Destiny Strikes Again
I heard those words and I couldn't wrap my mind around them. The doctor had said to me, "I'm sorry Mrs. Hammond; there was nothing we could do." My husband was dead.
Maybe I should back up a bit. Twenty years ago, I married my husband. He was the man in my dreams for some years before I followed that dream to Connecticut where I met him. My name is Cathy Hammond, and I met my husband, Ben through something called a destiny dream.
A destiny dream is something that only gives you a glimpse of your future. I spent years trying to figure mine out. I remember my first trip to Connecticut back in 1984. I went to a beautiful place that I didn't know much about at the time, which turned out to be the Barkhamsted reservoirs in Barkhamsted, Connecticut. That night I started to have a dream, where there was a vision of the reservoirs, a song playing that I did not recognize, and I was dancing with a man that I had never met. After years of strange discoveries and a lot of traveling around, I finally found Ben Hammond in Torrington, Connecticut. We met, married and had one son, Mason. My wonderful husband worked for years doing heating and air conditioning installations and repair. He worked on the road most of the time. He could be found anywhere from Stonington to Canaan on any given day.
That day, he didn't make it home. Ben was working on a job in New Britain and he was on his way home for the day. A tractor trailer had literally flipped over right in front of Ben on I-84 and a pile up had ensued. There were seven deaths. It's not as though my husband was the only victim that day. I simply didn't care about any of the others. He was my husband. He was my best friend of 20 years. He was my only child's father. I was frozen. My mind was frozen in time and it couldn't function.
I had arrived at New Britain General Hospital, which I hadn't visited since I had lived in New Britain during college and had a kidney stone attack. I wasn't a big fan of the hospital, because they had hooked me up to an IV and put me in a side room and forgotten me for twenty hours. Still, I suppose it wasn't their fault that my husband was dead. The doctor was nice and sympathetic. It didn't help. My husband and the focus of most of my world, was dead.
Somehow I would have to tell my son. That was the main thing. That was all I could think about. I couldn't think about how it would feel when I went home and saw the empty house that would never be the same. I couldn't think about what I would do with the rest of my life. I was only 53 years old. I had to focus on helping my son get through this terrible ordeal. Besides, it would keep me from having to deal with my end of the feelings.
It had only been a couple of years since my parents had died. I hadn't even decided what to do with the enormous inheritance that they'd left me. My son had gone to college on his money. That was where he was at the time that I found out about my husband. It was the end of finals week. I didn't want to tell my son and ruin his finals. That may seem shallow, but Cornell University is Ivy League and I didn't want him to screw it up.
It seemed strange to me that I didn't know what to do. For twenty years I had known exactly what to do. Everything had been clear. Take care of husband. Take care of child. Go to work. Take care of the house. Pay the bills. Make dinner. Do laundry. Plan things. Run errands. All of a sudden, I didn't know what to do next. I didn't want to belittle my husband's death by going on with my routine for the day. I didn't want to plan his funeral, because that would mean that he was really dead. What is the first thing that a woman is supposed to do when her husband dies?
I knew what I was supposed to do. I was supposed to wail and cry and scream at God for taking my husband from me. I was supposed to grieve. I didn't want to do that. At least, I didn't want to do the crying, wailing, scream at God thing. I'd had way too much drama in my life to behave that way. I'd been through plenty.
When I was young, I'd had some wild times. I'd had a miscarriage, which led to me finding out that I had siblings that I'd never met. That somehow led to me meeting my twin sister that I never knew about on a blind double date. That had led to the rest. I'd chased murderers, visited the private island of a mobster who was supposed to be dead, married a rich man and divorced him, worked as an interpreter for the CIA, traveled the world a little, accidentally gone to an uprising, and been told of my future by a gypsy in Budapest. Most people in my life had lied to me, with the exception of my very first boyfriend in the world, Josh Helmund. That simple fact had made me tough.
I sat in that hospital lobby and realized that I hadn't thought about Josh in over 20 years. I'd been too busy. I could only imagine that the nurses in the lobby must have thought that I was nuts when they saw me smile.
What the hell was I doing here? It seemed like it had been forever that I had been waiting with my two daughters. We'd been waiting for my wife of 23 years to die. I know that it sounds callused to say it matter of factly like that, but it's been going on for so long that the emotion has been drained from me. It was nearly a year ago that my wife Claire Helmund was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. Over the last 11 months we had done every treatment known to mankind to try and cure her, but in the end, nothing worked. Now it was all over, and I didn't know what to do. I couldn't remember the last time that I did anything but try and save my wife.
My name is Joshua Helmund. I am the most boring man in the world. I have lived in the same small town in Indiana since my parents escaped from East Germany when I was three years old. I grew up in the small town of North Manchester, Indiana with its population of 5,000 that included mostly senior citizens in homes, college students who went home several weeks a year, and Amish folks who barely ever came to town. I went to Manchester High School, Manchester College, and worked my entire life at the local bank and trust. I started as a teller and currently ran the place. I had married a coworker and had two daughters. I didn't go far on vacation, and I spent a lot of time taking care of my wonderful house. My daughters were following in the family footsteps and were attending Manchester College in accounting.
I was the most boring person on planet Earth. I was sitting there, widowed for God's sake. I had nothing planned for the rest of my life. My wife and kids had been my life. I hadn't been anywhere, and I hadn't done anything spectacular. I watched other people's spectacular lives on television. The strange thing was that none of that had seemed like a problem before.
The problem was that now I had no one to go home to. I had no one to take care of. I had no reason to keep a nice house and yard. I had no reason to fix the cars. For the first time since my first girlfriend, Cathy had left Indiana forever and I had decided to marry my wife, I had no reason to do anything.
Cathy—what was her last name now? Some of her old friends had told me when she'd gotten married to her second husband in Connecticut. Hammond—her last name was Hammond. I couldn't believe that sitting in the hospital and my wife's body still warm in the room, I was thinking of Cathy. I had no idea why. It was probably because Cathy was the most exciting person I'd known. She had a way of finding interesting situations. She also had no fear, or at least she didn't show it. She had been game for just about anything when we were young. Then she moved away and I settled down.
I found myself smiling. That had to be wrong. It was a momentary distraction. I knew that what I really had to do was find a way to tell the girls about their mother passing in the middle of finals week. I had no idea how I would do that.
I looked over at my wife's lifeless body. "What do I do without you?" I asked.
Then the strangest thing that had ever happened in my life happened. I heard a song come on the radio in the room that I hadn't heard since I was a kid. It was called "The Good-bye Girl." It had been mine and Cathy's song.