Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Good-bye in Progress

I’m about to tell you about a man that I love the way I wanted to love my father. He is a man I’ve never seen nor even heard his voice.

A few years back when I was posting essays on another website, I received an email regarding something I had written. The email was a bit critical of my writing style. My first inclination was to hit the delete button and say to hell with you. But instead I reread the message and felt the writer was giving me good constructive criticism. Instead of delete, I hit reply and thanked the sender for his message. That’s how it began.

This gentleman was 80 years old and lived alone in a town about as far from my own as you can get and stay within the continental United States. His wife had died some years ago and he lived alone. He was a wealth of knowledge and the very symbol of a gentleman.

We emailed one another daily and occasionally hourly. One time we were sending emails back and forth as fast as we could. That was two years ago during the running of the Kentucky Derby. That was so much fun. We had such a good time that day. His favorite horse won and he was all excited.

During the years that followed my wise decision not to hit the delete button, I learned so much from my friend. He referenced books and poems for me to read. Then we would discuss our opinions. He showed me how to read Mark Twain to get the most from his words. We shared our opinions about everything from politics to literature to world events.

Then there was the music. The first Christmas that I was acquainted with him, he burned several CD’s of his favorite music and mailed them to me. They ranged from old jazz to big band and beyond. He made me a guide for each cut. He listed each band, each singer and what to listen for in each song. Oh my, those are my treasures and the only tangible reminder of our friendship.

When I had to leave my house before hurricane Jeanne arrived, I emailed him before I left to let him know I would be away from my computer for at least a few days. He quickly wrote back that he would miss me and that his life wouldn’t be right until I returned. We had that kind of relationship.

Here was a person who was far away, smarter than anyone I have ever met, and he was concerned about me and my well being. My dad never said anything like that to me, and he was supposed to care.

About a year ago my friend’s body became frail and he became ill. He has been in all sorts of hospitals since that time. Last week his daughter, whom I have talked with on the phone since the illness began, emailed me to tell me that my friend is dying. No one knows how long he has left on this earth. He told his daughter and his doctor that he is tired. He’s ready to go.

Our relationship was like a journey to me, a journey that led down a wonderful path surrounded by amazing thoughts and sights and sounds. It was as if he was holding my hand and showing me things I might never have seen. He cared for me. Oh and I cared for him. He was a distant shoulder for me to cry on, and I shared my small shoulders with him. He knew how to make me laugh when laughing seemed impossible. He could rant with the best of them too. He was the essence of a renaissance man.

He encouraged me to continue to write. He gave me confidence to keep plugging away and trying. He said he had faith in me. He pushed me when I needed pushing and he reined me in when I veered too far.

I have missed hearing from him since he became ill. I kept hoping each day that I would receive a surprise email from him and our friendship could continue. Now I have to come to grips with the fact that that’s not going to happen, ever again. I have cried but that did no good. Crying doesn’t make hurting go away. This wonderful person is silently leaving my life one day at a time.

He is leaving me but I will never lose the knowledge he shared with me. I will never lose the memories of his friendship. Although he is going away, I know the effect that he has had on me and my life will be with me for the rest of my life. For that I am deeply and sincerely grateful.

In honor of and in memory of our friendship, I decided to post a poem that he told me about a long time ago. It seems most appropriate.

Meeting and Passing by Robert Frost

As I went down the hill along the wall
There was a gate I had leaned at for the view
And had just turned from when I first saw you
As you came up the hill. We met. But all
We did that day was mingle great and small
Footprints in summer dust as if we drew
The figure of our being less that two
But more than one as yet. Your parasol

Pointed the decimal off with one deep thrust.
And all the time we talked you seemed to see
Something down there to smile at in the dust.
(Oh, it was without prejudice to me!)
Afterward I went past what you had passed
Before we met and you what I had passed.


