Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Letter Writers

Some people love to write letters. I have recently been thinking about the richness of the lives that friends have revealed to me in the letters that they compose when they think I am their only reader. Let me presume on their good will and briefly introduce them now to one another – with their own words. Let me introduce them to any other readers who wander from time to time to this writing cabin of mine. I feel I am a lucky man to know them.

One friend…

Something came to mind tonight as I was washing dishes. In early 1998 when my parents were happily in Florida, I moved into their home to keep an eye on the place, take care of the dog and especially keep an eye on Nana, my Dad's Mom in her late eighties. She was living alone two houses away and the idea of her enduring another winter on a darkened street was too much for me.

Nana was a tough New England gal, nicknamed "Pete" during her early years. I have some amazing photos of her – my favorite is one of her wearing her brother's overalls, hair tucked into a man's hat, looking tough as nails. (She told me it was a joke photo, hmm.) At any rate, I ate dinner with her most every night, cleaned up, watched TV, took her out to eat and grocery shopping. I was lonely but knew that these three months alone with her would be a gift in the long run, something I could endure before she left us. I did endure it, I laughed with her, connected with her. Some times I didn't stay long and headed back to my parents’, but other nights we stayed up late talking.

Another friend…

Wow... for whatever reason it has seemed more apparent to me of late that you and I are two of a kind. You mentioned Patricia Hampl and beginning her book, The Florist's Daughter. I, JUST THIS MORNING, opened Blue Arabesque by Patricia Hampl while I was waiting for the crosstown bus. It is one I have wanted to read for a while and just got at the library. Have you read that one? A wonderful, rich reflection on *looking* at things, slowly and deeply (using Matisse as a backdrop for it all). I am only on page twenty-one and already want to put this book, a pad of paper and carefully chosen pens, a rare roast beef deli sandwich, and binoculars and a magnifying glass in a backpack to spend the day doing just that. I'd go to the Met and read/write there... I'd hit the research branch of NYPL and do the same...have lunch on the steps, watching, listening, feeling, the world laid out at my feet.... and maybe then a good long walk down to Xavier to end at Mass.

A third friend…

Wise friends over the years have told me over and over, in so many circumstances, that life is all about "blessing," and so there is nothing to be discarded as useless or meaningless or mistaken. I still do not understand all of the connections among the various pieces, but I've lived long enough to be aware of the many things "I don't know I don't know."

I've been having some rather intense email conversations with my brother lately. It started when he saw the play Doubt, at my recommendation. Have you seen it? It's the story of a suspected priest pedophile in a Catholic school of the early 60's. That was the time when my brother and I were in parochial school ourselves. The play surfaced for both of us all sorts of memories and stories from that era. Many of them were school related, but even more had to do with our family life and, particularly, our father, whose alcoholism was at its zenith in those years. Our conversation kept coming back to the wounded child we both still carry around and what's needed to quiet and soothe him. In other words, how do we incorporate his life into ours today? How do we love and cherish him and ease his spirit along when we can often still operate out of so many false understandings of the child and so much misinformation about his value and worth?


Kimberly said...

If you and I were face to face right now, I am not sure I could at first look at you straight on-- though you would see me smiling, and perhaps, judging by the warmth in my cheeks, blushing.

I am honored in the least trite sense imaginable, to meet these two other friends of yours, especially the way you have introduced us. Thank you for this gift.

What a colorful, textured, bouquet you gather, friend. The flowers are so lucky.

John said...

I pride myself on being able to arrange a few select stems in a vase. On my best days, I can make them look meant for just that leaning against one another, just that gracious dip beyond the lip of the vase, just that balance and mutual support that make the flowers seem no longer single but singularly enhanced by being together.

Thank you, friend, for being no longer simply single but singularly enhancing!