Stan, a story.


DSC_0120Stan

This story is dedicated to my neighbour Stan, who I didn’t know well, but enough.

In the end one of two things happen, you are either filled up or emptied out. Or maybe a wee bit of both. The culmination of the long race of life, and the finish line finally looming up ahead and you having no choice but to cross over, happens to all of us, or will happen, some day.

Stan was no different. 86 years old and 50 of those years spent in the same yellow bungalow with his wife. Apple trees out back, the old clothes line, the perennial garden lining the frontage clearly visible from the picture window where they sat most days, looking out at the world. I’d walk by with the dog, look up and find them looking back. I’d wave and Stan would always nod, not a wave, but an acknowledgement that went deeper.

His wife had one of those debilitating diseases, the ones that take and take and take until there isn’t much left. He cared for her at home, built a wheel chair ramp from the front path up to the door stoop, and kept his vow to love her in sickness or in health, until death. She died, her body emptied out of most things, including some dignity, and the pretty curve of flesh over bone, and her ability to do the personal things that he did for her. But full of his love, I somehow know that even though I can’t prove it is true. I noticed her absence before I knew for sure she was gone, saw him sitting alone in the window, her empty chair.

If Stan was ever outside his house puttering, he’d come over and chat to me. Just before Christmas one year as we were talking at the end of his driveway, I made an appointment with him, told him we’d be out caroling with our family and friends in a couple of nights time and would he be home? He said, “Yes, yes, you come by. I love to sing.” So we did. We detoured around to his place, me walking ahead and wondering if he’d actually be there. As if he had someplace more important to be than home. He was there. He opened the door, nodded to me, and then he stepped out onto the stoop and as we gathered around and began to sing, he closed his eyes and sang out in a strong and clear tenor voice. He knew all the words by heart. He stayed there and sang another carol with us until I was worried he’d catch his death of cold. “Merry Christmas, Stan,” I said. “Merry Christmas,” he replied. “And, thank you,” he said, as he opened the screen door and went back inside to his solitary life.

I never saw a for sale sign, just noticed subtle changes around the place, including a different vehicle in the driveway. I wondered if Stan had died. One day I was filling up my truck at the Petro Can and there he was, pumping gas into his car. “Hey there,” I said, “how are you?” He looked up at me, took a moment and said, “Well hello, I’ve moved.” “I was wondering about that,” I said, “I haven’t seen you around your place.” “I’ve moved into a Senior’s apartment,” he said, “it’s easier that way. I can get meals if I want them, and I don’t have to worry much about anything else.” “Good seeing you,” I said. “I just turned 86,” he said, “it’s a great life if you don’t weaken.” I smiled. He nodded and went back to pumping gas.

The yellow house was knocked down a few weeks back. A new bigger foundation is in its place. It turns out I know who bought the old place. Another neighbour who knew Stan for years and saw the potential, the beautiful lot, the proximity to the beach. He and his wife tried to live in Stan’s old house for a few months. But it was too much for them, too many quirks. “There’s no insulation in it,” he tells me. “I had to cut a hole in the wall and stuff in an air conditioner last summer, it was that hot.” In the winter they noticed a problem with the plumbing, called Stan up, they knew him well enough to do that, just to ask him if he’d ever noticed anything. “Oh that,” he said, “If it gets below -10 you have to take a kettle of hot water and pour it over the step. Not the top step, but the next one down. And if it gets more than -20, sometimes it takes 2 kettles.” He’d lived like that for over 50 years, making adjustments, doing what needed to be done.

Stan died just before Christmas. Last thing I heard he was having stomach troubles. They found him in his apartment, sitting in his favourite chair, the same one I saw through the picture window in his old house. Stan had a stomach ulcer. He sat down one night and stayed there while he slowly bled to death. I hope he went without pain, but knowing Stan, he would have done something if it was necessary.

There are two ways in the end, either you are emptied out or filled up. Sometimes disease or other tragedy comes and takes everything, sometimes it happens quickly and way before you are ready to let go. But sometimes if you are lucky, the ending happens gradually over many years, your whole body filling up with life. And then perhaps you are almost ready to go, having done the best you can and almost everything you had in mind to do.

by Lesley-Anne Evans

Should you wish to share this story or any other posting here at Buddy Breathing, please do so by asking permission of the author, me. Thank you. And thank you for reading.

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Recommendations…


DSC_0558I’ve been otherwise occupied, obvious from the date of my last post. I’m sorry. Not much in the way of blogging, or even new poetry writing. But a rich time of learning the history of epic poetic genius, and growing into new word pursuits presenting to me in my community. Awe-struck by it all.

Here are a few things I recommend to you in my latent absence, or in the intent of a poetic line/seed poem that is rooting itself in my brain, in the commendation of sparrows and lesser things;

1. John Donne ~ Holy Sonnets, specifically Death Be Not Proud.

2. Wit ~ Play by Margaret Edson, screen adaptation, starring Emma Thompson.

3. BBC Documentary on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

4. Take a course, push outside the comforting constraints of current circles, learn.

5. Self-knowledge. Dig in. Unearth. Make adjustments.

6. Forgive. Often.

7. Dive into Life. Abandon yourself. That most often requires slowing down.

That’s all my friends.

With love,

Lesley-Anne

It’s beautiful out here…


324. kisses on the eyelids, so tender

325. the little bird that finds me in a parking lot, drinks water from the lid of my water bottle when I bend down to answer his question

unless

unless (Photo credit: Dean Terry)

326. dog napping at my feet

327. the first writing morning in a long number of days

328. returning to gratitude

329. summer birthdays

330. wine and sweetheart cherries in the candle lit garden

331. friends around the table

332. teenagers sleeping in late

333. teenagers who are gainfully employed

334. husband rising for work

335. healthy bodies

336. the possible

337. “Unless” by Carol Shields

338. remembering Port Townsend tribe

339. opportunities presenting when eyes and hands are open

340. friends who are patient and kind

341. morning sounds

342. finding poems where you least expect

343. considering laundry

344. God who never grows tired, never gives up, waits while I do both

345. wrinkles that prove living

346. a face held by hands, top of head kissed and life words spoken

347. directors of my spirit, soul friends

348. anticipating solitude

349. family holiday plans

350. blueberry waffle plans for tomorrows breakfast

351. photography and captured moments

352. children who pull away, grow strong, test wings

353. young adult son full license success

354. reminders of those with less that teach me more

355. reminders that intentions are not enough

356. reminders to act, phone, speak, write, touch, walk, move…

357. harvest… always

Different kinds of cherries

Different kinds of cherries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Poetry Friday017


Hospice bird

Shredded strips of newspaper
on the bottom of your fancy cage ~
evidence of neurotic tendencies as

You wait for daily offerings
of fruit and seed in outstretched hands.
Still, hunger is embedded in

your dull remembrances of
open skies and temperate winds
and clipped wings healed.