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Tuesday, June 19, 2012


At Eugene, Oregon, The Husband and I looked out over the station platform. I was focusing on seeing where Snappy Service Cafe #3 had been, where I had worked in the mid-70s. It was no longer there, so we settled back in to the sway and clack of the train as it continued down the Willamette Valley and thence into the Cascades as the day dwindled into darkness.

The next morning we were up early, knowing that breakfast began at 6:30 am. A couple we knew were already sitting in the Parlor Car (sleeper passengers only). We plopped down beside them and began talking. Another couple of people came in, and then a man who looked Japanese arrived. All the chairs in our section were full, and he went past us to a table, pointing his SLR camera out the window. I said rudely, "we are ahead of you" and the others laughed.

We all went in to breakfast, and he went in after the rest of us, very politely. Later he sat with us at lunch. The Dining Car attendant always seated couples together, but the remaining two seats at each table were filled with people we did not know. This time, it was Ray, who was alone, and a woman who was also alone. We introduced ourselves, and Ray turned out to be an American of Japanese descent, who had been a structural engineer, now retired, going home to Van Nuys CA. He showed us a beautiful shot he had captured of the dawn sky reflected in some rice fields. He was very interesting and friendly. He told us his wife had died, and that he was alone on the train trip.

Later that day, we sat in the Parlor Car next to Ray, and we observed that the women attendants were especially nice to him. The Husband commented, "You take the train to pick up women!" Ray said no, his wife had died on this trip, in the Eugene train station. She had had a weak heart and they had been expecting this for a few years. They had gone to Eugene for a religious retreat, and when she died, the people there helped him cope with all the details of death, and everyone was kind to him. He considered taking a plane home, but someone convinced him to complete his trip.

They had been married for 60 years. He showed us her picture, and we spoke of how much his life had changed. At Van Nuys I watched him walking away from the train with his son and a woman who was either his daughter or his daughter-in-law. They live very close to him, and are helping him dispose of his wife's belongings. He said he had asked her repeatedly to get rid of the many sets of dishes she had collected, but she just did not want to part with them.

Wherever you are now, Ray, may your life be peaceful.

1 comment:

Osprey Therian said...

Mind-blowing. And you wrote it down so nicely, too.