The Winter Of Our Discontent

I’ve been away. It’s been nearly two months since I took a punch to the gut, the likes of which I have never experienced.

I lost a brother in the Covid pandemic. He was younger, just 66. Unknown to his family or friends, he suffered from severe depression, which engulfed him during the isolation of the last year, taking him deeper and deeper into despair. He hit bottom on January 12, 2021, and ended his life alone in his home in Williston, North Dakota.

I have not hesitated for an instant when asked how he died, to respond, “Covid.” Because it is true.

All of us have suffered through the isolation forced on us by this horrible pandemic. We stayed away from our favorite restaurants and bars, canceled our vacations, gave up pleasant evenings and casual lunches with our friends, missed all the new movies, drove separate cars to meeting destinations, and worked from home, or alone in our offices with masks on.

But at the end of the day, we had someone to go home to, someone to cook for, or cook for us, to talk over the highlights or lowlights of the day at suppertime, someone to hug at bedtime, someone to share coffee with over the morning paper, someone to walk with on warm evenings, or take a drive with in the bright, snowy countryside on a sunny winter morning, to cheer us up.

My brother Jay had none of those things. The victim of a broken marriage and a broken heart, he looked on in envy as his six siblings and their spouses and children shared the often raucous joy of their families. He lived alone, far from the rest of us, and while we were able to invite him to holiday gatherings and summer golf and lake outings, the pandemic canceled all those enjoyable family times together, and he was left alone in a deepening downward spiral none of us recognized in time to save him.

Oh, how I wish I had been able to call him and say, “Hey, Jay, remember a couple of years ago when you came down and spent Thanksgiving weekend, and we went out to McKenzie Slough and shot a couple pheasants on Thanksgiving morning while Lillian cooked dinner? Why don’t you come down, and we’ll do that again this year?”

But by then we were conditioned by the pandemic not to even consider doing that. Damn, I wish I had made that call anyway.

He often spent Christmastime with my brother Blake and his family in Sioux Falls, but this year they just talked on the phone. And he observed his 66th birthday two days later alone in his house in Williston. His Social Security birthday. His retirement birthday. Two weeks later, he was dead.

All of us have been touched, hurt, delayed, saddened, displaced, and angered by this awful time we’ve been through. But we’ve survived it, so far. We’re still here. But not Jay. The Fuglie family will always remember this nightmarish winter when we lost our brother Jay. To Covid. Each time I hear those numbers on the radio, I automatically add one. I often shout it. “No! 1449!”

From all appearances, everything was just fine in Jay’s life. He was a successful businessman with a good reputation for taking care of his customers. He was well-liked at the Western Cooperative Credit Union where he had his offices, and enjoyed his daily repartee with his co-workers. He mentored young people, shepherding them to advancement in the business world. He was quiet and well-behaved (unlike some of his siblings) and always well-dressed and well-groomed. He drove a nice car, lived in a comfortable townhouse just a short walk from his office, had healthy bank accounts, and through his community involvement had a wide circle of friends, many of them important citizens of Williston. He gave freely to charities, especially those serving the needy, often in cash so his goodwill could remain anonymous. He may have been the most humble man I knew.

That’s why his death was so unexpected. None of us knew of his life’s secrets, the curtain of depression he was hiding behind, unable to recover from the idea that somehow he had failed to arrive at his approaching retirement, for which he had carefully prepared, with a traveling companion he loved and who loved him. In the end, he could not face that alone.

One of my brothers summed it up this way: He was able to get up each morning and achieve his daily goal, but he couldn’t achieve his life’s goal.

And in his Norwegian stubbornness, he refused to ask for help. Until it was too late. In that troubled mind, the only solution was to end it.

When I think of Jay now, I think of the words of Edwin Arlington Robinson.

RICHARD CORY

By Edward Arlington Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,

We people on the pavement looked at him:

He was a gentleman from sole to crown,

Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,

And he was always human when he talked;

But still he fluttered pulses when he said,

“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—

And admirably schooled in every grace:

In fine, we thought that he was everything

To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,

And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;

And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,

Went home and put a bullet through his head.

It’s taken me a good bit of time to gather these thoughts and the courage to share them. Thank you for waiting. It has been a long winter, the longest of my life. I need to get back to writing. There is much to write about. And to read about. And to care about.

