I hate to lose people in my life. And lately I have lost quite a few. I find it very hard. I grieve for a very long time. Even when I lose people that are not healthy for me. Or a relationship that has gone south. Doesn’t matter. I always feel like I should have been able to make things come out better.
I volunteer for an organization that matches people who can help with people who need a little help. Usually it’s a short term thing - someone needing a ride to a doctor’s appointment is most common. But a couple of years ago I was asked if I could do some grocery shopping for an elderly, disabled man whose wife had recently died. Sure. So every week I call him and write out his list. And every week when I arrive with the groceries, he grumbles. Prices are too high. He didn’t want that size. Or brand. Or he wanted something that wasn’t on the list. Every week I stand there as he goes over the receipt and pays me to the penny. Once he held back 37 cents because he said “I said half a pound of boiled ham, not .6 pounds.” He was the grumpiest, most ornery man I have ever met.
At first it became a game for me - this week I would make this man smile. Nope.
I tried engaging him in conversation, asking him about his life. Nothing.
I once brought him flowers from my garden. He told he to take them away.
He never asked me to sit. Never offered a cup of coffee. Never said thank you.
I often wondered why I kept doing it. I could have easily passed it on to another volunteer. Really who needed this crap? So much negativity.
I complained to my mother, who is the volunteer queen. She lectured me about how it’s easy to love easy people. But god asks that we love those who are hard to love. Really mom? A sermon? Not what I was looking for.
“What are you looking for?” she asked.
Hmmm. I don’t know, maybe an excuse to get out of this and still feel good about myself?
“Is that why you volunteer - for you?”
Fuck. Why is my mother always right?
And so it became my challenge. Every week I tried to be Tigger. He was always Eeyore. I ususally failed. He always succeeded.
A few weeks ago I called the organization to get a substitute while I recuperated from my knee surgery. On Monday I called to say I was ready come back and they told he had passed away.
I am not proud that my first thought was relief. Thank god I don’t have to visit with his dread and negativity anymore.
When I talked to his case worker I found out he was a WWII veteran. He had been an engineer. He was predeceased by a wife and a son. In five minutes I learned more about him than I knew from visiting him for 2 years.
I am confused at how sad I have become with his passing. I keep thinking I could have done better by him, that I am supposed to learn something from this.
I am going to miss him.
I don’t know why.