|BWS Stories - "My World is Empty Without You Babe"...Losing Loved Ones|
"My World is Empty Without You Babe"...Losing Loved Ones - George
Holly Richardson, a native of Chicago, has lived in Scottsdale, Arizona, for 17 years. A wife and mother of two grown daughters, she divides her time between her home-based travel business and freelance writing. She is the author of several published articles and is currently working on her first novel. Her e-mail address is Rjasseinnep@aol.com.
My husband Scott and I first met George and Phyllis in the early 70s when we were young married couples just beginning our families. Our husbands met while in a barbershop chorus together. Although most of the singers were decades older, there was a group of us, all in our late twenties or early thirties, that gravitated toward one another.
Our little group within the chorus could have been the poster children for Middle America. Our group included everyone from a blonde with great personality to a flamboyantly dressed Frenchmen with a handlebar mustache. We even had den parents, Bill and Shirley, who were about 15 years older than the rest of us and had more money, so the parties were always at their house and they paid for a lot of the booze. They were great den parents!
Then there was George and Phyllis. George was slightly balding, even as a young man, but what I noticed was the way his eyes danced. He was always laughing, always ready to play the practical joke, and always attentive to everyone around him. He was also somewhat of a ladies man and made every woman in the room feel like she was his favorite. Phyllis was a tall, striking woman who had the most beautiful brunette hair. I was always envious because it never seemed to wilt in the Midwest humidity like my limp strands did. She was a lot of fun and we became good friends.
A gathering was just not a party if any one from the group was missing. What fun we all had! We traveled to competitions together, socialized (which in those days meant we drank a lot), and raised our children together. We were pretty much inseparable. For several years we would gather on Father's Day, so the men could play golf and everyone could gather together for an evening barbeque.
Soon enough our togetherness came to an end. George and Phyllis were the first to break up the gang when his job transferred him to Tucson, Arizona. George and Phyllis' move to Arizona hit me like a sledgehammer. First of all, they were breaking up the group. Second, I was the one that had wanted to move there for years, not them. One year after their move, we were able to follow them to the desert when Scott was fortunate enough to pass the Arizona bar exam and find a job in Scottsdale. We maintained the friendship for several more years, traveling back and forth on Interstate 10 to visit each other, having marguerita parties by the pool, playing with the kids, and ever so gracefully slipping into our forties.
Other things also contributed to our groups’ breakup. Shirley and Bill both passed away—one of cancer, the other of liver disease. Couples divorced and remarried or disappeared somewhere. Then George accepted a new position in Ohio. For all the reasons that seemed so good at the time but mean nothing now, we never saw them again. Oh, we kept in touch. We would call occasionally and we would never fail to exchange Christmas cards. I received updates about their two boys and I knew George had found another chorus to join in Ohio. They still went to the international conventions every year. Although we remained in contact, we never did make the extra effort to see one another. It wasn't a relationship that I felt we needed to work on. We were such good friends that even though distance separated us, I knew there would always be a time that we would get together again. We had been apart before and I knew when we finally did manage to meet up, the years would melt away and it would seem like last week since we had seen each other.
Well, one Christmas we didn’t get a card. I got that funny feeling you get sometimes when you think things might not be right. I just chalked it up to Phyllis being busy and I let it go. I knew there would be time to chat again. Then I got the phone call. It was just a message on my machine: "Hi, it's Phyllis. I know we haven't talked in awhile, but please call me when you get a chance." My heart started pounding and I felt a shiver. I sensed this was not going to be a happy phone call. I called and got her machine. All day I waited, playing out in my mind what could be wrong. The first thing I thought of was that George had died, but I immediately willed that out of my brain. By late afternoon I had decided that Phyllis was calling to tell us they were coming to Arizona for that long-awaited reunion.
When my original fears were confirmed and Phyllis described the last 10 months of hell they had gone through, I was devastated. George was diagnosed with a brain tumor in June, by October he was in a nursing home, and by April he was dead. He was 59. They didn't tell us before now because he didn't want us to know. He wanted us to remember him as he had been.
I loved George. Of all the friends from that little group, he was my favorite. I loved his laugh, his crazy jokes, and his hugs. I loved the way he danced with me and the way he made me feel beautiful. I loved the twinkle in his eye when he teased me, which was often. I loved to watch him with his children whom he adored. I loved the way he loved his wife. I loved the time we spent together as young couples and the idea that there would be a time we would all reminisce and relive those days. But there won't be that time, and my heart hurts because of it. He is the first of us former twenty-somethings to die. Losing a parent or a member of an older generation always brings with it a sense of your own mortality, but losing a contemporary too early brings it home with a gut-wrenching pain.
With this newfound grasp of the inevitability of death comes an overwhelming desire to live life. I doubt I will feel the need to go bungee jumping or running with the bulls in Pamplona however, I will gaze a little longer at a sunset, hug my husband and kids a little more often, and never take a friendship for granted again. The very next day after I found out George had passed away, I called the other members of our former group. We talked, laughed, reminisced, and realized we have something worth preserving. The long overdue reunion with Phyllis finally took place just recently when she visited Arizona for Thanksgiving. I was a little apprehensive about seeing her. I worried if conversation would be stilted or if we would still have anything in common. But the second she walked in the door and we hugged through smiles, and yes, a few tears as well, the years did indeed melt away and we had a wonderful visit.
I realized that George brought us all together again and I know he's up there planning that next golf outing or organizing the next barbershop show, waiting patiently for us all. What a great marguerita party we will all have then.