Where do I begin?

January 1971. An 11 year old boy snuck into his father’s room after school to stare in fascination at the calendar he had hanging on the wall. I – ooops…HE….(hahahahaha) had first observed the object of his current fascination a week before when bringing his dad a cold bottle of 7-up on a Saturday night while he was listening to the radio and reading. Unsure of whether or not his dad had forgotten the calendar was there, the lad couldn’t get those pictures out of his mind! So, over the next week, he snuck into the room to try and burn the images into his mind! Well, maybe THAT’S where I developed my photographic memory! (Of course it was me!) Regardless, THAT was the week my fascination with the opposite sex began…oh, Miss June!

Oddly enough, it was also about the same time I began to be prepared for the heartbreak that comes with the territory. In early 1971, the hottest movie of the year hit our local theatres. The commercials were all over the airwaves…the song was equally omnipresent, and, in my opinion, Ali MacGraw was just as beautiful as Miss June! Love Story is one of the greatest chick flicks of all time and inspired several imitations (Steel Magnolias for example) and spoofs (see Family Guy and the “Chick Cancer” episode). I didn’t actually get to see this movie for another 13 years until it came out on video disc (no, not DVD…video disc – look them up!), but it was one of the first movies my wife and I rented for our new technology. I surprised her by singing words to the instrumental theme. She didn’t know they existed. I, however, lived in a house where music was king! Dad loved his country and bluegrass, mom loved big band, jazz, swing, and gospel, my oldest sister loved Broadway, and my brothers enjoyed rock. Andy Williams took the “Love Story Theme” to #1 on the Easy Listening chart, and as high as #9 on the Billboard Hot 100!

How the hell was I supposed to know this movie and song would define my life?

Where do I begin
To tell the story of how great a love can be
The sweet love story that is older than the sea
The simple truth about the love she brings to me
Where do I start

With her first hello
She gave new meaning to this empty world of mine
There’d never be another love, another time
She came into my life and made the living fine
She fills my heart

She fills my heart with very special things
With angels’ songs, with wild imaginings
She fills my soul with so much love
That anywhere I go I’m never lonely
With her around, who could be lonely
I reach for her hand, it’s always there

How long does it last
Can love be measured by the hours in a day
I have no answers now but this much I can say
I know I’ll need her ’till the stars all burn away
And she’ll be there

How long does it last
Can love be measured by the hours in a day
I have no answers now but this much I can say
I know I’ll need her ’till the stars all burn away
And she’ll be there

Even more fitting is the fact that the brilliant poet who wrote the lyrics for this song, Francis Lai, was born the same week as I, but 28 years earlier, and died just nine months after my wife. Damn.

Yes, I’m having a rough week. After Ginger passed, I did go out and ride. I rode for five consecutive days, (my first rides outdoors in over two weeks) running my streak of consecutive months with at least one ride of a metric century (62 miles long) to 22 months on Saturday in brutal cold and wind. I thought it would help. It didn’t.

I took to the treadmill as well, running two miles every day for over a week at increasing speeds. My cardio vascular system and muscle tone responded well. My mind did not.

My kegerator is empty because the three Scotch Ales I normally keep in stock are out of production at the moment. Probably a good thing. Instead, I have turned to the remaining bottled store I have in my basement – Robert the Bruce from 3 Floyds in Indiana, Brewers Reserve from Central Waters in Wisconsin, Backwoods Bastard from Founders in Michigan, Sheep Shagger from Tyranena in Wisconsin, 90 Shilling from BelHaven in Scotland….and, of course, some 14 year old Single Malt Glenfiddich Scotch Whiskey and some 4 year old Templeton Rye Whiskey from Templeton, Iowa (a distillery I once visited on RAGBRAI). Of course I didn’t drink them all at once, nor more than three in a single day. Regardless, there was no respite to be had in my bottled friends either. Apparently my tolerance has significantly increased, or my pain is off the charts. I believe it is a combination of both.

On Saturday, at 4:12 pm we were in the middle of dinner, trying to celebrate her life on the second anniversary of her passing. I literally had to choke down my food, recalling those final moments as she gasped for breath, fighting to the last. Recalling the final “I love you” she spoke to each of us over the last week. Recalling Ginger’s final moments as she rolled over and kissed my face, thanking me for releasing her from pain.

My parents are dead. My grandparents are dead. All but five of my aunts and uncles (out of 26!) are dead. My dogs are dead. And my wife…my best friend…my comforter in chief is dead. Who the HELL is going to release me from my pain?

As a cyclist, I learned to use cue sheets – a typed out guide to where you are going, with distances and turn by turn directions marked to make sure you get there. I then learned to use GPS on my Garmin or smartphone to check my position and the best way to get to where I wanted to go. Invaluable tools. In the past nine years since I started cycling “hardcore” I have mashed out nearly 51000 miles. I have logged nearly 1100 rides. In all of that mileage and all of those rides, I literally got lost precisely….once. Once.

In 2014 my wife and I were proud to travel to the UK to help plan, organize, and take part in our daughter’s wedding to a lad from Newcastle. We spent well over a month there and actually got out to ride in between times. My God it was marvelous! I was able to ride around my ancestors historical holdings in Scotland and North Umberland. We spent a night in a castle my ancestors built and VERY distant relatives still own – turned now into a Bed and Breakfast overlooking a historical battlefield! I have pictures of me carrying her across the threshold and reminding her that I had promised to give her a castle someday!

