Circle of Life


“Circle of Life”
Music by Elton John; Lyrics by Tim Rice
Performed by Elton John

From the day we arrive on the planet
And blinking, step into the sun
There's more to be seen than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done

Some say eat or be eaten
Some say live and let live
But all are agreed as they join the stampede
You should never take more than you give

(Chorus)

In the Circle of Life
It's the wheel of fortune
It's the leap of faith
It's the band of hope
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the Circle, the Circle of Life

Some of us fall by the wayside
And some of us soar to the stars
And some of us sail through our troubles
And some have to live with the scars

There's far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found
But the sun rolling high
Through the sapphire sky
Keeps the great and small on the endless round

(Repeat Chorus)


May 25, 2008

First "created" this page on May 10th, a couple of days after Rachel's Paul Simon Institute speech at Cairo Jr/Sr High School...a lot of emotions were circling in my mind...looking for an escape. Got as far as the title and cutting/pasting the lyrics above...

Just got back from the cemetery a few minutes ago...a few hours after attending the Cairo High School 2008 Commencement Ceremony. Seem to keep returning (circling) to the gym.

Figured I'd put down some of what has been on my mind...


As I have struggled to come up with some new ideas for topics to explore, I thought, well, music might be good. Julie and I spent a lot of time listening to and discussing music. Both of our tastes were quite eclectic. I'm going to save those details FOR an eventual music page and (try to) keep narrowly focused in this edition.

Okay, just had to erase a paragraph...where I "digressed" to Elvis and the Beatles...FOCUS!

Without a doubt, Julie's favorite performer of all time was Elton John. He became "big" just as Julie and Ronnie began dating. Julie flat wore out the first vinyl album I bought her..."Madman Across the Water", playing it to death when this "national guard man" went away to summer camp.

(A sadder story is her affection/attachment to the self-titled album "Elton John", which she played repeatedly during my final summer camp...as she sat at home "barefoot and pregnant". After we lost Christie Ann, she never played the album again...would switch radio stations if any of the songs began to play.)

Okay...two more paragraphs gone! I did leave the last one as an "aside", simply because I don't want to have to revisit that topic again, but it deserved noting. FOCUS!

"Circle of Life"...

Dear friend and neighbor, De De O'Shea (yes, she of chocolate cake fame), gives one hell of a Christmas Party for various friends and school personnel...enough to make Martha Stewart pale and might send Paula Dean to the refrigerator for another stick of butter!

In December of 2005, Julie and I went to said party, ate and drank too much (well, a lot...NEVER too much!), and enjoyed good friendship. In walks Cheryl Arington flashing...better stop there as y'all who know Cheryl insert your mental note of what she might say if I had used such a description within earshot of her! Okay, got that out of the way? Let me continue...flashing a dazzling new necklace...a chain from which dangled a diamond-encrusted circle. The ladies oohed and aahed...I drank another beer. (One thing great about a party at De De's...for me...no worry about driving home!)

Later that night, after safely navigating home, Julie remarked on Cheryl's new necklace...did I notice it? Notice? Fifty women gathered round making loud admiring noises? Who would notice something like that?

I'm slow, but not stoooopid! After Julie's comment that "It's the latest thing!", it FINALLY dawned on me...she might like one of those!

It's Christmas...I NEVER know what to get Julie. I gave up on jewelry many, many years of HSN and QVC ago. I mean she had every imaginable type of ring, necklace, bracelet, whatever. Many she gave away as presents, but there were always many left. I cannot remember to this day the last piece of jewelry that I bought Julie...how many years had passed...except for the "Christmas" of 2005.

Yes, I went out and bought Julie her own "Circle of Life" necklace. Oh, she didn't get it for Christmas...the reason for the above quotes. You see, we were going to DC for Christmas...to visit Rachel. If you haven't noticed (then, where the hell have you been?), I am basically shy and insecure. I have always had an aversion - a HORROR - of exchanging presents in the presence of others. When Julie and I would go somewhere for Christmas, she knew I was uncomfortable and would sometimes tell me something she wanted so that I could buy it, wrap it (I do good 'rapping!), and give it to her, comfortable in the knowledge that she would be honestly happy...and suitably surprised. Later, alone, I would give her something of my own choosing. This is what happened on Christmas 2005.

