Whenever I am sad, which is infrequent, it feels like there is something in my eyes. I don't know how else to describe it. But it feels as if I can barely raise my eyelids to see. It is an odd sensation, and one with which I mercifully don't have to contend all that often. But that feeling has returned.
Because tomorrow my old friend Hugh will have been gone a year.
Can it be possible that a year has passed since I got that awful phone call from Laura that Sunday afternoon? Maybe it doesn't seem possible because not a day has passed since his death that I have not thought of him. Maybe my feelings of sadness are made more acute by the fact that my elderly friend Mr. Joe is one a ventilator over at St. Vincent's. They can't wean him from the vent. There are not many good options. Pull the plug and he dies in hospice. Or he stays in bed on a vent for the remainder of his days. Joe is awake and lucid. God Almighty. I scarce can take it in.
Now this is just a coincidence. Nothing more. Nothing less. Intellectually these things I know.
But still. Same month. Same issues. In a Catholic hospital.
Intellect is useless to me now. The mind reels as the heart breaks all over again.
So much has happened in the year since Hugh's death. I have missed talking to him about all of the changes that have taken place in my life since this time last year. He would have been delighted, and greatly amused, by my being in the private sector while he was in the government. Hugh had a keen sense of the absurd. He loved people. And he loved me. Our role reversals would have provided the fodder for many phone calls and e-mails.
But he's not here.
Mr. Joe has 5 daughters. The man's crown in heaven is assured. He sold me a big ass Oldsmobile for 300 bucks that I drove when I was at Tulane. Chris Riviere dubbed it the "Land Yacht." Whenever the pumps couldn't keep the water out of the streets after a storm I would give Chris and Hugh a ride to class in the LY.
I met with Cathy, his #2 daughter, at the neighborhood Starbucks. She has Joe's power of attorney. We sat in the sun 200 yards away across Markham Street where her father is tethered to the apparatus. I helped her make a list of things to do. Just as I did with Laura around this time last year.
It's still too close. It's still too awful. I have seen this play before.
Someday in the fullness of time maybe I will have these things figured out. The doctor that did Hugh's trache said it was just bad luck. Which is worse? Wondering what could have been done to head this off? Or the notion that our lives are governed-if indeed that's the word in this context- by random laughing chance? You tell me. Which is worse? My buddy who recently retired from nursing at the VA didn't know the answer to that question when we talked about Hugh after I had returned from the funeral.
"When you work at place like the VA," Lenny said. " you become keenly aware of the fact that when your number is up, buddy, it's up. And there's no explaining it in some cases."
Maybe someday. Someday in the fullness of time maybe I will get an answer. I can't bring Hugh back. I can't make Mr. Joe well. I can't ease the pain of 8 grieving women. For now, I can't do anything of much use.
I can't even find a way to expunge the sadness from my goddamn eyes.