Driving home—till death do us part

I drove home from Los Angeles, drained by  the past weeks.  Howard was gone, but he was everywhere around me.  In my car, which he had helped me buy a few months ago.  On the road itself, the 300 miles between Los Angeles and Carmel that he had driven countless times over the years, coming up to visit our children.

I’ve spent the last few months constantly doing that same drive to visit him.  Many years after our divorce, even in the last stages of his illness, he would always call me when I was on the road, checking to see where I was, and then he would call right at the time he knew I’d be pulling up to my house in Carmel, making sure I arrived home safely. That’s who he was.

For all the people who have shared their memories, condolences, who have  felt they’ve gotten to know Howard a little bit through me, I thought I’d share a slightly altered  version of what I said at the service after he died.

This isn’t a typical wedding photo; but it’s typical of Howard—-always trying to make me laugh.

At the moment we said our vows, however,  I was crying; and I never actually said  the words “I do”.  So he always joked that our marriage wasn’t officially legal.

It sure was binding.   Even after our divorce, even after my 17 years of marriage to V, I’m standing here today.

That is a testament to who Howard was.

When he died, a memory immediately popped into my mind—that goes back to when we had been separated about 6 months.

I was still living in our house in Los Angeles with the kids. After being gone almost a week on a business trip, I came home at night and a few minutes later, Howard brought the kids home.  He had taken them to Disneyland that day; they were both fast asleep in the car in their clothes.   He carried them upstairs and put them in their beds, and went home to his apartment about 15 minutes away.

A few hours, later in the middle of the night, the house started shaking.  It was the Northridge earthquake.   Things were falling off the walls and shattering as I jumped out of bed and raced down the hallway to get the kids.  I brought them both into my bed;   we were all shocked and scared and disoriented.

They were still in their Disneyland clothes ; it was the middle of the night, there was broken glass all over the house, I had no power, no radio, no idea how much damage had been done.

I sat there in the bed  with the two kids, in the pitch black in the middle of the night, stunned and paralyzed and not sure what to do.

I have no idea how it happened so fast;  but in 5 minutes we heard the front door  open and we saw a light and there was Howard with a flashlight;  coming to take charge and take care of us.   A perfect example of life with Howard.

That was January 17, 1994.

It was January 17 again, 18 years later, when I stood there as Howard died— and it felt like another earthquake.

I could not imagine my life or the world without Howard in it.   I felt like I was sitting  in the dark ;  waiting for him to show up with the flashlight.

Along with his sense of humor, I think that defined him— always taking charge—and taking care of the people he loved.

A few months ago I was getting a new car.  By this time he was getting weaker and barely going anywhere except the cancer center—-still  he insisted on going to the dealership himself to be sure I got the best car—and the best deal.

Just a few days ago, when he wasn’t able anymore to walk or even eat,  somehow he found the strength  to meet for a few hours  in his hospital room with his attorney.  It was classic Howard—–and that turned out to be the last thing he ever did—taking care of his kids.

This entire experience was his worst nightmare and also his finest hour.  It showed Howard’s character at its best.  He’d always been resilient and relentless—but now he was courageous—and heroic.   And still smiling.

That’s the legacy he left all of us.

The greatest gift he gave our children was teaching them do what he did that night 18 years ago—to take charge.

And the greatest gift our children gave  Howard was proving to him that they could do that—so he was able to leave, feeling at peace and secure that they could take care of themselves.

And within moments of his death both Alli and Daniel were already doing that,  were taking charge  of things  even when it meant moving a few mountains.  Howard would have been incredibly proud— but not at all surprised.

Howard:  No one made me laugh more; no one was stronger  or more inspiring.   We’ll always love you and always do what you taught us—to take care of each other.   And bring the flashlight.

 

When I got home from the drive , there was no call from Howard this time.  But V was standing there right in the driveway, waiting  for me. 

Comments

  1. What a beautiful post Darryle. I am again sorry for your loss and inspired by your devotion to the people you love as well as your ability to live your life as an “open blog”. You are one of the bravest people I know!
    XO

  2. Extraordinary relationship. Extraordinary writing.

  3. Darryle, I am so sorry for the loss, my heart is with your family. Love, Ruthie

  4. ((Darryle)) I wish this was a hug in person. This was such a lovely testament. To him, to you, for him, for you, and especially for your kids. I am so sorry for your loss. I am so inspired by how loving and caring the journey to and through loss has been.

    • I’ll take all the hugs I can get, virtual or otherwise. It really has been an extraordinary journey—especially the past few weeks but as always, it included an extraordinary amount of growth—for all of us. Thanks so much for such sweet words—and I’ll expect that hug in person next time I see you!

  5. This post made me cry. Obviously, I don’t know your whole history with Howard, but it sounds like a lot of divorced couples I know could learn a lesson from you both.

    • Kimberly, thanks so much for reading, and for commenting. People are always surprised how close we remained after divorce. It’s just not possible for every couple, but I too wish more people could experience that it’s a gift for everyone involved.