Did I say later? Fooled her...she didn't get her diamond necklace until New Year's Day!

Once we got back from DC, I took off for Paducah. While in DC, Rachel had dazzled me with her new iPod. I knew that Julie listened to music while at work on her little tinny radio. So, I thought, hmmmm...

Of all my regrets and all my guilt trips...and they just keep comin', this is one day I am proud of and I'll share it simply to demonstrate that I don't always just beat up on myself...don't always just dwell on the negative.

This story would probably be more romantic if it had occurred at the stroke of midnight after the celebratory countdown, but let's keep it real...I'm old and Julie had health issues. We seldom welcomed in the New Year...unless raised from a peaceful slumber by a loud burst from a shotgun or the (fortunately) far-off staccato of automatic rifle fire. On those rare occasions, we would quietly say "Happy New Year", share a brief kiss, and go back to sleep! Ah, "old folks" romance.

However, what happened wasn't bad...

I gave Julie her new iPod on New Year's Eve...EARLY...sometime during the morning. This was so that I could learn how to use the thing and load some stuff. Julie was impressed and pleased...she had already experienced Rachel's, but HERS was even better...the new video type! I told Julie that I was going to load it up with some of our CDs and she named a few for me to start with. Julie also told me some that we didn't have that "If you have time, could you download them off the Internet?" Anything you want, DEAR...and meant it. (I already had one song in mind...but I didn't tell her about that...that was for tomorrow!)

So, at about noon on New Year's Day (we had already been up for a while...I on my computer, Julie lying in bed watching TV), I walked into the bedroom carrying a bottle of champagne and two glasses...YES, CHAMPAGNE GLASSES, not water tumblers...give me SOME credit here! Julie looks up and says "What's this?" I said "It's New Year's."

I then got her iPod (with one of those docking stations with speakers so that you can play it like a radio or stereo. It's amazing what quality they can pack into such a small system!) Julie says "Music too?" I smiled and said "I ain't done yet." Julie bats her eyes and says "Oooooh!"

After securing my special present from its hiding place in the computer room, I walked back into the bedroom and lay down beside Julie...fully clothed, I might add! (You people!) I opened the champagne...carefully with NO POP...a family tradition...poured two glasses, kept one and handed the other to Julie and toasted the New Year...the usual hopes for a healthy and happy one!


Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn! As I typed that last line, the chronology kicked in...January 2006...hopes for a healthy and happy new year...March 2006 looming...diagnosis of colon cancer, surgery, the beginning... Why can't I just tell a good story without getting blind-sided?! Whatever...back to the bedroom!


We put our champagne glasses down and I hand Julie a small "store-wrapped" package. Julie says "What's this?" I say "A belated Christmas present." Julie looks it over. (Julie just loved to draw out the moment...for HER sake, not for drama. Julie NEVER lost her childhood fascination and wonder about presents...the presents she never received growing up as a Jehovah's Witness. I truly think she never cared what was inside the box...it was "A PRESENT"...and it was for her!)

Julie finally started picking at the tape that bound the wrapping to the box. As she did so, I leaned over and turned on her iPod and cued it up. Julie says "What are you doing?" I told her that when she got her present unwrapped, there was a song to go along with it. Julie says "What song?" My response "It's a surprise...you find out when you open the box."

I could tell that Julie was getting excited...I mean it was obvious that the present was the size of a jewelry box (although from her later reaction, I truly believe that she did NOT guess what rested inside.) As the paper fell away and the felt box was revealed, I turned to the iPod and hit the play button. Julie paused, trying to identify the opening chords of the music, a smile coming to her face when she recognized that it was an Elton John song...and a song that we had actually never purchased. She said "Circle of Life!" I said, "Yes, now open your present"...and she did.

