04 May 2014

Out West

My dad had a classmate in grad-school - a fellow physicist. His name was Bobby. They and their buddies were 1960s versions of The Big Bang Theory. As time passed, Bobby and his wife, Bonnie, became friends of my mom and dad.

I was born, their first son was born, then along came my brother and their younger son. We moved, they moved, but the families remained friends.

As children, we played and argued. As teens we were thrown together for family dinners. Bobby and Bonnie's boys were more like cousins to me, than friends. I never really stopped to think about whether or not I liked them. They were just family.

Time passed.

When we moved across country right after my high school graduation, my mom gave away my cat, Cleo. I loved Cleo and she was a sweet cat, but my mom didn't want to take her with us. I was heartbroken. But Bonnie stepped in and found a good home for Cleo - with a kind family that had just lost their old cat.

Just before we left, Bonnie took me out to lunch. It seemed a bit odd that my mom's friend was taking me to lunch, but she had helped with Cleo, so I went. She was emotional and terribly kind, and at that time, I didn't fully understand how much she understood my situation.

More time passed.

I became a single mom at the age of 20 and everyone I knew over the age of 30 was disappointed and unkind to me. Everyone except for Bonnie and her family. She just kept telling me that God loved me and my little baby.

Years later, after I'd married my husband, had a little girl, and was pregnant with another, my family was making it's own cross-country move. We stopped in Albuquerque as Bobby and Bonnie were now living there. We had a lovely dinner with them and their two now-grown sons, and it was as if no time had passed.

And that was it. We were in Maine and they were in New Mexico, and although we kept in touch through Christmas cards, and sporadically over email, they just became another set of names in my address book.

But one doesn't forget the sort of kindness they showed me.

Several years ago, Bonnie sent me a letter forwarded from the friend who had taken Cleo. My sweet kitty had lived to the ripe old age of 19 and the family wanted me to know about all her happy life. Bonnie is the kind of person to make sure that note got to me.

On Wednesday of this past week, I received a phone call from Bonnie. She had misplaced my dad's phone number and needed to get in touch with him because Bobby had passed away.

I was shocked. I mean, I knew he had been sick - for years - but we never really expect to get that phone call, you know? Bonnie and I talked for a while, cried, and hung up, with my promise to call my dad immediately.

The funeral was planned for that Friday (two days later) and as the day wore on, something nudged me - I felt like I needed to be at that funeral. My dad and I spoke and he said Bonnie had asked him to speak at the service, but he wasn't sure if he could get away on such short notice. I told him I wanted to go and he said he'd go if I went.

I looked at flights for the next morning, when I'd have to leave, and on such short notice, they were WAY out of my price range. So my dad offered to fly me there. By now it was nearly 6 p.m. and if I went, I'd have a 7 a.m. flight. I thought back at how kind Bonnie was to me and I knew I needed to go. I owed her this - to do her a kindness in her time of need.

Appointments were canceled, work was rearranged, and I had to bow out of a weekend event I'd promised to attend. I had to be in Syracuse today (Sunday) to pick up my daughter from school, so I'd fly there instead of drive, and we could rent a van and drive it back to Maine.

It would all work out.

And it did.

It was as if no time had passed. Yet Bonnie was older. Twenty years older. And Bobby was gone. Their two sons are adult men on the outside, though when I look into their eyes I still see the boys I knew all those years ago.

It was inconvenient and expensive and rushed and crazy. But it was also priceless. We hugged them as they said good-bye to a husband and father. We laughed as we remembered old family times together. We held their hands as they cried.

I can't begin to express how glad I am that I went.

Saying good-bye is hard. But saying good-bye with old friends and family nearby makes it just a little bit easier to bear - for everyone involved.

Copyright © 2014 - Paulla Estes


Robin said...

I'm sorry for your loss. :( I was a single mom at 20. I understand how the kindness of one person makes a difficult situation bearable.

I hope the trip home from college with your daughter was fun! My daughter will be home Saturday!

Janet said...

Well said. You have a gift for words.