We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
This is a real American story about a true American idol. It's also a story about home-town America, which is, sadly, a disappearing way of true community life.
I met with an 83 year-old fellow the other day for a consultation. He was recovering from a heart attack from which he almost died ("I thought it was just a bad stomach ache but my wife didn't like the way I was sweating.") and a stent.
His cardiologist felt he was depressed, as often happens after serious cardiac events, especially with men.
He told me a little story, but first, a bit about him: Irish, retired policeman, living with his frail wife (a retired book-keeper) in the Boston suburb where he was born - same neighborhood and across the street from the house he grew up in (remembers horse-drawn fire engines down the block); daily Mass; in the church choir ("We sang at the Vatican in 1972 and we are proud of that."); plays trombone ("poorly") in his firehouse marching band; five attentive, devoted kids and 14 grandkids within twenty miles; does every charity thing he can find including Meals on Wheels (even though "I think I am older than most of the people I deliver to"); belongs to his local Vets organization; a WW2 Vet - a gunner in a B-26 Martin Marauder with the 320th Bomber Group of the 12th (Army) Air Force, in Italy: "When flak hit the airplane, it sounded like somebody shaking a bucket of gravel."
Says "We weren't scared. We already knew we would die in this war to save Europe, and we were sort of OK with that, but we were damn well gonna get all of the bad guys we could, first. Heck, we were just kids, looking back now, and full of beans and bacon."
His story: "I was at a wake of a friend a few weeks, ago, drinking and partying of course, and up comes somebody I knew from second grade at St. Anthony's. He says "You need to join our lunch group. We meet once a month at .... restaurant in the back room." I felt flattered to be invited, so I went. My God, I met folks I hadn't seen in years, all from the same home neighborhood - the --th Ward. About 25 guys, retired doctors, teachers, lawyers, mailmen, firemen, mostly moved out of my home parish but all still in town. Somehow lost track of them. A great joy, since so many friends still in my neighborhood have died. We took about 15 minutes to eat, and talked for two hours and had a few beers. I almost said we should meet once a week, but it wasn't my place as a newcomer. I need to stay active, Doctor, because my wife needs me. Doc, life is good, and I'd like to make a few more of these lunches before the good Lord takes me."
God Bless America. And God bless him. No, he did not need me as a shrink: I need some more of what he's got: the true American spirit. One secret: we psychiatrists are more blessed by what we get from our patients than by what we have to give.
Details altered just barely enough for confidentiality (not that he would mind, but he would be embarassed by admiration and attention) - but not the 320th BG - that is accurate.
Thank you. It's a beautiful story - beautiful because of your perspective and its inherent truths. It made me cry because my mother died a few months ago, and I was so worried that my dad would fall into a deep depression. They lived in a.... I still have trouble with my pronouns and tenses, so I'll just use the present tense and 'he'. He lives in a swank retirement home where he has a large apartment. Everything is enclosed and the place is like something out of Gone With the Wind. (It's in Charleston, SC)
I spent the last six months driving thousand-mile round-trips to help my mother, and I came to know many of the residents there for whom death is not only expected but is taken with the typical southern grace that knows just when to say the right thing before the cave-in to grief takes over. I finally left after the beautiful funeral and a memorial service at the retirement home, and I was reluctant to leave my father. I'd been on high-alert for some time and had not let my guard down at all.
I got home and to my surprise, I fell into a deep depression and my father did fine. So fine, in fact, that he griped about all the attention he was getting from everyone. He's 89 and doing quite well. Much of that, I'm sure is the surcease of the immense stress of my mother being sick for over a year.
I'm not sure why I said all this. Must have needed to. I was just going to say that friends and the company and needs of others is sometimes the thing that keeps a person going. This story you told is so perfect an example of that - as are the friends my dad is surrounded with in his 'home'. My depression happened when I left those fine people and came home to my dog. It is just stunning the power of a kind word. As stunning as sharing a story about that power.
Thanks for the great post Dr. It hits close to home for me. My family lost another of our "American Idols" just before Xmas. Everybody called him Moon. Here is a small, edited snip from his obit.
He served as a medic in the U.S. Navy during WWII and was in the first wave to land on Omaha Beach. He served in both Theatres. He was employed in sales and marketing for 35 years. He was a lifetime member of the Parish and received the Irish Heritage Award. He served on the parish council and was a lector. He was active in local and state politics and involved with many charitys. Moon was a very kind and loving husband, father, and grandfather. He will be missed greatly by his family and many friends.