Song of my heart
She drifts through the tendrils of moss draped oaks
Makes the sun glisten
Quickens the tides.
Song of my heart she knows when to enter
The world as we feel it and tug at its feet
When I can’t be around her I love her the more
The lessons are sharper
Our reasons are shared.
I watch for her ripples
Wait for her touch
Her green eyes in mine again.
Jane Skougor Hill dropped me in my tracks. New to Connecticut from Columbus, I was a babe in the woods. From academia to a highly competitive market research firm. My boss advised that if I wanted to get anything done, “make friends with Jane Hill.” She was VP of Operations. Thirty nine, very pretty and all-confidant. She wore lovely jewelry and dressed impeccably. She was a force, a player.
I was hired from a pile of 800 resumes, she said, apparently for my research and writing skills. The trouble was, I’d never written client reports, and certainly nothing for corporate giants like General Motors or Alcoa. They gave me a snug office, Jane got me a phone. Her people provided business cards and off I went. Right into a brick wall. The company was a terrible fit for me and I struggled from the start. Good grief, now what?
A few days after starting I walked by her office. The door was open on a staff meeting with her department heads. Laughter caromed off the walls. As I passed by, she called out, “Hey Jack, what do you do for fun?” I answered with the first thought to cross my mind: “I whittle.” Her staff looked at one another in silence. When I smiled they all got the joke and welcomed me into the fold. From that moment, I had Jane-itis. Who is that woman, really? A lovely bigshot, surely, but there was a lot more. She gleamed. Warm green eyes. Total self -confidence. Her boss called it “moxie.”
I wanted to see her outside work but hesitated since we were co-workers, even though I didn’t report to her. We started to date anyway. We launched at the Lighthouse restaurant in Norwalk. Now I was really under water. Brightly colored fish swam in assorted tanks. Our table was small, prematurely romantic. Ever the moth to her flame, it started that night.
Throughout our courtship she revealed the “real Jane” I came to adore. She was gloriously social versus my inward streak, terrific with children, sweet and verysmart. Twice divorced, she had raised six children and knew her way around kids like Babe Ruth eyeing a bat rack. Actually, more like Ruth cradling adoring munchkins. Completely in the moment. I had fallen in love with Miss Jane. The night I told her we barbequed chicken at my tiny Stamford apartment. We both gushed and I kissed her up against the screen door. Magical. It lasted a long time. Just not long enough.
We got married in the summer of 1984, a lovely backyard ceremony on Nantucket. Immediate family and close friends, our little niece Christina the flower girl. Some of the pictures surround me today, months after Jane’s death. I sometimes weep looking at them but sure can’t take them down. I’m still in love with her. It’s still that sunny day on Nantucket, on the glorious beaches, out fishing. Laughing, eating fabulous food.
My brother in law Dimitri took us fishing that week on a small craft that blasted us to the right spot at 30 knots. We caught piles of blues, Jane pitching in with two husky ones that fought like the devil. For the next few years, we often went fishing together. One lousy day on Long Island Sound it was 40 degrees and windy. She nestled into my shoulder and never complained. Later she admitted that fishing wasn’t really her thing, she only went because she wanted to be with me. That thought still sticks in my throat.
She bore our gorgeous little son Jack Walter on a perfect June day in 1985, his arrival punctuated by her yelling out “WALLY!” Our private nickname for him. She always had guts, that woman, having a child at 41. And what a mother to him she was. We all hit the jackpot. She looked after him passionately and served as his wing man/woman for years. This while keeping a gorgeous house, gardening up a storm, entertaining, planning trips including a spectacular visit to Switzerland and Italy, and occasionally painting. She sold a few pieces, which I’d kill to have back.
Jane was my life. She saved it, actually, in our early days when I was having substance problems. She helped me across the street when I had GI issues. She always made me smile. One day when we lived in Newtown I was mowing the lawn and she announced that she was going out to look at some puppies. That of course was code for “we’re getting a dog.” She came back shortly with a baby Yorkie, our Maggie. Jane and I always thought Maggie was the best dog on earth, smart and fun and sweet; peppy and devoted. A little furry Jane. When she sprained her ankle falling down the stairs, Maggie ran to her side and wouldn’t leave. Jane never ever forgot that. “I miss my Maggie” she kept lamenting many years after we lost her at fifteen. As a little girl, she smuggled a puppy into the house under her raincoat. As her sister Nancy wrote to me, “Our mother calmly and authoritatively stated that Jane was to return the puppy in the morning. Jane said nothing but quietly and confidently proceeded to her bedroom with the puppy – and of course it stayed with us for years to come, eventually becoming one of my mother’s favorite pets.”
The Jane I fell in love with was still a firecracker when we moved to South Carolina in 2005 and for some years after. Age and Crohn’s disease caught up with her. She felt she couldn’t go out or host parties because she couldn’t trust her health. I did everything I could for her but was no match for the ticking clock. Helped her in and out of the car, did errands, meals and housework. She hated doctors, ever since she was a new mother at 18 and her infant son died shortly after they brought him home. How does a human cope with that?
Yes, she could be a pain in the neck at times and admitted it. Stubborn, sometimes wrong but never in doubt as my Dad used to say adoringly, resistant to keep moving to keep half way healthy. The curtain came down one evening when she passed out at the kitchen sink. I called to her, and when she didn’t respond called 911. The EMT guys came immediately and pronounced my best girl dead. Janie Bird, Hurricane Jane, my ultimate darling. I thought I would have a heart attack.
I expect to forever grieve for this astounding woman. It’s a nearly unspeakable pain. I can hear her urging me, “Snap out of it.” I’m trying, Jane. It’s just so very hard.
Good night, sweetie, and thank you for all those great years. God bless you.
Pictured above: Jane Sparacino in Vente Miglia, Italy