The Passage of Time

Randy Sides passed away on September 23, 2013. His memorial service was last week. I cried all the way through it. Randy had a long battle with cancer; he struggled to stay alive. He did not want to abandon his wife, Tracey, or their dogs (Butch, Dolce, and Mickey – “the boys”). He was only 58. He should have had more time.

Randy Sides

Randy Sides

I met Randy and Tracey in 1993 or 1994, after I got my first dog, Lena. We ran our dogs on the broken down piers off the West Side Highway. It was illegal. It was unsafe. Dogs ran onto the highway, there was broken glass on the pier, there was always garbage that the dogs wanted to get into. Randy and Tracey worked with the authorities for years to establish a community dog run (The West Village Dog Run). They wanted to provide a protected and clean space for the dogs. The run is my haven.

Randy and Tracey always had at least two dogs, and up to five dogs. Randy was predeceased by Zachary, Rudy, Billy, Jesse, Miko, and Lyle. They were all lucky pups. I hope they are with him.

Randy was a sweetheart. He bought an old townhouse in the far West Village. He could do everything; plumbing, electrical, plaster, paint. He worked in banking, and could speak finance. He was a rock-climber. You could ask him any question and he would give you sound advice, whether it was about what kind of paint to use in your kitchen, how to layer for the cold, or what was the best way to refinance your mortgage. Randy could evaluate your level of knowledge and speak to you without condescending. He set a tone for the run. Both Randy and Tracey made me feel welcome.

Gracie hovers near Randy at the dog run Halloween Party in 2011

Gracie hovers near Randy at the dog run Halloween Party in 2011. She is in the bottom corner dressed as “Occupy Wall Street.”

Randy was always tinkering with something at the run (holiday lights, the hose and the water spigot, the lock on the gate). He loved equipment. He liked to have a project to work on. He liked to get it right.

Gracie adored Randy. She always sought him out for a pet. If I was angry at her for barking or being a nuisance she ran to Randy for cover. He would protect her. He knew his way around dogs. He had good hands.

Randy was on chemotherapy for years. He did not complain. He was lanky to start with, and then began to get skinny, and then he got gaunt. If you asked him how he felt, he’d give a short positive answer, and then ask what was going on with you. Randy often walked the boys early in the morning; I’d see him when I was out with Gracie. The last time I saw him was about three weeks before he died. There was a classic green Jaguar parked on the corner, the kind with the driver’s side mirror mounted on the body, not the door. We talked about the car. I told him I’d see him later up at the run. He gave Gracie a rub down.

The green Jaguar. Check out the mirrors.

The green Jaguar parked on Bank Street. Check out the mirrors.

He didn’t feel good. He went to the hospital, was discharged, went back, and came home for hospice care. His last couple of weeks were difficult; mistakes were made by the doctors at the hospital and by the home hospice agency. He could have had more time. He could have been in less pain. Per his wishes, Randy died at home, with Tracey and the boys nearby.

It is difficult for me to comprehend his death. I am a big procrastinator. I always feel like I have more time. That things can be put off, that there is no hurry. Donna is always reminding me that time is flying by, that I need to pay attention. That the clock is ticking, and it is always moving forward.

14 thoughts on “The Passage of Time

  1. urbanmythcafe

    This was very touching. People like Randy make a neighborbhood, make a community.

    I get up to work at 4 a.m., but on Wednesdays, I look forward to a 7 a.m. break to read your latest blog post. Thanks.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Establishing the dog run and then making sure that it kept going was a labor of love (and an incredible time sink) for both of them. But my life, and Gracie’s life, is much richer for it. It is my church, corner bar, and recreation center all in one.

      It is hard for me to take compliments, but I appreciate your support and that you look forward to reading my posts. It means a lot to know that people actually read what I write.

