Dearest Rachel –
You probably remember how, with every year end, I would make a habit of picking up the year-end wrapup from Life magazine (and later, after that one folded, Time magazine), covering ‘the year in pictures.’ Some of them may have been thrown out in the course of the purge, but I think I kept most of them. The folks even gave me the one from 2021 (as they were short on Christmas present ideas), although I have much less interest in it, for reasons that should be quite obvious. One of the things that always interested me was the memorial section; what celebrities passed on during that year, and (as I would occasionally phrase it) how busy the guy with the scythe and hourglass had been. Having lost you last year, what celebrities or politicians or other famous people were struck down was suddenly of considerably less importance to me.
That being said – and maybe it’s something that comes with the territory and our age – the dude really seems to be busier these days. Some of it has to do with what’s going on in the wider world, whether we’re talking Ukraine or the southern border, but we’re also losing people close to us, both in age and in proximity. This includes family members from both sides (even as my parents – my dad, in particular – manage to avoid his bony reach for that much longer). And just now, I’ve gotten notice of his grasp from a perfectly unexpected quarter.
Yesterday afternoon, after updating you with the progress in the laundry room, I went to pick up the mail. One item was addressed to you from some lawyer whose name didn’t ring a bell. Given how long it’s been, I tend to treat mail addressed to you much the same way that I treat mail address to either of your parents; that is to say, if the writer doesn’t know you’re dead, they haven’t been paying attention, and therefore don’t deserve mine, and into the bin it goes. Still, something from a lawyer might have something to do with your estate, so I went to open it up regardless.
It turns out that, even as I was complaining about how the lens popped out of my glasses, and that I needed to get my eyes checked and my prescription updated, that possibility of getting that taken care of had been removed from me. The legal notice was to inform you that our optometrist had passed away, and requested that we let her know where we wanted our medical records forwarded.
And while it seems churlish of me to say it, this is rather an inconvenience: now I have to find a new optometrist in order to get a new replacement set of glasses with an updated prescription. Isn’t that a ridiculous – and rude – attitude to have towards news of someone’s passing, even if your only dealings with them was in his professional capacity?
Dr. E was a nice and friendly man, too; always cheery and helpful – whether that was as a professional in his field or just the nature of his personality is irrelevant. I shouldn’t be upset simply because of my own inconvenience. That’s just not right.
And yet, what else can I do or say? It’s not like I’ve been in touch with him. We don’t cross paths unless I (or Daniel) was visiting his office as a patient, and that hasn’t happened since your accident. Any thoughts and prayers would be useless for him; either he’s in one place or the other, and nothing I could do or say at this point can change that. Have you seen him on your side, perhaps?
That being said, though, I think I can talk about the inconvenience of death (how’s that for understating the concept?) without making someone else’s passing all about me. I’ll start by going out on a limb and postulating that this was most likely rather sudden. I don’t know if Dr. E had planned to retire at some point, or if just keeping busy was what was keeping him going (I know some people who literally plan to work until their very last day, both for that reason, as well as for the sad economic fact that retirement isn’t something they think they’ll ever be able to afford. My guess is that a professional career such as Dr. E’s would probably not be in that latter category, unless he was absolutely dreadful at managing his personal finances), but it’s a moot point now. The thing is, since his was a sole practice, the business dies with him. He had no apparent plans for a successor to carry the practice on after he was done – regardless of the reason. This becomes a problem for more people than just myself and Daniel; all of his patients need to seek alternative professional assistance for their optical issues, as well as figuring out the disposition of their medical history under his care.
Of course, the latter is what his lawyer is attempting to ascertain – although it strikes me as odd that you, of all of us, should be the one to receive a letter. Should Daniel and I expect one as well, or were you the first to obtain service from him, and therefore are the umbrella contact for the family? I may check in with this lawyer some time next week and find out. After all, while I obviously need the records for Daniel and myself, I don’t suppose yours are really all that necessary anymore, so I need to give separate instructions for each of us, don’t I?
And these are the things that catch us unprepared when the hooded one shows up at our doorstep. Even if he sends his calling cards well in advance, we’re usually too busy with our lives to deal with all that’s involved with our deaths – and in any event, we don’t want to think about that eventuality, no matter how certain it will be. We always think that everything will continue the way it is, no matter how much we know, in the back of our minds, that this isn’t so. So, when he shows up, scythe sharpened, with all the grains in the bottom chamber for us to see, we’re almost always caught flat-footed about matters like this. And those on the periphery of our lives – patients, clients, customers – the news leaves them scrambling as well.
Anyway, I’ll talk to you later, honey. Keep an eye out for me, and wish me luck – I’m going to need it.
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