BANGOR, Maine — Jody Mackin has been delivering newspapers only since November, but he has learned a few things in that short time.
He has learned that many of his customers are creatures of habit. He has learned who works the graveyard shifts, who walks their dogs at 4 in the morning and who goes out for coffee.
Mackin knew enough about Jerome Mishou of Union Street when he delivered papers one morning a few weeks ago to sense that something was wrong.
“We used to shoot the bull once in a while in the morning. He’s the kind of guy where you can set a clock by his actions,” Mackin said in an interview.
It was a Tuesday before dawn when Mackin drove by Mishou’s home to deliver the Bangor Daily News. He noticed the garage door was open. The man’s vehicle was gone.
“That usually doesn’t happen with him, so I wondered if he just went to get coffee or something,” Mackin said.
The next day, the newspaper carrier noticed the same thing. Garage door open, no car. Mackin again wondered whether something was amiss. He noticed that the previous day’s paper was still in the box. Mishou, a 76-year-old widower, always reads the paper first thing, Mackin learned from one of their early morning chats.
When the carrier returned on Thursday, he saw two unread newspapers and decided it was time to alert the police.
A local officer responded minutes later and discovered that, not only was Mishou’s garage door open, the door leading into the house was open as well. Fearing a possible home invasion, the officer called for backup, according to Mackin, who stayed to see what might have happened to his customer.
“All kinds of thoughts were going through my mind,” the newspaper deliveryman said.
Another officer arrived and they entered the house together. Just inside the door was a flight of stairs leading to the basement. At the bottom of the stairs was Mishou, unconscious.
“They told me that if another few hours had gone by, he might have died,” Mackin said. “I felt like hell that I didn’t act sooner.”
Mishou didn’t die.
He spent about 10 days in intensive care at Eastern Maine Medical Center and recently was moved to a rehabilitation facility across the river in Brewer.
“I have no idea what happened,” Mishou said of that day a few weeks ago. “I tore the hell out of my body, I know that.”
He doesn’t remember why his vehicle was missing or why the garage door was open that day, but he does remember getting into a minor accident a few weeks before his fall. Perhaps the vehicle was in the shop, he offered.
The 76-year-old can get around OK, with help from a cane, but he has some lingering injuries from the fall. His memory, he said, comes and goes. His eyes and his wit are sharp.
Mishou doesn’t know how long he’ll have to stay in rehab.
“They won’t let me go until I’m right,” he said. “But they put you to the test here. You should see the gym they have.”
Aside from a roommate — a 65-year-old man recovering from reconstructive knee surgery — Mishou is alone. His wife died of cancer years ago. He said his kids want nothing to do with him.
“My kids don’t know I’m here, don’t care,” he said. “But I’ve got family wherever I go.”
Mishou is particularly fond of the many hugs he has received from female nurses and CNAs since he’s been hospitalized.
“When you get to be my age, it’s OK. They just think I’m a harmless old man,” he said.
He jokes about how he ended up in a hospital in the first place.
“I always wanted to ride in an ambulance,” Mishou said. “I wish I had remembered it.”
Mackin, though, said it breaks his heart to think Mishou has no family.
“If ever in his life he needed them, it’s now, and they’re not around,” the carrier said.
Mishou doesn’t lament his fate, though. Originally from Old Town, he spent decades away from his home state before returning in the early 1990s when he retired.
For now, he said, he’s doing just fine. He still gets to read the newspaper every morning at the rehab facility.
He looks forward to the days when he can retrieve the paper himself, at his home, from the man who he said saved his life.