Just prior to Easter, I lost a friend who loved me. I would have dropped in on Harold on Sunday. I did this regularly with Cheetos and Cutie tangerines. He loved this. If he hadn’t chosen to leave us on Good Friday, I would have seen him again. Good Friday was as good a day as any day to leave, I suppose. Just between storms, and accompanied by Jesus.
Often, I would breeze in during my weekly visit, to hear him questioning God: “I don’t know why I’ve made it this long?” To this I would reply, “It’s not up to us. We are here for a reason.” It had been about three years since his wife had passed on, and he missed her dearly.
At about eighty years old, Harold loved telling me about his condition: “I have an epileptic, epidemic, emadema, semaquaver.” He and I would laugh heartily. Then he would make me say this five times fast and we’d laugh some more. Even through the pain and depression, Harry could always muster up some humor, a smile, and gratitude. I think this is Admirable.
His smile, positivity, and kindness is what I will remember. He was so good to me when I was a young mother driving the Border Station route. Driving bus was something we shared for a few years. It was a life work he had loved and completed honorably for 53 years. He’d say, “It was the kids that made it good!” As a teacher, I could easily nod and agree.
I’d taken up visiting Harold after Granny died last Spring. He needed me and I needed him, and visiting the homebound felt more like true worship than attending an anemic church meeting. Before I took up visiting Harry, I remember some of the last visits I’d paid to Granny at the Family Tree facility. One of these involved stopping to cut fresh lilacs from the backyard of the old house next to the Adkins mink farm. Granny didn’t last long after those Spring visits.
I have developed a three year theory. I have grown to believe that a surviving spouse will not last much longer than three years beyond their deceased husband or wife. My mother only lived three years beyond my father, and Granny only lasted three years in the rest home. When she left us in June, I was in Arizona visiting Che’. I was conflicted whether to fly home for the funeral or not.
I decided I would stay in Arizona, instead, and then I flew Delanie to Phoenix to be with us, where we celebrated life. I think Granny understood. I would much rather remember other happier memories like eating grilled cheese sandwhiches and Campbell’s tomato soup together, taking naps on her quilted bed, and listening to her recite poetry like “The Little Dog Under the Wagon.” Reciting gave her such satisfaction.
I wonder now…How is Harold’s dog, Portia, doing without her companion? She was his truest friend and would not leave him. She loved and begged me to pet her behind her ears. She loved me to feed her Cheetos and quickly grew to know my Sunday hailing as I walked up the plywood ramp, knocked, and turned the ancient doornob. What would that red healer dog be doing now? I am sad for Portia.
When I drove down the old road yesterday to run Angel to a friend’s house, what I saw made me quite ill. There, not more than a few days later, tossed upside down in a construction dumpster in the front yard was Harold’s old Lazy Boy Lift Chair. This made me so sad. It was the one he had grown accustomed to never leaving these last few months of immobility.
“I wondered…Oh death, where is thy sting?” Paused, thought, and answered myself, “In the pain and loneliness of enduring old age.” I think Life too often holds the sting. Death, the promise of relief and all things new and limitless. Or could it be the mindset we keep as companion.
I heard the viewing was tonight. I couldn’t bring myself to go. The funeral is tomorrow. I am curious and would love to hear the stories that will be shared there. I know there are some good ones, and I would hope the choicest bus driving ones would surface, but I won’t be going. I can’t bring myself to attending another one of those funerals of a certain kind. Besides, I’d never find a substitute to take my class at the last minute, regardless of who was dieing or who had died….myself included. This is a harsh judgement. I know. It’s okay, though. Harold would probably tell me to “Stay at school with the kids,” anyway. This is wise.
And so I will choose to remember Harold Pace Hobson, as a “Jolly Rancher,” as a kind, inclusive mentor busdriver friend, who let kids ride on “the doghouse” engine cover, next to the stick shifter, and as a driver who wasn’t afraid to let a kid know who is in charge….even if it meant stopping and throwing every last trouble maker out over the snow bank until they returned crying and repentant. But I think what I will remember most is how he would say his goodbyes at the end of the Monday Meetings at the garage: “Guess I’ll go feed the magpies!” he would joke. And then he would go milk the cows.
I’m going to miss Harry and our time together on Sundays. I think he’s happier now. He’s gone to greener pastures and is somewhere farming again with his sweetheart, Carol. Bye, Harry, my friend. I Love you.