Finding a lost friend.

It was two weeks a go when a chance meeting happened from which I still haven’t quite recovered. Not that it was so traumatic or dangerous but more a kind of causing a nagging and pulling of heart strings that is not letting me go free. Of course, being free is my daily endeavor. Not all that easy when exposed to a world of past events while rummaging through endless history.  In any case, I will now try give you the details of a conundrum that has been making me restless to the point that my mind keeps returning to this chance meeting. 

I and a friend from longtime ago was staying with me. We decided to do some shopping. And, she like me, are in unity when it comes to shopping. We both go to the same supermarket that excels in  a kind of no nonsense shopping. No acres of hundreds of different washing powders or mile after mile of toilet paper. I buy from a list and never any extra unless it is free. ( Like the occasional sausage at Bunnings.) A week ago, when at the Opera House, there was a large van offering for free, a new yoghurt. The queue was modest so I lined up too and received my yoghurt which I sampled on the ferry together with Milo who got the occasional lick as well. He approved this new yoghurt.

But let us get back to my story.

It was while shopping with the friend and standing in front of a chain shop named ‘The reject Shop’ when this chance meeting started to unfold. Reject Shops are a favorite haunt of mine and I could spend hours checking the different items for sale. They are all brand new and nothing really is reject but it is the power of marketing that draws people in thinking they get second hand things at a much lower cost. I was after some knitting needles (nr 5mm). I found them and was delighted. Most knitting wool balls or ‘cakes’ as they are called come in different size thickness, and each thickness of the yarn has to synchronize with the right pair of needles! Of course, one can ignore the recommended needles and go free and knit with all kinds of thickness needles. It’s not a law!

Helvi

As we were both standing outside the shop, looking in our shopping bags relishing the articles we had bought, a woman stopped in front of me wringing her hands with both her arms waving up and down in a desolate and wretched manner. I had seen her before but was taken aback by her show of utter sadness and grief. She kept looking in my eyes and then she said; ‘ my Graham has gone too now.’ Slowly my memory started to roll back and unfurl  to a degree where the woman and her grief started to finally make sense. She and I, with my late wife Helvi and her late husband Graham had met some three years earlier at the Bowral hospital.

Both Helvi and Graham were getting the chemo therapy for a number of months. Often both Helvi and Graham would sit in the same type of chairs while getting the infusion of different bags of liquid straight up the canister, either in their chests or  arms .There developed a common bond not least helped along by the fact that Helvi from Finland and Graham’s wife from Lithuania shared a background from the same almost forgotten European corner. Thinking back I still see that period as a very happy period. Odd as this might sound but those shared hours and days of harsh chemo were always filled with laughter and closeness. They seemed a happy couple and often she would read to her husband from a book while Helvi would be doing her beloved crossword puzzles.

When she finally stopped her sad sobbing while still in front of the Reject Shop, she told me that she knew Helvi had died well before her Graham did. ‘I went past your house many times in the hope of seeing you,’ she said. ‘I wanted to tell you how sorry I felt’ she said in her strong Lithuanian accent. By that time I was all churned up and feeling the terrible plight and the weight that cancer extracts from so many caring partners. All I could do was listen and show some comfort and lame words. I did not even have her name or ask her, and worse, did not have the presence of mind to offer her a coffee, indeed, invite her to come to my place. We just parted company and that’s what happened. It all happened so quickly and the emotions were so high and all engulfing.

And now I want to try and find her. I looked at the obituaries, checked on those with the name ‘Graham.’ She told me while sobbing he died 6 months ago, and also was told by my shopping friend she said she lived in Bundanoon which is about 20km from here. I suppose I could try hanging around the reject Shop hoping to see her again. I have forgotten her name as those meetings at the cancer hospital are now at least 3 years past. Bundanoon has a cemetery and perhaps I should visit it and check on names with Graham. Privacy concerns would prevent the Hospital giving any information.

It refuses to go away and I would dearly like to find her.

26 Responses to “Finding a lost friend.”

  1. Therese Trouserzoff Says:

    Oh, Gez. Can I say it’s somewhat unlike you to look back with regret. And it was not entirely your responsibility to find this lady – her inability to walk up and knock at your door reveals a certain reluctance on her part.

    If you were to meet her again, Rejected in the shopping sense, what would you say ? What might you ask ?

    Combing through your shared experience of partners of chemo patients might not be a great idea – and that previous juxtaposition – was it the only thing you had in common ?

