LOUIS -- A St. Louis man is recovering after a heart attack and surgery, and after having his car stolen from the hospital parking lot. William Caggiano had the heart attack on Thursday and had heart bypass surgery. His daughter rushed back to St. Louis County from Arizona to be with him.

At St. Anthony's Hospital, she met a woman in the intensive care waiting room. Now, Amanda Caggiano believes that so-called friend stole her father's car.

The crime happened early Friday. Amanda Caggiano said she was sleeping. When she woke up several items from her purse were gone, including the keys to her father's PT Cruiser.

Police say the description of the suspect sounds like a woman who committed a similar crime at the hospital a month ago.

The heart attack patient whose wounds were salted by car theft is my estranged father and namesake. Amanda is my half sister who I last saw when she was 2 years old. I've seen and spoken to my father once in the last 25 years, and that was 15 years ago. This weekend I'll reunite with both of them in a hospital room - a setting which has always turned my stomach.

To ice the cake my mother went on to share that my grandmother, Michalena Caggiano, who always lived with my father, died two years ago. By proxy she was also estranged to me. Straight from Sicily, her sauce was the best in the league, and I have every intention of returning to the District with her recipe.

How's this for an understatement: I'm a mixed bag of emotions.

There’s certainly more to come on this story. Tomorrow I’m flying with my wife and two sons to St. Louis to let this all play out. Apparently he’s not nearly out of the woods yet, as there have been complications in the wake of surgery, so a certain degree of urgency comes with this situation.

In a strange sense, I suppose I should thank the degenerate woman who brought us together by stealing his car. If it wasn’t for her crime, my mother wouldn’t know about his health condition or whereabouts, and the lonely old man might die without laying eyes on his only son. Regardless of how I might feel about him for bailing so long ago, there’s no fucking way I’m letting that happen.