See One; Show One; Teach One; Good-Bye, Dad, Mr. Emmett
By Monette Benoit
All Rights Reserved.
This was published on Monette’s Musings blog, June 19, 2016, Father’s Day.
Originally, I wrote a shorter version for my NCRA (National Court Reporters Association) JCR, Journal of Court Reporting, column, February 2012. Still feeling the loss of both parents – caregiver for both – I share now.
They were married 58 years. She gave the engagement ring back three times.
They met when he was employed by the University of Houston, was late for a meeting; he entered a building to “find a shortcut” and became lost.
She found him “lost in a hallway” in female-only dormitory and walked him to the main door.
When the head of the dorm saw her with a man in dorm, she was grounded for the weekend.
He attended meeting, arriving just in time. When he learned about her “being grounded” he “felt guilty” and delivered ‘food’ to be given to her.
Their first date was to the San Jacinto Battlefield. (Battle after the Alamo. In 18 minutes, approximately 400 soldiers led by Sam Houston shouting, “Remember The Alamo” defeated 1200-1500 soldiers under Santa Anna.)
He, “I always wanted to go and it was free. I had no money.” She, “Why, that is Texas history. My relative died in the Alamo. Of course I went. It was a lovely drive, too. I had no plans to date anyone and wanted to thank him for the food he sent.”
He fell hard for this Southern belle, professional ballet dancer, degree-ed opera singer, and student enrolled at the University of Houston to become a special education elementary instructor.
She was working two jobs, Sakowitz and Neiman Marcus, as a fashion consultant and model, while attending school full-time. (The engagement ring was from Sakowitz, 15% discount. The bridal gown was from Neiman Marcus with a discount, also, due to her employment.)
When they met, he was employed by the University of Houston in the Register’s Office and soon became Supervisor of Veteran’s Administration as he continued to help the Veterans Administration build and create a psych department, after his draft ended.
He drove her to Corpus Christi to see her mother because her mother was ill. Exhausted from his multiple jobs, he fell asleep on the couch.
Her mother and she stood in the living room. Mother, “He’s an educator, has been an Army soldier, has earned multiple degrees. He will never abandon you and a family. Plus, he’s a pretty boy. You will have beautiful children together.”
When he again proposed – she accepted ring on the ‘fourth’ give. He did not know about this conversation for almost 50 years, though she often told this story to her only daughter (moi).
Before the wedding, she agreed to convert and to raise ‘their’ children as Catholics; her ‘lessons’ began in Houston in Saint Ann’s Church.
In 1953, no Catholic had EVER GRADUATED from the University of Houston or was employed by the university.
He was a member in private Knights of Columbus “to socialize and to be around people I could openly speak with… and we prayed together, too.”
(Knights of Columbus is still male only – as a court reporter I have CART captioned services — where hearing men would not give me prep for the deaf members — and I had a tug-of-war at the altar. Guess who won? Whole other essay – And I won when priest insisted ‘they’ had to hand their material to me). He attended private mass services – away from work where Catholics were ‘never’ employed.
During final ‘convert’ class, a visiting priest, announced to the entire congregation that — using full name — she was converting.
Both were horrified because of his work and her schooling at University of Houston in 1953. Remember: no Catholic. Ever.
That Sunday afternoon when she returned to her dormitory room, head ‘mistress’ met her at the door; firmly told her she had to leave. That day.
He helped her find an apartment.
She was short a few credits from graduating. Wedding was set, dress, gown, invitations… all finalized.
She was called into a meeting with a University of Houston representative and told she could not attend and finish her last course and graduate because… Yes. Catholic.
He was furious. Went through the college catalog. Found a course that did not have a final or testing or attending classes and was self-study.
She enrolled in University of Houston’s Driver’s Education course.
Very soon, she finished course. He insisted she attend graduation.
She had worked multiple jobs (waitress, running messages up/down stairs “to rich girls” – later, worked Sakowitz and Neiman Marcus — and attended full-time classes with major in special education and minor in music — to graduate.
He knew her mother was ill with cancer and wanted her mother to attend and watch graduation.
Though she graduated because of the driver’s ed course, she did not know how to drive and did not learn for many, many years.
As college employee, Supervisor of Veterans’ Administration, he (was “mad” -his word) worked as employee to ensure this occurred. He, also, yes, the Jesuit Catholic.
She graduated August 29, 1953. They soon left campus – forever.
She was now a Catholic and a graduate with elementary special education degree. She was offered a full-time job teaching.
When a teacher in the school became ill, she became the ‘one’ teacher to ‘two classrooms’ and ran between the rooms to teach both classes.
She was first person in Houston to teach two classes at the same time – for a year. She loved teaching and each student.
His father was killed in a car accident less than one week before the wedding.
A child ran into the road. His father swerved missing the first child.