Blogger a rose is a rose said...

my eyes are filled up p o p (damn you, i wear a TON of eyemakeup). i almost felt like a voyeur into your and his friendship (in a good way though).

to me, THAT friendship WAS and IS just as real as if he was sitting right next to you.

sometimes, not always mind you, but some special times.....our mind tells us to do one thing (delete) but our hearts tell us the RIGHT thing (keep)

i am not going to offer my sympathy, but i am going to tell you how touched i am by your friendship with him and how happy you both had each other, especially in the twilight of his life

May 04, 2006 2:36 AM  
Blogger Granny said...

What wonderful memories you will have of your friend and what a lovely tribute to both of you.

May 04, 2006 3:20 AM  
Blogger BrotherCurmudgeon said...

That was just a beautiful, heart-warming story. It makes one feel that there is yet some worth in this life. With all of the war and other bad news coming at us daily, we are fortunate to have a repast such as you have relayed.

May 04, 2006 4:13 AM  
Blogger Mary said...

You are so lucky to have had such a gift. Thank you for sharing that wonderful experience with us.

May 04, 2006 5:15 AM  
Anonymous rebellious renee said...

PoP...what a beautiful story...thanks for sharing that.
I think we are always given's just a matter of whether we stop our constant "yakking" in our heads and truly listen.
May your friend truly find peace.

May 04, 2006 5:23 AM  
Blogger C.S. said...

P: what a remarkable story.

A perfect example of true friendship that is possible and can overcome age differences and and geography. It is obvious both of your lives are so much richer for this friendship.

If only more of us could be so fortunate.


May 04, 2006 8:08 AM  
Blogger Carl said...

Beautiful tribute, dear.

May 04, 2006 8:09 AM  
Blogger pissed off patricia said...

I know this was a long post today. I want to thank each of you for taking the time to read it and also for understanding why I felt I must share the story.
Also thank you for your sweet comments. It truly means a lot to me and to my heart.

May 04, 2006 8:18 AM  
Blogger JBlue said...

My eyes are full of tears, too. What a beautiful tribute. I do hope he can read it or someone will read it to him. I suppose he knows, though. But if someone feels like this about you, that's the most precious gift you can receive in this world.

I was thinking as I read this, that there is always so much to look forward to in life if you just look.

Thanks, P O P. I loved it.

May 04, 2006 8:24 AM  
Anonymous Knox Rover said...

Another beautiful story, PoP. When are you going to write that book?

My father died when I was seven and my mother when I was ten. In high school, my best friend's mother and father became my "part-time parents," and they were always there for me well into my thirties. Her mother died in 2000, and her father died last November. I grieve their deaths as much as I did for my own parents.

Just because someone isn't related by blood, it doesn't mean they aren't family. I bet you brought a lot of joy to that gentleman's life.

May 04, 2006 8:38 AM  
Blogger Neil Shakespeare said...

Sorry to hear. All my sympathies.

May 04, 2006 8:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Through you, Patricia, I 'met' the gentleman in question, and I second your words. What little time I had getting to know him has enriched me beyond measure.

The world will be a lesser place with his absence.

May 04, 2006 9:47 AM  
Anonymous Michael Miller said...

Sigh...I did put my name in on the previous comment, but a mouse-event took it away.

May 04, 2006 9:48 AM  
Blogger Tata said...

How wonderful that through the magic of the written word kindred spirits find one another! I'm sorry for your impending loss. Still, grief is a measure of one's love and one's joy, and these treasures will bring you comfort another day.

May 04, 2006 10:01 AM  
Blogger Peacechick Mary said...

Ohhhh, the poem is wonderful, just as is your relationship with the lovely man from far away. What a gift you were to each other.

May 04, 2006 10:22 AM  
Blogger rev. billy bob gisher ©2005 said...

i love critique bigtime. it is the only way to improve rapidly. amazing most are repelled by it. sad. you were lucky. kick me in the ass when i screw up please.

May 04, 2006 10:25 AM  
Blogger Kathleen Callon said...

Loss is hard.

