Ordinarily I don’t write two blogs in a day. But today is an exception. As I’ve moved inti the latter part of my life, I’ve become increasingly aware of the fragility in which we all exist. My losses have been excellent teachers. I have a lot of personal experience at knowing that in one second, a phone call can come and suddenly your life is forever altered. Today was one of those days. I woke early this morning. I was finally going to use a couple of gift cards my daughter had given me many years ago, for the two of us to use at a swanky resort and spa in Wisconsin. The trouble was, we could never find the time to get away. The last time I’d been to this place was in November, 2008, when my family and my neighbor’s family plotted a getaway for me and the wife and mom in that family. Both she and I had been through grueling caregiving experiences with our husbands. They were both still alive. So were we, albeit exhausted and bedraggled. But I didn’t want to go on this surprise trip. Michael was scheduled for a CAT and PET scan on the day we were to leave, his first one in a year, following a big surgery and 30 radiation treatments to his head and neck. I wanted to be with him, even though I couldn’t be in the same room. I was incredibly nervous because I felt that he should’ve had more frequent scans since his last one. I left reluctantly, knowing I was prescient. His scan results were awful, marking the beginning of his end, which thankfully, was still a few years away. I’d been to this place with him, with my daughter when she was a college student and with my mom and sister. Recently I realized that time was getting away from me and with my daughter’s blessing, decided to use the gift cards for a brief luxury treat for my sister and me.
Before we hit the road, I wanted to water my garden, fill my bird feeders and suet feeders , and take care of my dog. Your basic, let’s-make-sure-everything’s-alive-when-you-get-home morning flurry.
I made my way through the garden, glad to see new hibiscus blooms, noting that there’d finally been enough rain to encourage fungi growth. Then I made my to the flower beds, telling everyone to hang in there until I returned.
I’d showered but with all the running around, I was sweaty and couldn’t wait to sit down in an air conditioned car to drive away. I managed to get a few shots of the beautiful day we had for travel.
We were cruising down the highway, listening to music and chatting, when my phone rang. I saw the name of my oldest, most intimate girlfriend who I’ve known for almost sixty years. We went through elementary and high school together and ultimately, became college roommates. We’ve never been out of each other’s lives, even vacationing with our families and many others who were college friends. We talk regularly so I wasn’t surprised to see it was her on the phone. I answered and we exchanged a few words when she suddenly said, “this is not a good news call.” I asked her what had happened and she told me that our friend Pat, who we’d known over 50 years, had died last night. She was found unresponsive in her home and was never revived. I was utterly stunned, as was my friend. Fifty years ago the three of us had headed off to Europe for an adventure together. She was part of the group who participated in those annual vacations. We’d been through a lot together. An educator in Chicago, she invited Michael up to teach some of her students. She came to his celebration of life. We didn’t talk all the time but we stayed in touch. I’d wondered why I hadn’t heard from her recently. And now she is gone. Once, the three of us and our friend Julie were quite a formidable foursome. Now there are only two of us left. This is what aging is like – anyone can vanish at any time. She wasn’t elderly, just 72, or close to 73. Below the national average. Bad news is one phone call away. When we hung up, I called my kids and my friend Brian. My trip was still happening. I am still alive.
So I am at this beautiful place. I swam. I took some photos. I thought of Pat and so many parts of our relationship. My job is to live and have a meaningful life. I am trying to do that.
I exchanged a few texts and emails with some old friends. I thought some more. At dinner, I had a margarita, rare for me as I’m not big on alcohol. I had dessert, too. I was toasting Pat with these gestures which for now is all I can do. Later I’ll learn if there’s anything else that would be significant. At this moment, I’m sharing my trip with my sister and being aware of life. Hanging by a thread, but too hard to always think of it that way.
Pat, you worked so hard your whole life and were committed to improving the lives if others. With no kids of your own, you were all the kids’ favorite aunt. I wish you’d had a longer run. I hope you rest well. Farewell, old friend.