This picture is of her face puckered up just before the laughter.
How do I do justice to all the love and all the memories. RobinM was not often in the comments because so often our conversation was already happening, and many a time she put up with my day’s blog post being a second draft of what she and I had already talked about.
We met through a knitting list long ago and occasionally emailed, and then more and more as we discovered more connections. She lived so close to where I grew up that when I said the name of the street in Maryland, she went, Oh! Which house?
And when she found out where I live now, she exclaimed that she’d once lived within view of my street here, in a home she would later point out to me. Small world.
Then her husband became ill and our conversations became a daily, ongoing thing.
The night he died in hospice care at home, she sat down at the computer to let me know the news. She has missed him deeply ever since, and from time to time has mentioned how she felt guided by him still, that whenever she wanted to know the right thing to do she thought about what he would say–and that when she did, he never steered her wrong.
I tried to be a comfort and a friend and so many times now she has been a better one to me and she grew into a very dear part of my life. With her brother living here and my family (for a time) still back there, we were able to get together in person every year or two.
She marveled, my first time at her house, that her dog, a Westie rescue and a shy dog at the time whom she said had never warmed up to any strangers immediately, he took to me as if we’d been best friends forever and I felt the same, sweet puppy, appreciative of his compliment; at the last he put his head down in my lap with a happy sigh and fell asleep.
“He never does that!” She was both astonished and admiring.
And I found I adored her in person as well.
That was about ten years ago.
She caught pneumonia recently, and in someone fifteen years older than me this is not a good thing. When things didn’t seem to be going well, I urged her to call her doctor, but instead she went to the ER, probably a better idea. They sent her home, and she seemed to feel like been there settled that. But from there on out she was suddenly sounding very different, just short notes, a sentence or two, and it felt from my end as if she could barely get the breath to sit up and type.
Then came a note asking if purple swollen feet were normal. For her not to be able to think clearly, or at least that’s how it sounded, was a huge change, and with a symptom like that, I tried not to sound as alarmed as I felt as I told her that congestive heart failure or kidney failure can cause those. (She knew I had gone through temporary bouts of both and could speak to the subject.)
I wondered whether to call her brother. She called her daughter and son-in-law. They had quite the drive but they came right away.
I got up this morning and ran to the computer first thing, highly aware of our three-hour time difference, to see if there were any news. The last message had been from Robin in the ER several days ago, waiting for a room to be checked into. Cardiac, tests were being run, was all she said.
And then nothing. I hoped it was that she simply didn’t have a device with her that she could respond from and I knew the hospital wouldn’t give me her room number to put a call through.
There it was, waiting: a mixture of grieving and wistfulness and love and one last bit of hope. And so her daughter had my email address.
Within the hour she was sending a second note and the news was different this time. But the love, it felt only stronger.
She told me a little of what it had been like to be at her mother’s side in her last few moments, a story that is hers to tell, and I can only hope I do right by my own mother like that come the day.
And just like her mother: she had sat down shortly after her unfathomable loss to let me of all people know her family’s news. I cannot begin to say how much that means to me.
My own daughter drove over briefly to give me a big hug.
At the last, opening the fridge at 5:00, one of us simply had to go do the grocery shopping. It felt just too strange. Richard wasn’t feeling well so I said I would.
I hadn’t been to Costco in weeks. I wondered whether I would run into someone I knew and how I would do when it was all just so soon.
Turns out I did, though, and it was a couple my kids knew well when they were teens. They were in the middle of selling their house and moving away and were glad to get to let me know and since they had enough on their plate it was easy to smile and cheer them on and just be glad we’d gotten to see each other. Serendipity.
And so I almost made it through.
I found myself turning and turning and threading my way down aisles I don’t normally go through to get towards the front and was quite surprised to find myself behind a line with only two people ahead. On a Saturday near closing? How does that happen?
The clerk turned my direction a moment and suddenly I saw who it was. Oh cool: he’s such a nice guy. I really had lucked out.
When I was up, he looked me in the eye and told me it was good to see me and that it had been awhile. (He noticed?!) “And how is your day today?”
It wasn’t a throwaway line; he clearly meant it, and as his hands passed the groceries across the scanner, that word ‘today’ and the complete caring in his demeanor just did me in.
“It’s been fine…” was all I meant to say, and then, “except that one of my best friends died this morning.”
A long, quiet, Oooh escaped him. He grieved.
She had had pneumonia, I explained quickly, not wanting to hold up the line behind me but not wanting to leave this good man unhappy, And she hadn’t been sounding like herself. Her daughter drove four hours with her husband to be by her mother’s side and took her to the hospital. Her heart gave out this morning. Her daughter was right there with her. She was not alone.
That mattered to him. I thanked him and hoped out loud for him to have a good day.
He handed me my receipt just so such that three of his large fingers closed gently over mine for one, two heartbeats, as we saw each other eye to eye. Those thanks went both ways.
And I left feeling like, I don’t need to write to Robin to tell her that or to miss being able to. She already knows, right now. She might even have steered me to that man’s line where he was all ready to truly hear.
And to be fully present.
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