Then, a second child ran to the first child. His father hit a tree, at full speed, to avoid hitting the two children.
After the funeral, everyone (I ‘mean’ everyone) wanted he, the only child, not to marry – (so) soon.
Her mother was dying with cancer. If the wedding did not go forward, she would never see him again. Never. Ever.
When they did marry in a quiet wedding, everyone wore black, except the bride.
Growing up with my parents and a special-needs brother, I always marveled (my words) “how when it was good, it was very good; when it was not good – you two went to your corners – always.”
In fact, I had a $50 bet that they’d never make it to their 50th anniversary. (Only daughter with multiple brothers and Mom and Dad’s ‘constant learning challenges’ as educators – this made sense to me…)
When they argued, I softly teased my parents about my bet. They would wince their eyes and glare at me; now and then I received a tart remark.
When my family flew from Texas to the home of a younger brother for their 50th anniversary, I phoned to tell them that we had our rental car.
I shared, “We’re here!” after three airports and a full, long day.
Dad, “Your mother and I are not speaking. I’ll give her the phone.”
My tired eyebrows shot up; giggles percolated.
Mom, “We are not speaking. When will I see you, honey?”
Laughing, I pleaded, “Mom, pulllese leave him. You, we, have three hours. I can come right now. I promise to give you $50 cash. No questions asked. Pulllese leave him.”
Mom, sweetly, “I will see you in the morning. I love you more than I did since we last talked!” (…how Mommy ended her phone calls with me.)
To her husband, “Here! I’m finished.” Click.
The next morning, I raced over to my parents. They were holding hands, greeting people.
Me, “Dad, what happened last night?”
He, “I don’t remember.”
Me to Mom, “What happened?”
She, “Now is not the time to talk about it. But I will tell you all about it later. Alone. Without him! I laid down the law! I did. We’re so glad you’re here!”
Me, to Dad, “So, this is how you made it to 50 years? You, Dad, don’t remember? And you, Mom, you’ll tell me later?”
Both giggled, nodding, and hugged each other.
Dad took my hand, 9:30 a.m., “Let’s get a glass of wine. ‘You’ did not win your bet. I did!”
Through the years we joked about that ‘morning’ when Dad and I had a glass of wine at 9:30 a.m. because that was his win.
They continued to travel the U.S. as they had for decades. They even “boondocked” where there is no electricity and no running water.
My parents did not have a phone for 17 years – until after my youngest brother died. They mailed me itineraries. I swear.
When I ‘needed’ them – a death in family or important events, as a court reporter, I knew/know how to research. When I found them, each time, they were surprised. Me, “You can run, travel, but you can’t hide.” Dad, “We travel, so we have freedom!” Mom, “I want to go home to my family.” They phoned and wrote about unique experiences, travels, classes, people they were meeting from around the world. Both loved this time together. They visited on holiday, then “hit the road” – until July 2010.
They had been full-timers, selling their home and giving away ‘everything’ to live in an RV. They traveled the country until July 2010. They were (camping) in the Grand Canyon when he was ill.
He was told he had 3 days to live. He decided he could “die there or in San Antonio.” He phoned me telling me this and that I needed to help him prepare his funeral arrangements when he returned. (Gasp.)
They arrived. He phoned a specialist. Doctor treated him and said, “Had you stayed, you would have died. They had the wrong diagnosis…”
That was a head-shaker for Dad, Mom, and family.
Mom and Dad and I continued to laugh about the $ 50 bet until – Mom was suddenly seriously ill, 2010.
She spent approximately 14 days in ICU (however long insurance lasted… really), then was transported to LTAC (long-term acute care). We learned about step-down medical facilities. We were told, “Each time you step down will have less care for the patient and less experienced, qualified staff.” Boy, ain’t that the truth, we learned — as we sought help for Mom, then for Dad, then I sought help for both Mom and Dad, each in step-down or admitted into hospitals.
This was a new rabbit hole that was awful – an awful learning curve where “professionals” treat according to medical codes and insurance.
— Then, Dad soon followed with serious health issues.
Within the blink of an eye, each had multiple ER admissions, ICU cubicles, multiple pre-ops, many medical admissions, transfers, specialists, procedures, surgeries, PT (physical therapy), OT (occupational therapy), ** doctors who did not consult with each other — many ‘gifted’ contagious, bacterial infections within GRMC, Guadalupe Regional Medical Clinic, Hospital, Seguin, TX (100% infections – plural infections – each time – for both parents on all admissions: MRSA, staph bacteria; C-Diff, bacteria; pseudomonas, bacteria, and others).
Then, there were parents in two different hospitals, often two different towns/areas, each critically ill with multiple issues.
As the only daughter (court reporter here) I remember verbatim conversations. Plus, I took copious notes to help me digest what was happening to each in their last chapter – and am grateful for not winning my $50 bet.
