Coming back home from my run this morning, I noticed there were an awful lot of cars at the neighbor's house, especially for 7:00 in the morning.
Billy (the neighbor) had been in the hospital for about a month. He'd gone in for some routine bloodwork and they found that he had cancer, but they couldn't find where. Turns out most of it was in his brain. He was also diabetic and had all kinds of complications from that. He quickly went downhill.
We'd all grown up together. Billy's three daughters Sandy, Jennifer and Becky; me and my two brothers; and the two kids in the house on the other side of ours. We'd spent countless summer days riding bikes, playing cards, kickball... Mostly just tormenting the shit out of each other - in good fun. A great crew of kids and a wonderful way to grow up. We've lost touch over the years, but I guess that's what happens in life.
Billy was the "guy" Dad. Always working in the yard - shirt off, beerbelly hanging out. He kept tabs on everyone. If he got your ear, you were in for at least 45 minutes worth of conversation. He kept up on my running, too. More than my own family. He'd be outside walking his beagle and always want to know how far I'd gone, which race I was training for. He'd tell me stories of when he was in the Army and liked to try and run faster than the black guys ("And I always beat them!")
This morning as I made my way back to the house, I saw Jennifer standing in the front yard, smoking a cigarette.
"My Dad died this morning."
"I'm so sorry..."
"Yeah - I was working. Didn't get to see him."
"Just sucks so much, ya know?"
I tried to remember what people said to me when my Dad died. The fact that I can't remember probably means it wasn't that important. What helped most was just being able to talk to someone - anyone - and have them listen.
I remember the day my Dad died and how we all just sat around in the livingroom, not knowing what to do or say. I guess that's what they're doing over there now. Alternating between tears and laughter. And an overall sense of numbness. Hard to put words to the feelings, just a shared sense of mystery, of shared grief.
It's been kind of gray and gloomy all day today. Except for a minute or so this morning when the sun burst through the sky, and seemed to flood my entire living space in radiance. A warmth. A sense of calm.