One of the happiest moments of my life...one of the few moments of our final years together when I KNEW that I had surprised her, pleased her. The wonder in her eyes, as they say...priceless.

I'm going to close this off for tonight...it's storming outside!

There are other "Circle of Life" memories that have been bouncing around my head for the past week or so and I intend to share them on this page...soon, maybe as soon as tomorrow.

A footnote to the above story...

You voyeuristic folks that keep returning to this site in hopes of learning intimate details of the sex life of Julie and Ron...how many times do I have to tell you?! Your dirty little minds probably started conjuring up all sort of lurid deeds when I reported champagne, music, lying down in bed with Julie (DESPITE my assertion of being fully clothed), plying her with a piece of jewelry. You probably figured...FINALLY...we're getting to the sex!

And, you would be right!


May 26, 2008...11:00 a.m.

An impressive rain, lightning and thunder show last night! Fortunately, the computer still lives!

Had to smile while it was all going on...thought maybe Julie had gotten her timing wrong.

I had e-mailed a friend yesterday around noon about blowing three light bulbs during the past few days (Julie and Ronnie's mutually agreed upon sign that the spirits were afoot.) I proffered that maybe Julie was upset about the rumors (which are always true) that the BOE was going to let Seniors "walk" that had NOT met the long-established criteria for doing so. I mused that just maybe she would brew up a storm and knock the power out at the scheduled graduation exercise at 3 p.m.

Well, as frequently happens in an imperfect world, they did (let the students walk...albeit, with a public disclaimer by the Superintendent from the stage that errors had been made, the students would be allowed to participate, but it would NOT be a precedent...yeah, right) and Julie didn't (pull the electrical plug on the proceedings.)

But, man, twelve hours later...impressive!


The "graduation" ceremony, however, DID provide another circle...

On the Cairo High School 2008 Commencement Program were two memorial acknowledgments.

One member of the Class of 2008, who WOULD have been highly qualified to participate and would have graduated with honors, did not. Tragically, she died of an asthma attack while preparing to attend the boys basketball regional tournament as a cheerleader in February 2007. With even more devastating irony, yesterday's "day of graduation" would have been her 18h birthday!

When Julie heard the news last year, she was deeply saddened, as were we all. As Julie and I reflected on the bad things that seem to happen to good people, she remarked "She was the little girl that I was giving an asthma treatment to that day." For a moment, I did not make the connection...and then I did.

Julie suffered her first major lupus flare on October 15, 1997...a couple of hours after administering an asthma treatment to a little girl in the Emerson Elementary office. The mask used to administer the medication was ill-fitting and fumes escaped into the room. Julie had become dizzy and nauseated, later being transported to the hospital with symptoms of a heart attack. We mentioned the treatment to doctors later, but, as doctors always are, they were noncommittal as to whether there was any connection. And, it didn't make any difference to us...we only mentioned it in trying to track down an immediate cause for Julie's condition that might aid in treatment.

Indeed, probably the only connection was that two people...an innocent little girl struggling for breath crossed paths with a woman always willing to give whatever it took to help others.

Yesterday, the circle was complete as Julie's name joined Nedra's on the 2008 Commencement program..."Gone, But Not Forgotten".


May 26, 2008...11:30 a.m.

The biggest "Circle" of my life has been previously related in Final Thoughts on Julie's Funeral.

Guess that's why it hit me so hard when I attended the Paul Simon Institute's Forum "Cairo: Past, Present, and Future" on May 8, 2008, where Rachel gave the keynote address.

Don't get me wrong, I don't have any emotional turmoil walking by the gymnasium on a daily basis or even entering the gymnasium for say the CSD #1 Art Show that was held the previous week. (There IS a "butterfly story" that occurred at the Art Show...but that's for another time and place!) It's a gym, already!

What hit me...hard...was when Rachel delivered her opening remarks and made reference to HER foreboding...that the last time she stood on a stage in this gym was went she delivered the eulogy at her sister Julie's funeral. When you least expect it...

