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Return to lately 2010.
the big fingers
october 1, 2010
One time, in the mid-2000's, Mary and I and her dad Joe were sitting in our dining room, during yet another holiday visit by Joe to our home. It was Christmas evening. We had just finished eating our traditional prime rib roast. The gold-rimmed white china plates were still pink with juice. Tony Bennett was on the CD player. We poured some more red wine. Face flickering in the candlelight, Joe looked introspective. Mary asked what he was thinking. "Just that these visits won't last forever. Someday, there'll be a final visit."
And so there was.
Joe's health had been deteriorating the past few years. For a long time, when we drove to the airport to pick him up each holiday season, we'd watch through the glass security doors as the unloaded passengers spilled through to the noisy public part of the terminal, and there, at one point or another, would be Joe, striding towards us in a tan windbreaker and his gray cap. He'd hug us both, clasp our shoulders, and we'd be off.
The last two years, he was brought to the glass security doors in a wheelchair. He had been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and although he could still walk, it took a lot out of him, breathing-wise.
We never thought his most recent visit to us, over the 2009-2010 holiday season, would be his last. He seemed to still have a lot of energy, a strong passion still for life, a yellow legal pad full of blue-inked projects he still wanted to complete. But of course, that's one of death's greatest tricks. Many times, the big fingers come during the most ordinary of moments.
Over the years, Joe would comment on how much he appreciated the various obituaries I would sometimes have to write-for his wife, his daughter Katy, my own mother, my own father. We never discussed it, but I think he knew that eventually I'd be writing his obituary, as well.
So here it is, which I wrote for his website at www.josephmeier.com, a website I created for him over ten years ago, to help give him something to engage in after his wife Joan died:
Joe, I hope you approve. I hope they serve Manhattans in Heaven, and I hope that if they do have computers up there, the operating system was created by someone other than Bill Gates.
Christmas this year will be hard. There won't be the drive out to the airport, the hugs in the center of the loud, busy terminal, the drive home where we happily catch up on news. And of course there won't be the waking up each morning knowing Joe is upstairs, ready for another day of good times.
Joe was a great guy. He lived through the Great Depression, prohibition, served in the navy in World War Two, became a rocket scientist involved in everything from the launch of America's first satellite (in response to the Soviet's Sputnik) through work on the International Space Station, participating over the years in rocket launches on five of the seven continents. He was an accomplished photographer, as anyone visiting his site at www.josephmeier. com can attest; a wonderful older brother; a loving husband; a nurturing father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
Joe and I knew each other for over thirty years, and at some point during that long span, our relationship changed, as so rarely happens, from father-in-law and son-in-law, to friends.
So I miss Mary's dad. But I also mourn the death of one of the few friends I had.
The Video Lately this month talks about when I was notified of Joe's death, and what happened afterwards.