On Sunday, March 26th, 2017 Joy and I married in a formal Jewish ceremony for the first time among very close friends and relatives from many places and who arrived there on short notice.
The place, a beautiful and very large home was offered to us to do this by a lifelong friend of Joy’s, our Rabbi demonstrated the real meaning of tzedakah and made everything we hoped to achieve that day possible and people who came there last night had in many cases never met each other before. Our friends don’t frequently meet our families, or much of them. Not this time.
The many small children there who were sometimes strangers to each other immediately became a miniature mob tearing around the big house. If you think about that, it is amazing how fast that happened. I guess you have to grow up to become hesitant about getting to know someone. Very cool, children.
Our four adult children, Lisa, David, Rachel and Sarah, worked together and constantly, without instructions or supervision to make the day be all they wanted it to be for a woman they treasure. A gift in and of itself.
If warm feelings were gold, Fort Knox would have been a nugget compared to what we felt among all of them.
But this party was a celebration of Joy and our life together and it was a beautiful thing.
After a while, hopefully it will be clearer to people what I was attempting to do for an incredible woman I’ve loved for 42 years who knew she was dying.
I wanted her to be a Queen for a day, all eyes on her and she was. No one can ever take that away from her.
Time is running short for her, the drugs will increase and then she will be lost to me.
I know I will not be able to bear it. I know that is coming. A bottomless abyss of loneliness. The price I will pay for loving someone for so long through levels of hell and happiness.
I would pay it over and over and over to be able to keep her with me.
When life reaches such a level of intensity, feelings and ideas flow and I decided to write them down:
Life, to me, is not just how successful we can (or can’t) make it in business or other aspirations.
Its who we befriend along the way, and remain that way with them regardless of the distance or the years passing, but also how we decide to leave our own lives life when we have some clue about when that end is coming.
Friendship is being there–right now–no matter what, when you are needed, no questions asked and no matter how far.
Friendship is a warm hand out to you in the cold ocean of life when you’re drowning in pain, in regret, in sorrow.
Friendship is another side of love between agreeable souls and I have never been confused about that.
Class is not what you have, where you live or whom you were born to.
To me, class is how you treat other people in pain, in suffering or who need a moment of your time, especially when no one else it looking, or will ever know about it.
If I have or can give someone even just a moment of relief from what misery life has dealt them, maybe that’s God momentarily passing through me.
Who knows? But I sure like that idea.
What we say, how we say it, who we say it to, the apologies we make for any pain we may have caused someone else and who we tell we love before they or me dying is the way I want to end my life.
So no one ever wishes they heard the words they wished they could have heard from me while I was still here.
Lives pass, but the words, the bad ones, the good words, remain.
Try and leave the good words behind you.
The wedding is over. The guests are gone. All the paper and food and things are cleaned up, thrown out or put away. Pictures and film remain and Joy was watching them on her phone in bed last night and this morning.
I combined my daughters’ various kinds of exotic coffees into one blend and made some for Joy. Norwegian girls need their coffee. She drank a hot cup of it in her mother Helen’s white cup with the flag of Norway printed upon it, without complaint. She will use no other cup.
I obey her wishes.
Then a clear glass plate filled with a few almonds, some orange yogurt and a leftover wedding brownie for breakfast–in bed.
Every ten minutes she pushes a little green button on a little black machine filled with a narcotic to hold back the pain coursing through her. In between that time, sometimes I wash dishes, wash clothes or look at the birds outside flying to the bird feeders I put up for her to watch when she came home from the hospital.
In the kitchen, where she slowly walks toward the table with her aluminum walker, we sit together and watch Cardinals and sparrows, rabbits and squirrels, sometimes a hawk, sometimes Morning Doves–always in couples, circle around each other in their endless quest for food.
The big brick fireplace I built for her while she was gone for so long, so that we could burn the never-ending wood supply which Wisconsin offers the alert scavenger, so when she returned to me from the hospital, we could watch the bright flames climb high into the night sky, together, listening to the logs crackle, inhaling the lovely fragrance of burning hardwood and fallen branches, and witness the tiny uncontrollable explosions of hot sparks living, racing high and then dying, in seconds.
But Joy can only watch that big red brick fireplace from a window now, and often, it sits silent. I don’t want to watch a roaring fire without her sitting next to me on our ancient cedar swing.
In the ten minutes between when she is able to push that little green button for some more relief, sometimes I hold her hand.
Sometimes I listen to her breathing in the darkness.
Sometimes we just sit in the morning light and look at each other.
We know whatever there is to know that has happened between us.
Time grows short and we will be waiting for whatever comes, whenever it comes, together.
I sure love you, Norwegian girl.
(Note: This story/poem was inspired by a letter I was writing to Bill Skeens, as it has happened to me before in our past.
Bill and his lovely wife Sue Ellen were at the wedding on Sunday. But before all this life we’ve lived, he was the first employee I hired to work for me at Bob’s Newsstand in Hyde Park in January 1967 when I was 16 and he was 10, or half a century ago as of today.
He patiently taught me to be a boss, and has weaved his way through my life, always encouraging me when my aspirations went south, while becoming very successful himself building The Prairie Baking Company.
But Bill, you have become a sometimes Muse periodically in my life, whether you realize that or not, and which can’t be learned at the University of Anywhere. Credit should be given when credit is due, as my life requires.
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