Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Tim"

John J. Timothy "Tim"
1936 - 2010


Yesterday I wrote about Friends.  Specifically I wrote about that very unusual breed a Life Long Friend. Folks that we met early in our life who have stuck with us through thick and thin.  Folks who didn't run at the first hint of scandal or financial ruin or rejection of an amorous relationship.  Folks who like me just as I am.  True friends.

Of course I wrote that piece with the full knowledge that I may offend some of those people who I have friended later in my life.  Does that mean they're not my friends?  It certainly does not.  Of course they are my friends too but they arrived at a point in my life at a great disadvantage to them.  They didn't know me when I was young in my formative years.  The years where I made the maximum amount of mistakes in my life.  Of course I would like to think that I don't make mistakes at this point in my life, entering my eighth decade of existence on this planet.

At this time in my life it is very tough to cross the threshold of friendship to Friendship.  "Bob", the man featured in yesterday's blog passed that threshold.  Perhaps this assumption sound pompous and presumptuous on my part but it will just have to sound that way.  That's just the way I feel an I make no apologies.  "Bob" would understand.  At least I hope we would.

Then there are the other "friends" one makes along the Path of Life.  One such person photo is featured at the top of this blog.  We (Bill and I) always knew him as "Tim."  He was the driver of the American Legion Post 18 van to the Veterans Medical Facility in Wilmington, Delaware.

Veterans Administration Medical Center,
Wilmington, DE
The VAMC Lobby, Wilmington, DE

Bill and I are both veterans as was "Tim".  Tim was a volunteer driver of the American Legion van.  We always looked forward as having Tim as our driver.  Why?  I can't exactly put my finger on the reason other than both of us felt a comfort level with Tim that we didn't feel with any of the other van drivers.  Was Tim gay?  No.  Did Tim have some special attribute that drew people too him?  Not really.  But he did have that quiet confidence and niceness (I don't even know if that is a word) that one just understood that he cared.  He really did care about each and every one of us vets that he would ferry back and forth to the Wilmington VA.  As he sat in the lobby of the Wilmington VA lobby, patiently waiting for the last of his riders to finish their appointment, we had many conversations.  I never heard him once complain about having to wait for any of us, although there were times when some of us old vets would try the patience of a saint (like the time one old vet fell asleep on the fifth floor and we waited hours for him - and we didn't know where he was).

Tim patiently waiting in the lobby for his group to finish their appointments so he could take them back home to Sussex County

During those times in the lobby Tim and I would talk.  Sometimes Bill and I went up together (a real treat) but more often we went at separate times.  We always enjoyed "riding up with Tim."

During one of my conversations I found out that Tim's real name was "John Timothy."  But everyone called him "Tim."  It fit.  One the day I took this photo of Tim (and no, he didn't bitch and complain when I asked to take his photo - friends don't do that), I had the longest conversation I ever had with him.  I learned that he was married but that his wife had died some years earlier.  I also learned that he had a son who lived in Pennsylvania who was married and had children, thus Tim was a grandad.  I also learned that Tim lived by himself down near the American Legion Post.  Bill and I often discussed asking him over for dinner but never did.  Maybe our reluctance was because having him over for dinner would take him "out of context."  You understand, some friends are only friends "in context", or in other words that part of our lives that they have a function.

Little did I know that that day I talked to Tim would be the last day I would see him alive.  I knew Tim had a medical condition.  He had heart problems plus he had some kind of cancer (I forget which kind).  He told me that when he had his heart attack he went to the local hospital in Lewes.  He couldn't make the 89 mile trip to the Wilmington VA only to have it closed.  We had something in common because I also told him about my kidney stone emergency.  When my kidney stone as passed a few years ago I didn't know what was happened.  I thought I was dying.  I called the VA and they told me to go to their emergency room.  That was out of the question because I knew I wouldn't last by the time I got there.  Besides, I couldn't very well call Tim and schedule a ride.  I went to the same local hospital that Tim went to when he had his heart attack.

