The Ol’ Man passed away on Sunday. It was unexpected. It was fast. Heart attack. He didn’t suffer. He went peacefully.
On this blog and Facebook, he was known as the Ol’ Man because he didn’t want me to mention his name on social media. His name was Greg. I called him Greggy boy although he was fifteen years older than me.
For several years, Greg had been ill with a severe case of diverticulitis. He was also an alcoholic. Two years ago, he had to be rushed to the ER due to extreme pain in his abdomen. It turned out to be peritonitis. A fistula had formed by a section of his colon, and it had erupted. He would have died if I hadn’t insisted on calling 911 and take him to the emergency room.
On Sunday morning he complained of flu symptoms, but also a tightness in his chest. He spoke to his mother on the phone, and she urged him to go to the doctor. He ignored her and said he was tired of doctors and medical procedures.
Later he mentioned that breathing was painful when he walked the dogs uphill. It didn’t occur to me to ask for how long he had experienced this. I assumed he meant that morning, which was freezing.
Later, around 1 pm, he wanted to take the dogs on their mountain walk. I said I would do it, but he wanted to go. We decided to take a short walk down the mountain and look at a the waterfall. The distance at most is about a quarter of a mile. When we got there, the dogs ate grass, and he was a little spacey. I didn’t think much of it because I assumed that if he were coming down with the flu, he would act in this manner. So I told him to give me the dogs, I would take them on a longer walk and that he should go home.
He never made it. I found out later from neighbors that it looked like he sat down on the ground to catch his breath and died. He was about three feet from where I had said to him. “I’ll see you when I get home.”
My relationship with Greg was stormy. We argued often. Mostly about money and his drinking. During the last 14 months, though, the situation improved. He had stopped drinking and admitted he was an alcoholic. His outlook on money changed and he began to get serious about our financial security. His attitude towards people also changed. He became friendlier, more open, less cynical, and I saw he was more tolerant of my politics.
We had plans for the future. We wanted to move to Vermont, and we were excited by the idea that we might be able to buy a home. We talked about having an organic garden, getting more dogs, chickens, and even a pig (not to eat, but as an animal-child). We talked about how we would decorate the house. What vegetables we would plant. We planned to go on day trips and find an antique store and buy at least one item for the new house.
We talked about getting a rescue puppy. I knew what I wanted and what I would name it if it were a boy or a girl.
We had dreams of growing old together. We were finally happy with each other.
Greg used to tell me that all his life he sought to be someone he wasn’t. He was captivated by the old monied ways of WASPs. He wanted the life of sailboats, horses, houses in the country, tennis in the morning, and cocktails in the afternoon. In some respect, he managed to get a lot of that, but at a cost. He struggled with money; he became angry and bitter. At some point, though, and it was with me, he realized that what he had would do. When he first told me that “this will do,” I was offended. I interpreted that I was second best, and he was settling. I see now that he was happy with what he had. He didn’t need more or better because what he had achieved what he considered the best.
Four days have passed since he died, and most of the bureaucracy of death is over. Because he passed unattended, an autopsy was performed for the cause of death. I don’t have the results, but it appears it was a heart attack. He is at the funeral home and will be cremated. In February, there will be a memorial in Vero Beach with his sons, brother, sister, their respective spouses, and his mother. I won’t be able to attend because of the expense and the dogs, but I’ll be there in spirit.
I’ve had difficult times in my life. Two breakups that left me humiliated and angry, but the death of a longtime companion is unimaginable and beyond words to describe. There are moments I feel this is all a nightmare. That he’ll be walking through the door, asking me to go outside to show me what he cleared away, or coming over to me with the Drs. Foster and Smith catalog to show me the sweaters he wants to purchase for the Messrs. Bessie and Trumbo.
One of his last happy moments he had was to decorate the Christmas tree. He had obsessed about finding the perfect tree. At one point, he decided he want to buy one but changed his mind, wanting to save the money for presents. Instead, he found two small straggly ones and joined them and went all out decorating it with our favorite ornaments. He was overjoyed with the results and asked me to take a picture so that it would be our Christmas e-card and then he sang to the dogs, “Thanks for the Christmas” his made up song.
I didn’t get the chance to say good-bye only, “I’ll see you when I get home.” What is there to say? I experienced every single emotion with you. Passion, anger, hate. You pushed every single button; you said terrible things to me, and I lashed back in return. But you also knew how to make feel safe, and I adored you. I won’t lie, but I am furious and heartbroken that you went away so soon. I will miss you forever.
So long, Pal.