I have been putting off this post because well, it's hard. While at camp I emailed my father to wish him a happy father's day. In response he asked me to call him at a specific time. This cannot be a good thing, I thought. It wasn't. My family isn't big and isn't particularly what you would call close knit but there are a few members that I feel close to without the benefit of lots a contact. One of these people is my cousin Judy (who I wrote about here). Her husband had taken ill, very ill. My father forwarded me the emails so I was able to catch up with the daily reports.
By the time camp was over he had been moved to hospice and was on a morphine drip. He passed away a few days later. It is hard to imagine her standing in their home, hosting parties and David not there. I know there is a time in my life that they weren't married but it is outside of my memory. Reading his obituary I am sad that I did not know him better all these years. I wish I had known that Judy & David originally met at about 12 years old and reconnected years later to spend four decades together. I wish for so many things.
Last week (or was it longer ago) my father called to update me on Judy as he had visited her while she was sitting shiva. He also said he really couldn't imagine her without him. But the other piece of news was that there had been another death. While Penny was not family in a blood tie way, she was family. Mike and my father have been friends since high school, or maybe it's earlier I no longer remember. Mike met Penny and they married about three months later. When I was young we spent lots of time with Mike and Penny. I held their children when they were newborns, played with them as toddlers, and loved on their dog - a basset hound named Penelope.
Penny and I re-established email contact when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I spoke to Mike over the phone when my father was in the hospital in October. It was the first time I had spoken with them in easily twenty years - it was comforting to hear his voice unchanged with the New York accent fully intact despite residing in Atlanta, Georgia for over a decade. In the last dozen years or so Penny had had all sorts of odd physical ailments but rallied and maintained her sense of humor. The latest problem was her digestion had randomly failing, creating blockages. When asked what killed her by someone, my father said "stubbornness". In a way it's true. She put off going to the hospital because she was tired of going, of being poked and prodded. She waited too long. Literally there is no time in my life that exists without Penny's presence, without the memory of her laugh, without knowing she would do anything for me.
There is an old wives tale that says deaths come in threes. So I waited for the shoe to drop. Greg and Janet's amazing tuxedo cat has been terminally ill since April. Friday they had to put down the handsome, rambunctious Apollo, he was 16 years old. I asked TFG if this could count as my three. She said she didn't think it worked that way. I am holding out hope.
It's official, people in my world who die are not the age of my grandparents but are the peers of my parents. It means my parents and other people I love dearly could leave me forever. How did that happen? In many ways I don't feel old enough to be in this place. But I am. It has had me reviewing all sorts of thing about aging, moving on in one's life in positive ways, about commitments, ties to family that have nothing to do with contact, ties to people that are not blood family who's loss devastates a piece of your soul. So many things have been floating around my mind and it's hard to be coherent or elegant about it. I have put off writing about all of this so what you have is this stew of facts and thoughts.
Everyone, hold tight your memories, call the people that mean the world to you, take the risks that scare you, don't drown in regret, enjoy the moment.