"Why ya wanna hurt my heart so?"
We heard this from the other end of the phone when we asked an employee if the business where she worked was open on a particular holiday. Her answer was limp with defeat: "Yes." Despite feeling a degree of empathy, Husband and I thought it was just about the funniest business phone reply ever. And now I say it and feel it with every bit of my being. Damn it, my world of late (and perhaps yours, too) is just slipping away.
Why, why do they leave us? Neighbors, best friends, that small business around the corner… Why do they have to go and break my heart? This is not my first rodeo, nor will it be the last, when someone moves away and unwittingly disrupts my comfort zone, my world. You know how it is, we all do—people and things move on, leave us. Sometimes it is for the greater good. Often it is out of necessity, and too often it happens without control, without a voice in the matter—sometimes they die.
What got me to thinking about this, I mean really feeling all this, was a departure for the greater good. Hannah, our neighbor next door—and by next door, I mean on the other side of our walls—got accepted into veterinarian school in Boston. And this is exactly what a smart and extremely talented vet tech/animal advocate aims for. She will become a vet and will undoubtedly make a profound difference in the lives and welfare of creatures that desperately need someone like her. The world will be a better place for critters. But damn, double damn, we will miss her. She became our friend, and Lord knows our cats and dog are gonna miss having their own vet tech under the same roof. She came to their rescue numerous times.
Now, this cat goddess (she really loves cats) came with a roommate, a friend since college days: Sabre. Her housemate also became someone we fondly call a friend. He is that perfect person to inhabit the other side of an uninsulated, non-sound-proofed wall (if you have ever lived in a New Orleans shotgun double—same as a duplex—you know that your neighbor and you "share" a house with privacy provided by that wall). I cannot hear a sound from him—it's like he is on mute. And he is kind enough to never bitch about Husband and me. We are constantly turned to high volume. So, you see where this is going—he, too, is moving.
Good neighbors are one of life's blessings. If you are smart, you recognize them for the treasure that they are, and you spend lots of time sucking up to them (I meant to say being kind and thoughtful). Of course, great neighbors tend to out-do your good gestures, and when they move, you reproach yourself with the "what ifs?" What if we had been quieter, not talked their ears off, shared more homemade food, maybe paid their rent for them (okay, that's a bit much)? But sometimes, you just can't take it personally—you have to let them go.
Moving away. That is what our dear friend Judy decided to do. On the heels of Hannah and Sabre abandoning us, I received the lousy news that Judy is following her family to some godforsaken place in the northeast. Sure, it's beautiful, good rent, walking distance to all she needs, and her family is there. Did I mention great weather? (She loves snow.) Family is the bonus for her with this move. I told her that she was "our family," and we could take care of her if she needed someone one day. Her reply? "You're too old." Well, excuse me! Her move has left a deep hole in the hearts of all who came to know and love her. We are selfish—we need her here in our lives. Oh well, I guess one day I will learn to use Zoom and pretend that she is actually here with me drinking wine.
The Virus (feeling trapped within a Stephen King novel?) has caused a shuttering of our world. Small shops, big stores, art and entertainment venues, schools, and the list goes on and on, are in a state of suspension—even those open are limping along with the fear that they may soon lack the legs to carry on. Each permanent closure inflicts irreparable damage on its community. For a business or venue to throw in the towel (heavy with sweat and tears), they must deal with the added pain of facing employees and customers who are dependent upon them. So, goodbyes are now a daily thing. Bye Albert and the neighborhood bar/eatery you grew (Pirogues); bye Bellegarde Bakery, created with so much heart by Graison Gill (still optimistic that he will reopen); K-Paul's—if they could fall to this pandemic, what business is safe? We are forced to bid adieu to our country's talent, treasures, and historical brick-and-mortars daily.
The lives lost. The hearts broken. Families fractured. This surreal world we are in now has made death too real. And among the Virus victims are those who lost their personal battles to cancer and other maladies. These dear souls had to go that final distance without the touch or embrace of loved ones—channeling a lifetime of memories through the handhold of a kind stranger, their doctor or nurse. My dear Carolyn was among those human treasures who will leave a world of people to never quite be the same without her. Every day, someone with her immense kindness, her ability to make this place better and to contribute wit, intelligence, and above all, friendship, leaves us.
Goodbyes are inevitable. But they are too many, too fast of late. The best attitude I can muster is that I have been privileged to have known so many people and places worth the pain of missing and worthy of the tears. Still, why it gotta hurt my heart so?