It's been interesting how circles naturally transpired. I have dined with three of a circle of women from Baltimore, Ohio, Michigan, and California. I have a set of friends from Texas and Canada. My own son has met two of my blogging friends, even though I have not!
One of those circles brought me to Wil Kyle, the author of Paradise Driver. A retired San Francisco cop turned Hawaiian cab driver, his late-night cabby stories were hilarious, while his reminiscence about his police career was often chilling.
Wil brought me to another high-spirited blog from a (now retired) meter reader in Australia: Dogbait. Tales of Australian spiders that ran out of meter housings and down his sleeve were enough to make you go lie down for the afternoon. I also met up with a New York City cabby, the King of New York Hacks. King is temporarily out of commission after a car accident that broke his arm, but his wonderful NYC photos on Facebook still keep me entertained on a daily basis.
The Paradise Driver's cabby career ended in 2009 when his eyesight began to fail. He went through a rough time with finances, health, and near-homelessness, and when he was diagnosed with cancer, moved back to California. His blog stories began to dwindle, but he continued to post news and amusing anecdotes.
I received an email from Dogbait last Friday, informing me that Wil had little time left. An excerpt from a letter Wil sent him:
“Aloha Reg, here’s the most recent picture of me. I am currently in a local hospital and do not expect to leave. My friends and family will be communicating with you to give you regular updates about my condition. Right now it could be 4 days or 4 weeks...unknown. Please post the picture and it would be appreciated if you let everybody know what’s going on so that people don’t think I just disappeared and this is my one opportunity to let everybody know how much I appreciated their friendship and their love. And I hope you use your blog to pass all this to them, anticipate communications from my friends. When I finally do pass, they will let you know, and hopefully you can pass the information on to the world.
G’day Mate, Wil”
Wil's phone number and his son's address was also included. Hoping it wasn't too late, I sent him a text and I emailed his son, asking him to give Wil a few messages from me.
Right after I left work that afternoon I received a phone call. The first time I'd ever heard him speak: "Lori, this is Wil Kyle."
He was lovely. His voice was so strong that except for a few pauses where he was clearly in pain and had to regroup, I would never known he was sick.
He told me he was thrilled to get my text message! He asked about Clint, and told me that he was amazed at how the house was coming along. He asked me about Brian, and spoke about how much he was wandering, before he enlisted, and what a strong young man he is now. He told me that he used to be a radio announcer, and he did a fun "bit" for me, so that I would hear his "real" voice. He explained to me that he was fine; he's "pragmatic," he said, and it was just his time to go. "You sound exactly as I imagined you would," he told me.
And I told him how much it meant to me to have him in the wings cheering me on when Brian went to boot camp, and when he deployed. How great it was for him to rally friends to send me notes of support, and how much I valued his friendship, and enjoyed his writing.
After 5 minutes, he was clearly exhausted, and I knew how much the conversation must have taken out of him. The radio bit alone must have been excruciating. He told me that had to get going. I was weeping by then, but I told him goodbye and that I loved him.
And he, jolly and stoic, said "I love you too, hon."
"Hello," "I love you," and "Goodbye," each spoken for the first and last time.
I got an email on Tuesday from his Grandson that he passed away Monday night.
I have been deeply saddened this week, but at the same time immensely thankful for this circle of friends that rallied for him, passing on email addresses and phone numbers, to get the word out. I'm thankful I got to hear his voice, and to hear him laugh.
I am thankful we got to tell him how much we loved him. And how much we'll miss him.
I'm so glad he got to know that.