Strangers in the South

I was fiddling around near the bread aisle longer than should’ve been necessary. They always seemed to have just run out of my favorite bread when I come.

A woman in a hairnet peeks around the corner. “Can I help you?”

“Do you have any more Three Cheese Semolina?”

She grabs a loaf of bread from the display with a gloved hand. “Want me to cut it for you?

“Nah.”

She starts bagging it up for me. I’m not fully aware of how my eyes are fixed somewhere in space, my brain stuck somewhere pulling apart memories from two weeks ago.

“You seem… rushed,” she mentions.

“Oh… no…”

“Lot on your mind?”

I hesitate. The explanations and stories have been spilling out of me for a week now. I’d just been at the bank, and when the teller returned after checking the power of attorney signature on the check, I’d ended up telling her he’d passed last week, and he was an amazing man. I could feel a familiar sting in my nose and my vision started to blur as she handed me my receipt. I darted out the doors before I could make anyone think I was a dramatically unstable person roaming around a bank.

“Yeah. I lost a patient last week.” The words still don’t sound right. He was so much more than that.

“Oh, honey, I’m so sorry. Nurse, CNA?” She faces me and rests her hand on the counter.

“Ah, something like that. I was taking care of him for the last three years.”

“Oh, gosh, that’s so hard. Did you get to know him well?”

“Well,” I start. I’m not sure if the next part is necessary. “I’d known him my whole life.”

“Oh, no… I used to work in a nursing home, so you always knew while you were getting attached that they were going to…” She tilts her head and gently shrugs her shoulders so she doesn’t have to say the word. “Then I was with hospice…”

“They’re amazing!” I burst out, only to realize we were saying the same thing at the same time. She smiles.

I look back at the produce section for a minute.

“I don’t know why this is so hard. I just usually picked up my groceries with his…”

“And you’re looking at all the things he liked?”

I nod and smile, my eyes starting to burn a little.

“He was always so particular about his bananas, he wanted them a specific shade of green. I was here last week, the night after, and I stood in front of the bananas and cried for a good five minutes. I’m sure I looked like an absolute nut job.”

She laughs. “If you ever feel a little crazy, you’ll always fit right in here. Were you able to say goodbye?”

I remember everything from that afternoon and that long, long night. The last weak squeeze he gave my hand. The labored breathing, which soon became simply shallow, fading as the hours went on. Listening to the same old songs, over and over again, maybe to help drown out the sound of soft sobbing throughout the house.

He was tachycardic for most of it, and after the last breath I felt the stillness in his wrist, then neck, then chest. It was 4:52 by the time I could tell myself I was marking clinical death. The certificate would say 4:50 AM, October 21st.

It wasn’t until I went outside to let his family stay by his body when I felt an incredible pain just above my stomach, just like I’d been sucker punched — something that sounds so cliché now, but it was one of the most intense pains I’d ever felt. I laid down on his sidewalk hoping it would pass. It was colder than I’d expected and the sky was incredibly clear. I watched an unusually brilliant falling star soar through the gaps between the leaves of his oak tree.

“The family let me stay for the last 15 hours,” I reply. I’d been saying goodbye for a long time, and I knew I still hadn’t finished.

She stepped towards me and opened her arms. I fell into them like I’d known her all my life.

“Then you’re a good person,” she tells me.

She hands me the bread, and I smile and walk on. After wandering the store, I circled back around to the produce section again.

I needed some green bananas.

Hilton T. Goulson (1930 – 2014)

via The Herald Sun

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Hilton Thomas Goulson

CHAPEL HILL – Hilton Thomas Goulson, 84, of Chapel Hill, died October 21, 2014 in the family home where he lived for 62 years.

He was born in Chippewa County, Minnesota on May 4, 1930 to Thomas and Mathilda Oddan Goulson.  Hilton grew up on a farm in Minnesota with three siblings: Mary Ann, Richard and Constance.  He graduated from Milan High School in Minnesota and then received his undergraduate degree from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.  Hilton then moved to Chapel Hill where he spent the rest of his life.  After graduating with his PhD from the University of North Carolina School of Public Health in 1957, he joined the faculty of the Department of Parasitology and Laboratory Practice. Hilton met his wife, Jo Ann Pinnell, as graduate school students in Public Health and they were married in 1954.
 
Since 1952, he lived a full life in Chapel Hill, and was very involved in family, community, and a distinguished professional career.  Outside of work and family, Hilton enjoyed rose gardening and UNC athletics among many things.  He was a devoted member of United Church of Chapel Hill and served on innumerable committees and work groups through the years.  Most of his civic service came through the Kiwanis Club, where he held various officer positions.  He received many appreciation awards for his work in that organization and community.  He loved his work as a member of the Faculty of the University and the teaching and service that accompanied that.  He retired in 1992 after 35 years of service.  In the Department, he rose through the ranks to become Chairman.  Toward the end of his career, he coordinated efforts in the design and construction of McGavran–Greenburg Hall.  This led to the Governor’s Award for Excellence in 1989 for outstanding contributions to the people and the state of North Carolina.
 
Hilton is survived by two children: Daniel Goulson of Lexington Kentucky (wife Nancy Storck Goulson); Amy Goulson Cutrell of Chapel Hill (husband Ben Cutrell) and by two sisters: Mary Ann Larson of Benson Minnesota (husband Lawrence Larson); Constance Hanson of Wilmar Minnesota (husband Ron Hanson) and by two sisters-in-law: Betty Pinnell Parker of Chapel Hill (husband Red Parker); Dawn Goulson of Montevideo Minnesota (late husband Richard Goulson).  Hilton has six grandchildren: Preston, Zachary, Grace and Anna Goulson of Lexington; Ashley and Stacey Cutrell of Chapel Hill.  As a widower, he and his family were grateful for the companionship of Elizabeth Read.  He is preceded in death by his parents, his brother and his wife of 38 years, Jo Ann Pinnell Goulson.
 
The funeral will be held at the United Church of Chapel Hill on Friday October 24, 2014 at 11 am followed by internment at Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery.  The family is receiving visitors at Walker’s Funeral Home in Chapel Hill on Thursday, October 23 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Charles House Association, an eldercare location where Hilton enjoyed spending time (http://www.charleshouse.org/support.htm).

Your goodbye

“All of Me”

Billie Holiday

written by Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons (1931)

All of me
Why not take all of me
Can’t you see
I’m no good without you

Take my lips
I want to lose them
Take my arms
I’ll never use them

Your goodbye
Left me with eyes that cry
How can I go on dear without you

You took the part
That once was my heart
So why not take all of me

All of me
Why not take all of me
Can’t you see
I’m no good without you

Take my lips
I want to lose them
Take my arms
I’ll never use them

Your goodbye
Left me with eyes that cry
How can I go on dear without you

You took the best
When I take the rest
Baby, take all of me

Thank you for everything, Dr. Hilton Goulson. A friend and a teacher to the end, you’ve made me my best. “Bicycle.”