I remember when my brother's best friend (only in his teens) and when my Grandpa died... and it felt like part of me died, too.

This post made me teary.

You met him by chance, but had a bond that has lasted you a long time. In a way, this relationship is a gift for both of you since the chances of you meeting where minute... beautiful poem.

May 04, 2006 11:16 AM  
Blogger Frederick said...

My condolances.

People living deeply have no fear of death. - Anais Nin

May 04, 2006 1:19 PM  
Blogger Gary said...

I'm sorry for your friend's natural, but sad demise and so happy that you didn't hit the delete key. What a wonderful, inspiring story.

May 04, 2006 1:37 PM  
Blogger Turtle Guy said...

Reminds me of my grandfather, thank you.

May 04, 2006 2:22 PM  
Blogger Time said...

You are lucky to have had this special friendship, they are so rare.

I wonder how many people he touched in the same way? I would think everyone he met, because that's the kind of person he is.

By being such a great person, he must have enjoyed a fulfilling life.

One friendship like this in a lifetime is more than most find, I hope you find another.

May 04, 2006 5:16 PM  
Blogger vanx said...

This is so beautiful! I think about your fortuitous decision not to hit delete--a split second changed your life! I'm inclined to criticize your writing style~,:^) In fact, I have only praise for it.
What a special experience. Renaissance man indeed.

May 04, 2006 6:54 PM  
Blogger vanx said...

And, yes, it's very sad. I'm just blown away by how beautiful the whole story is. I'm sorry about your friend.

May 04, 2006 7:23 PM  
Blogger PTCruiser said...

That's beautiful, PoP. Thanks for sharing it.

May 05, 2006 6:12 AM  
Blogger Human said...

A very wise decision not to close the door. Now I need tissues.
Two words most desired, "enter friend".


May 05, 2006 7:42 PM  
Blogger John Good said...

It's amazing how our smallest of choices can have such a huge impact on our lives.

May 05, 2006 7:47 PM  
Blogger enigma4ever said...

What a sweet thing- that something so small would lead to a wonderful friendship- and bless you for realizing that such a friendship is indeed a treasure...thank you for sharing...namaste...

May 06, 2006 12:53 AM  
Blogger sumo said...

It's good to hear that there are still good and decent things in this life to learn about. Sorry for his health.

May 06, 2006 2:30 AM  
Blogger Reflections said...

Thank you for sharing this. He will live on in you. I have found that we can lose all we have in life, yet we need not lose, nor can anyone take, what we have in our heart and head. I consider myself a collection of what I have gained from others I admire and love.

May 06, 2006 4:44 AM  
Blogger The Fat Lady Sings said...

I love Frost. Most people are only familiar with his "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening". I'm a fan of everything he wrote - and that particular poem really resonates. It speaks of friendship - friendship outside the margins. You can't quantify it; nor assign limits. You could be friends for three minutes or three decades; the memory is the same. Time is relative, you know. And there is never enough.

I am so sorry for your loss. He sounds like a wonderful man; your tribute to him is touching. It looks as if you really knew each other well. I know the relationship seemed, for our times, unusual. But keep in mind - pen pals (and isn't that just what we all are?) were common enough in previous centuries. Elizabeth Barrett fell in love with Robert Browning through the mail. They knew each others mind and soul long before their lips had touched. Now I know this man was, essentially a father to you; but the process remains the same. Here’s a poem Elizabeth Barrett wrote. I though it suitable to the occasion. Be at peace, my dear.

And now listen to me in turn. You have touched me more profoundly than I thought even you could have touched me - my heart was full when you came here today. Henceforward I am yours for everything....

May 06, 2006 9:30 AM  
Blogger SB Gypsy said...

Oh Pop, how enriched your life has been, and what a beautiful poem.

May 08, 2006 2:42 PM  
Blogger Rory Shock said...

well, dammit, you brought some tears to rory's eyes ... very lovely pop

May 09, 2006 7:58 PM  

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