Friday, March 08, 2013

Goodbye, friend

At some point, the kindness of a stranger makes him a friend.

And so it was with Bill. 

Oh, I've got cyberfriends -- cyberfamily, we call each other now -- people I've met on the Net through dog groups, who've walked me and my dogs through sorrow and through joy; people whose dogs I mourned when they passed on, dogs that I've never petted, never scritched behind the ears. A cyber bond isn't virtual, it's real, it's strong.

Bill wasn't one of doggy people. I never thought I'd become friends with a tax accountant on the other side of the world. Even if he seemed to like dogs. He wrote a blog about caregiving for an elderly parent, and that was what we had in common. Geriatric medication. Not the sort of stuff that you'd think a friendship would be based on.

I came across his blog as a link from someone else's. I hung around and read. And later, I posted on his comments page. All the other comments were from people who obviously knew him in some way or another. Nobody knew me. But they all made me welcome and were very helpful when I asked questions about elderly care. Bill was the leader in that circle of kindess. It must be true then, that the actions of a man's friends reflect on him. 

Later, we took our friendship onto Facebook. I still read his blog now and then, but didn't comment much. Most of the interaction now shifted to FB. There, he posted jokes and interesting vignettes. Recent entries were old photos and newspaper clippings of his parents when they were younger, businesses that they had owned, homes where they had lived. Judging from his friends' responses, the group on FB were old school friends and people he grew up with, and lived among. Family friends and relatives. No place for me there, I thought, and I never posted much more than an occasional "like" or haha-type comment at his wisecracks. But still I was made welcome, he responded to every comment.

I stopped posting much on the blog. I didn't think it was right to keep whining about the stress of caregiving. Would Bill really want to know that dad's feeding tube had clogged up again, that he had peed on the floor in a pique again. Though I knew Bill would offer encouragement enough to help me shoulder on. But I didn't want to bother him with the mundane blahs. Exchanging jokes on and sharing funny pictures on FB seemed a more positive thing to do.

Sometimes, I'd see a travel or food programme on Portland, Oregon on cable TV. There's a famous hot dog stand or something. I'd mentally file it away as something to ask Bill about. Or something to check if I ever go there. What a hoot it would be, I thought, if we ever finally met up. I'd have to go there, he told me, he didn't fly, he had a fear of flying. And went on to "like" all the vacation pix I posted on FB. Well, going to Portland would be something to do, sometime. Always sometime, some other time.

This morning, when I woke up, in that haze between sleep and wakefulness, where your minds speaks to you of what it knows is ahead, in that line between consciousness and unconsciousness, in that inner voice that is sadly shaken off when wakefulness takes over -- I knew I was going to light a candle today. I thought it was for Evelyn, one of the cyberdogs. John in Texas (I always thought of them as so-and-so in such-a-state, they're scattered all over the US, and at first when everyone was new, it helped me to remember who was where. I wonder if they think of me as that One in Singapore.) had posted a few days ago that her time had come, and I knew he was grieving.

It was for Bill. One of the friends from his blog, who became a friend in her own right, emailed me with news that he had died suddenly. There was a medical complication, I found out later, on his blog and FB page.

The man that I'd always imagined to be at the other end of the globe, sitting at his PC and uploading uplifting tales on his blog and FB page suddenly wasn't there anymore.

And suddenly, there is a hole in my life. A virtual cyber friend, but an actual acute hole.

Thank you for your friendship, Bill. RIP.


PS - I only realised when I hit the "post" button, that this is my 1,000th blog entry. Somehow, kinda apt. A key number for a key person. Bill would have appreciated it. I had to squelch a natural impulse to send him a post or a poke to let him know. I shall miss that he isn't on the other reading end of the blog.


dona said...

Snug, I love this post. And I agree Bill would have appreciated the 1,000th entry and loved it.

Melissa Wiggins said...

Wonderful post -- so eloquent. Your writing is just . . . I'm speechless but it touches me on so many levels. Thank you.

snugpug said...

Dear Bill, I miss you. I had a rough time with mum, and miss your caregiving advice on your blog, and your posts on FB that cheer me up. In life, you were my long-distance friend and support. Now, will you be my angel?