Goodbye Ellen Raspberry
So many years ago, we were young and full of life, and now, well now, we’re old and our vigor has drained away like the sand in the hourglass of life. All we are left with are our memories. The road behind us is sunny and bright; the road ahead is dark and poorly lit.
What did we do Ellen? What did we do? We lived a long life, both of us, that’s what we did.
We forged ahead. We lived our lives. We went right down that dark road, walking, hobbling, rolling – however we could manage to move – and we cursed the darkness – to hell with lighting a candle. It wouldn’t be enough light to see by anyway – not with our old eyes anyway.
We forged ahead and fought that bitter beast in the deep dark pit at the end of our respective roads. We knew the beast, didn’t we Ellen? We’ve known it for as long as we’ve been alive. He’s the beast that swallows us all… in the end.
Most of our lives we spent looking for ways to travel faster, kill time, have fun, and live life in the fast lane. Looking back, we saw the folly in that – too late to be of any use of course. We wasted our youth and didn’t realize were doing it. Isn’t life grand? If life wasn’t so serious, it would be funny. No one has to kill time – none us have that much time. Time is killing us. I know younger folks won’t believe a word of this but, they’ll learn when I say: Trust me. Whether you live 60, 70, 80, 90, or 100 years – there is never enough time. We could certainly all use some of the time we killed when we were younger. But like most things killed, it’s not coming back.
So, Ellen, I am very glad I got to know you. We sure loved watching those game shows together – it was especially entertaining watching “Jeopardy” with you. Some days you were a whiz and some days I was,. And some days neither of us did very well – but good days and bad, we sat there together and tried… didn’t we?
Remember the question about Annie Taylor? Nah, not Elizabeth Taylor, Annie Taylor – the school teacher who was the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. She lived, but it didn’t do her much good though, her manager embezzled all the money she made from the stunt. You could say he had her over a barrel. When Alex said… “She was the first woman and the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.” I said “George Stathakis” and you laughed. You remember Annie Taylor, I didn’t. I was impressed.
You were a fine chess player, Ellen. Even though time was ravaging our brains, and wrenching our bones, we had some really engaging games. Heaven knows how much I hated to hear you say “Checkmate!” and snicker. I won my fair share. We whiled away a lot of time playing chess. I’ll never forget those games. Oh and I also remember that we both had big trouble if we had to stop a game and come back to it – sometimes we couldn’t remember who was black and who was white. We’d argue about that for hours. How precious those hours have turned out to be, Ellen.
I’m sitting here thinking of you watching another summer pass on its reign to autumn. I’ve always like autumn. When I was a kid I loved the smell of burning leaves – than some environmentalists decided burning leaves was bad for the environment and made it a crime to burn leaves. Funny, Mother Nature thinks it’s OK. Look at all the wildfires around the world. Wildfires are Nature’s way of clearing the dead things from the forest and making way for the young.
When I think about it, it’s kind of like this place. This awful place I never wanted to come to, but the kind of place most of us end up getting shuffled off to. It’s like a clearinghouse. The only way we’ll leave here is by the back door.
Well, you left this place, didn’t you Ellen? You won’t have to worry about the rude nurses, the horrible food, or the indignity of those silly sponge baths. You’re free at last. You’ve gone to a better place. I’m still here eating hamburger gravy over tasteless instant mashed potatoes.
I hope you liked the purple dress I picked out for you. Since none of your relatives showed up, I had to step up and do it. And I was glad to do it for you, Ellen. I gave your clothes to Goodwill. I had to beg for some boxes to pack you clothes in – sometimes the staff here can be annoyingly insensitive. But I know that what goes around comes around – they won’t always be young. Boy, we sure learned that lesson, didn’t we, Ellen?
I’ll miss a lot of things about you, Ellen. The chess games, watching Jeopardy, discussing the books we read, the stupid – but fun – things we did when we were young. We must have spent thousands of hours just talking.
We’ve watched a few autumns come. We sat together outside in the back of this awful place and we watched the trees put on their autumn colors. And while we sat there in those last warm days of the year watching Nature’s hand painting the trees, we forgot about the way things ended up for us. Stuck here in this place all alone – until we found each other.
Now you’re gone and and again all I have are memories. I’ll hang on to them as long as I can. I promise.
Goodbye Ellen Raspberry. I’ll miss you a lot. You are gone but you will never be forgotten.