If You Believe In Forever, Then Life Is Just A One-night Stand
The night he died, I went to the hospital with a decaf coffee and a buttered Kaiser roll. Wingman had regained enough of his memory after brain surgery to remember commuting to NYC for his film editing job. The Kaiser roll was for "the bus".
He didn't know that we (his brother, our youngest son and myself) had arranged to have him moved to another hospital the following morning. He was sitting in a chair when I arrived-eating mashed potatoes with chocolate pudding that he said was gravy. Our conversation was comical because threads of his memory were coming back like Dumbledore's Pensieve. He talked about climbing a mountain in Canada. He said he spent the day playing Army in the back yard and complained that he had to be the German because his Jewish school friend refused to.
He wanted to go home. He demanded his clothes. He tried to get up because he wanted me to take him with me. I promised that I would go and get his clothes. He couldn't remember my name, but told his aide that I was "the bitch".
Another small part of his memory that had come back to him.
I left angry that night. This was hard. Work was demanding that I stop taking calls from the hospital and his social worker and concentrate on my job. The social worker wanted me to stop working and devote myself to his care-or find someone who would. I remember as I got off the elevator that I almost slipped and fell in front of a group of smiling pregnant Orthodox Jewish women and their husbands on a hospital tour. I hated them for their happiness.
The phone rang that night at 2am. It was the hospital saying that there was "a situation". I asked if we should come and they said to wait. Ten minutes later, they called back and said to come as quickly as possible.
When we got to the hospital, they took my son and I into a small room to let us know that he had passed. I called our other two sons and his brother.
The rest is a story for another day.
Today is not about me. It's more about what he's missed. He's missed seeing two of his sons become dads. Missed knowing three precious grandchildren. He'd be crushed to see how close our grandson is to his only other grandfather Poppy.
He's missed two Yankee potential playoffs. And a couple of Yankee greats dying like Yogi Berra, Don Zimmer and Hideki Irabu. He's missed Derek Jeter retiring and Joe Torre, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettite all getting into Monument Park. Legitimately, not like he did.
He's missed great concerts. The 12/12/12 concert. Paul McCartney. Peter Frampton and the Doobie Brothers. Steely Dan. Hall and Oates. Art Garfunkle. Even the Monkees. And his son is still looking for someone to go see Jeff Beck with again.
If the bands weren't enough, he's missed so many of his favorite musicians dying. Not just Prince and David Bowie, although I know I'd be shaking my head at his playing their songs over and over. No, it's diverse people like Lou Reed, Richie Havens, Joe Cocker, B.B. King and even George Martin that he'd be crying over.
He's missed at least four weddings for the children of our friends. And one for his college roommate. Missed seeing the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years race in town. Missed seeing a new mayor get elected in town. Missed all the political drama that's happening in this year's election.
And he's missed friends who cared about him. One who has had a serious illness. Another who had a freak accident which probably saved his life. People who still talk about him and say "damn, what a shame. I miss him."
Every year, we joke about how right around this time of year, Wingman sends us a sign that he's still around. The first time was the vodka bottle that appeared in a golf bag on the exact one year anniversary. Son #3 still has it. On the second anniversary, the phone rang at 2am-just as it had in 2012. There was no one there, and I spent the rest of the night cursing him out. Last year, the same metal platter that he use to accidentally knock off the wall, fell by itself and damaged the kitchen floor that had just been repaired.
Last night, I threw together what I thought was going to be a witty remembrance of the man while watching his boy Bill give a speech at the Democratic Convention. Just as I rolled my eyes at one of his remarks, the electronic smoke detector in the hall went off. First it was one annoying little chirp. Then it was a couple of quick loud ones. I grabbed a kitchen chair and played with some buttons. Nothing. I got back into bed and groaned at something else Bill said. Again, the alarm started. This time the dog jumped on the bed whining. I checked the attic to make sure there was no fire, and finding nothing, got back into bed just as the speech ended and there was wild applause for the man that would be "First Gentleman".
And I laughed as I realized that as far as this election was going to go, he was going to get the last word in. Wingman, I miss the way you could always make your point. I look forward to your next visit.