Brenda and I had never attended a Ludacris concert, but this weekend in downtown Indianapolis, we did.
Ludacris is a rapper. It was a new experience for us, but the night was “a happening” and we decided to walk across the street from the Union Station to join the fun.
The crowd was as you might imagine, mostly young men in sagging pants and young women in short skirts, jamming to the music. A gigantic sparkler, like a bright star soaring across the sky, lit up the night.
The deep notes coming from the speakers were so low I thought they might jolt my heart out of rhythm. We not only heard the notes, we felt them.
Then, out of the corner of our eyes, we saw them. Sitting on a bench a few feet away were two women. The younger woman was into the music. The older lady was pleasant, but preoccupied. She had something on her mind.
Her young friend ambled away, and soon the older lady was sitting alone, slowly tapping her foot to the loud beat of the speakers. She asked us to sit down next to her on the bench. We first declined, but after she asked a second time, we sat down.
We talked about the concert, the music and the diverse crowd as the music became louder, and the crowd danced in the rain.
Unexpectedly, her conversation quickly turned from the music and the street people to a deeper subject, which made tears well up in her eyes. She told us she was 53 years old, and her husband had moved out after 26 years of marriage. She said he was in Memphis, after traveling to Montgomery and Nashville.
“I grew up in a family that moved often, and I decided when I got married we would stay in one place. I missed my parents whose work took them away from me for long periods of time,” the lady said, as we quietly nodded.
“He called me last night and said, “Darling, please come to Memphis, and let’s get back together.”
“Are you going?” I asked softly.
“No. I told him to come home. I moved all my life and I’m not moving anymore, for anyone,” she said lifting up a Kleenex from inside her purse.
“When he left I was absolutely heartbroken,” she continued. “His call last night started it all up again.”
“Do you know what he said to me?” she continued.
“No,” Brenda replied.
“He said he still loves me,” she whispered. “I thought I would die. It just makes me wonder.”
With this, the woman’s young companion returned and the moment was gone. The older woman smiled, got up, thanked us for listening, and slowly walked down the alley, melting into the night and the city.
Brenda and I slid off the bench and walked the opposite direction past the earsplitting band. “I can understand her feelings,” Brenda said as we walked. “Sometimes we just need to talk to someone, even if they are strangers.”
We stopped at the end of the street and Brenda said to me, “You seem awfully quiet.”
“For some reason, that woman got me to thinking our picnic with (grandson) Jack, Rita and Jim last week,” I replied.
“Do you realize that was the first family picnic we’ve had without brother Jack? I keep thinking one of these days he’ll pull into the driveway in his little S-10 truck with the Cubs plates. He’s been gone a year-and-a-half now, and I still have a difficult time knowing he won’t be coming over to talk about baseball or Port William,” I said.
The evening of our picnic after Rita and Jim had gone home, I turned to Brenda and grandson Jack and asked, “Why don’t we ride out to the Port cemetery? It would be a nice way to include Jack in our special evening.”
The moon was bright and the town was quiet as we drove past the flagpole, on to the gravesite near the fence that runs near the creek. I visit the cemetery often. Most days, I see there is someone who is also remembering Jack, leaving a red rose or other personal reminder on the headstone.
Our car grew quiet. Each of us had our own thoughts. Young Jack thought of the signed baseball his uncle had given him, “From Jack Haley to Jack Haley.” Brenda remembered the many Christmas and holiday cards Jack faithfully left for us in our mailbox. As for me, a thousand memories flashed through my mind, up to our last hours together in the hospital.
On birthdays and special occasions, our friends often post about feelings of sadness and loneliness they still feel about the loss of their loved ones. Like the words of the woman on the bench in Indianapolis, it is a language we all understand.
As we pulled away, the silence was broken by young Jack, as he looked back at the grave and said tenderly, “Goodnight, Jack. We love you.”
We do, indeed.