I See You Later, My Love
See You Later, My Love
Even after 50 years and three months, I wish I had one more day with my wife, Barbara. Yes, I’d even settle for one more hour. On Saturday, February 18, my beloved took her last breath while lying on a bed in St. Francis County nursing home. I was not there. Barbara Ann Johnson was tired. She had battled a number of ailments – from diabetes, congested heart failure, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and others – for nearly six years. She spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals and nursing homes during those years. And, each time her body was taking a downward beating. But she battled. Boy, did she – make that — WE battled. And, each time she came out of it weaker and weaker. She was not getting any better and we knew it.
I loved my Barbara and I believe she loved me. This by no means was a perfect union. I don’t know any married couple that can claim that distinction. But both of us were committed to family and our vow of “death do us part.” During all the time she was sick, we never talked about dying, however, she always insisted that we never say, “Goodbye.” She wanted us to say, “See you later.” I was 22. She was 19. She was that pretty lady in a yellow dress that sat on my side of the pews where I was ushering in church. I would later learn that she would write in her diary that she had met a young man and felt “he’s the one.” Seven months later I asked her dad, John Young, for her hand. We had very little to start with. I had an $80/week job working in a laboratory and pursuing a chemistry degree – which I never achieved – at LaSalle College’s night division. We built a life together. She shared in my dream to be a journalist. She gave me three beautiful children, Tyree III, Tyra E. and Troy L. When I gave up a stable job at the Daily News, she supported my dream of owning a community newspaper – The Westside Weekly. She was raring to go. She never lost interest and became my encourager and critic.
I could never give anyone a break in buying an ad. If I did, she would say I was taken advantage of. “You poop and then step back in it,” she would of-ten describe my decisions. She would do the same transaction and call it making a great deal. She had a way with words. Barbara also had a way with people. We were complete opposites. I’m an introvert. Barbara couldn’t go anywhere without a friend tagging along. Barbara also missed her Calling. She loved dancing and should have joined a troupe like PhilaDan-co, where my late cousin Mary was the right-hand of founder Joan Myers Brown. However, she would later become a line-dancing instructor in the community – and when there was any contest at a cabaret, she and her dance partner, Reggie Farrare, would win as they glided across the flood with their Bop moves.
God, I loved this woman. She was so much a part of me. I wish I had forced her to give up her 40-plus-year cigaret habit, but she was addicted and she paid the price. During her last years, caring for her was a full-time job. When she was doing better, there would be a relapse – again – and again. Once in the emergency ward, a doctor asked her the date, then asked her who was the president? “Me,” she answered. She had a sense of humor. Then the doctor pointed at me and asked her who is that? “He’s my hero,” she said. I lost it. The last time I saw Barbara alive was that Friday night after the Rev. Carlton E. Rogers, from Tabernacle Lutheran Church, said a bedside prayer for both of us. I stayed for another hour. I could tell she was tired. It was 8:30 PM. I told her I would see her tomorrow and then walked out of her room at St. Francis. At noon Saturday, a St. Francis official called to tell me that Barbara had taken her last breath. She was dead. There was no “Good-bye.” Barbara, my love, I’ll see you later.