Capt. Jorja Felsenthal arrived in Japan in the spring of 1991, and was once again in charge of a team of computing specialists, this time however, their mission was not simply military in nature. Coordination and work with Japanese businesses was involved.
She had been chosen for two reasons: one, because she was one of the military’s best and brightest in her field and had already been in charge of three installations, and two, she had studied the Japanese language, their culture and customs extensively. She was the most well positioned militarily and personally to work as a liaison with the Japanese industries to promote the goal of computer connectivity in a controlled experiment that was designed to test the commercial use of the internet.
She was at this point, a woman with a career, and reaping the benefits of a successful military life. At 33, she truly was at the top of her field.
A normal day for Jorja began at 4:30 am. Up with a cup of coffee and a cigarette, she would be dressed and out the door of her military base housing by 5:30, ready to report for work by 6. By July, she had things well in hand, and she could see she was making great strides with the implementation.
On this particular Friday, July 7th, she had scheduled meetings with military personnel and Japanese businessmen until noon. As usual, she instructed her assistant to hold all calls, with no interruptions, until the meetings were complete. That morning, however, life would prove that some things just cannot go as planned, even if you are Jorja Felsenthal and have a meticulously scheduled agenda.
Many miles and several continents away, Tom Felsenthal began his previous day as usual. Up and off to the co-op by 6, the day was in full swing – it was summer in the Ozarks, and time for crops to come in. This meant he would be busy on the yard, and any office work would simply have to wait until that night. By 8am, he knew something wasn’t right; he was having trouble with his vision, and several farmers had already asked if he was alright, they were having trouble understanding his sentences.
Shortly before 10 am, he called Maureen to come to the co-op, he needed her to drive him home. By the time she arrived, she knew home wasn’t an option and took him straight to Flowood. The Emergency medical facility was 35 minutes away; it was almost too far for Tom.
As soon as she could, Maureen placed a call to Regina. She’d been trying to get Stella, but couldn’t. She asked her to keep trying, she had to return to the ICU. Finally, Regina had gotten her on the phone.
Stella called her mom midafternoon, and told her as soon as she could get ahold of Jorja, she would be on her way. It took Stella a few minutes to remember where she had put the number. Finally, she dumped the junk drawer out on the floor and found it.
She placed the international call to Jorja and waited to be connected.
As soon as Jorja’s assistant answered the phone, Stella launched into the details of her situation, and told her she desperately needed to speak to her sister.
Meeting or not, the call went through, and her meticulously planned morning was turned upside down with a few short words from Stella.
“Jorja, something’s wrong with Daddy. He’s at the hospital. Momma had to go get him at the co-op this morning… I just talked to her, she said they don’t know what it is yet, but it’s not good. He can’t talk, and by the time she got’em to the hospital, he could barely walk. ”
“Oh, no, not daddy, not now, I’m so far away… what do I need to do?”
“Jorja, I think the only thing you can do right now is come home, as fast as you can.”
“Oh Stella, I can’t believe this. Not Dad, he’s never been sick, never. I’ll get a flight, and I’ll be there as soon as I can. It’s gonna take at least 24 hours, tell momma I’m coming, but it’s gonna take some time. I’ll call as soon as I can get to a phone. And,” as her voice broke, “tell daddy I’m coming.” She never thought to ask what hospital, but she figured she knew. Flowood. It would have been the closest.
It took her only 22 hours thanks to a military flight and her Capt.’s rank to get home. Once she got to Little Rock, however, it was another hour to her dad. She stopped only long enough to call her Mom at the hospital. It was a shaky Maureen that answered the phone in the ICU waiting room.
“Momma, it’ me, Jorja. I’m in Little Rock, how is he?”
“Oh, Jorja. It ain’t good honey, you need to hurry.”
She almost didn’t make it. He had suffered a massive stroke, an AVM, according to the doctor, and was lucky to have lived at all. He made it just long enough for her to say goodbye.
Fatigue, the emotional rollercoaster, and sheer devastation overtook Jorja; she had never prepared herself to experience one of her parents’ death, and all the training and education in the world can’t help you at a time like that. She felt lost and alone. She loved her Mom, but her dad had been her lifeline, her friend. It was in him that she confided her accomplishments, hopes and dreams. Now he was gone. Just like Regina. She thought of her old friend, but too much time had passed, there would be no real comfort that she could give her now.
When she got home, home to the mountains, she quietly slipped from the house. It took her only a few minutes to find that magical spot, and then she let the tears flow. Tears for her dad, tears for a life that had taken her away for so many years, and tears that would hopefully wash away some of the hurt, pain and loss.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish