AN UNTOLD STORY...STORIES ABOUT LOCAL LIFE IN THE HAMPTONS--PART III
Here is a "slice" of life in The Hamptons---Many locals are around and yet not really accessible to others. So, my stories about Fred, a local farmers son, may give one a sense about this beautiful part of the country. This is the 3rd in a series about life here. Complicated lives make us all a little more distant with our neighbors; our engagement with them can be a cursory "Hello, how are you?" and then move on. But then there are times when there is more--this is one of those times:
It is springtime in the Hamptons and I'm finding that the typical things I do at this dawn of a new day are not even coming to mind--I normally have the beginnings of a garden and I have not even started one this year!
It was the longest, coldest winter I can remember so I am just appreciative of the sun and the vibrant green grass that is well established now in my big back yard. I hadn't moved about much all winter. After Fred had come by to bring in my firewood that snowy day, I was completley alone for the rest of the winter.
My work was spotty and I spent very little time in the office. I was not the only agent who was not busy--it had been a dreadful winter and the slow business was evidence of that. Even the rental market was off.
I heard a conversation at Schmidt's this afternoon--Someone told James at the deli counter that Fred was in the hospital again. The news did not sound good. I quickly went through the line, made my purchase and left the store. I sat in my car for a minute or two. I just needed to think for a bit. I didn't want to head back to the office right now--not enough privacy there.
Does Fred even have family left? Is his family all gone now--any brothers or sisters? I don't think there are any or he would have said something about them. Certainly he has someone to look after him as he goes through this rough patch!
Fred...A remarkable man and I don't even know that much about him. After all this time has gone by and I am just finally knowing his story...knowing things I could never, ever have known before, but by some quirk of fate I was learning by giving him the space and time to tell me...
His talent as a singer was not wasted. He was always in demand I hear. There were times when I wondered if he ever had a plan to go further with his singing--record a song or two. Or go on a TV show and perform.
But that was not in the cards for him; and I always thought that I had done something very wrong; wrong enough to drive him away. He always ran off when we were together--We were never together by a big plan; it was always a surprise when we would see each other.
There was a time when Fred and I were more than friends; but that ended so abruptly that I always wondered what I had done wrong. Then again, I was was not easy in a relationship. I had my own issues with my independence and privacy.
Maybe I could call Molly and she could fill me in. I believe he was doing some work for her at her little house in the North Sea Beach Colony. I decided to ring her and see if she knows anything....No answer. I left a message. "Hi Moll, can you give me a call--I heard that Fred is not doing too well and wondered if you know anything about his condition....Thanks! Call me when you can!" I would wait to see what she knew.
Then I drove to my favorite spot--The one on Meadow Lane, across from the ocean. This is a protected area; Shinnecock Bay lay before me with the grasses flowing in the water, the green sheaves waving back and forth in the deep blue water as the tide moved in...A tall white Heron stood in the shallows, waiting for the minnows to come in with the tide.
What a sight this was---water all around me as I walked out on the board walk. A Snowy Egret swept in on quiet wings, swooped down and skimmed the water before darting off into the sky with his catch of the day.
I decided to go back to my car; I needed to see if I had a call from Molly. I got back into my car--nothing. My phone was dark; no blinking message lights, nothing.
My mind whirled...where should I call next--Maybe I am wrong about Molly knowing Fred. She may not really know him very well either. "This is not good!" I said out loud to myself. I need to at least ask around--maybe head back to Schmidt's and see if James knows anything more....
My eyes kept filling with moisture--could not be tears. I was in my favorite spot and here is where I have done my best thinking and planning. No, maybe allergies.
Then I felt a feeling that I can not explain to this day...It was a stillness that fell over me and the entire environment there on Meadow Lane. I wondered if it were going to storm--The silence was so strange that I closed my eyes for a few minutes thinking that would clear away the rushing thoughts. I wanted to enjoy the stillness.
I felt complete relief and I was able to meditate in a very deep state--it was nothing short of awesome for me to feel that sense of control--I was able to stop my mind---actually stop it from taking me down a path where I would not benefit, but fall victim to helplessness. I am NOT helpless. On the contrary; I have prided myself on my independence from all manner of things: Men, money, the need to impress, the need for social recognition, material things--all of it was so far away from my real requirements. I sighed very deeply and breathed out slowly to let my body adjust to the new normal after my extreme meditation.
