To quote the great Yogi Berra, these past few days have been a case of “déjà vu all over again”. For those who might be unfamiliar with the terminology, déjà vu (pronounced “day zha voo”) is the feeling that you’ve experienced something before, even though you may not remember when or how. So déjà vu all over again is like déjà vu twice times. Déjà vu on steroids. Or just Yogi being redundant.
It all started when a long-time friend of my father’s died. Frank Shepherd was someone I’m pretty sure I’ve known all my life, even though he wasn’t originally from these parts. I’m not certain when their friendship began but it was one that stood the test of time, ending only with my father’s passing. He was a bear of a man, tall and strong, and whenever we saw each other, which wasn’t as often as I might have liked, there was always a one-armed hug that would literally engulf me. Mr. Frank almost made it to 89 and a half and, although I knew his health had declined, I’m not sure I knew the extent, so his departure caught me by surprise.
Just a few days afterwards, Bob Adkisson followed in Mr. Frank’s footsteps. His health had also been declining, both mentally and physically, but Death had taken his own sweet time in coming. Another close friend of my dad’s, Mr. Bob was one of the faithful few who continued to come and see him after his body and mind failed him so miserably. He would sit beside Dad’s hospital bed in the apartment at the funeral home and recount the ridiculous circumstances in which they had often found themselves. And my father, who rarely acknowledged anyone’s presence, much less communicated with them, would smile and even try to laugh at the memories as they unfolded.
When Dad died we asked Mr. Bob to speak at his funeral, but he hesitated. What we didn’t realize at the time was that he was already suffering from the dementia that eventually took his mind before illness laid claim to his body—and he was aware that something wasn’t right. He was afraid he would stand before those in attendance and forget what he wanted to say. But his wonderful wife, who had been one of my mother’s closest friends, reassured him. They would write down his thoughts and he could read them from the pulpit. And that’s exactly what they did, and no one was the wiser. I tried to tell him—and I hope he knew—how much it meant to have him there as a part of honoring my father’s life.
But now both these wonderful men are gone and suddenly I find myself losing my father all over again. They were a connection to him and, although I didn’t get to see them as regularly as I once did, I still knew they were here. I still knew that connection was alive and intact . . . but not anymore.
And hence we have “déjà vu all over again”. For me it’s that feeling of loss which had, with the passage of time, somewhat faded into the busyness of life, but which in the last few days has come back with a vengeance—an ache deep within for something that is only a memory now. In 2009 my loss may have reminded others they were not too far behind me on the path of grief. And today, their loss reminds me of what I once had and what I miss so much. My consolation in all of this? Now Bob A., Bob S. and Frank are together again, no longer suffering and I’m sure reminiscing about old times and catching up on what they’ve missed . . . and waiting patiently for the rest of us to arrive.