Rich, my husband, passed away just before Christmas. I was and still am in denial. And in deep mourning. I can’t focus. I’m aimless, like a log floating at sea with nowhere to go. But here’s my son paying tribute to Rich, who was there while he was growing up.
Winter‘s cold dark skies
Empty house, what’s missing here?
Richard John Journey
Parkinson’s is an odd disease. On the one hand, it’s there with you for years, showing only slight indications of its presence initially: a slight shake of the hand, an almost imperceptible slurring of a few words. But, sure enough it progresses, slowly making its presence more apparent. And yet, after all these years, when it finally does take away that someone you love so dearly, you’re shocked and surprised. It sneaks up on you.
And in a way, that’s life. It sneaks up on you.
Thirty plus years, mom and Rich have been together. Sacramento and then Fairfield. I remember a trip to Hawaii, and one to Calistoga. A boat ride to Catalina Island. And then at some point, long trips to Bodega Bay every weekend.
I spent the most time with Rich in Fairfield. That was junior high and high school. My teenage years. Not the best age for a stepson and his stepdad. For the most part we got along, but I was an only child and spent a lot of time in my room or out with friends. Dinners there were good. Mom and Rich would insist that we sit down to dinner together every night. Everyone had a responsibility. One of us cooked, one set the table, and one cleaned up afterward. Mom was the real cook in the house, but Rich made a mean carrot and raisin salad.
I remember helping out in the yard, digging holes and carting wheelbarrows of mulch. That’s one thing they shared. They both loved to garden, my mom with her roses and Rich with his fruits and vegetables.
It wasn’t until after I left for college that I began to truly appreciate Rich. I told him once, but probably not enough.
At some point, I moved back to the Bay Area. Despite being so near, I visited way too infrequently. What I know is that they had settled into a comfortable life together. Rich, the early bird, would get up early and make breakfast. Mom, the night owl, would wake up to breakfast in bed. They’d watch at least one movie every evening after dinner. I’ve never seen anyone maximize their Netflix subscription better than them. In addition to gardening, mom and Rich shared a love of movies and music. But Rich was a very particular movie buff and music afficionado. Foreign films and dramas only, classical music all the way. If mom wanted to see the latest Star Wars or Indiana Jones, I had to take her. Mom tried to get Rich to listen to her hippie music. Simon & Garfunkel, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, and Don McLean. My guess is he enjoyed it because of how happy it made her.
Mom and Rich also enjoyed traveling. Self-professed francophiles, they would rent a tiny apartment in Paris and live there for two months or more. Museums, the opera, local food, and quaint cafes were part of their daily routine. They like to brag that they once talked to Francis Ford Coppola in a tiny Parisian cafe.
Somewhere along the line, Rich was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, six years ago. They continued to travel for as long as they could. But then the shaking got stronger. There was difficulty walking, and then swallowing, weight loss, and eventually even difficulty breathing.
Parkinson’s is an odd disease. On the one hand, it’s there with you for years, showing only slight indications of its presence initially. And yet, after all these years, when it finally does take away that someone you love so dearly, you’re shocked and surprised. It sneaks up on you.