The pub was never very busy during the lunch hour so even though I was the only one working, I could sit and listen to Barney talk. Half of the time I had no idea what he was saying; his accent was thick and his voice was muffled and too much drink made his tongue thick. I didn't mind, though. I just loved to listen to him.
I left England five years ago and have only been back to visit once. I used to phone Barney every Sunday but it became too difficult; his hearing was failing and he would get frustrated and emotional and I couldn't stand to hear him upset. I resorted to sending him cards and letters, telling myself I would send something at least once a week. Once a week became once a month and then once a month shamefully became a few times a year.
When Shawn and I got married, I told Barney of our plan to honeymoon in England and Ireland. In every letter he sent me he would ask when I was coming back to England and every time I answered that I was coming back "soon." Our honeymoon got pushed back to 2009, then 2010, and then, far past the point of it being even remotely acceptable to call it a honeymoon, we decided on April 2011. We've been talking and planning for weeks now, trying to figure out a way to make our trip happen. I have been so excited to tell Barney that we weren't going to visit "soon" but had a definite date.
Tonight I found out that Barney was admitted to the hospital last week with kidney failure and passed away. He lived a good, long life and spent his later years lonely and in pain. I know that he is at peace now, or rather I tell myself that he is at peace now, but selfishly I feel sad. Barney was a dear, sweet man and my life was made better because it included him. I just wish that I had managed to make it back to England to see him one last time.