About a year and a half ago I wrote a post called Free Wally. I love writing about these true dramas where, as a peripheral bit player, I experienced the events first hand. Because I am a bit player I have no need to obfuscate. Besides changing names and locations Free Wally was about a real group of guys with an age range spanning more than 30 years whose friendships yet abide. As the youngest member of this cobbled together bunch I treasure the blessing (and curse) of being able to chronicle these events.
First an update on Wally. When we left him last he was worrying about his pending retirement. More, he was concerned about his ability to sell his 5500 sq. ft. home that he and his wife had lived in for the past 19 years, just the two of them. More, he was concerned that the gains on the home were not going to be handled judiciously, and even such injudicious handling was not going to afford him a cabin and some land as well as a nice but smaller home in the city they had chosen for retirement.
The retirement occurred September 30, 2014. Miraculously the big local home sold in May this year. And the rest unfolded exactly as he did not want. They bought an expensive home in a swanky neighborhood in another city. I cannot get it out of my head that he said to me, “Empath, I never dreamed retiring would be so hard”.
But a tragedy has overshadowed Wally and his houses. Another man in my group who I have written vaguely of before is having his 65th birthday today. Let’s call him Beav.
This is a man so doting that, before his wife retired, he awoke and carried her papers while walking her to her car for her to leave for work. The car was parked just outside the garage door.. To be clear, I mean this to praise this man because I never have saw anything that suggested he was something other than just a giver.
His giving nature manifests in other ways. During winter and the week or two of freezing weather in my area, its common for men at work to discuss the ways we each protect our outdoor spigots. This past winter I added ten hour hand warmers to my regime on a few extreme nights, tucking one up the spigot then replacing the foam cup-like insulating device nearly everyone uses. “Beav” thought this was a great idea. He asked me if Id grab him a box of hand warmers are Walmart when I ran out at lunch to stock up. “And oh”, he added, “if you see that they have those foam insulators, grab me about 15 of them”. “Huh?”, I said. “You got 15 spigots Beav?” He replied that no, he had three, but he noticed several neighbors homes were unprotected and was going to just stick them on those homes that evening.
Another time after a massive storm stopped power for days, he drove to some far away town where there were still generators for sale and bought three. He kept all three, having them to loan out during each subsequent storm to whoever needed them. I could go on and on.
On May 22nd he left the office after a normal day. That evening he was hospitalized with stroke symptoms. Over the next couple of weeks, stroke and tumors were eliminated as causes. I saw him a week ago and he said three words in 45 minutes. His cognitive ability was destroyed while he was physically OK. No weakness, no paralysis, no grimace or curled arms. Just no words. Expressive Aphasia they called it.
So Wally and Beav, they worked side by side for years. Wally, nearer to 70 now and with a tendency to butt dial his phone and have other tech snafus, when I called him yesterday Wally answered obviously on blue tooth. But something was wring and I couldn’t hear him well, nor he me. I immediately raised my voice and asked should I call him back. This resulted in a back an forth Q and A to establish what to do. But here’s the thing.
Each time Id ask a question, he’d answer it and then his wife would restate the exact same answer for him. An iteration looked like this.
Me: “Wally, can you hear me?”
Wally: “Not so well”
Mrs. Wally: “He says not so well”
After several iterations we hung up, he called minus B/T and we spoke.
I told him about Beav. Had that subject matter have needed to pass through one of those iterations with the wife my head would have exploded.
The whole circle of life thing starting last February and somehow for me culminating in the events of yesterday with Wally’s wife answering his questions for him like an interpreter….these things worse than not good.
Because I was calling Wally to tell him that the Mayo Clinic had diagnosed Beav with Creutzfeldt Jakob disease. I knew about the condition because I am a nerd. But for those who may not, think analog to mad cow disease. Exceedingly rare (300/year in US contract it), zero treatments or even research treatments exist, transmission not understood well, and usually dementia to death in a couple of months. He is on the way home to enter hospice here locally.Happy birthday Beav.
Can I say that something is a worse thing without offering the thing to which it is compared? In this instance, yes. I can.