This is just a brief post composed on my phone. It's not specifically about widowhood. But it is about lessons learned from it.
I was attending a business conference this week in an industry I've been in for over 4 decades. I have many friends that I've grown up with and I cherish those friendships. One colleague I've known has struggled with health issues the past few years and ultimately cost him his job and career. He has never married and has no children. He attends the conference to keep in touch with friends. Last year I watched him walking through the hall, nearly blind, stooped over, and clearly confused. He and I were once the young and energetic new guys in our field. When I saw him this year he was much worse. I walked right by him and he was unable to recognize me. I said nothing.
Later I was talking to a mutual friend who sees him regularly. I told him I didn't even talk to our friend. It was simply too hard. I didn't know what to say. "He has Parkinson's now" I was told. I found the news heartbreaking. As I walked away I was suddenly overwhelmed as I remembered people, friends, neighbors, all doing to me what I had just done. I made him invisible because I didn't know what to say and it was painful to see what was happening to him. The irony made me feel ashamed.
I spent a few minutes searching the hall to find him. He was worse up close than from a distance. He could only recognize me from about 2 feet away. Farther than that and he couldn't see me. I touched his arm and told him who I was and he smiled. Haltingly he said "I've been struggling with my health. I am nearly blind and I have......" He stood there trying to find words that were lost. He shook his head and looked at the ground. "I don't know how to say it." I touched his arm and said " Rob you have Parkinson's. Terry told me." He smiled and nodded. "Yes I do."
I spent the next hour with him. We shared stories of our younger days. I helped him track down another old coleague he couldn't find. I handed him off to that person who helped him find his way. I kept thinking about how I reacted when I first saw him. I made him invisible all because I didn't know what to say.
Really?? If I have tucked my memories of my own journey so neatly away that I forget why we need each other in our worst moments along with our best then I needed something to jerk me back to reality. Everyone is fighting a battle that no one knows. Our journeys we share here should make us better. I needed to be reminded of that.