A Yardstick of Loss
By Glen Baldwin
How do you measure loss? I lost my favorite swimsuit cover-up this summer, probably on my trip to Maine. This might not be a big deal to most, but I really miss it. It was black and loose enough to flow modestly over my lumpiness at a group breakfast. Unsuccessfully, I’ve tried to find something similar since I’m sure, as I write this, it’s being repurposed as a witch’s costume for Halloween or snipped into pieces for some funky quilt seen on Facebook. The fact is, though, it’s definitely replaceable. My other losses this year are not.
My most recent loss is ironically the birth of our grandson. How can that be a loss, you ask. The sad answer is that he’ll be the last of those wee munchkins of whom I can’t seem to get enough. Not enough snuggles; not enough soft kisses to their sweet smelling heads; not enough singing of off-key lullabies made up as I pace the room, hoping to calm them to sleep; and not enough gassy smiles that I’m sure are in response to my special grandmother charms. Such loss, and yet such gain…of memories and of times to come as they grow (all six of them) into young men and women whom I’ll cherish more than ever.
Our beach house – that’s a future loss knocking heavily at my mental door right now. Purchased nearly 20 years ago by Bob and me along with Bob’s brother and his wife, it began as a southern haven, an occasional getaway from our chilly northern farm. Sharing its respite, warmth and sandy joy, it became, as our family grew, a vacation tradition for our sons, their wives and babies, as they’d all spill out of cars for a week at Sea Fever. Pool volleyball, ghost crabbing, poolside poker, pitchers of rum Painkiller, even men’s synchronized swimming (usually held after the aforesaid pitcher was emptied) – all traditions binding our family with love as traditions so often do. Now, though, we reside on the Outer Banks as do two of our three sons. Sea Fever’s purpose has changed, and the time has come to sadly say goodbye, letting go of the structure but holding on to the memories within.
Last, and most filled with heartache this year, is the loss of my friend Pam. She and her husband were with us on my first date with Bob, a fraternity toga party, so our relationship spanned 50 years. Weddings, babies, vacations, hockey trips to watch the Frozen Four, Christmas tree cuttings on our farm – all special times to recall. Pam loved coincidences: I’d dial her just as she was picking up the phone to call me, and one year we even gave each other the same Willow Tree “angel of friendship” for Christmas. Even from afar, we remained a constant in each other’s lives, so I rebuffed the news of cancer’s intrusion on her life, believing it would end with Pam as winner in the nasty fight. I was wrong, and this loss still finds me weeping at unexpected discoveries: a pair of cheap earrings at the back of my jewelry box that was purchased with her on a shopping excursion years ago, a book she lent me not 12 months ago, a ceramic container (Christmas present) tucked away in my bathroom cabinet. And this Christmas, there will be more reminders in holiday storage since Pam was famous for her handmade holiday decorations – wreaths, napkin rings, ornaments – all delightful yet dismal reminders that she’s gone.
How do I spin this enormous loss into a positive? How do I reconcile the absolute and permanent absence of my longtime friend? It’s like trying to darn a sock with a huge hole, but in this case the hole is in my heart. I think I have to fiercely concentrate on the blessings of having had a half-century friendship with Pam. I realize that when you love someone or something deeply, its loss is that much more painful, but I certainly wouldn’t have traded this pain for her oh-so-special friendship. Grief from her passing just reminds me that I have strong feelings, and I embrace that. The strength of that emotion allows me to love that much more vigorously, and her death will long be a reminder to love and appreciate other friends as well as family that much more. Thank you, Pam, for having been in my life.