I marked it every year but I marked it wrong, stubbornly stupidly remembering it as the 18th of the month and not the 17th, showing up at his lonely apartment with a gift and flowers and the special Armenian food that he liked.
A couple of years ago I arranged for my whole family to also come, for a grand celebration.
On the wrong day, see.
He was too nice ever to mention my error, which I didn’t find out about until I tried to call in his meds once and confidently reported the wrong birth date. “We have an Edward G., Haydon born November 17th” the woman at the pharmacy finally told me when, exasperated, I went there in person.
Poor Uncle Ed! I felt so sad all day yesterday knowing he is in that cold-and-getting-colder wedge of earth now.
Everywhere I looked I seemed to see him.
I looked at pictures of him:
As a soldier in World War II, as you see here.
As the groom of David’s Auntie Fran when the war ended and the good times seemed guaranteed
Then on into the 50s and 60s, grilling chicken at backyard barbecues and making the small repairs he loved to make with the just-so tools he carried in his pocket right up to the end.
Pictures of him at the pond we visited twice a week in his last years, where we feasted our eyes on the dancing waters, outlasting even the visiting geese as we did so.
None of these made me feel better. Nothing could made me feel better I thought – until I came upon a letter he wrote me in response to one I had sent him, some dozen years ago, shortly after the death of his beloved wife Fran… Here it is now:
My Dear Terry,
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with me this week. I have to tell you, I filled up here and there as my own memories were recalled.
Perhaps you saw the Bergman film, wherein the dying woman was wildly looking for some comfort, someone to hold her, someone to help her over the great divide. Several relatives were milling about the death bed but not offering any comfort. At last, a servant, grossly fat and somewhat plain, climbed into the bed and drew the dying woman into the softness and warmth of her body and gradually the whimpering stopped.
You know that I went to see Fran twice a day every day, like clockwork for the ten years she was in the Alzheimer unit. On the day of her death, I arrived for the afternoon visit and the help I gave her with some supper. She was in the last throes of dying. The room was crowded with the aides and the nurse who was giving her some morphine to help quiet her struggle for breath. She died shortly after I came into the room. I did not have the chance to hold her hand or to talk to her or to hug her or to say goodbye. With the room full of people, I could not even weep. I could not be alone with her as they started preparing the body, as they do before the undertakers arrive. All I could do was to kiss the still-warm cheek, say goodbye, and caress her face. I wept alone at home for a bit. There was no way I could have called you to come in and be with us. I came in as described above so I was cheated even as you were cheated by my not telling you. There was just no time. But now with this letter I have shared some of what we were both denied. And I hope you can understand and forgive me for the apparent lapse noted above.
Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts as always. Knowing you as I think I do, I have to say your message hit home. I have been alone for so long, what with Fran’s long illness and death, and my trying to fill the gap in my life… My daily message to myself and to anyone who might listen is: the Lord will provide.
Thank you again for your loving heart and your many efforts on my behalf. Thank you for the goodness in your heart and mind and for letting me have some of it.
Much, much love,
Wonderful letter! And here he is now long ago with my dear second baby Annie. I pray he rests in peace now.