  6. What extraordinary people you all are.

    • Ah, Richard, I don’t know about that; I think often circumstances get people to rise to the occasion—and in our case, truly everyone did. It made everything more bearable, almost beautiful at times. Thank you.

  7. The way you took care of each other is a moving testament to you both. He was an extraordinary person and you are an extraordinary person, providing inspirational examples to all. I send you deepest sympathy and admiration for your strength and spirit.

    • Thank you SO much, Bee. Since I had cancer, I always expected it would be the reverse situation, and it would be me who died first. Howard was very independent, not the kind of guy who ever wanted anyone to take care of him—and I’m grateful I had the chance to give him some measure of what he gave me.

  8. Myra Goodman says:

    Oh Darryle – this is so beautiful and inspiring, and it made me cry. It’s amazing how strong the love and partnership between you two remained. A great example. You’ve been a pillar of love and strength. What an extraordinary person you are!

    • I think no one sets a better example of a partnership than you —but we sure managed to remain partners through it all. I wish you had gotten to know Howard. Thank you for your your comment and all your caring —with lots of love—

  9. MICHAEL ROSENTHAL says:

    I can’t see through my tears. I hope this keyboard doesn’t short circuit.

    I remember that song, “Life Is But A Dream…” Maybe. But I see now that life is the gift of opportunity. That at any moment, no matter what transpired before, something else will happen. Sometimes, it might merely be a continuation of what was already happening. But, if we allow ourselves the freedom to trust our hearts and have the courage to step in a different direction, we can experience the wonder of that gift and the reward of sharing it. Unfortunately, we are so wrapped up in living and doing and competing and fighting for “our fair share, that by the time we figure it out, it is usually in hindsight.

    A Commodities trader could explain life’s worth by emphasizing its limited allotment and non-renewability. Life is a perishable. So we can’t store it or make more of it for ourselves. But you still can’t put a price on it. A Movie director could say, “We’ve only got one reel of film left so don’t mess this up!” But we find out the hard way that there are no instant replays or “do-overs,” and even if we do wonderful things and make lots of money, our shelf life is not forever.

    We all get it eventually. Some sooner than others. Too many of us struggle to keep ourselves looking as young as possible. So that our Youth driven society and even our fellow “agers” will not discount our viability. That they won’t value us. As we pursue those selfish investments we waste the gift that you have come to embrace. The gift of LOVE. To find it within you and to find it within another. To nurture it and feed it and teach it to those blessed to know you. Life might be many things, but when all is said and done, Life is the opportunity to love and be loved! And the next moment brings yet another opportunity to discover and share it as you do, Darryle. Thank you for sharing you.

    • And thank YOU for sharing your words. I really appreciate your thoughts, and time to read and comment. Also wish I could I distill everything you said into a simple response—but it’s really late here—maybe all I can add is that “Life is complicated”.???? Thank you again, MIchael.

  10. Heartbreaking and inspiring — I am always uplifted after reading about your tender relationship with Howard that transcended everything else in the middle.

    • I have to say at times it felt more tenuous than tender—but I think the older we got the more we appreciated each other and our connections and history—and how lucky we were to transcend everything else. Thanks so much, Kim.

  11. That was beautiful, it made me cry. I am so sorry and I do appreciate you sharing the stories of your life. Can’t wait until we cross paths again.

  12. What a lovely tribute. He sounds like a great man. Much love to all of you.

  13. You are surely the poster child for divorce, my friend. And what a testament to you marriage to V that you can express this so freely. You and Howard created two wonderful human beings together and you should be very proud. Send my deepest condolences to your kids, to Daniel from Jana who was heartbroken at the news. Love and hugs from the other coast till I can give you one in person.

    • I’ really appreciate that you mentioned V since he really made all of it possible—for me, Howard, and our kids. Also really appreciate your warm words and thoughts—and I’l take you up on that hug, hopefully sooner rather than later. xxxooo

  14. My dear Darryle
    I have been missing you these past months, but I also felt close to you as I knew you were with Howard. I know the exquisite agony of the bedside vigil the long goodbye. Thank you for letting us join you in that sacred space.
    I love you, and want to give you many hugs.
    Jamie

    • Beautiful words, Jamie, to describe my last few months—and beautiful sentiments. I’m starting re-entry and hope you’ll come visit–have missed you, too. Thank you so much.

  15. Hi Darryle – So sorry for your loss. Beautifully written tribute. Much love,
    Shauna

  16. Sandra Pepe says:

    Darryle,
    That was the most beautiful tribute to Howard, to your family and all that you have been through. I’m so sad about losing Howard and the long drawn-out and extreme pain you all faced as you walked together through it all. Howard was a fun and loving guy and such a great dad. He was so very proud of all of you. I hope your hearts will eventually find the peace that Howard is living in now. We are thinking of all of you and sending our love your way.

  17. Cynthia Soumoff says:

    Darryle,
    I’m so sorry for your loss. My condolences to you and your children. Thanks for sharing your thoughts in such a heartfelt manner.

    Cynthia

Leave a Comment

*