Wednesday, April 20, 2011

That Old Gang Of Mine

Deb“And the last to go will see the first three go before her.”

So said the Wicked Witch to Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.

This was always the most terrifying part of the movie and, even as a young child, I got it.
Dorothy’s impending death wasn’t as horrifying to her as the thought of watching the death of her friends. That would be the real torture.

Deb's gorgeous parents
My Mom and Dad just lost their last dear lifelong friend. The last of their gang. The last of the dear friends who were around to hold my brother and I in their arms when we were born.

My own pain around Stan’s death was deep enough, but it was watching Mom and Dad that really broke my heart.

Stan was 89, looked 70, and was projected to outlive us all. He was a true gentleman in the truest sense of the word. A kind, warm, engaging, spirited thoughtful man who never had a bad word to say about anyone.  He looked like Dean Martin and stood a handsome 6’4”.

When I posted his death on Facebook, I said, “Stan George, 1922 to 2011, and yet not long enough.”

I know it sounds odd to be shocked at the death of an 89-year-old man, but we were. Because Stan had found the secret to life and the evidence of it showed in his every gesture.

My parents loved this man so much. Even the mention of Stan could bring a smile to their faces. They would light up, just at the thought of seeing him. He never disappointed either. It’s not easy to live up to your hype as any actor knows, but Stan surpassed his.

And now he’s gone. They are all gone, that old gang of my parents. And Mom and Dad are alone. They of course have their family, close and extended, all of whom they love and every one they are grateful for. 

But the gang is gone. 

A while back Dad said they were thinking of having some friends in for a wine and cheese evening. Dad was having a good week physically and they thought it would be fun to host a small gathering. Suddenly they looked at each other, saw the irony, and started to laugh. Not certainly at the fact that there was no one left to invite, but at the fact that this had somehow caught them by surprise.

Can you imagine this?  A time of your life when your friends are gone. All gone? I would not even try as the thought is unbearable.
But there my parents sit, engulfed in memories of skating parties and New Years parties and swimming parties and precious phone calls filled with laughter.

I remember each and every one of their old gang. They are right there in my mind’s eye as I watch from my pajama-ed perch on the stairs, my Mom and Dad and their group of dear friends, dressed to the nines, laughing and dancing the night away in the unfinished basement in our home.

Barbara: Oh, Deb, I’m so sorry for your loss and that of your parents. It’s amazing how powerful those memories are, those of our parents reveling and enjoying their dear friends. Why do all children gravitate toward that energy like moths to flame? Is there one among us who doesn’t remember some form of late night eavesdropping, listening intently to gales of laughter and clinking of glasses, quintessential music counterpointing every beat and rhythm of their celebration?

I am loathe indeed to contemplate all my friends being gone one day. Thanks god for these glorious days. I do not take them for granted!!

Love to all, xo


  1. Deb, I am sooo sorry for your family's loss. *hugs, hugs, hugs*

  2. I am so sorry for the loss of a great friend of your all's. I know it must be tough for you and your parents. My Greatgrand mother on my father's side is the same way. Her last friend died a couple of months ago and now she is the last one standing...

    . Sending hugs your all's way Deb in hope's that they make you all feel a little better.

  3. Thanks Rigel and Lyndsie. Much appreciated.xo

  4. touched me this made me think..made me cry little..and made me feel what your parents must be guess thats what incredible writers do..! : )

  5. So sorry for your loss, Deb. It's never easy to lose the ones we love. Sounds like Stan was a great guy and a good friend to you and your folks. -Hug!-

  6. We watched my husband's grandparents go through this- losing all their best friends and then siblings. They handled the losses with grace, but no I can't imagine, don't want to imagine, losing all these precious friends of mine.
    What I did like to imagine is that Gram and Grandad's friends had gotten the party started in Heaven so it must have been rockin and rollin' by the time they got there.

  7. melody what a lovely thing to say. I promise next time I will try and make you laugh instead of cry.
    Thanks Ruth, he was a great guy. One of the great guys. Hollye I can only hang my hat on the recroom party in the sky. I know in my heart they will see their friends again. Thanks.

  8. Debra - My parents are in almost the same boat. They live in a retirement home, so have some "friends" there, but it isn't the same as the old ones. My condolences to you and your family.
    Did Stan live in Bridlewood too?
    Take care.

  9. Yes Linda as you say old friends are so important aren't they? They are the mirror into our youth. Stan did not live in Bridlewood. He and Dad worked together 60 years ago and became the best of friends.

  10. Deb my heart goes out to you and your parents. The loss of anyone at any age makes us look at ourselves, our kids, our parents, our......We are born to die yet we die many ways, many ages, too young, too ill, horrific. I just attended a 30 year reunion. I knew tons of people there but the closest of my gang were gone. I shed a tear, I raised a glass. I so understand this path. My Dad lost his brother, but more so his pal around, morning coffee read the paper shoot the breeze pal. It has softened a little over the four years but I still see the loss he feels.
    TY for sharing and I do believe (religion aside) that we all will meet again for the best reunion known to mankind. There is a tune from a bunch of New Jersey guys I know the lyrics are close to heart. I will send to Barb so she can forward to you. Peace, K

  11. I cannot believe that you have lost so many school friends at this point in your life. And your poor Dad. Believe me I know how he is feeling. I would love to hear the tune. Thanks for sending. Send me a facebook request. I am not blocked!

  12. We very recently had a 95th birthday celebration for my granfather and he said "My friends are all gone and without my wife of 62 years I am just waiting to die"

    The family surrounding him when he said it are all important and a loved part of his life but his kids and grandkids simply can't take the place of those that have been lost.

