Where are you?

Growing old together

‘Shuffling off’ to wherever

Shakespeare called it “that sleep of death.” The mystery writer Raymond Chandler called it “The Big Sleep.”

Death has many names. Religious people refer to it as a “new beginning,” a wondrous New Life in the Kingdom of Heaven and so on and so forth. Many of these “believers” have brilliant minds. They are convinced that a wonderful “life” (in whatever unknown form) awaits us after we “shuffle off this mortal coil” (Shakespeare again).

There are also many people with brilliant minds who call that a load of hooey. They tell you (as though they have some inside information) that they are “convinced” death is The End, Lights Out, Darkness, Oblivion, a whole lot of Nothing.

Starting over again

But nobody really knows, and because of the Big Unknown, most people try to make the most of this earthly existence before they shuffle off to Buffalo or wherever.

When a wife, husband, loved one, soul mate, darlin’ companion whatever you want to call them dies first many people have the will and the energy to start again with a new mate, perhaps in a new place, a whole new beginning.

Like this guy I used to have coffee with, Steverino. He’s in his late 70s and his wife of many decades died a few years ago, and then a year or two ago, while I mourned my wife and moaned about being alone and all the rest of it he goes out and meets a new woman, the “love of his life,” he called her. Well, that knocked me for a loop. But good for him. I can’t say I envy him, and although I know he’s a whole lot happier than me these days, I’m just not interested in going down that road again.

Growing old together 

My one and only plan for these septuagenarian years was to grow old, well, older anyway, with my wife. When she went before me, it hit me sideways because being quite a bit older than her I expected to “go first.”

I had hoped for a few more years in this house together, sitting in our armchairs, drinking, smoking, reading, doing one thing and another, but mainly just growing old — okay, older — together.

Now only one of the armchairs is occupied — with my sorry ass and there I be, not necessarily waiting around to die, as one gung-ho “get out there and meet someone else” fellah told me, but also not prepared to start a new life with someone else.

I’m just sitting here drinking and smoking and reading and every now and then I look up with this damn sadness and ask: “Where are you, honey?”

‘Daisy a Day’ written and performed by Jud Strunk,*  presented by Ned Nickerson

*Jud Strunk was a private pilot and owned a 1941 Fairchild single-engine plane. On October 5, 1981, just after taking off from Carrabassett Valley Airport in Maine he had a heart attack. The plane flipped over, falling 300 feet to the ground, killing him and his passenger Dick Ayotte, a longtime friend and local businessman. Jud was 45 years old.


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They had a life

Thirty-four years of turmoil and travel

People lose soulmates all the time. Many, perhaps most, reach a point where they can get on with their lives. Others never seem to move on.

This guy I know (I bet you do!) whose wife died just over a year ago is one of those who doesn’t seem to be able to move on. He’s still in that hospital room, sitting at her bedside, holding her hand, still warm in his. Until it wasn’t. He’ll tell you exactly how long it’s been — thirteen months and fifteen days.

He lives alone now, seldom goes out. There is one man he occasionally meets for coffee. The coffee guy lost his wife a couple of years ago. He shocked the solitary guy the other day when he said he had met a new woman — the love of his life, he said.

This astounded the other guy. He couldn’t imagine finding another love of his life and starting a new relationship.

It’s not that he wants to wallow in grief. He just doesn’t have the spark to ignite a new relationship. Compared to his coffee friend Mr Sparkplug, he’s a dead battery.

The life he had with his wife was like several lives, thirty-four years of sturm and drang, emotionally intense, tempestuous, tossed about on waves of tragedy — mainly the early death of a son.

Widower alone with memories

In between the turmoil, they travelled the world, stayed in fine hotels and lived the life, as the saying goes.

There were periods of time when they were apart, during which our hero (by which, of course, I mean antihero) tried to put his life back together. But they always ended up with each other. His wife was steadfast. She was always there for him. And he, in his own vagabond, messed-up way, was always there for her.

In the end they were together. The last three years of her life-draining illness he was her caregiver. When she was dying, as he held her hand, he told her he would love her forever. Sounds corny, perhaps, but he meant it with all his heart.

No other woman could take her place.

People used to say of his wife, “She’s very warm.” Now he looks for warmth in the fire he lights on winter nights, a bottle of bourbon on the coffee table and the memories — the good memories — of his wife and their life together.

Niels Arestrup as Michel, who still longs for his wife, in Angelina Jolie’s ‘By the Sea’


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Poēmia Bohemia

WHITHER MY WILLOW

I sleep past noon, head deep in the pillow

Rain on the roof and the wind does billow;

No will to rise since the death of Willow.

For more than thirty years we shared a bed,

Then from out of hell a stroke struck her dead.

Life ever since has been unliving dread,

Devoid of will I am locked in the past

Remembering the years that passed so fast

Me the vagabond and Willow steadfast

Always there for me at journeys end

My wife, my soulmate and best friend.

Now in death, did she ascend or descend

Rise to the sky or stay down in the earth

Is it oblivion as before birth

Or in realms unknown spiritual rebirth?

Knowing her eternal destination

Might bring about merciful cessation

To my own life sentence of damnation.

I do not expect an answer real soon

I do not expect the gods to commune

Thus I stay in bed till way past noon.