Saturday, March 28, 2009

Long Way To Go

When we moved into this house a few years ago, one of the things we got used to seeing was this one guy from maybe six or seven doors down walking a big wooly dog around the neighborhood. Never really got to know him, can't say we ever spoke except to roll down the window and say hello, but he was the kind of walker who would smile at a car driving by and sometimes give a little wave, a reassuring part of the scenery.

Turns out he had cancer, diagnosed about five years ago and the prognosis at that time was that he had five years to live. He had a wife and a young son and I'd say about a year ago the nightly walks with the dog stopped, and he dropped out of sight. Window blinds frequently closed, cars coming and going at odd intervals.

We're friendly with the people who live across the street, and more often than not when we were over there so was this man's son, while he was off getting some kind of treatment and trying as hard as he could to stay alive a little longer, his wife shuttling him back and forth to the city or somewhere else. They were both teachers and she was trying to make it all work. The job, the son, the husband and his grave illness.

I saw him probably six or seven months ago, driving by on my way to work, walking very slowly between his front door and car, extremely thin, using a cane to brace every step. It was terrible to see, he was dying.

I pass their house on the way out of our development every morning, and on the way back every night, and occasionally when my mind wasn't somewhere else I'd look at the new siding they'd recently put up and think about what they were dealing with inside, wonder what he was doing or thinking, trying to fight for life while coming to terms with the inevitable. What must it be like, to know. The last falling of the leaves you are likely to see, the last cool October night. The recognition that the rusty towel bar in the bathroom that always annoyed the hell out of you is destined to have the last laugh. Envying the permanence of trees.

A few months ago things seemed to be looking up, at least for the moment. The experimental regimen he'd undergone had helped him put on some weight, he looked almost normal again. Gwen said she'd heard he was doing well.

She called me at work Thursday and in a trembling voice said that as the big yellow school bus pulled up that afternoon they were taking him out of the house on a stretcher, ambulance waiting, he'd taken a severe turn for the worse. His son got off the bus to see the paramedics wheeling his father down the front walk, oxygen mask on his face, I can't even imagine.

He died the next morning. Since then there have been large collections of cars parked outside the house, paying respects and gathering to grieve. We talked to the girls about it and they seem to grasp what has happened, very focused as one might imagine on the man's young son, Jack.

"He's 8, Dad," Madison told me in the car earlier today. "He's in third grade."

"Is that right," I said. "Third grade?"

"Yeah. He has a long way to go without a Dad."

The line hit me hard in the moment and it's still here right now, exactly as she said it. Ten words. Perfect, terrible and real.

He has a long way to go without a Dad.

Cherish every moment. Every breath.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Google Doodle

Been going way too long between posts these days and I'm not trying to imply that this really qualifies as a meaningful entry, but just wanted to mark the first day of spring - which arrived along with snow flurries - and mainly to salute Google for maybe the best and most relevant "Doodle" to ever grace a computer screen in our house, courtesy of the brilliant and beloved Eric Carle.

Showed the image to both Madison and Ava this morning and they were able to identify the source immediately, with no prompting and no clues. Reading someone's books a few hundred times on the way to bed will build that kind of recognition.

Happy spring.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Game That Has Taken Over Our House

And Ava, who is all of 6, has firmly established herself as Family Champion.

Absolutely ruthless in her use of +4 wild cards, and ability to "catch" players who fail to declare "Uno" at the appropriate time.