Saturday in CinCity. Ask Not...
Hubby texted me the other day while I was at work to tell me that he'd just seen our neighbor's name in the newspaper's obituaries. I, of course, thought,"no," it had to be our neighbor and friend's's father. Our friend was too young and we'd just seen him in his yard on one of our dog walking expeditions.
I was wrong.
Let me backtrack for a moment. For those of you with kids, you know this. When your kids start school, you basically relive high school all over again for the next 12 years or so. When the school is connected to the neighborhood parish, Our Most Holy Name and Lady of Perpetual Cooking, it's all intensified because you're all together for more events. The same old cliques reassert themselves and women who thrive on running every committee come out of the woodwork. The jocks take over the volunteer coaching postions. You get the "cool" parents, the performers, and the nerdier ones who help out with computer/technical details.
This particular neighbor was half of a couple who could be categorized with Sandy and Danny, the couple from Grease. They were high school honeys who married young, had a cute little family with 3 great kids, always available to help out with fixing a car or a roof, getting a costume together for the parish talent show, or putting a deck up and then hanging with you later to celebrate. He was the father of one of HoneyHaired's best friends. She spent a lot of nights and days at their home and we had much contact with them at the time because of it. The grrrls moved from their grade school into different high schools and so moved in separate circles, which seems a big deal for kids, but not so much for the parents. We remain on the same track together--getting the girls through school and now looking at colleges.
I don't want to write a eulogy about our neighbor, though our small corner of the world will be poorer for the loss of him, as much as I want to write about the surprise that Hubby and I felt, and I think the surprise that we all initially feel when we hear of someone's death. I know that people die. I see it every day and the local news is happy to describe it in technicolor and High Definition. It's that we were so surprised to see it in the neighborhood. It's like seeing your co-workers at a cousin's wedding. The,"What are you doing here??" feeling. Seeing people out of context. For hospital folks it's simply seeing people with real clothes on, or any clothes on to be honest. Seeing your patient's family at the grocery store. You just don't expect them to be there.
So that's it. No big revelation here. No pearls of wisdom. The Grim Reaper goes AWOL from the fourth floor of the hospital every now and again and comes in unannounced to people's homes. As Monty Python so perfectly puts it, "Well, that's cast rather a gloom over the evening, hasn't it?"
by Billy Collins
These are no pages for the young,
who are better off in one another's arms,
nor for those who just need to know
about the price of gold,
or a hurricane that is ripping up the Keys.
But eventually you may join
the crowd who turn here first to see
who has fallen in the night,
who has left a shape of air walking in their place.
Here is where the final cards are shown,
the age, the cause, the plaque of deeds,
and sometimes an odd scrap of news-
that she collected sugar bowls,
that he played solitaire without any clothes.
And all the survivors huddle at the end
under the roof of a paragraph
as if they had sidestepped the flame of death.
What better way to place a thin black frame
around the things of the morning-
the hand-painted cup,
the hemispheres of a cut orange,
the slant of sunlight on the table?
And sometimes a most peculiar pair turns up,
strange roommates lying there
side by side upon the page-
Arthur Godfrey next to Man Ray,
Ken Kesey by the side of Dale Evans.
It is enough to bring to mind an ark of death,
not the couples of the animal kingdom,
but rather pairs of men and women
ascending the gangplank two by two,
surgeon and model,
balloonist and metalworker,
an archaeologist and an authority on pain.
Arm in arm, they get on board
then join the others leaning on the rails,
all saved at last from the awful flood of life-
so many of them every day
there would have to be many arks,
an armada to ferry the dead
over the heavy waters that roll beyond the world,
and many Noahs too,
bearded and fiercely browed, vigilant up there at every prow.