    I’m encouraged by your knitting. Not that I want to take up knitting. But how tough is it to be gently coached by a posse of women of a certain age ? Magnificent ! I’d be up for holding hands over a pair of needles and a ball of wool – if only to see if there was any chemistry 🙂

    By way of contrast, I personally would like to rediscover the spanner and the smell of Castrol. In fact, if it wasn’t so darned hot today, I would be over the road in our rented garage tinkering with my lovely old Ducati… and dreaming dreams of my misspent youth. Tomorrow the Classic Italian Motorcycles Association is meeting for a get together to chew the fat and spin wondrous tales of more or less total bullshit – and ogle each other’s bikes. There could also be a responsible cylinder of ale too.

    Fond regards, Therese.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Therese Trouserzoff Says:

      I reject utterly the suggestion that I have this thing about babes in leather. Well, maybe not utterly. At least not before my last few micrograms of testosterone dry up.

      Liked by 1 person

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        Yes, that is so true, Trouserzoff, and I used to wake up with such mouth watering tumescence and now…no more.
        Of course, joining a Men’s shed helps but I feel that handling a screwdriver or Allan key is just not a substitute for what has now almost gone and fading.

        Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      All the lady knew was that I lived in Ascot Rd near the hospital. She did not know my address, Of course, after Helvi passed and I was confronted with the pathologically challenged tree slasher I moved to where I am now.

      It was just that I could have offered her a help in talking and giving her an opportunity that I had when invited to join the Cricket café group of people. It was a wonderful and kind gesture for this man to say; ‘hello, would you like to join me and have a coffee’?

      Two weeks ago I had a year since Helvi passed away and the Lithuanian woman had six months and was still very raw in her emotional pain.
      I could have done more for her.

      It’s odd how cancer unites people almost like victims of wars. Sharing and comfort is such a good healing for those survivors that go on living.
      I like my knitting and daily coffee at the Stumps.

      I can well understand your nostalgia for the Ducati and not long ago Helvi thought I had serious problems contemplating buying one and joining the Ducati club wearing helmets and lycra, go on Sunday drives.
      My knitting is admired by many female friends and next I will be taught to add ruffles and fringes to my scarfs. Sometimes my needles touch the hands of her, and I get and feel a twinge.
      I remember it so well.

      Like

  2. leggypeggy Says:

    I’d try the hospital. If you can find a nurse who looked after Helvi, you could ask if they remember the man, Graham, who was having chemo there at the same time. Say you heard he had died, but you couldn’t remember his surname. It’s not like you’re asking for his address or phone number. A surname would be a started. You could even search more accurately for an obituary. And the name Graham has multiple spellings, so try Graeme and Grahame.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, I have a good friend who promised to help find this lady. We are starting to look at the Bundanoon cemetery soon and look at the names recently buried, Graham died in March according to what I remember his wife said.
      His surname would be a great help. I have gone through the obituary and followed Graham names.
      I daily go to the Reject Shop which is next to the Lincraft shop and near Aldi. I try and look as inconspicuous and vague as possible.

      Liked by 2 people

      • vivienne29 Says:

        Not everyone puts in a death notice. My hubby died three months ago (yep, 3 year fight against cancer) and I did not put a notice in the local paper. I spoke to, phoned or emailed those who needed to know. We had a private family celebration of his life at the time he was cremated – held at home where we all had fond memories.

        Liked by 1 person

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        I did exactly the same, Vivienne. So sorry to hear about your loss. We had a simple service and afterwards held a family celebration of her life at our place in Bowral.
        I still have Helvi’s ashes as well as those from our daughter Susanna (2012) and son Nicholas .(2014).

        Like

      • vivienne29 Says:

        Good to know that Gerard. Hubby is in three parts, home here and at each daughter’s home. Will decide much later if to scatter under a particular tree etc. No rush. I had no idea two of your children had died Gerard. Much love, Viv

        Like

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        Yes, we lost our two children and it seems hard to believe . We have, I have good memories of both of them. My late daughter’s son is a lovely boy now goin to the university.

        Like

  3. Sandie Says:

    Sad story Gerard. Is it wise to hash up old sad history? What else can you say that hadn’t been said already? For comfort, I light candles in churches and remember the good times.
    I admire your knitting expertise. It looks good also. I once knitted a sweater for Frank. The sleeves were so long he gave it to your brother John and I haven’t tried it since.
    Thinking of you and your sweet companion. Xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes Sandie, cancer usually has sad endings as you also know too well. Yes, knitted garments tend to hang rather loose and sleeves can get stretched. I find wearing just one garment over and over again and now wear one with a huge gap under one arm. I try not to lift that arm when in company.
      Your patch work quilts are works of art and I still admire the one you made in memory of Alan when I visit Dot.

