Here it is 5:27 AM, 25 August 2015, and I, like dgood648, I’m thinking about the past, present, and future all at the same time, Barb’s and mine. For a half-century we’ve taken each other for granted, sort of. But the wear and tear of time has taken its toll, and the odds are that one of us is going to be left behind to face the world. What will it be like? Only those who have been there and done that truly know, and dgood648 seems to speak with a voice of authority.
I’ve never truly grieved. Not for my parents, or my grands. I’ve always pushed that emotion aside, because there didn’t seem to be enough time. But I’ve watched Barb experience it with her mother, then here father, and finally her older brother. In each instance I’ve given her time and space to sort things out.
But how do others deal with grief when it’s someone close, a mate, a sibling, or a parent. I had a late friend, a retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant. He was tough as a horseshoe. He lived the last few decades of his life roughing it in a Pie Town, New Mexico park belonging to the county. Why? Maybe it was his many years serving in World War II, Korea, and then Vietnam, and surviving without the creature comforts most of us take for granted. He owned a house not a mile from the park, but I always found him at Jackson Park sleeping in a cramped travel trailer when he was tired, occupying a lawn chair drinking beer and staring into the orange flames of his campfire when he was not.
I, too, spent some time at Pie Town, because Barb and I own property nearby. And in the years we visited our remote eleven acres I never learned anything about Gunny’s wife, or his family, that is, until his 30-something daughter met an untimely death.
One evening I found him at Jackson Park. Having ridden a motorcycle from Dallas, more than 700 miles, I was weary and glad to find his campfire. I grabbed his spare lawn chair and moved in close to the fire, but I said nothing, not even hello, nor did he. A quarter-hour may have passed when he looked across the fire, tears streaming down his cheeks. “It’s not natural that our kids go before us,” he said.
Not another word was spoken. When it was time, he went to his trailer and closed the door. I unrolled my sleeping bag and whiled away the night dozing and considering the words he’d spoken.
I never saw Gunny again, but his words had said it all. Barb isn’t my daughter. She is the best friend, and what was I doing wasting these precious moments by myself. This seemed crazy. Gunny wasn’t up, when I rode the 14 miles to Quamato for breakfast. Then, with a full belly and all the coffee I could hold, I mounted up and headed back for Dallas, vowing never to leave home again without my bride.
And I never left home again without her.