Upon reflection I have come to realize that, for me, the month of July no longer holds the attraction of being a time filled with sunny days, carefree outdoor activities, and a sense of summer’s bright heart and the exuberance of youth that it used to call forth.
I guess it started with the dimming of July’s brightest heart --- my late wife Pam, who was born on July 14 but has been gone now for over eight years. It’s awkward and hard to “celebrate” the birthday of someone who has passed, but every year at this time I tell myself that what I’m celebrating is the fact she *was* born and thereby was able to be at my side for 41-plus years, making my time with her the best part of my life … That’s what I tell myself. But the empty place beside me is always there to remind me that she nevertheless is gone.
This year, the awareness of the emptiness surrounding me has only widened and deepened. Others are gone … either permanently or in different ways.
Bear, the little half-blind, partially crippled poodle that was the last of “Pam’s dogs” she left behind for me to care for finally got so weak and sick that in March I had to put him down. Pardon me if it seems silly to include the loss of a dog in this, but Pam’s “babies” were very precious to her (there were three of them – Buttercup and Peanut being the other two) and I took my obligation to care for them in her absence very seriously. Bear may have been her favorite, and losing him was like another part of her that I had to let go of.
July 4th marked the first anniversary of C.J. Henderson’s passing.
In January we lost John Duncklee.
In May we all lost Ron Scheer.
Just this past week we lost Tom Piccirilli and Randy Johnson (not the baseball pitcher).
These last four men I never met in person but knew them only through their work and/or social media. Funny how strong a kinship you can come to feel for some folks you never laid eyes on. And while the emptiness of their passing my not be as profound as the loss of a close relative or loved one, it still adds up.
The real kicker to start off the month was when my only daughter Michelle, son-in-law, grandkids, and great granddaughter decided to pull stakes and move to the state of Washington. When Pam and I moved to Ogallala in 1998, we bought a house that was built like a two-family structure --- i.e. the basement had its own kitchen, bathroom, living room, and four bedrooms. Pam hated to hear it, but I always joked that it was our “fall back” position in case we fell on hard times in our old age and had to rent out either the upstairs or down … Little did I know that “hard times” would come in the form of losing her. After that, I invited Michelle and her family to move in up upstairs. It made a financial break for both of us and, although there were times we intruded on one another, it worked out pretty well. Now that is gone, too.
Bill, my oldest grandson, is sticking with me like he’s done right along. This fall or winter, when it’s cooler, we may move upstairs. But there’ll be no renting out any part of the house. It’s a lot emptier, but we’ll keep it to ourselves.
I can already tell that the holidays are going to be a lot different. The 4th of July, for example, with no family picnic and watching evening fireworks with nobody going “ooohh … ahhh” (something I used to tease Pam and Michelle mercilessly about) just didn’t cut it.
I’m not writing this for anybody to feel sorry for me.
I’m a pretty tough old bird, I’ve made it this far and still have a few more miles to go. And I always know there are a hell of a lot of other people who are far worse off than me.
I’m merely reflecting on the changes life brings as the years pass by, the things and people we are forced to leave behind.
I can’t say strongly enough to be sure and hang on tight to the things you care about while you’ve still got ‘em. You never know …
As for me, somebody once said that the word Lonely was invented for the rest of the world; the word Solitude was invented for writers.
I’ve always enjoyed – treasured, even – my solitude. Pam did, too. There were many evenings, after dinner, when I’d go to my office to do some writing and she’d kick back to watch TV in her easy chair, surrounded by her dogs, and we might only say a handful of words to one another for the rest of the evening. But we knew each other was there. A house *feels* different when there’s another presence in it, even if the other person is nowhere in sight.
Now, with Bill, thankfully, it’s sort of the same thing. After he gets home from work and dinner is over, he generally goes to his room to get online with some video gamer friends and I, as usual, go to my office to do some writing or reading.
Solitude. Not a bad thing.
But the creeping, deepening sense of emptiness can be a bitch …