Circle of Life

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Kara, I think, did this in the right order: she went first to the funeral for her across-the-street neighbor who died suddenly and unexpectedly while in his early 60s, and then she went to the baby shower. I am doing this in reverse order: baby shower first, and today is the service for my across-the-street neighbor who died suddenly and unexpectedly while in his mid 50s.

There has been no shortage of memorial services to attend in the past year, so it was a very welcome change to head for the opposite end of the spectrum and help young parents prepare to greet their son.

Fortino, who works at Pat’s, and Migeeli are a month or less away from bringing little Leandro into the world, so yesterday Lynn and I were off to a Lion King-themed party filled with more sugar than you could ever imagine.

Because Fortino knows a person or two in the t-shirt biz, he and Migeeli were decked out in shirts with Lion King parental characters that said “Dad” and “Mom.” Fortino’s little brother wore one that said “Uncle.” I’m told — because like so much that happens at Pat’s these days, I missed this completely during production — there’s one for Leandro, too. It says, “Wait ’til you hear my roar.”

Fortino’s Pat’s peeps, both present and past, turned out in full force for the party, which is good, because about half of the invitees had not shown by the time Lynn and I left two and a half hours into it. And we were more segregated than we should have been. The Pat’s crew pushed two tables together, while the other attendees sat at two other tables, with an island of emptiness between us.

We did intermingle for the one game that got played while we were there, and guess who is your new Musical Chairs champeen? I may have threatened Fortino, my final unvanquished competitor, with his paycheck, but I figure everything’s fair in Musical Chairs. And that did not stop him from trying to yank the last chair out from under me, so I feel I earned this dizzying victory.

Lynn, who had spent her day working in Gunnison, Almont and Sargents (total driving mileage: 80+), barely made it through the cutting of the Lion King cake, with frosting as high as the cake layer (“This is why we use Sensodyne,” said Ben’s wife after eating a bite), so we did not get to watch as Fortino and Migeeli unwrapped their communal gift from the Pat’s gang, a changing table (pad purchased separately, because even though it said “changing table with pad,” it didn’t really mean that).

Kara also planned to get them Goodnight Moon in both English and Spanish, which made me think I ought to be investing in some Sandra Boynton books and Lynn wanted to buy a little outfit. We didn’t get the extra shopping done this week (maybe Kara did), but with Leandro not due until around Valentine’s (although his mother was under some duress just two days ago as he rotated into the head-down position), I have plenty of time to go out and find cute baby things. Like that’s a hardship.

[I have to say, I feel like I scored big already just with the acquisition of the card we all signed. Here in little ol’ Gunnison, I just walked across the street from Pat’s to the Open Your Eyes Gallery and asked if they by any chance had any cards with baby lions on them. And Allan, who originated in the south of Africa, came through.]

Yesterday there were balloons and candy, cake and punch, posole and ceviche (cooked, not raw, for the baby’s mom), and an air of hope and joy. Today, we will exchange that in a lament for a life lost.

As I mentioned earlier this week, Dave Yeager, who lived directly across the street from us on Irwin, died on Sunday. It turns out he’d been experiencing some lung issues and was on oxygen, but it doesn’t sound like anyone took this to be an imminent condition. Until it was.

I don’t think we’ll have to worry about attendance issues today. Dave was a people person who seemed to ingratiate himself with everyone in the neighborhood from the youngest to the oldest. He was also a popular mechanic who fixed both autos and boats well and at a fair price.

While still a loss, I think, having moved and no longer directly across from him, I am just that bit more removed. Although I think this now, but yesterday, every time I got into my truck, it reminded me of Dave. And it probably will for a long time, because he’s the one who put a switch on the battery to keep it from draining. I will think of that every time I go to start the truck, using a key on a fob that says “Mechanic on Duty.”

Gilly’s husband, who hadn’t heard, took his car to Dave’s shop this week, which was still up and running under Dave’s assistant Darryl and a family friend. This is good, because I was worried about both Darryl and Dave’s wife LeighAnn, who is the office manager at Mechanic on Duty. Losing a husband is bad enough; I didn’t want LeighAnn losing all her income as well. I also hope someone in the neighborhood will help her shovel her driveway, now that Dave’s not there to do so.

The ending a life, it seems here as I write this, creates a hole, one not easily, or perhaps ever, filled. There is so much that is about to change for Fortino and Migeeli, but those are all changes to look forward to, even if they involve things like sleep deprivation and diapers. There is so much that has already changed, and will keep changing, for LeighAnn, and it’s hard to picture something positive.

LeighAnn has good friends and neighbors, as well as her two kids and two grandchildren, one of them arrived only last year. She was a single parent before she met Dave, so I know she can get through this, but I wish she didn’t have to. I wish none of us had to.

We will go today and share in her loss, which is a loss for all of us who knew Dave. There may also be good food and camaraderie, showing there can be constants in all aspects of life, but there won’t be any Musical Chairs. Because while yesterday, for me — and Fortino and Migeeli — it was all about winning, today it is all about loss.

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