This story begins in 2002 when I attended the wake of a neighbor and fellow garden club member. At the time, I was president of the club. I agreed to lead at a meeting formed to disband the thirty something old organization. I was newly retired and gardening was on my list of goals for my special time. Barbara nearly fell out of her chair when she heard me agree to do it. Later she asked me why I volunteered when I was trying to avoid stress and be free to travel, and do retired things. “After thirty-five years at my job, this little club will be a fun project.”
At Dorothy’s wake I expressed my condolences to her husband Bob whom I had met casually on garden walks. A year later, we met him again. This time he came to Barbara’s wake to express his condolences to me. I told him we have to stick together because now we are brothers of a kind.
The garden club people took care of me after Barb died. Bob joined and began coming to meetings. He and I bonded and we became friends. More time passed before Bob told me about his “group.” He met every Tuesday for supper with carefully selected friends. Each was in a manufacturing business, and a widower. They met after work to share a meal and talk technical things about making stuff. Bob felt that since I spent my career making stuff that I would fit in and give new experiences to the conversation. The group had one rule: no one was to speak of the dying process their wives experienced.
After meeting Bill, Bob M. and Herman, I learned that one was not really a widower. Bill was captain of a seven-forty-seven airliner during his career, his wife a hostess. She still worked and spent a lot of time away from home, thus “he was a widower when she was flying.”
The men of the Boyz were all of retirement age, but most still worked daily in their businesses.My friend Bob was seventy-five, Herman was eighty-six, Bob M around sixty-six, Captain Bill, the pilot, was seventy-four, and I logged in at a baby-faced sixty-six.
Bob, and I spent a lot of time together, usually at the club for dinner, or on shopping excursions to Home Depot. I remember the two of us staring at a wall filled with a display of forty toilet seats pondering the differences and discussing how “in the good old days” a toilet seat was not a decorator item. It is a functional thing, and when you moved into a new house, you expected the toilet seat to be there fifty years later in good working order. I asked Bob to be my best man when Peggy and I married.
A year after our wedding, Bob had a stroke; he was eighty. His son moved him to Portland to care for him where he lived another four years.
Captain Bill assumed the leadership role of the Boyz. He chose the restaurants, and made the calls. Some of the original members dropped out. Herman at ninety-four had trouble driving, Bob M. paired up with a lady, Captain Bill opened the group to new faces. The Boyz expanded to include a PhD scientist, a cousin, a brother-in-law, a self-made millionaire industrialist, a retired Air Force Colonel: we dropped the widow rule. Bill made Tuesday evenings an event as it had been under Bob’s leadership. Captain Bill kept Bob’s legacy secure.
Our discussion centered around sports, politics, cars, work, events. On some days there were as many as seven of crowded around the table, and the discussions were many. Captain Bill began another new tradition. He suggested we invite our ladies for special events like Christmas. Girlz night with the Boyz became a favorite. Before long, the Boyz and Girlz began visiting each other’s homes. The meeting of widowers killing their lonely times of grief had evolved into a first order social group of good friends enjoying life.
A year ago, Captain Bill reported to us about a health concern. We always discussed health concerns when they came up. He didn’t think it was serious and found early during a regular routine blood test. Captain Bill pushed forward with treatment thinking very positively about his outcome. He began a series of chemo treatments which in a large percentage of cases hammers the condition into remission. His chemo treatments continued. Our meetings suffered a bit during this time, as Captain Bill did not always feel well enough to make the calls and pick the restaurant. Often he ordered a meal and never ate it, rather, he had it boxed for “later.”
Sadly, today, I will attend the wake of this fine man I call Captain Bill.
Thanks Bill for entering my life and becoming a friend. Because of you my life became better.
Filed under: Biography, Characters I knew, family, grief, Manufacturing, Memories | Tagged: 747, Bob, Christmas, Home Depot, Toilet seat, United States | 3 Comments »