If you’ve been close to someone who was really sick, and then died, you know this. It is very difficult to remember what things were like before the illness dominated your lives.
This is what’s happening with me right now. Carol was so sick for so long that it’s hard for me to remember—really remember—the times when she wasn’t sick. It’s like walking through a dense fog. Where’s the light?
I love our house. It’s where we had great times and raised our children. I counted it up—we had two apartments and four houses (in four cities) in 42 years of marriage. Not a ton of variety there (some would say boring).
But our life was anything but boring. Why? We had a special chemistry. We were great friends. Most of all, we laughed.
She made me laugh and I made her laugh. She was extremely funny. I remembered that this weekend.
Since her death in December, 2014, I have been changing a few things in our house. It is time to get some of the old stuff out. I’m going slowly, but things are changing a bit.
Today, I was moving some pictures and found a newspaper article about me when I was coaching high school basketball at Roanoke Catholic. She and I had a great time with basketball. She was a coach’s wife—took up for me with the parents and fans and gave me comfort when we lost. That’s not easy. She was good at it.
The article made me remember how funny she was. It was a feature on the sports page and focused on how much our team had improved in a short period of time. When I took the job (with Carol’s approval, of course), we just weren’t very good.
I remember coming home from the gym one night.
“Where have you been?” She asked.
I said, “Practice, of course.”
She responded—more insistent—maybe even with an accusatory tone, “What have you been up to?”
“Trying to win some games. What are you talking about?” I asked. I was getting defensive about this. I didn’t like where she was headed.
She smiled. She had been waiting for this. “I’ve seen a lot of basketball over the years and I saw your team play the other night. I’m pretty sure those guys cannot have been practicing.”
That made me feel better.
A few years later, we started winning and the reporter wrote the feature article. (“A Turnaround of Biblical Proportions”, he called it—capturing the Catholic school angle). He led with a story about my return home after a summer camp late one evening. High school basketball happens all year long, and the summer was full of camps, games and clinics. Between the coaching and my law practice, there wasn’t much time for anything else. She endured all of that, and we laughed through all of it.
The reporter described the scene that summer night. It was late. I tiptoed into the house and noticed that she was asleep. I was glad of that, thinking that I would slip into bed and we would have coffee in the morning. It was dark in the bedroom. As I got closer to the bed, I could see that something was out of place. I pulled back the covers, and there it was—on the pillow—a basketball. Funny.
This story made the reporter want to talk to her. She told him, “I alternate between telling him he is the greatest and telling him I’m going to kill him. It’s like Billy Graham’s wife used to say. Not to compare Dick to Billy Graham, but his wife Ruth said that while she has never considered divorce, she has considered murder.”
Glad I found that article. The fog parted for a while.