In the summer of 1997 I came down to Freeport to see if I could find work and relocate from central Maine – a venue that just was not working for me. Interestingly, I had not considered LL Bean, but as I drove past the employment office on Desert Road, I made a U-turn and went in to fill out an application. They hired me that day.

Soon I was sitting in a training meeting at which a woman was making a presentation in a soft “woman’s” voice and I soon realized that I had a problem. I didn’t understand half of what she said. At about the same time I was asked to house sit for a friend and look after an old curmudgeon of a cat, whose name was Frank. On the last night of this assignment, I laid in bed and watched TV. I’ll never forget the movie: a mythological piece depicting the first Marine victory after Pearl Harbor. It was appropriately entitled, Gung Ho! When my friends returned and laid in that same bed and turned on the TV, they said the volume blew out the windows.

The evidence was in: I was seriously deaf. I didn’t hear it coming.

Fifteen years later and three sets of hearing aids into what has turned into a profound disability – if you count not being able to hear thunder a disability – I am now trying out my fourth set of whiz bang, cutting edge, state of the art instruments that, I am told, can think for themselves. Did I tell you before? I love technology. I just can’t afford it.

Most insurances won’t touch hearing aids. They’ll replace your heart for about $700,000 to $800,000, but at best will only tip you for the cost of hearing aids – if they help at all. This new set cost the price of a good used pickup truck. It would be nice to have a good pickup. But I’d rather hear you say my name.

Yes – it could be worse, and I am truly grateful that is isn’t.

I’ll never forget the first time I wore hearing aids. I was amazed at how noisy my old truck was. I walked around Bradbury Mountain listening to the wind in the trees. My eyes filled with tears as I began to hear what everyone else took for granted.

Protect your ears.

When I remember you, Julia, how you left us, it will always be with that startled look much like that proverbial “deer caught in the headlights”. In the days to come we will say all kinds of things trying to deal with our own mortality in the best way we can. The uncomfortable truth you just gave us is that age does not have a damned thing to do with it. To be stopped at mid point ( as we think of it ) seems so unfair. But then, death never claimed to be fair.

In our culture, we are not instructed about death. I remember when my fraternal grandfather died, I was just a child. My mother refused to let me attend the funeral and interment. I was too young to face death. I didn’t like the old guy and would loved to have seen him all laid out. That was a missed lesson. There were many make-up lessons to come. The last one was yesterday when someone told me you had died.

We will miss your cheer, and your ability to “get it” in all the supportive by-play that fellow workers engage in to make a stressful situation work. If you come back, as some say you will, give us some kind of high five. I’m not sure how that would work, but I bet you can figure it out. Those of us remaining still have “that way” to go. We all hope it is a long way off, but then, you never know. We still need all the encouragement we can get. Life is truly, one precious day at a time. Thank you, Julia, for you. We will miss you.

We were in Casemento’s out on Magazine Street on a warm spring evening.  It was a week night and there was that feeling that it was time for some oysters on the shell.  We found a side table on the wall in front where we could see this guy who looked just like Judd Hirsch behind the counter shucking out dozens of Gulf oysters by the sack.

In business since 1919 in uptown New Orleans, Casamento’s has been an enduring favorite of people who know that real New Orleans dining is out in the neighborhoods.  You won’t break the bank there and these days you will bookmark the address on your GPS.  But that’s just for show.  You won’t forget how to get there.

Just after we got settled at our table, our waiter came over and asked us if we wanted something to drink. I looked up then realized that wouldn’t be necessary.  I leveled my gaze into dark eyes deeply set in a wrinkled round face the color of polished mahogany with a cap of close cropped silver hair.  She was a fireplug of a woman who couldn’t have been much more than four and a half feet and had a voice like the sound of a klaxon.

We ordered our Dixies and when she brought them over, she asked us, in that unmistakable drawl that is hard to misplace, y’all want some gumbo befo yo oysters are ready?  I said, how did you know we wanted oysters?  She said, y’all look like oyster people.  I laughed so hard that every eye in the room turned toward us.  I said, well you are right – a half dozen for my partner here and a dozen for me.  She said, I knew you wanted a dozen, you.  Judd, behind the counter had already started shucking.