Tim would always bring the van around the front of the VAMC and help each one of us into the van, whether we needed it or not.  He had a little steeping stool behind the seat which he would pull out to help us step into the van. He was a pure gentleman.  

About eight months later, when I had another appointment at the VA I called Tim to reserve my seat on the van.  I left a voice mail like I always did.  Tim always would put me on the calendar at the Post to reserve my ride.  Bill and I usually stopped at the Post (like we did today, I have an appointment at the VA on Monday at the dermatology department) to make sure our names were on the calendar.

When we checked the calendar to make sure our names were on it, much to our surprise we discovered our names weren't on the calendar.  I think I asked one of the vets who was playing pool at a nearside pool table, where Tim was.  He told me "Oh, didn't you hear?"  I said "No."  He said "Tim died in September."  I immediately felt a slight pang in my heart.  "There goes another one" I thought to myself.  I've lost another friend (treasure) in my life.

I didn't realize how close I was to Tim until I learned of his death.  I felt like I lost something out of my life.  People like "Tim" are few and far in between.  Even though I only knew him for a short time, I feel privileged to have known "Tim" and I considered him my friend.  I hope he considered me the same.


Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Millsboro, DE

Bill and I visited Tim one last time a few months ago at the Delaware Memorial Veterans Cemetery outside of Millsboro, Delaware. We had a heck of a time finding his grave but we didn't give up.  We weren't going to leave until we found Tim's final resting place and paid our respects.

Bill looking for our friend Tim

We finally found it on the far side of the cemetery where the ashes of deceased veterans are placed.  We didn't realize that Tim was cremated.  He was in a box.  Somehow it didn't seem right.

I found Tim.  This is where we said our goodbyes to Tim for the last time

On that sunny Saturday morning this past fall; Bill and I said goodbye to Tim for the last time.  Maybe we'll see him again.  We certainly hope so.  Tim was our friend.  He is missed.

11 comments:

  1. What a wonderful post about a friend you truly cared about. May he rest in peace and love

    Judy

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  2. What a nice tribute. He was also fortunate to have you in his life.

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  3. Thank you for your comment Judy. We had a great deal of respect for Tim and were honored to have him as our friend. He was a true gentleman.

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  4. Ron, Sorry for your loss. I too have been in that place where I have lost someone or come very close to it, and then realized what an ache in my heart there was; fortunately for me, I have usually been able to grab back onto them for dear life, hopeful that I will appreciate them more fully and make the time I need. Your post has opened my eyes even more, so thank you and thank Tim. Clearly, he is still "driving." Much love to you. btw...almost 80? Wow. I can't wait to see what your next ten years brings! :)

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  5. By far one of your finest post. It should be published in the OP section of any large east coast daily !

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  6. that was a loving tribute; You are a dear friend to Tim.
    I hope someone does something like for me when I go.

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  7. Thank you Sean for your comment. Bill and I didn't realize how much we liked Tim until we found he was gone. I am so glad I decided to take pictures the last time I was with Tim. I had ridden many times before with Tim but never thought to take pictures. I'll be going up again this Monday to the VA in the American Legion Van. It won't be the same without Tim's warm presence. I know now that Tim was our angel.

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  8. Robin,

    The words "ache in my heart" describes perfectly how we felt when we realized we had lost Tim. Something told me to take pictures of him the last time he took us up to the VA in Wilmington. I didn't know that was the last time I would see him. I am so glad I captured his special warm smile. It's funny but he always helped me into the van. I didn't need it (I'm younger than him) but I let him do it anyway. He made everyone feel special.

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  9. Robin,

    No, I'm not almost 80! I just turned 70. Please. :) When one "enters into the 8th decade) means one turns 70. I'll be at 80 soon enough. The older I get the faster the years go by!

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  10. Ron,

    Very nicely written tribute to one of those little relationships we do build with people like Tim in our lives. Always something of a shock when we find them not in their place and hear they are gone.

    Lar

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  11. Lar,

    Both Bill and I were very saddened when we found out that Tim had died. He was one of the "good guys."

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