A Parting of the Ways…

Yesterday on the evening news there was an item about a man named Fred, who at the age of ninety-six was writing a song about his departed wife Lorraine, to whom he had been married for seventy-three years. Though Fred doesn’t sing or play an instrument, he found some musicians, who used his lyrics to create a recording as a tribute. The song is called “Sweet Lorraine” and has been put on YouTube with photos of Fred and Lorraine through the years. The song has already become a hit on iTunes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTpXI30KLLM

The touching narrative of these two people, so devoted to each other for all those years, is not a new story, but is no less powerful when I think of it in terms of others I’ve known who were together for most of their lives before suffering the loss of a partner through his or her death. The most recent personal example for me was the death of my Uncle John, whose surviving wife is one of my mother’s younger sisters. My Aunt Connie and Uncle John were married for sixty-three years in a loving relationship that was almost symbiotic in the way the two depended one upon the other. Their lives were so intertwined through music, values, and being the patriarch and matriarch of a large family of grown children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, that John’s death created a kind of void, that my aunt is trying desperately to overcome. Her husband’s absence continues to be so potent a force, that my aunt can sometimes hardly accept the fact that John is gone. She even forgets occasionally and picks up the phone to call him at the hospital.

I can only begin to imagine the remnants of their life together crowding in upon my aunt on a daily basis, sometimes bringing with them tears of joy, and other times bringing a crushing sense of grief. Sleeping next to his pillow, playing old recordings of his voice speaking or singing songs they had so often sung together, seeing his clothes still hanging in the closet, smelling his aftershave lotion lingering in the air, and seeing photographs everywhere of their life together since before 1950. These things make me wonder how many widows and widowers must be in emotional distress through grief the rest of us can hardly realize. In physical terms, such grief must be like having one’s legs or arms removed so that life would feel so restricted, that even the motivation to breathe would be impaired.  I think also of my own parents, who would this year have been married for sixty-nine years.

I remember too, my maternal grandfather’s death in 1985, and the photos of my grandmother afterward, her face having lost forever the vitality and gaiety it had always shown before she lost the dearest person in her life. So many are never the same again after such a terrible loss. There is even a physical transformation.

Anyone, who knows a man or woman whose life partner has recently been taken, should have a deep sympathy and a readiness to be available to help the survivor get through this toughest of emotional perplexities that life can present to the human psyche.  JB

About John

John Bolinger was born and raised in Northwest Indiana, where he attended Ball State University and Purdue University, receiving his BA and MA from those schools. Then he taught English and French for thirty-five years at Morton High School in Hammond, Indiana before moving to Colorado. He spends his winters in Pompano Beach, Florida. Besides COME SEPTEMBER, Journey of a High School Teacher, John's other books are ALL MY LAZY RIVERS, an Indiana Childhood, and COME ON, FLUFFY, THIS AIN'T NO BALLET, a Novel on Coming of Age, all available on Amazon.com as paperbacks and Kindle books. Alternately funny and touching, COME SEPTEMBER, conveys the story of every high school teacher’s struggle to enlighten both himself and his pupils, encountering along the way, battles with colleagues, administrators, and parents through a parade of characters that include a freshman boy for whom the faculty code name is “Spawn of Satan,” to a senior girl whose water breaks during a pop-quiz over THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Through social change and the relentless march of technology, the human element remains constant in the book’s personal, entertaining, and sympathetic portraits of faculty, students, parents, and others. The audience for this book will certainly include school teachers everywhere, teenagers, parents of teens, as well as anyone who appreciates that blend of humor and pathos with which the world of public education is drenched. The drive of the story is the narrator's struggle to become the best teacher he can be. The book is filled with advice for young teachers based upon experience of the writer, advice that will never be found in college methods classes. Another of John's recent books is Mum's the Word: Secrets of a Family. It is the story of his alcoholic father and the family's efforts to deal with or hide the fact. Though a serious treatment of the horrors of alcoholism, the book also entertains in its descriptions of the father during his best times and the humor of the family's attempts to create a façade for the outside world. All John's books are available as paperbacks and Kindle readers on Amazon, and also as paperbacks at Barnes & Noble. John's sixth and most recent book, Growing Old in America: Notes from a Codger was released on June 15, 2014.
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