Suddenly there was a rush---a soft rushing sound a
t first. I thought it was my car; sounded like it came from the back seat. I opened my eyes and looked--Nothing there. Then a stronger rushing sound, a sound that I have never heard before. It was outside my car and as I rolled the window down I heard a slow flapping of wings--like angels wings! And there I saw the largest swan and it's partner flying in low. They were huge! Their wingspan exceeded anything I had seen before.
I have seen swans from a distance, mostly on the water, arched necks and a confidence that out shines any human I know. But these two were right over my car and moving in toward the water...they landed, the most graceful settling in to the quiet water and then the famous arching of their necks as they moved right past me, right in front on me as if to say: "look at us; we are the spectacle here--watch us and learn what real pairing is!" My mouth fell open I am sure...they were exquisitely white, almost iridescent in the brightness of the day.
Sadness is what I felt next--sadness that had no way to redemption. I now knew something that had been shown to me--something I never wanted to admit: My world was a lonely one because I created an environment that kept people at bay. I always thought I chose it; that I wanted to be lonely. To some degree I know I do like to be alone, that I did choose that but I was the type to never allow anyone to hurt me. I was so programmed to NOT be hurt that I was living in an isolation that could not be healthy--I was unavailable!!! I was unavailable to even the most obvious suitor--I always saw the persuit by a man as a negative thing--as something that I needed to reject, almost by nature. And it became second nature to reject any man, to dissappear emotionally so that I could not be harmed in any way....very much like what I saw in Fred! He was unavailable in such a big way!
"I need to just go and see how he is!" I started my car and drove off; back to the Village and the place to start was the hospital there, on Old Town Road.
I went to the back entrance--I know the way into the offices from there. I stopped at the front desk window and asked "Do you have a patient here by the name of Fred?" The woman at the window looked up and then said "What is the last name?" I gave it to her and she told me he was on the 3rd floor, room 309.
As I walked into his room, there was a silence that was like a gray fog...the shades were pulled half way down so the brightness of the afternoon sun was diminished. The room was so very gloomy that I didn't really want to stay--but I pushed through that, knowing that the fear I felt for him was at the bottom of the gloom.
"Where are you?" I asked quietly as I walked up next to the bed. No answer.
I reached out and just covered one of his hands with mine and gently squeezed it. "Are you awake?"
One leg moved to the side and I knew he was in a deep sleep, just coming out of it...
"Do you mind if I sit here a while?" His hand moved then too and he slipped it out from under mine. He moved his hand to his face and rubbed the side of his face slowly...then his eyes; he rubbed his eyes with his fingers as if to try to open them.
Finally I heard his voice, rough and uneven, he said "How are you ? I haven't seen you in so long! What brings you here?"
"Just wanted to see if you need anything, that's all" I said softly, not to disrupt his deep state of mind. "I wanted to see if you are doing ok and if I can do anything to help you out? A hospital is not the most wonderful place to be!" There were charts and bags of glucose and meds nearby, hanging from their metal arms. I could see things were not going easy for him. His arms were taped up where the needles were and the punctures from those needles gave me goosebumps. I had a chill...
"I'm not doing so hot" he said through dry lips--his tongue sounded like it was stuck to the roof of his mouth and I looked around for water--or ice chips. I reached for a plastic bottle with a straw and felt it to see if it was still cool to drink...then put the straw next to his lips..."Here, take a sip. It will help you feel better"....he took a long sip like he needed it more than anything else right now!
I spent the next hour sitting there while he tried to go back to sleep--he really did not seem to know or care that I was there--he was in deep trouble and I knew it. No one else was there, and it did not seem that anyone else was going to show up.
I stood silently beside his bed; feeling that I should not leave. I didn't want to go...I wanted a sign that he knew, just a glimmer of his being aware that I was still there. Finally, he opened his eyes, slowly and with a gulp of air he turned toward me and said "you don't have to stay--I think I just want to be alone here, if you don't mind". I nodded, and said "Yes..."
I pulled the shades up so that some sun could get in to his bedside--then I was told by a nurse that I needed to go. He had just had surgery and he needed his rest.
I left silently, thinking that was the best thing to do now.
At the desk downstairs I asked if he had family. I was told he has a nephew who was coming in to see him every other day--it was rough though because the nephew lived in Connecticut. He could not be there as much as he wanted to be.
When I left the hospital I wanted to go home and just relax--try to get my mind off Fred, and try to forget that he was so alone. Aside from moving in on his privacy and taking over the watch at his bedside, there was not a lot for me to do.
I have never had a day so full of emptiness. Yet there was a brightness now that was not there before. I took a very deep breath and slowly let it out...I felt that Fred would improve; I don't know how, but I did feel that way. Only time will tell.
--And then I slept...