    Like you said with your parents it's seeing his pain that hurts the most.

    Life long friends, the type that are more family than friend, are such a treasure to find and have had. I'm sorry your family is experiencing such a loss. My sympathy to you and your folks.

  13. Erin that breaks my heart. And I guess it's so hard to grasp that we may well be there one day. And it begs the question, would you rather live to a ripe old age this way, or be one of the friends who left the party. Food for thought.

  14. I want to die before my mind does. I wouldn't want to be alive with dementia, Alzheimer's, etc. I don't want to be alive if I'm not me.

    I want to die before I'm an intact mind trapped in a prison of a body like my Gram was for 2 years with Parkinson's.

    Mostly, though, most importantly, above all else, all I really ask is that my son outlives me. I must die before my child.

  15. I'm glad your parents still have each other. My mom outlived almost all of her friends before she finally passed away herself a couple of years ago. She used to tell me that getting old wasn't bad, it was losing all of her wonderful friends of 50+ years that would finally kill her. When the last of her friends passed away she found her cancer had returned and decided it was time for her to call it a day also. She was 84 and looked at least 10 yrs younger and acted like it, too. Her wake was filled with so many lovely people with funny stories about her. I never knew how funny she really was, or how popular and loved until she passed.
    I'm sure I don't really have to mention this but I will anyway. Spend as much time as possible with your parents now. You are so very lucky to still have them both. Enjoy them while they are still here. Discuss with them what will happen when you feel they can no longer drive or live on their own. That was the smartest thing I ever did for my mother. There were no surprises when it was time to hang up the car keys. Tell them frequently specific things you've appreciated about having them as parents, such as having wonderful senses of humor, and tough decisions they've had to make with you as you grew up.
    Wow, I've gone on longer than I meant to. Anyway, I'm sending you huge huge hugs. I know your parents friends will be sorely missed by them as well as you. Get together and share funny stories about them. It's very cathartic. HUGS again, Karen

  16. Oh Rigel it killed me what you said. Because it is true.
    And Karen your words inspired me as well because although I live so joyously with my Mom and Dad and have no regrets in our relationship, there are still things that need to be said, that long to e said. All good. Overdue. Thanks. We share many laughs and fun but there are always unsaid things, aren't there?

  17. Lots of love and hugs to you and your parents Deb.

    My grandparents are in much the same boat. My uncle wanted to take them down to their hometown (a five or six hour drive away - and much more than they can cope with - they're in their late 80s, Grandad's 89) to see their friends but they refused because, as they pointed out - it would take all of five minutes to see them all since they're all in one place - the cemetery. They meant it as a joke and it was funny, but at the same time, so sad.

    But like your parents Deb, my grandparents at least have each other :)


  18. The comments about , "who among us hasn't eavesdropped...", and the 'kids in pajamas on the stairs' brought me right back to my parents' get-togethers with "The Group." My brother and I were banished upstairs to my parents' bedroom, the one with the ---TV---. We could still hear the glasses clinking, cards being shuffled and dealt, and definitely that clinking of glasses.
    Auntie Barbara and Uncle Mel were those people we called "aunt" and "uncle" because they were more family than some of our actual 'family.' They were the closest. There are a couple of members of "The Group" who are still around, but the card games ended when these two special people passed.
    You've dug up memories I forgot I even had, and I thank you for the warm fuzzies they brought with them.

    Sincerely, and with thanks and sympathy,

  19. I just need to point out that "the clinking of glasses" wasn't supposed to repeated in my note above. The alcohol did flow, but I meant to add "singing and laughing." :)


  20. Elle I think it makes all the difference when they have each other I agree. It's funny how many "how long would you want to live" conversations this one has sparked. I loved your images Dawn. I can remember falling asleep at a party on the sea of coats on the bed too. Our Barbara and Mel, were Jean and Chuck. I guess we wall have a couple like that. We lost Chuck years ago and Jean only a few years. We have some wonderful super 8's of those parties that we transferred to DVD.

  21. You know, after a good friend of my parents succumbed to cancer, they started to feel their own mortality. Granted, they have many of their friends still around, but they know that some day, they will leave one by one. I think no matter if you're expecting it, death always catches you off guard.

    Hugs to your parents.

  22. You are so right. Death always catches you off guard. It's as if we have no idea it exists. Good point Megan.

  23. That is happening to my parents friends as well. The sad part is also the death of young people which has happened to me and my son. When an older person dies you know they had a long life filled with memories but when I young person dies you see how much they will miss. I lost my best friend when she was 49 and her kids were just 6 and 9, now they are 22, 19 and I know she would have been so proud and joyous in their lives. Sorry for your parents as they become the last one standing.

  24. Deb, I'm sorry for your loss. Reading that brought a tear to my eye, because it was sad and ever so slightly happy all at once. Sad because you and your parents lost a wonderful friend, and happy because you all were fortunate enough to have him as a friend. Sending many, many hugs your way...

  25. OM, OMG, be grateful - and make it known. We never know when the time has come. I cherish my friends, especially the close ones that I've known all of my life. We are so blessed in this day and age, with phones and internet. Distance does not really matter, but connection does. Never take for granted that tomorrow will come. I'm so beyond thrilled that in June I will again be able to share more time with my dear friends with whom I grew up, treasured loved ones who I've known through everything. Many have died, but we keep them close in our memories. I graduated from Venice HS in 1964, but it seems like just a few years ago. So lovely to still share and care. I never mind talking about death, because it makes me so present. And if we continue to nourish our treasured friends, we will never "run out," because love is built upon love. I am so in awe of how we can cultivate loving friendships right through to our last breath. There are different kinds of "gangs." Bless the old and new!!


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