Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Farewell, Comrade

One of the downsides, if you can call it that, of having friends that are mostly veterans is that they are older than Old Sarge and me. I have racked my brain trying to think of any true close friends that we have outside the VF*n*W, and I come up blank. So we socialize with folks that are in their late 50’s to early 80’s. At 50, Old Sarge is one of the youngest veterans. WWII and Korean War veterans are leaving us by the thousands, so consequently, we are losing our friends.

We lost a dear one last Thursday.

Old Sarge and I had known Al and Betty all our lives, me because they lived a few blocks away and their kids were my age, and OS because he took the daughter to Homecoming. (another story!) When we resettled back home, Al and Betty went from being the parents of our friends to OUR friends. Betty was an only child; her parents were quite prominent and well off, but Betty was a tomboy and didn’t care much for being a belle of society. Allen’s family didn’t have a lot, and I gather the general perception was that Betty had married beneath herself. I don’t think she minded much. She never worked outside the home, loved the Cubs almost more than her children, drank Old Milwaukee because she liked it and died way too soon three years ago. At her funeral, she was wearing her favorite Cubs shirt, and the last song of the service was “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”.

Al….I don’t know where to start. Gruff, blunt, profane, loud. Heart of gold. I never knew until yesterday that he received a Bronze Star in Korea. He used to make the Marine veterans nuts by saluting backwards and left handed. If he got really feeling ornery, he would leave his teeth on top of your beer can. There are stories I could tell by the hour, and I don’t think I could properly convey what a special old coot he was. I remember stopping by the house when Betty was so ill, and Al wouldn’t let me in. I was pretty hurt, but he said, “Child, she’s miserable and can’t really talk. I don’t want you to see her or remember her like this.” I understand it now, and I’m glad he knew better than I did. Al had a saying for just about everything; when it was time to leave, he would “pull the pin and head for the shed”, or “Betty…the CAR!” My favorite was “Tally Ho the Fox!” I have no idea what that meant, but the delivery was priceless.

Al hadn’t been sick long, it wasn’t something that should have killed him, but stuff just started shutting down and he refused dialysis. I’m kind of mad about that, because I’m sure there were trips and auctions and chores at the farm left for him to do- he had PLANS, you know- but again, maybe Al knew something I don’t.

They played “Sentimental Journey” at the end of Al’s funeral yesterday. I think sometime soon, the cemetery being a nice walk from my house, I will take a sentimental journey and visit Al and Betty. May be have the huge cry that I have been needing but not allowed. Not yet. Until then, well, it just hurts.


At 7/28/2006, Anonymous shayna said...

That was a brilliant and heart warming post... I hope you have had that cry.


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