I wanted to relax tonight– and because my babies chose Nana over me tonight .. I’ll write.
Sometimes people just need people. My first conversation with my member was tough. He had just buried his wife. His love. A woman he had 18 years of retirement with, right before Christmas – and my timely first phone call came In January. He was rough on the phone and a little hard of hearing. He was 79.
I can’t talk it’s not a good time. I really miss my wife. I just can’t look at that empty chair.
Winter came to spring and I would find out that he had daughters who he was so proud of and a grandson. We talked, he opened up. He told me he loved Cincinnati and by the next Christmas told me when I took that little one to the train museum at Christmas time for my husband to go on one side, and me on the other and talk– we would hear each other and the kids would love it.
I began to love him. He talked to me about he beloved wife and how they went on every cruise you could imagine and road in a RV around the country. They’d been to all 49 states and providences in Canada. They loved to travel. But his favorite place ever: Iceland. I took note, and would spend time researching Iceland.
He loved old cars and the fire department, where he put in time as a volunteer. He was special.
He always talked about the tree and service the fire department held for his beautiful “D”. He talked about her every time I called him. Our conversations usually an hour. He needed me to listen. One day, this past December, I decided to call the day his wife died. I wanted him to know that he was special. I also wanted to know what he was doing. Going to sit in my chair and read. I told him I hope he felt comfort and like she was right there with him, I meant that.
The day before my knee surgery this year I was nervous, so I called him up, not to tell him about me, but just to see if I could help him before I left. He told me he was thinking about back surgery but it was only done in Cincinnati. I told him I was having surgery in Cincinnati in the morning and if he does come I might be allowed to come see him.
He was the last person I talked to before I clocked out and did something that I look back now and has been a huge test. He told me something that day that I’ll never forget. He was going to his fire department meeting – which was held the last Thursday of the month- when he was surprised by all the members and family with a big dinner- celebrating his 50 years of service. He was tickled to death they knew and did that for him. Even referring how supportive they had been when his wife died. He always talked about the tree that they planted in honor of her.
His birthday was coming up. I planned my calls to reach out to him on his week.
Four days before, no answer. The day before, no answer.
I was bummed. I hadn’t talked to him in two and a half months- my favorite one.
He talked to me about things that I dream about- raising strong kids, being involved and a big part of the community, and how he and his wife had saved money to pay for his grandchild’s tuition. Special, that’s a special life.
I got a phone call in July from one of his daughters that he died. I got her number and immediately called back.
She said “He died on June ___,”. I paused- and without even looking, I said to her, “His birthday”
She said, “Yes, that’s the day it was, it was his birthday”
She said, “Last thing he told me he was doing was going to get a library book and if it makes you feel better it looks like he went peacefully in his chair, with his book”.
I held back my tears but my voice cracked when I said, “Next to your moms chair where she would sit and read”.
I thanked her for calling me and telling me that. I really loved him. He taught me so much about real love between a spouse. He lite a fire in me to work for a cause, to travel, to plan for the future, and be faithful.
After I got off the phone I had tears streaming from my face- my husband upstairs making dinner- my babies little feet running around.. and I thought- He got what he wanted for his birthday- all he ever wanted was to be back with her- the way he remembered it- and I know he’s with her. He got his birthday present.
Life is so special if you allow yourself to get involved- to help- and to listen. People don’t want to listen to hard things. It hard to call up someone who’s loved one just died. It’s hard to talk about it- but what it brings out is something I can’t even explain- but it drives away despair, I know this.
So – to my member who made me really think about setting up life to get to enjoy this possible 18 years of retirement and travel with my love… to get to Iceland.. to talk at the museum- I love you for letting me in– and telling me your love story– because I’m going to try my darnedest to make it mine too < 3