Monday, August 22, 2016

An Old Torch, Going Out.

An old acquaintance is dying.  He is a couple of years older than me and when we were in high school he was the first chair viola player in both my high school orchestra and our regional Junior Symphony.  He was cute, an excellent musician, and had a good sense of humor.  I played farther back in the viola section in both symphonies and had an enormous crush on him. He probably had no idea, which is just as well. 

As has been the case with almost all of my many crushes, he fell in love with someone else.  The love of his life was a cello player.  I remember, soon after they got together, riding on a bus with the other symphony players on our way to a distant town to play a concert.  I was sitting across the aisle and a little behind.  His sweetheart dozed, her head on his shoulder, his arm wrapped around her.  Her long, straight, honey brown hair glinted with golden highlights in the sunlight filtering through the dirty bus windows.  He looked at her with wonder and satisfaction.  I was jealous and sad.  There was no way to find any fault in it.  She was not spectacularly gorgeous, she was not mean, she was always supportive and sweet. It was simply my misfortune to have ever developed the crush.   She loved him, he loved her, they were lucky souls to have found each other. 

He went on to become a professional musician in a city not many hours from where I now live.  She became a school music teacher there.  We reconnected on facebook some years back.  They had raised two sons, handsome and successful young men.  Their life was not easy, the vagaries of the lives of professional classical musicians and of school teachers is not for the weak.  But they seem to have thrived, lead good lives and to have given a lot their community.  We talked of Oregon, where we were all from, music, and education.  I talked mainly to his wife.  We periodically mentioning my maybe coming up and visiting, but when I did go through their city I was in a hurry passing through on my way to somewhere else.  I never went.  I would have liked to have sat and had a beer and talked about old times, music, education, politics, how to solve the problems of the world and bring joy into people’s lives.  They were like that.

Then about a month ago, maybe two, there was information that he had had a stroke.  He was working on rehab, it was not a terrible stroke, but that recovery was slow. 

Then mentions of continuing difficulties, then YAY he played in a concert, had a ways to go, but there he was with his viola.  Then more appointments, things just not seeming to be going right.

And then…

After more work ups, it turns out he has a terrible incurable fast moving brain disease. He had not had a stroke. His sons and parents and brother (who was also cute and a bit of a crush of mine many decades ago), all zoomed out to visit, while there was productive visiting to be done. 

I offered my access to research information to his wife.  It is a terrible disease though there are some very experimental things out there.  They are nowhere near being tried on humans, and may very well be futile.  She decided not to take advantage of my offer, and that is a perfectly valid choice, perhaps indeed the best choice. 

The plan is for him to stay home, cared for by his wife until she can no longer do it.  He will be gone very soon.

And I have been oddly devastated by this.  I am not entirely sure why. He will be the second of my many crushes to die a terrible death. 

I found out about the other one a few years ago, a year after he had died.  I was shocked. I connected with his sister.  That particular crush had stayed single all of his life.  We had been close friends in college, not boyfriend/girlfriend, but close.  His sister did not even know he had had any close college friends.  Mutual friends said, yeah, that he was a very private person except with me, and I had never realized it. We parted ways when he went off to medical school and I to grad school.  He stayed single and private all of his life, though a good uncle to his sister’s kids, until he died of bone cancer in his early 50’s.  I cried over him too.  Gone forever.

I have not seen the viola player in over 30 years.  I can only imagine what his wife is going through.  She seems to be amazingly strong on fb.  I have no idea if it is just a brave front, but she seems to have a sturdy soul.

Why does this take me to tears?  I do not really know the man who is dying any more.  I do not really know his wife.  We knew each other when we were teenagers.  In social media we seem to have things still in common.  I admired them.  I admire his wife.  They seem to have lead a good life, done good things, improved the world they have lived in.  I suppose he was lucky, until the last few months, to have had the work he loved, a great family, his best friend also being his wife. He had for most of his life these important things that many never have.

Am I mourning the talented teenaged boy who gazed on his love tenderly while she slept?  Am I mourning the end of their (imagined) wonderful life?  Am I feeling sad for that plump, awkward, and nerdy teenaged girl, who also played the viola, who never had any years, any months, any weeks, or even days of a protective arm and a loving gaze?  Am I regretting not having gone to visit them (yes)? Am I putting myself in his wife’s shoes and am imagining the loss of the partner of an entire adult life?  In truth I do wish there was something I could do to give her moral support, other than what I have.

My level of sadness seems inappropriate.  We do all have to die, somehow, sometime, and he had a good life.