Another "circle within a circle" (yeah, I've seen those necklaces too), was the arrival shortly before Rachel's keynote address of brother Reuben whom we had not seen in...forever. (Actually, I later found out that he and brother Peter intended to arrive earlier, but had detoured to pay their respects to Julie.) Therefore, when Rachel made her remarks, her four surviving brothers were in attendance.


May 26, 2008...12:30 p.m.

I know I'm bouncing around this morning...I told you that a lot of things have been on my mind of late.

Back to the original "Circle"...Elton John.

The song is, of course, from the movie soundtrack for "The Lion King"...which was very successfully spun off as a Broadway play of the same name. And, of course, a member of that Broadway cast was none other than Cairo's own...Chris Jackson. (If you've checked out the online pictures, there are a couple of Julie, Rachel, and Chris having a good time on Broadway!)

When Rachel went back to DC following her Cairo visit, she decided to visit the Big Apple...yeah, New York City! While there, she took in a new Broadway play, "In the Heights", featuring, once again, Chris Jackson. Yep, those circles just keep on turning...


Doo Dee Doo Dee Note: While typing the above, something, well...SOMETHING happened. Caught a flash out of my peripheral vision and heard a LOUD snapping sound...like a picture had fallen over...literally jumped. I just spent five minutes looking for something...anything...that might account for the sound. Nada! Outside is calm...no rain...no lightning. I mean...THAT was weird. Stay tuned...if I can find any "signs" (and you KNOW I'm always looking!), I'll certainly let you know!


May 26, 2008...2:00 p.m.

Okay, I think this will be the last entry for this page, unless, of course, I remember another "circle"...

I opened this page by saying that I had visited the cemetery yesterday...certainly no news there! I don't go EVERY day, but most. You may consider that extreme...obsessive...unhealthy. We shall agree to disagree...it works for me!

Anyway, after seven months of trips, got an unexpected surprise...another circle. I have walked within feet of this grave day after day without noticing...pained me deeply yesterday when I realized. I mean, before the summer is over, I could probably serve as a tour guide for the section of cemetery that holds Julie's physical remains. And, I'm sure that Julie and I attended the funeral. Yet only a few feet from the spot where I park my car each day lies a grave, clearly marked, carefully cared for that eluded my awareness...Carole Sue Conroy.

Went to high school with Carole Sue (Upshaw) and taught with her from my beginning to her untimely end in 1992 at the tragically young age of 46. Her husband, Bob, and I were classmates for twelve years - eight at St. Joseph's School. Yes, Bob and I were sweet, angelic, altar boys together.

Julie never forgave herself for Carole...for NOT being with Carole as she fought her own personal battle against cancer. It hurt Julie to her core that she said goodbye to a smiling, happy, and apparently healthy Carole at the end of the 1990-91 school year and never saw her again. (Carole had complained of some back discomfort at the end of the school year, indicated that she was going to see a doctor before her annual jaunt to Texas to visit family. Only later did we hear the devastating prognosis.)

Julie did what she could do from afar. (Carole had stayed in Texas, with Bob at her side.) Julie took the lead at school in organizing card-mailings and a get-well video. But...THAT wasn't good enough...Julie wanted to go see Carole! We had heard that Carole wanted her privacy, but Julie insisted that when she got to Texas...that Carole would be happy to see her. And, I'm sure she would have. Unfortuately, we never made the trip...

Bob Conroy, not surprisingly, came to Julie's visitation. I noticed that he seemed upset...more than I would have expected, even though he and Julie were friends who had worked together "in the trenches" at Cairo High School for many, many years. Yesterday, as I looked upon Carole's headstone, brought back to me - full circle - what Bob told me as we visited briefly that night.

You see, Carole passed away on October 18th, Julie on October 19th. And, as I looked closer at the headstone, another forgotten fact emerged...Bob and Carole were married on November 28th, Ron and Julie on November 30th.

The Circle of Life...