Early in the 90s friends recommended to us the movie Once Around. They said one of the characters reminded them of Jim. We watched it and couldn’t figure out which character they were talking about. Was it the father, Joe Bella, or the son-in-law, Sam Sharpe? We thought Joe.
The opening scene is Joe driving his big white Cadillac around and around a roundabout intersection. He’s driving as fast as he can and singing a song that he will soon sing to his daughter at her wedding back at the house. Jim told me that in his old neighborhood there was a roundabout like that and he, too, would drive it as fast as he could around and around.
A recurrent song in the movie is Fly Me to the Moon. It’s the song that brings Bella, Joe’s other daughter, and Sam together. Later on Joe sings this song to them at their wedding. The song is again played at the end of the movie while the family is driving around the roundabout in a funeral procession.
The movie is funny and quirky as it tells the ups and downs and round and rounds of life. I suppose the title, Once Around, is saying we only go around once in life, but the comedy (or the profundity) is that sometimes we go around and around and around.
Over the years we became more attached to the movie. We found life situations that could be summed up in some scene or line. We made up private code words that referenced these. The song Fly Me to the Moon became a favorite also.
We were experiencing another round of downs in our life. Once again we were struggling financially. Once again we were living with my parents. Once again we were trying to find our way. I needed to run some errands. Maybe I just needed to get out of the house. As I was driving through a familiar neighborhood I came upon a newly completed roundabout. Wow! This is great – how fun, how appropriate. I circled a couple of times.
I couldn’t wait to show Jim, but I wanted to make it special. Lately he had been particularly discouraged. I thought he would appreciate taking a couple of circles himself.
A few days later we decided to take the kids out for a drive and get ourselves some ice cream. There happened to be a mini market that sold ice cream cones at the bottom of the street from the roundabout. With a plan in mind I suggested we go there. Easy enough. We stopped, got our ice creams and loaded ourselves back into the car. Then I suggested we take a little detour up the hill and through the neighborhoods. I had already queued a special song as we approached the roundabout. You guessed it, Fly Me to the Moon.
What a moment. Jim’s surprise and delight was priceless. The kids didn’t really know what was going on, but we did. We were going to be okay. This was just another trip around the roundabout.
In order for the doctors to do everything they could to save Jim, it became necessary for Jim to be put on life support. When all that could be done had been done they told me I had up to 4 days – maybe – before he would have to be taken off the machine. This was Thursday. Our daughter, Alise was on her way to Nashville from San Diego.
Friday morning Alise arrived and we headed up to the hospital. She was able to see her dad and he, I am sure, was able to see her. I explained to Alise that according to the doctors we could choose the time when her dad would come off the life support machine. Essentially, we could choose when he would pass. That’s heavy and not an easy thing to process or decide on. We talked it over and came up with a plan for Saturday.
The doctor told me to go home and get some rest. We decided to grab dinner first at a restaurant near the house. The place was crowded and loud. I think there were six of us. We were standing in the bar area waiting for a table. Someone handed me a beer. I took one sip and noticed my phone was ringing. I handed back my glass and answered the call while rushing outside so I could hear. It was the hospital. Jim wouldn’t be able to wait another day.
I drove to the hospital in my car with Alise and two friends. It was crazy and unreal. I started to sing Fly Me to the Moon. They joined in.
Now and then that song comes up on my Pandora station. I don’t have Sinatra plugged into my preferences, but that doesn’t stop him. It makes me think about Jim. I wonder if he’s trying to tell me something. Sometimes the timing is so uncanny that I know he’s talking to me. The message is always the same. He’s encouraging me just like the last voice message I got from him. “I love you baby and hang in there. You’re doing fantastic.”
Fly Me to the Moon doesn’t come up as often as it used to. But, there are many other songs that make me think of Jim. Last night I was listening to Pandora and heard one of them. I was working on some files and I had to stop and just float away with the melody and my memories. Ah, Jim I miss you. I wish you were here. When the next song started I busted out laughing. It was Fly Me to the Moon.
I’m going to be okay. It’s just another trip around the roundabout.