I'm usually a pretty upbeat guy, looking at the bright side, enjoying life, approaching the world from the humorous side. Why then, suddenly, was my last post a morose reflection occasioned by the song "Oh My Darling, Clementine"?
At about the same time as I was writing that post, a few days ago, and unbeknownst to me, a good friend of mine suffered a massive heart atttack. He died almost instantaneously. He was just 65 years old.
I didn't find out about it until two days later. So was I having some kind of premonition that something like this might happen?
I know many people our age have lost spouses, friends, even children. It's a shock to the system and, honestly, I just don't know how to respond. We all know we're going to die. But when it happens to someone, to someone we know and love, we are literally at a loss.
My friend knew he lived an uncertain life. Both his parents died when they were in their 60s. When he was younger he was heavy, and he smoked. He had a heart attack when he was in his 40s. He used to joke that he'd suffered his attack about a year after he'd given up smoking . . . as though perhaps that was the reason.
He lost weight, took better care of himself, never had another heart episode. But he signed up for Social Security as soon as he was eligible. There's no reason for me to wait, he commented archly. That would make a bad bet.
Yes, he had a dark sense of humor. B used to call him Eeyore, because he had a rather jaundiced view of life. We'd worked for the same company for a number of years, and he worried about getting laid off for . . . well, for most of the time he was employed there. Then he finally did get laid off. But by then he had built up a pretty good retirement account for himself, and his wife had gone back to work, so financially he was pretty well off.
We'd worked together on occasion. We played golf together and we played poker together. And he used to throw great July 4th parties. He had a pool in his backyard, and we'd go swimming and hang around the deck, and then he and another friend would set off fireworks. He never burned down his house . . . although he did worry about it in his own way.
He liked to read books. He listened to 60s and 70s music. He watched the BBC and liked British humor. He had a collection of canes.
He sold his house only about a month ago and moved with his wife to a retirement condo on the water, near where he grew up around Boston. But it was also two states away from where they'd been living for the past 35 years, and two states away from their two grown daughters. His younger daughter is working and has a boyfriend. His older daughter is also working, and is married and just recently announced that she's expecting a baby. It's sad to think he will never see his grandchild -- just missed it by a few months.
I don't know what his widow will do. Stay where she is? Go back home? She probably doesn't know herself. She's in shock, even more than the rest of us. And so for now, at a loss for words, all I can say is: Goodbye Joe.