      Like

  4. Robert Parker Says:

    Leggy Peggy’s suggestion of watching for Graeme and Grahame is good. I see that Bundanoon is a pretty small place, so maybe just call the postmaster? Lithuanians are 75% Catholic, and sometimes have a section in cemeteries set aside for them. Or call the Lithuanian church in Adelaide, I realize that’s quite a distance from her town, but if you mention a name & town, it might click for them. So, all this free advice from a busybody, sorry, but I’m sure you’ll succeed in tracking her down. And you shouldn’t worry about being nonplussed when you ran into each other, who wouldn’t be.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Thanks Robert,
      I will try and find her by following the trail left by the little information I have. I am sure the wife said he passed away in March. We shall see and I’ll let all of you know.
      The law of averages usually show that we will meet again, probably while shopping. This is not a huge metropolis and one sees the same people often going around the business of normal living. And shopping is all part of this normalcy.

      Like

  5. doesitevenmatter3 Says:

    Oh, I do hope you find her, Gerard!!! Best of luck to you and your good friend as you search.

    Maybe you could call cemeteries and they could check their online records. ???

    Keep us updated on this adventure!

    Keep knitting! Keep smiling!
    (((HUGS))) to you and PATS and RUBS to Milo!!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Thank you Carolyn,
      I am confident I will be able to trace her and give her my sympathy as she did walking past my place in Bowral. Our place was part of 8 townhouses and she did not have the number of ours.
      When we met over two weeks ago she cried for Helvi again as much as she did for her husband.
      Hugs to you too and a pat for Cooper.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. shoreacres Says:

    It makes perfect sense to me that you would have been stuttery and non-plussed when you encountered her, and it makes sense to me that you’d want to find her again. I don’t know how it is there, but here, despite all the bureaucratic rules and regulations, you often can get information from caring nursing staff that they absolutely aren’t supposed to give out. They’re often as frustrated by having real patient care tangled up by the ‘rules’ as we are; they’re helpers at heart, and appreciate a chance to offer real help.

    I love the photos of Helvi, especially the black and white. It looks so very elegant; the light is wonderful.

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Thank you, Linda. Today I’ll do exactly that and go to the cancer Clinique in Bowral and try and get some information. After lunch is best because I remember the mornings are busy guiding the patients in the special chairs and getting all the cannulas inserted in body parts for the start of the chemo treatments which for many patients can last many hours.
      With luck I’ll get a nurse that might remember me as I always stayed with Helvi during the procedure as did the Graham’s wife who from memory, also did work on her laptop. I think she might be a legal professional. I don’t know.
      I’ll put on a smart jacket and clean shirt. Hopefully I’ll get something to follow up.
      Glad you like the photos of Helvi. She gave me so much.

      Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, Linda. You have good insight of people especially nursing staff. After my visit to the cancer clinic yesterday, some staff remembered me and promised to send my details to the possible person that matched the information that I gave. They are wonderful staff and caring.

      Like

      • shoreacres Says:

        How wonderful, Gerard. Even in these modern times with all of our gadgets and gizmos, sometimes living, breathing people are our best way to find someone. I hope it works out. Even if it doesn’t seem to right away, there’s no predicting what may surface a little way down the road. Carry on!

        Like

  7. hilarycustancegreen Says:

    I do hope you are able to find a link to her and soothe this uncomfortable memory.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. rangewriter Says:

    Wow. Gerard, this event seems like an incredible random circumstance. Unlike some of your readers who seem to thing you should leave things alone, I hope you can locate this woman. Your perfectly understandable reticence in her presence may have made her feel foolish, when really she was not. I think the two of you could be great grief therapy for each other and I hope you can locate her.

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Thank you so much. I do feel I want to meet her and hear her story as well. The hospital was cooperative and even if it doesn’t bear fruit, I at least tried than venue. Next I will be going to Bundanoon where she is living and visit the local café and cemetery.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Dani Says:

    Grief is such a circular phenomenon and how one lives with and through it is completely personal. I do hope your heart and spirit will settle when you find that for which you are looking, Gerard, and am terribly sorry to hear about your son and daughter’s passing, as well.

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Thank you, Dani.
      Being with friends and keep doing things is one of the answer for getting through personal losses. It has happened and sometimes people find it almost impossible to accept how it could happen. With time it is easier to talk about this loss.

      Liked by 1 person

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