One of those off days, I left an inn we were staying at and asked my wife to meet me at Hadrian’s Wall, approximately 65 miles to the southwest. Soon after I left, my phone lost signal…no big deal, as I knew signal was weak in that area. What I DIDN’T plan on was losing GPS support. Approximately 15 miles out of that rural village my Garmin started spinning. I lost all support! The road was narrow. There were few signs, and NOTHING that led to a major landmark. In rural England, the country roads are based on old livestock paths. They twist, and turn, changing names and sometimes come back onto themselves. It did not help that it was nearly mid-day, so using the sun as a guide was of no use. There was no official language barrier, but finding anyone to get directions from was problematic, as there were no businesses out there, and most residents were either farming, or employed elsewhere. When I was able to find a soul or two, that Geordie accent had the effect of speaking a foreign language, however.

Eventually, more than five hours later, I found a sign pointing towards an abandoned Roman fort along the wall. I reached back and found that my phone was now getting signal. I checked to find several texts now appearing from my very concerned wife. I messaged her back, explaining where I would meet her…approximately 15 miles to the west of where we had originally planned! I started out for the fort, and within a mile or so, the Garmin sorted itself out. I have NEVER felt so alone. NEVER felt so lost. NEVER been at more of a loss for direction and future. Until now.

As I near my 60th trip around the sun, I ask myself “why?” We had a fantastic 35 years together. We made a life. We made a home. I FOUND that love that I had always craved since hearing that song and reading that book 48 years ago!

The answer, simply, is we are in a VERY different world (or at least I am). 48 years ago we also had a criminal in the White House. But we had a Congress that had the stones to stand up for what was right. That president also had a hit list of political enemies. Funny, because today the POTUS FINALLY announced to the media something I believe when he said that “everybody is a threat” to him. Nixon also lied. Nixon also lashed out against the media. But the Congress as a whole STILL stood up to him as a collective and drove him from office. As a society, we had begun the drive to turn back the dark clouds of racism and hatred following the riots of 1968. Now?? The rise in racism and hate speech has more recalled the days of the 1920’s with the rise of the KKK as our president passively looks to assign blame on both sides of the racial divide. As a society in 1972, we were beginning to open our borders to those fleeing oppression in Eastern Bloc countries, South East Asia, and Central America. Now? We have begun to be the xenophobes that seemingly echo Senator Joseph McCarthy and his HUAC! “Are you now, or have you ever been a Mexican/Muslim/Democrat???”

My wife and I became teachers to change the world. This week I feel we lost. I feel we sacrificed our performance dreams for nothing. She had the voice of an angel. She ALWAYS had more talent than I…I was just better educated. I feel she gave up her dreams for nothing…and I am to blame. The clip below shows us performing at our oldest daughter’s wedding 11 years ago. Yep. I was fat. Just goes to show how much of an angel she really was, because she literally stuck with me thru thick and thin! This was two years before my bariatric bypass and three years before she started announcing to everyone that she felt like she was cheating on me with ME!

So, I’m sorry. It has been a horrible, no good, very bad week. Death. Taxes. I can’t even do my effing taxes without help (and there is none that I can afford – and TurboTax isn’t helping). Student loan renegotiation. Failed impeachment due to refusal to perform your constitutional duty. Continued gun violence. Continued sexual assault on women and little children. A former district that seems hell bent on destroying the legacy my wife and I built by condemning their current students to mediocrity.

I have no idea what the hell I am doing here anymore. I feel as though I have been blindfolded, transported to Outer Mongolia and summarily deposited. No phone. No GPS. No credit cards/money. A language barrier when/if I do find other souls (I can speak and read several languages, but none of them are Asiatic!). No car. No bike (the horror!). Not a single soul to talk to that understands or even really cares.

That, in essence, is the problem with grief. “I’m so sorry. But hang in there. It will get better in time.” Bullshit! It’s been two years. The pain is as wrenching now as it was when I screamed “No” as she took her last breath. “I’m so sorry. I’m here if you want to talk. Just call.” For crying out loud. I struggle very damned day to get out of bed, then struggle with the thought of going to bed at the end of the day. You think I have the energy or the courage to call anyone? Especially when they can’t be bothered to phone/e-mail/PM/text me???? Seriously, no one going through this feels like they can make that call because when or if we do, often the response makes us feel as though we are a burden. I WILL NOT BE A BURDEN!

So that’s it. Thanks for bearing with me while I bare my soul.

Published by

richardtirith4919

Forced into retirement at the age of 55 because I was foolish enough to finish a PhD program in an era of teacher bashing and budget cutting, I turned to cycling full time. Until my wife passed away in 2018 from a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Now I navigate the highways of the US on my bikes in search of a good Brew, good times with our grandsons, and in memory of her.

3 thoughts on “Where do I begin?”

  1. Bill, I am grateful for you, for Ang, and for the opportunity I had to work with both of you over the years. We have some incredible memories together and you (and your family) are a blessing to mine.
    I am incredibly thankful that you gave a young girl a chance 20 years ago and turned my side hustle into something I couldn’t imagine my life without anymore. Thank you for believing in me.
    I couldn’t be more grateful.
    Love you guys.

    Like

    1. Thank you. I believe, however, WE came out far ahead by all that you have given OUR family. My biggest regret was not flying you to the UK to play for Rachel’s wedding. I believe that was the only funeral or wedding in our families that you didn’t play for in over 12 years….

      Like

      1. 😂 While I appreciate the thought, I totally understood why you didn’t, and never even questioned your decision. I think you’re right on the events. Can we make the next one happy again? 😘

        Like

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