This past Friday, against the backdrop of the unseasonably cold, May, Michigan wind gusts, my next-door neighbor and I had a brief, impromptu, early a.m. chat. Facing each other, while socially distancing at far more than the recommended two meters, our cordial conversation had taken on necessary, yet, discernibly inappropriate decibels.
I say, “inappropriate” because expressed sorrow, such as hers, should not sound like a shouting match. Her story…
Sadly, one week earlier, on her 77th wedding anniversary, she had become a widow.
Their children and grandchildren had gathered to reminisce… to offer their ice cream / ginger ale float toasts to their guest of honor… the family patriarch… to share cherished memories of his ninety-six-year long roller coaster ride through life… inclusive of this couple’s love story… the wedding between two love-at-first-sight, high school sweethearts… the till-death-do-us part union, which not even the devastation of World War II could tear asunder. And he did honorably serve his country.
It was throughout this celebration of life, that his vital signs gradually, gently faded into oblivion.
Almost immediately, our now two-days-old conversation had focused on how our current world health crisis would not even permit a more traditional gravesite memorial service. Inevitably, we echoed our mutual, low opinion of “the leader” whose negligence would not even permit people to exit our world with all the dignified formalities they are due.
As we talked onward, I wondered, yet, dared not to ask if COVID-19 had complicated his preexisting respiratory issues. It was only while reading his online obituary that I learned that this dread disease had not been a (known) medical complication.
Over the course of these past two days, my thoughts have turned and returned to her family and mine… how… due to five decades’ worth of totally inconsequential differences of opinion… families could physically dwell right next door to each other, yet, remain emotionally world’s apart.
But, it is what it is… or stated more accurately… it is what it was.
You see, it had been seventeen springs ago that I began to sense our families drawing closer together. After all, this couple had taken the time to dress up and show up at my mother’s memorial service… to be there, for me, in my hour of need. Oh, how I wish I could’ve responded in kind and attended the formal memorial service he was… and still is… due.
I don’t know if there are any future plans for such a service, but if it ever does happen…
If there’s still a breath in my body and clear thought in my head, I will be there. Till then?
If pandemic panicked shoppers have not been hoarding ginger ale and ice cream, too, I will soon be adding these float ingredients to my shopping cart.
At the very least, I must offer my belated toast heavenward.