Today, Father’s Day, I know they’re together again – far from here.
Emmett’s Jesuit Catholic beliefs and my mother’s very strong religious beliefs always taught me that they are now together.
I share this as a tribute to the gentleman who was so good to his wife, to his children, his family, and to all.
Dad had a master’s degree in adult education; was a psychologist; social worker; guidance counselor; co-author; chemistry, science, and English teacher who researched linguistics and history – an “avid-life enthusiast” I called him.
Two decades, he worked with his only daughter (moi) on multiple books and CDs, Court Reporter Reference Books – Purple Books series – preparing students and reporters for national and state certifications. Also, CATapult Dictionary Lexica. — We were a great team.
When we differed, he would say, “I don’t normally do this, but I’m an educator with LSAT, GMAT, SAT experience and…”
I’d listen, reply, “Me court reporter.”
Mom would listen, offering thoughts now and then. She had a master’s degree in elementary special education, was a music instructor, and played seven instruments. (For years, I thought everyone’s mother had a xylophone under their bed.) Her mother was a piano prodigy (and court stenographer, Corpus Christi, TX) with her own orchestra during the Depression.
After his death, waiting for an ambulance, Mom said, “For so many years I enjoyed listening to you two work on your court reporting books and CDs. It was special, to me. I’m glad you two had that.” I replied, “Me, too, Mom. Me too.”
I still grieve for how Dad died and for the world I now have without his laughter, his frequent checking in, “I do not need an appointment to see my daughter. Never. Never! No matter where you live and no matter where you work your mother and I will stop in to see you. Always. Just like with your brothers…”
They appeared in each state and each courtroom where I worked.
I will always remember working, focused, often head down as I reported testimony– then, I would hear Dad cough.
Sheer panic would set in when I looked up to see if they were in the courtroom pews – or worse, in the jury box where a bailiff or judge granted seats to the court reporter’s parents.
The title “See One; Show One; Teach One” were Dad’s words.
While my father Emmett J. Donnelly was an IM-ICU (intermediate intensive care unit) patient, I watched him wince, groan in pain, and grit his teeth while receiving a “standard blood stick.”
Then she, wearing a short, white lab coat, said, “I’ll get better when I graduate.”
A second bed had been placed in the room, so I could stay with Dad. Mom was in another hospital. I traveled between the two…
That day, knowing there were cameras watching Dad and I in the room, I had been working, proofing a confidential government, national CART Captioning transcript to send back to their headquarters.
Instantly, I placed my work in my lap. Now, I was listening.
After the “lab tech” spoke, my eyebrows shot to my forehead; I looked to Dad. He shrugged.
Me? I smiled, asked her to clarify.
I kid you not, she said, “I’m in high school. I’ll get better when I graduate.”
If I had not been seated, I would have fallen back.
Calmly, I stood, placed my confidential court reporting work under my computer, exited without a word, walked to the IM-ICU nurses station where they monitored machines and watched all the cameras for each patient in each room.
For years, Dad had worked as a volunteer, a Blue Vest (because they wear – yes, a blue vest to identify each) in GRMC hospital. He didn’t always signed in, “I’m not here to have my hours totaled. I’m here because I want to help people.”
GRMC logged this dedicated, focused volunteer at 350 hours.
Using his counseling, social working and psych skills, he helped patients, their families, and staff. Everyone in GRMC loved Mr. Emmett.
He also revamped the GRMC ER (emergency room) when he saw that people had to wait long periods of time – He was the first person to place a high school on computer. “There was a plethora of teachers. I had four young children and a wife. I needed to ensure my skills were necessary, unique.” He phoned IBM, worked direct with IBM in New York City. Using those skills, his social working skills, teaching (decades) and skills from veteran’s admin and his work, Dad, Mr. Emmett, created flow charts, took it to hospital CEO and others.
CEO had a special name tag named for Mr. Emmett with his favorite football team on it and a special tag for CEO with his football team. Both liked to ‘raz’ the other over the football games…
When the GRMC ER was revamped, it worked so efficiently that they –wait wait wait- fired the volunteer, Mr. Emmett, and hired two full-time employees.
He phoned to tell me. I howled with laughter.
The hospital asked him to work the front desk. Mr. Emmett refused, “I’m not going to sit there and point people where to go. No.”
A position was created for Mr. Emmett – Liason for Hospital, Nurses, and Patients. Only GRMC CEO knew – until Dad’s death.
He phoned me. Me, “You’re going to be the person who helps the hospital not to be sued? You’re kidding, right?”
He, “I prefer to think that I’m helping the patients. And I’m doing it. Busy, busy, busy, that’s me!”
Mr. Emmett, while working on my Court Reporter Books (and to my horror – would leave on desks in the hospital while he helped someone) entered rooms asking all patients (and often their families) in the revamped ER waiting room, in ER cubicles, on the medical floor and surgical floor — do you/they need anything? He sat, chatted with all. He listened to the patient and family, then spoke to and listened to the staff.
