A Sad Farewell
(c) David Volk

“They’re sending the old man home,
Back where the Buffalo roam,
Out in the Pacific, they say he was the best
Now he's in his "civies", headin' home like all the rest

He'll never forget Rosa Lee
Or sleepless nights he fought upon the sea
He'll only have the memories
Or great books by James Jones

'Cause they're sendin' the old man home

Faraway (Faraway)
Faraway (Faraway)
Another life so very far away

--Jimmy Buffett

A year ago today, I locked up my mom’s airport gift shop for the final
time, got on board a plane and said goodbye to Star Gifts forever. The
store had been closed for weeks, the merchandise had been moved out and
all that was left were the display cases and desks I couldn’t sell.

And now, even that’s gone.

The airport where mom had spent much of the last 20 years of her life
was demolished shortly after a shiny new one opened up on the opposite
side of the runway late last year. Considering that the old place had
such a mom-and-pop feel to it, the facility could have easily been
converted into a museum, a center for non-profit organizations or a
humongous community center, but that’s not the way they do things in
Florida. They just build new, tear down the old and move on.

In a way, it’s a fitting tribute, really. Like mom, there will never be
another airport gift shop like the one she created ever again. And
maybe, just maybe, keeping the building standing may have left us with
the illusion that we could bring her back to life.

Although we knew she wasn’t coming back, we removed all doubt when we
finally sold her house two weeks ago.

The deal was delayed several times including once when lightning struck
the title agency, crashed the server and made it impossible to print
the title documents in time for the closing. We still think mom was
pissed about something, we’re just not quite sure what.

I haven’t forgotten the promise I made two months ago when I declared
May the month of mom. I said I would regularly send out chapter s of an
as yet unpublished book where she plays a prominent role. (The truth
is, she played a major role in every chapter of the book as she did in
every chapter of our lives). It quickly became difficult for me to
complete the task, so I stopped doing it.

I can think of no more fitting way to recall the day than finally
sending out the last chapters of the book where she is mentioned.

Even as I work to put the finishing touches on her estate, we still
keenly feel her loss every day. When I sit pondering my future and know
she’s going to call out of the blue to give me career advice I hadn’t
asked for; when I’m on a tight deadline and expect a phone call asking
me for technical advice on her computer even though I’m technically
illiterate; and especially on Saturday mornings when my wife and I are
sitting in bed later than we should waiting for the phone call that
always came at the most inappropriate moment.

All those things are gone now and I miss them terribly.

The chapters will follow, but first some melancholy thoughts from Jimmy

They'll tear down the officers clubs
And write off the overdue subs
So let's drink to their memories
Our heroes and our pals
To those crazy Navy flyers
To those swell Hawaiian gals

The sailors will dance in the street
Then they'll mothball the whole damn fleet
We'll only have the picture books
Of land, and sea, and foam

'Cause they're sendin' the old man home

He'll only have his memories
Or great books by James Jones
'Cause they're sendin' the old man home


P.S. Yes, I am aware my mother was not a man, it’s just that I couldn’t
find any songs that expressed our feelings so well as this one.