I am on the road all week. In my absence I have decided to reprint my initial contribution to this blog with a few edits.
It concerns a tough time in my life. Most important, my sweet wife was recently deceased. Additionally, these were scary and uncertain days because of the pandemic. If you have read my jottings, then you know I have come a long way. A constant message here is that you are still alive despite the pain and emptiness caused by your loss.
I know Lee would want me to be happy. I’m trying my best to bring a smile to her face.
On July 2, 2020, the cancer took my “Beebs.” The photo of me and Lola the pup that accompanies this piece was taken on the road in September 2020, the day I picked her up from her Ohio breeder. There is a backstory, as follows:
I had said to my buddy, “You’re being a contrarian,” and ended our phone call. And he had been a contrarian, throwing cold water on my notion to get a dog and thereby dousing the small excitement I had felt that same morning after my latest internet search culminated in a conversation with an Ohio breeder– one who actually had puppies available! Until then, I had not felt any sense of excitement for the future since my wife died a little over a month ago.
Well, my buddy says: “Why do you want a dog? You’ve never had a dog. You’re a cat person. It’s too much responsibility. You can’t travel easily. You’re too old.”
Maybe his comments were fair; they were certainly logical. However, today they mostly stung and disappointed, and I reacted angrily, saying, “I don’t want to talk anymore,” and abruptly disconnected the call.
If I hadn’t I would have reminded my buddy that he still has 4 adult kids, numerous grand kids, and likely more in his future. My buddy still has his father, who, as he is always quick to boast, remains physically vigorous and in full possession of his mental faculties at the age of 90. And my buddy is lucky to have enjoyed nearly 50 years with the wonderful Donna. Donna still has her own mother, of course, who this year made 95, bless her! Donna also has adult siblings, and they all have kids. Given these circumstances, my buddy, who has raised German Shepherds for nearly as long as we’ve been friends, could feel justified to inform me that he is through with dogs.
Yet, my own case was materially different. Most importantly, my wonderful Lee was gone, our loving and fully committed partnership cut short by cancer. Cancer also had cheated Lee out of the well-earned retirement she long had envisioned for us, which, truth be told, I had found myself rapidly warming to, despite being gainfully employed in a good paying and cushy job.
We never had kids. My own family is quite small.
Oh, and there was this pandemic that has been raging for nearly 6 months with no clear end in sight. Even so, while Lee was still in the world we gratefully and happily journeyed together through this life, Lee radiating her love, guiding our way. Suddenly I felt lonely a lot of the time.
But here’s the thing: I have many friends, including a fair number of the life-long variety, certainly, my buddy and the wonderful Donna included. My own family members seem to like me. I’m by nature an optimist and remain so even now. I’m self-confident. I remain physically vigorous without, as far as I can tell, significant slippage of the mental gears.
So I remain grateful and feel luckier than many, if not most, yet the calendar reminds me that I will be 70 within the next calendar year. And I don’t think I’m being either melodramatic or doomsday bleak to note that my once bright future prospects may have dimmed a bit over time. Inevitably, the past casts a lengthening shadow.
So I was left to ponder the BIG QUESTIONS: Am I destined to die alone? Why shouldn’t I get a dog?