Fly Me to the Moon

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.

roundabout

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Twenty Years Later

This year marks 20 years since Brandon’s passing. Brandon is my son. He died of cancer at the age of 13 ½ on February 21, 1996. I have to approach this occasion differently now because I do this without Jim, his dad and my husband, because he has passed also. He died November 14, 2014, one year and three months ago.

Not that I’m alone in remembering Brandon, but Jim and I together had our own way of remembering. Actually, it was kind of awkward. I didn’t like Jim to see me cry and Jim didn’t like to see Brandon’s pictures. Jim had a tendency to focus on what could have been. I focused more on what had been. But at least we knew and understood each other. We had this thing, you know, a bond, a shared experience. And it was sacred.

Our marriage was not an easy one. Only by God’s grace and mercy did we make it to the ‘until death do us part.’ The ‘for better or for worse’ and the ‘for richer or for poorer’ almost did us in. The amazing thing is that Brandon’s battle with cancer united us. His passing cemented us.

When I think about Brandon I think about Jim. I get mad because Jim’s not here for me. I get happy because he gets to be with Brandon. It’s sometimes hard for me to process all this and untangle my thoughts from emotions and my words from memories.

Taking walks helps me to straighten out the jumbled and knotted strings in my head. So I head to the trail at the end of my neighborhood. The sky is bright. The day is warming up. The path is uncongested. I’m ready for clarification, direction and inspiration.

As I walk I notice that the path widely curves around and passes by three different housing developments. At certain points I see and hear cars on the road just beyond the line of trees that separates us. I realize my actual location isn’t my perceived location. Hmm…

That road out there, I’ve driven on it. I have taken a left off the main road onto that road which took me to the back areas. I have cruised through those neighborhoods back there far from the main road. I have thought to myself if I move I don’t want to live that far away. This is really funny. I drove from my house about a half mile to this trail which I now realize backs right up to those far away neighborhoods.

I’m not walking that road or those neighborhoods, but they are right there next to me. Kind of like Jim and Brandon. We’re not walking the same paths or roads but we are right next to each other. Jim used to be on my path. Now he’s on Brandon’s. It’s almost like I hear them laughing and having a great time just beyond that line that separates us.

The anniversary of Brandon’s passing has changed for me now that Jim is gone. The pain of it has lessoned over the years and more so now. I don’t know why, maybe because they’re together. There’s a lot I don’t know, but I know one day I will be with them again. In the meantime I’ll keep taking my walks all the while paying close attention to what I may glimpse on the path beyond the trees.

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