Hole in the Heart

These pictures are from a yard I pass by in my neighborhood walks. I knew the man who lived there.

I met this man at an assisted living facility. He liked to visit his wife twice a day. The facility was large, and he got his daily constitutional by walking the long halls. He had a smile and a joke to tell whomever he passed in the hallways. The staff and residents loved him. He would sit and chat with his wife for a while, then leave to go about his other business. But he visited morning and afternoon. He was always a jovial fellow.

His wife was an Alzheimer’s patient. She always had a smile on her face. I suspect she enjoyed visits from her favorite suitor.

When covid hit, this gentleman was no longer allowed to visit his wife. At first, there were through-the-window visits permitted, but then the facility said no more of those, since some of the residents were perturbed by people walking around outside. Eventually they allowed inside visits, through plexiglass and with masks. Then those rules passed, and they could visit in her room. By this time, she had been moved to the memory care unit, and I don’t know if she knew him.

I didn’t see him for well over a year, not even in the grocery store or at community events. I wondered how he was.

As I passed his house on my walks, I pictured him with a hole in his heart, like this tree in his yard. He took meticulous care of his yard, even at his advanced age. All the trees and bushes were trimmed up, his grass was always mowed. I wondered if he worried about the hole in his tree; whether it would be better to take the tree, or let it live with its hole.

After all, he was living with a hole, himself, being unable to visit his wife, his life-long partner and lover. And, like the tree, I pictured him still being well-trimmed on the outside. I wondered if he was still telling his jokes, and to whom.

I saw him last month, at his wife’s funeral. He had a smile on his mouth, but sad and tired eyes. We recalled his jokes, and his walks in the hallways, and his beautiful wife.

Last week we read his obituary in the paper. They published it after his funeral was held, and we wondered why; we would have liked to go and say goodbye, and hug his family again, and relive some fond memories.

So I’m reliving my fond memories through this post. Goodbye, Gene. We miss you, and hope to see you in Heaven.