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  2. RonaFraser

    I’m sorry to hear about your friend. How great to hear what a legacy of joy he left — leaving the world a much happier place for area dog owners and their dogs. I heard something recently about it being pretty difficult for one person to make a different to the entire world, but that you can make a big difference in your immediate surroundings.
    I too am a procrastinator, and every now and then (especially when someone passes), I think that I better “get a move on” and do things I want to do, because you never know how long you have. And time flies by the older you get, don’t you find? Of course, one of the first things I think of is that I should have my house in order — my actual house — it is such a mess and has boxes of “stuff to sort through” from previous moves or changes of season (or “emergency clean ups” before people come over). But there’s also the trips I’ve wanted to take. The end of the month is always a “keep your head down til we meet deadline” time for me and I see even less of the present, if you know what I mean. Thanks for the reminder.
    One more thing — heard someone talking about a bucket list and how, when it comes down to it, they didn’t really have much of one, because all they really wanted to do with their remaining time was to spend it with friends and family (not travelling or accomplishing things). Something to think about, I thought. K. Putting my head back down against the grindstone for a couple of days. You might wanna say hi to Randy next time you and Gracie are at the dog park – wouldn’t be surprised if he decided to hang around there a bit.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I agree, there are only so many Mother Theresa’s out there to change the world (and I am not sure I would like to hang out with them). I didn’t make it clear in what I wrote, but Randy and Tracey both still worked to keep the dog run going (mend the fence, new benches, dog friendly snow salt for the entrance). It is a neighborhood institution. They have made a huge difference in my life, and my dog’s life.

      I still expect to see him in the morning when I go past their block, or in the evening when I head up to the run. I probably saw Randy 3 or 4 times a week since I got Gracie in 2008 I can definitely feel his presence in the run.

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  3. timethief

    Randy left a legacy of love (an action word!) behind and you wrote a beautiful tribute to him and the results of his pursuit of his passions. I hear your sorrow and acknowledge your loss as he was obviously a special person. Tracey will need the support of those who cared for Randy and who care for her and I’m sure you will be there for her in this time of grief. I have lost 6 people I loved in these the last 6 years and I’m aware how precious every moment we have to live and love is.

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  4. Jamie Ray Post author

    Fortunately Tracey has a good circle of neighbors and friends (including me) who are trying to give emotional support and help out. It is an enormous amount of stress and work to settle and estate and get things in order, and it is hard to be organized when you are grieving.

    Randy was really her life partner – they were lucky to have each other – and I wish they could have grown old together.

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  5. noelyreese

    I’m sorry I am just now reading this. I am truly sorry for your lost. My best friend from childhood died of cancer at 27. I cannot remember a time before I knew him. I know he is still with me and I hear his voice sometimes. I hope the same is true for you. I am really sorry for your loss… and if you need anything… I’m not far…

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  6. Carole (Stepita) Johnson

    Randy was a great friend of mine during my years in Fox Lane High School. From the time we met, I knew he was someone special. He had such a wonderful heart and kind spirit. We both were excited about the future. The “sky was the limit”. My parents as well as my sister and brother all loved him. He spent time getting to know them and he was like family.

    There were times throughout our friendship, when I did have the chance to watch him climb. It seemed to come naturally. I spent my summers in Glen Arbor Michigan with my grandparents and he went to Mondamin Camp in NC where he could continue to do what he loved! Climb. Also play his Guitar.

    He was crazy about Jethro Tull. The music during those years was like no other. I started smoking at 17 after tasting one of his Camel straights. I continued to smoke almost every brand, for almost twenty five years…and was finally able to give them up. His great friend, Peter Welch was also a smoker, so we “puffed away” before school began…and stayed “fast friends”. Randy and I…and friends Kristin Reed and Nick Burgess made our way, in his Blue Van, to the Watkins Glen Concert. We never saw or heard the Musicians, but walked for hours. I went off to Art School and eventually began working for The R.T. French Co. in Sales Promotion and Marketing in Rochester NY. We stayed in touch.

    Over the years and most recently, when reviewing the Internet for any school friends, including pertinent info on Randy…I learned of his passing. I was heartbroken to say the least! I will always carry him in my heart! For Tracey… I pray that she will be able to continue her life without him…and one day find peace and joy again. I know the Lord will give her strength. Thank you Tracey for giving him such a wonderful life!

    A life well lived! A beloved friend gone too soon! My Condolences to Family, Friends and Dear Animal Companions!

    Kind Regards, Carole Johnson

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