Saturday, August 30, 2008

He Needed Me . . .

It was 1977. I was 33 years too young. And living in a small, wood-fired cottage in the foothills above the Connecticut River Valley in Massachusetts.

It was a funny sort of house, you know. Built into the side of a hill with the living room, kitchen and den on the upper floor and the bedrooms, bath rooms and laundry on the ground floor. Sliding glass doors opened onto a deck and woods. We had enjoyed all the seasons there: days spent cross-country skiing from that deck right into the woods. Packing gorp. Oranges. Apples. Enough for a day of skiing and home to a slow-cooker that eased a comforting aroma throughout the house. Our skiis were the 'old fashioned' kind that needed waxing. A small frustration to most skiers but I loved the job of figuring out the exact wax for the right temp and snow/ice conditions.

But that funny house was for sale in August of that year.

Dick my heart. My husband. The love of my life had gone to Ohio to begin a new job for a new corporation called, Guardian Unlimited, that was to be a moving force in 'cleaning' up an emptying the state institution in Columbus. Amy, my first child. My beautiful daughter just 12 years old had flown to Ohio to be with her dad when the new school year started. We had always lived in small villages and towns; in Ohio Amy would be in a large urban school and we were concerned. Starting school on the first day seemed to be the best plan so I bought an airline ticket from Hartford CT to Columbus Ohio for her. She and Dick would be staying with friends, also recent transplants from Massachusetts to Ohio until we sold our house in Massachusetts and our new house in Columbus was ready.

Really, this had been a very strange summer. Not at all typical. In June, Amy, 12 and Shelly, 15 flew by TWA from Boston to Los Angeles to spend two weeks with a favorite great aunt 'Nita. Amy was barely home when Dick left for the long drive to Columbus and the start of a new career. The morning he left, his car packed for the long trip, I stood at the door to say, 'goodbye'. I was overwhelmed by the thought that I would never see him again. More than a 'thought', it was an all-encompassing feeling, a sudden knowledge of 'alone-ness'.

I was only 19 when we married. A mere child. A slip of a girl. He was 26. And he was my life. My savior. My best friend. My only love and only lover. He loved me best. Always and ever. I thought I'd never see him again. Never feel his arms around me. . . or his lips on mine. Again. Ever.

In fact, I did make one trip to Columbus to look at real estate. We spent the weekend looking at homes in areas that frightened me, that I had no interest in living in. But I was a good scout and a faithful wife and I looked and looked and together we found a house and made a deposit and an offer.

Dialing forward to August 30 1977. I made a call to Dick late in the afternoon to report that our house had sold. An offer had been made and accepted; I had signed the papers and they were on their way to Ohio for his signature. I gleefully reported that I would soon join him and Amy. But he was too busy to talk; he said how pleased he was but that he was playing basketball with friends from work and needed to run .. .. .. to meet them for the game .. .. .. .. .. I finished up a few odd bits of work and left the office for home. It was a short drive really and I was soon there . . . in time to freshen up for dinner.

Dick's secretary had just died a sudden, sad death from cancer. She had a lover, an Episcopal minister who I had done some work with .. .. .. I knew Jack was hurting and had invited him for dinner that evening of August 30. Jack arrived on time. But I couldn't leave the house saying that I felt a strange feeling....a pain.....something......could we just sit awhile before leaving? Of course, Jack agreed.

I don't believe I was very good company that little while before the phone rang and the news that "Dick has had a heart attack". . . . "taken to a hospital". . . "stay where you are" . . . . "I will call as soon as I have more information".

There has never been one moment when I doubted that my body knew his distress. His pain. That a strong, invisible connection held us together in a mysterious, no spiritual way. That was what held me there in the house that evening.

Moments before the call came, I 'knew' he needed me. . . . but I could not help. Within a few minutes -- 30 or so? -- another call came from the hospital saying that Dick had died.

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