The room was long and narrow and completely covered – top, sides and bottom with gleaming white, easy to clean, tile with an occasional green accent.  There were no frills, but the room itself was a jewell.  It’s the kind of place that gives definition to the word – unique.

If you ever get to New Orleans, you need to do the regular stuff down in the Quarter.  The French Market. The Cafe´ du Monde for cafe au lait and a plate of beignets.  A Muffeletta at The Central Grocery on Decatur.  Your favorite poison at the Napoleon House Bar on Chartres, and if you’re really well fixed, do the Commander’s Palace, in the Garden District, for a Sunday brunch sitting.  You might live long enough to forget your name but you won’t forget Commander’s.  You do all that and then, one evening, tell a cab driver to take you to Cassemento’s on Magazine.    

You need to get to Cassemento’s so you can say you have actually eaten in New Orleans.

We were in Casemento’s out on Magazine Street on a warm spring evening.  It was a week night and there was that feeling that it was time for some oysters on the shell.  We found a side table on the wall in front where we could see this guy who looked just like Judd Hirsch behind the counter shucking out dozens of Gulf oysters by the sack.

In business since 1919 in uptown New Orleans, Casamento’s has been an enduring favorite of people who know that real New Orleans dining is out in the neighborhoods.  You won’t break the bank there and these days you will bookmark the address on your GPS.  But that’s just for show.  You won’t forget how to get there.

Just after we got settled at our table, our waiter came over and asked us if we wanted something to drink. I looked up then realized that wouldn’t be necessary.  I leveled my gaze into dark eyes deeply set in a wrinkled round face the color of polished mahogany with a cap of close cropped silver hair.  She was a fireplug of a woman who couldn’t have been much more than four and a half feet and had a voice like the sound of a klaxon.

We ordered our Dixies and when she brought them over, she asked us, in that unmistakable drawl that is hard to misplace, y’all want some gumbo befo yo oysters are ready?  I said, how did you know we wanted oysters?  She said, y’all look like oyster people.  I laughed so hard that every eye in the room turned toward us.  I said, well you are right – a half dozen for my partner here and a dozen for me.  She said, I knew you wanted a dozen, you.  Judd, behind the counter had already started shucking.

The room was long and narrow and completely covered – top, sides and bottom with gleaming white, easy to clean, tile with an occasional green accent.  There were no frills, but the room itself was a jewell.  It’s the kind of place that gives definition to the word – unique.

If you ever get to New Orleans, you need to do the regular stuff down in the Quarter.  The French Market. The Cafe´ du Monde for cafe au lait and a plate of beignets.  A Muffeletta at The Central Grocery on Decatur.  Your favorite poison at the Napoleon House Bar on Chartres, and if you’re really well fixed, do the Commander’s Palace, in the Garden District, for a Sunday brunch sitting.  You might live long enough to forget your name but you won’t forget Commander’s.  You do all that and then, one evening, tell a cab driver to take you to Cassemento’s on Magazine.    You need to get to Cassemento’s so you can say you have actually eaten in New Orleans.

We had been out to Portland Head Light and were just down the road at the corner Short Stop to get some gas before it jumped another two bits.  When we pulled in to the pump island there were four big motorcycles all hovered around one pump topping off their tanks.  

These guys resurrected old bikes and actually used them.  Can’t say they were in the business of restoring them.  They looked old, and the wear and tear of many years and many miles was evident every where you looked.  But when they started those machines, they purred like kittens without a growl or whine.

For a very brief moment, I felt the – what?  Urge?  Desire?  Not really.  It was more like the sweet breath of fantasy on the back of my neck, whispering about straddling that Indian and sampling the lovely hills and curves so near and beckoning.

I took a deep breath and quickly turned the page.  

It was like walking away from a fight I knew I couldn’t win.  I got in the car and happily drove home.

Jerry Henderson