18 thoughts on “The Winter Of Our Discontent

    1. Very sorry to see this loss of your brother Jim, thanks for writing it, you have our thoughts during this hard time, peace, Vera and Steve

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Jim,

    So sorry for the loss of your brother. I have never met you or your brother but read his obituary and knew you had suffered a loss. I am appreciative of your honest writing.
    I blame the mainstream media for creating the hysteria that led to increased mental health issues and Covid hysteria. Is Covid a danger to certain folks in our world? Absolutely but not to 99% + of us. Covid split us right down the middle like everything else.
    I could go on and on about false positives, etc. but whats the point. Mental Health is the most important type of healthcare we could pursue and society failed at that miserably in the last year.
    Take care of yourself and I hope your out catching walleyes soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jim-
    May the Lord be with your brother and you and your family. I many years ago experienced the unexpected death of my father. I have recovered and can smile when I think about him and our fishing trips and how much I learned from him.
    God bless you and I can tell you that restarting your life will be the BEST thing you will ever do. Take care.
    Dave Nix

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jim,
    I have lost my uncle and then a generation later, his son to suicide. Thank you for being so courageous in writing about this while living in a place where so many people know details about others’ lives.
    I will keep you and your family in my prayers. Yes, this has been a difficult winter for many.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jim
    That was a very heavy load to carry by yourself. Thank you for sharing so that we, your friends, can shoulder some of the burden with you! God bless!
    Brad Carroll

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jim and family,
    I am so sorry for your lost brother. I was aware of Jay’s passing. However I had no idea that he was in a rough spot. I knew Jay as I knew all the Fuglies from our childhood days playing football on Main Street at nigh in the summers.. All the golfing and going to school together. Jay loved golf and was very good at the game that is tough to master. He came close. Jay was a great guy and there wasn’t a soul who didn’t like him. Jim, Blair, Jill, Susan and Blake.. My heart goes out to each of you and let it help in your pain that Jay will be missed by many many friends. Rest in Peace Jay. You’re now at home with the Lord at peace and no demons any longer.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautiful and my heart is open.  One never knows the thoughts behind our masks…….  You opened and it took courage. Thanks you.   I’ll be home in a couple of weeks and we’ll fish, hunt, bullshit and enjoy life’s travails…..

    Darrell Dorgan ddorgan695@aol.com

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Glad you shared this story as I think you did a part of before, but, at least you shared! Perhaps your healing can start now as well as the rest of the family left to despair about the realization of …..if only! Depression is something that must be totally debilitating. And with no outward signs how can we really know! Thanks! It is time to heal. And for sure there is much to read and write about! May your days be much sunnier soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you, Jim. An important reminder of how lucky we are and how much we need to stay in touch with our friends and family. You brought me to tears.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for sharing our grief Jim. My thoughts are with you and your family.
    Here is a poem that often brings be solace when I’m depressed.

    “It is Born”, by Pablo Neruda

    Here, I come to the boundaries
    Where nothing needs to be said,
    Everything is learned with weather and ocean,
    And the moon returned
    With its lines silvered
    And each time the shadow was broken
    By the crash of a wave
    And each day on the balcony of the sea
    Wings open, Fire is born
    And everything continues blue as the morning.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Burdette Bond CAlkins was my boss at Basin Electric for several years. He was an interesting person but good to work with and we became good friends. When we all went our separate ways, I never heard from him again. I think think the only one who had some contact with Burt was Duane Bye. He was so talented. Could you give me his website. I’d love to see what Craig has posted. I’m a former Hettingerite (Janet Eneberg).

    Liked by 1 person

  11. We are so very sorry to learn of your brother’s passing. We had a similar suicide here in Jamestown just a day or two ago, and I blame COVID for that one too. We have had so many months of isolation and for some folks it has been just too much. Remember the many good memories you have of your dear brother. Barb Lang and Art Todd

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I truly have been wondering about you…I’m so sorry for your pain and loss. I’m truly sorry for your brother’s pain in silence. Prayers for you and all who love Jay. Prayers for all of us to learn from this harsh reality story…God’s love and Peace💔 to you ❣

    Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I am very sorry to hear about your brother. I was wondering why there had been no blog post in my inbox for a while. “Richard Corey” was always a poem that made a big impression on me. Wishing you healing, and many happy memories of your brother. This has been a tough stretch for so many.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s