He would phone, “TODAY, I helped a gang member with a gunshot wound. He’s going to go back to school and get his GED! I told him he can’t continue like this and not at his age. We plotted his courses, and we shook hands on this. AND, today I met a woman with no family and no visitors. After some digging, I learned she likes crossword puzzles. I got in my truck and drove to Hastings Bookstore and bought a handful. Returned and gave them to her. You would have thought she won the lottery!”
Oh, he phoned again and again and again… And Mom would phone, “I’m so glad he’s doing this. It’s so quiet here when he’s there. Then he returns, phones you, tells me about his day, showers, and is very happy helping so many. God is good…”
Common calls All The Time: “Today I spoke to a nurse and convinced (he/she) that (he/she) has to get off the ‘floor’ because they’re going to receive an injury lifting patients. He/she has to go back to school to get into management or leave the field and find a better job. I then suggested courses, trainings, a plan that is best for them!” (This was an ongoing convo he had with nurses for MANY years.)
Standing in front of the nurses and doctors regarding the high school student, we all knew I would be specific and would use few words. I knew many from my dad’s work when he could out-walk almost everyone there who watched me walk to their desk that day. Plus, they had cameras on. Plus, they knew a high school student was drawing blood. GASP!!
Calmly, I said, “My father has collapsing veins on a good day. On file is his Power of Attorney with my name.
I am asking that this IM-ICU patient has blood drawn only from individuals who have graduated high school.”
Few moved behind that long desk. Calmly, I exited. Then I sighed. I leaned on the wall a moment to gather myself before I returned to the drama – and Dad’s room.
A mature adult soon entered.
He introduced himself as head pharmacist in GRMC hospital. He stated, “I was sent here…” Dad looked to me, shrugged, weak.
To me, with people ‘now’ in the room watching (aka, witnessing), Dad said, “See one, show one, teach one. We’re both teachers. Education. Remember.”
To the youngster in the white lab coat, he smiled, “You’re doing fine.”
My lips were together until Project Blood Stick (my term) was finished.
The head pharmacist said, “This was more involved than I thought it would be. I really had my work cut out for me – get it?” He was the only person in the intermediate ICU room (with cameras) who laughed.
After they (all) left the room, I commented, “That was unnecessary pain for you.”
Dad, “I’m a teacher. She needs to learn. It might as well be me.”
Me, “Not today, Dad. Not to-day.”
Dad insisted that “she” (in 11th grade!) needed to learn.
I insisted “she” could learn on oranges or other blood-drawing (sic) students as is standard protocol for trade schools, colleges, and universities, not ‘on’ IM-ICU patients for a high school student seeking “to get better when she graduates.”
Oh, my father wanted to live. He fought his illnesses with lion-hearted strength.
As each new diagnosis was added February 28th, 2011, until hospice, Dad insisted, “I’m going to get better. I still have things I want to do. Tomorrow I’ will walk down the hall. You’ll see…”
While he was limited in his movements to bed (multiple machines) I sat in his bed, my feet near his elbows.
I placed a pillow at the foot of the bed to prevent the hard metal from hurting my back – for months.
Only twice did someone enter the room and snark, “Why are you in HIS bed?” Dad and I laughed each time.
Those memories will always be bittersweet for me.
We had more ‘real’ conversations, I believe, because I was not in a chair on the other side of the room. It became “our time.”
With great love, I can hear Dad, “Onward now” and “of course you can do this…” as he gently reached his hand out to me to give me one last hug.
Monette, named the Court Reporting Whisperer by students, may be reached: Monette.purplebooks@CRRbooks.com
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Monette Benoit, B. B.A., CCR, CRI, CPE, Paralegal, CART Captioner, Instructor, Consultant, Columnist
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About Monette Benoit: As a 30+ year court reporter, CART captioner, author of NCRA and State test-prep material, instructor, public speaker, Monette Benoit has taught multiple theories, academics, all speed classes, and 225-homeroom within NCRA-approved schools and a community college. She understands challenges many adults face in our industry.
In 1993, she began to CART caption to a large screen for a Deaf mass, San Antonio, Texas. Wonderful opportunities then presented from Big D, Little D, Oral Deaf, HOH consumers -each with special moments.
Monette Benoit has worked with thousands of professionals, court reporters, CART captioners, students, instructors. She has helped to create new court reporting training programs, worked with federal grants, and assisted instructors in developing curriculum for both in-class and at-home students.
Her one-on-one tutoring, private coaching, has assisted thousands of students, novice and experienced professionals to reach the next level.
Monette’s Musings is an informative, motivational, and funny blog for busy professionals and students who seek to create their success and who seek to enjoy this special path.
12 Jun 2020