My first husband, Bob, and I met in January, 1974, and were married by that April, a country wedding arranged by his favorite Aunt, complete with a pig roasted luau style. It was a great party, easy going, much the same way that he was.
Together we raised two children, not always agreeing on child rearing. But what couple does? We had our usual share of disagreements but not many fights to speak of. When we did argue we would end up laughing about who would get the children. We each said almost simultaneously, “You take the kids, I'll take the dogs.” And then it would be over.
Bob had the good fortune of being one of those people who could say whatever he wanted and get away with it. He had the rare gift of wit. To this day I still believe he was one of the funniest men I have ever known. Dana Carvey or Robin Williams funny. His secret desire was to be a stand up comedian, but due to shyness this would never happen. And he could never tell a joke without making himself laugh halfway through it.
When we owned service stations there was an old woman who would come in every day and buy cigarettes. Her face was completely wrinkled and she appeared extremely frail. Bob had all the attendants believing that she was twenty-five years old and was wrinkled due to her use of amphetamines. When she came in they used to shake their heads and tell us how sorry they felt for her. The two of us would stifle back giggles and roll our eyes. His always twinkled with glee when he knew had pulled one over on someone. In retrospect maybe he did those kids a favor by inadvertently teaching them the effects of drugs.
Many times we would attend award dinners held for all the station owners. By this time many of the businesses were owned by Iranians. On one occasion while seated at our table and surrounded by turbaned people, Bob fashioned a typical headscarf worn by these men out of two large white napkins, and sat straight faced while everyone around us broke up laughing, even the Iranians. He could make anyone laugh, mostly at themselves, but never maliciously.
One day our daughter, Erin came home from work and questioned him as to where he had gotten some French fries that he was eating. He told her a story about a homeless man who had come to the door explaining how he had wanted to get off the streets and start his own business. He said he decided to sell French fries door-to-door. Bob told Erin that this man asked him to try them free of charge, in order to gain his opinion of them. My daughter accepted this explanation without question and proceeded to relay the story to everyone at work the next day. She came home and told him that the people at work thought he was crazy to accept these fries from a homeless man. Only then did he tell her it was a joke. He also realized how naive Erin was and to be more careful with what he told her in the future.
There was hardly a dinner at which our son, Jack would not spew milk from his nose brought on by some shenanigan of his dad. When Jack's friends came to visit Bob when he was ill, his face would light up. We both loved to hear their teenage banter. One of my son's fondest memories of his parents was the laughter that he could hear coming from our room at night. Quite often I would be miffed because I needed to go to sleep in preparation for work the next day, and then he would say one more thing that would set me off on a laughing fit, making sleep difficult. Often I would start laughing at work over something he had said the night before.
There were times that he would call the dental office where I worked and substituting a foreign accent for his voice proceed to speak to one of the girls at the front desk, as if he wanted to make an appointment. I could tell that it was him by the questions they were asking and the quizzical looks on their faces. Mostly, they had trouble understanding him and after several minutes of trying to answer his questions would put him on hold and say, “Would you talk to this guy? I can't understand his accent.” I would take the call and usually tell him to stop doing this because it just might get me fired. But the girls actually loved it. He made them laugh during their work day, and I think that egged him on more.
Even though he was in constant pain, he started watching the cooking channel. Because of that he became quite a good cook and started surprising me with some amazing meals, like home made ravioli and delicious soups. Bob was not one to skimp and bought all the gadgets he needed to prepare meals, some of which I thought we could have done without, but now, years later, still come in handy. The girls I worked with would get so jealous when I told them what I had for dinner the previous night.
Before you think that our life together was one jolly holiday, let me insert the fact that no marriage is perfect. We had many ups and downs, weathering many a storm. Somehow, we always made it back to the dock.
A blink of an eye, the turn of a heel as you walk out the door. That's all it takes for someone to leave you. In my case it was Bob. He died nine years ago on October 23, 2002, age 54. It's not like we weren't expecting it. He had been ill for a long time, sixteen years out of our twenty eight year marriage. But whether expected or not, death always appears to arrive suddenly, without warning.
Between May and October of that year he had been hospitalized fourteen times due to congestive heart failure and diabetes. I don’t think more details are necessary here.
The day before he died, I got a call at work about 3:00 p.m., informing me that Bob was being taken to the hospital again. It may appear that I didn't care, of course I did, but I decided to finish out my day at work. Due to experience I knew it would take that long for him to be admitted, which turned out to be correct.
I sat with him the entire evening. Most of the time, I don't think he knew I was there. This had happened before so I was not overly concerned. I always believed I would know when he was going to leave, and this time seemed no different from any other. At midnight the doctor said Bob would most likely sleep through the night thanks to the sedatives they had given him, and I should go home. I decided he was probably right. I kissed his cheek, touched his arm and said, “I'll see you in the morning.” He blinked his eyes and nodded, as if to say, “Yes.”
Those were my last words to him. We got the call to come to the hospital at 5:00 a.m. I often think about the fact that so many people pass around this time of day.
I have often laid much blame on myself for not being with him when he died. Many people have told me that this was the way he wanted it. That he wouldn't have been able to go if I were there, and he needed to be at peace and free from pain.
For a few years I would dream of him often, and sometimes in the dreams he gave me valuable financial advice, which I readily heeded. This advice always procured a positive result. Something that my dreams had in common was that there were always blue butterflies fluttering about. I have read that these beautiful creatures symbolize joy, hope and re-birth. I like to believe that this is true.
© Christine Geery 2011