Tuesday, March 10, 2009

GOLDEN


Sometimes a day afield literally turns golden. My best friend, Frank, and I used to encounter them often—while ambling across a summer prairie thick with swaying bluestem, or walking through an autumn woods sharp with the heady fragrance of old leaves and damp humus.

Yet most of the time Frank and I shared these golden moments as we waded for smallmouth bass along a little rural creek.

Intent on fishing, our days together a’stream always passed faster than we realized. We were both equally mesmerized by the unfolding succession of pools and riffles, and absorbed in listening to those whispered secrets eternally told by water pouring over stones.

Whatever the cause, we predictably failed to notice as the sun began slowly sidling off to the west. Indeed, as we worked our way upstream, the golden moment typically caught us unawares—a sudden infusion of yellow-bronze light which stopped us in our tracks. Gold light which made us look up, around…to eventually grin at one another and shake our heads in delight, because at such times words are simply no good. Some things are best acknowledged by the heart.

Frank and I knew each other’s heart.

My heart is now breaking, because I lost my old pal this morning, an hour or so before dawn.

Frank’s daughter, who lives in another city a two-hour drive away, called just before 5:00 a.m. to say she’d been notified her father’s health had taken a turn for the worse. I was on the road within fifteen minutes and at his bedside a half-hour later.

The call wasn’t unexpected. Frank had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease for a number of years. About a year and a half ago he had to move from his home into an extended care facility. Everyone, including Frank, knew this moment was coming.

Since sufficiently recovering from whatever recently nailed me that I no longer worried about being an infectious danger, I’ve been making daily visits. Frank, who was several decades my senior, has been my best friend for thirty years. I could always count on him for anything, in any situation—a living example of that verse in Proverbs about a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Now, I wanted to do whatever I could for him.

As his final minutes ticked softly away, I sat by my best friend’s side, held his hand, patted his shoulder, and told him how much I’d enjoyed our adventures and times together, how I treasured his friendship, what a blessing he’d been, and how I loved him. I also reassured him that I’d stay right by his side and see to things until his daughter arrived, that I’d make sure she was given the news gently, and that I would do whatever I could to ease her burden throughout the coming hours.

That’s what best friends do for one another—stand behind, beside, in front, or in place, to the best of their abilities. Frank would have done the same for me. And best friends know—promises made are promises kept.

Afterwards, I sat and waited in that quiet room, with my friend, keeping vigil at the window for his daughter’s arrival. Night turned gently into day. A few robins arrived and begin inspecting the lawn between the building and the parking lot.

Late this afternoon, I watched last of this very same day dwindle unspectacularly in the west. Clouds banded most of the sky; there was no real color. I picked up my camera and stepped out, onto the deck, hoping to catch a shot of the geese I knew would be flying upstream, winging their way home.

In an instant, the light changed. The grayness gave way to a burst of light—a sudden yellow-bronze luminescence that danced atop the pool, sparkled in the riffle, glowed through trees on the island across from the cottage.

A sorely needed and much appreciated moment—a golden gift of friendship I'll never forget.

43 comments:

Lynne said...

I am so sorry for your loss, and so glad that you were able to be there for your friend, giving him your finest gifts- your words, your time, your touch, your promise, your love.

This post took my breath away.veser

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Lynne…

I have been so blessed in my life. And Frank was one of those genuine blessings. It was my privilege to be there with him.

And thank you for writing.

giggles said...

He chose you, ya know... to be there....

I'm sad for your loss...

Take good care.... Prayers for all.... Peace, too.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

Thank you, as always. And yes, I believe he did…

KGMom said...

Sorry for the loss you have experienced--true friends, friends of decades, are rare indeed.
You gave him the greatest gift--being by his side as he made this final journey.
May all our passings be marked by golden light.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

Frank and I shared so many things together throughout the years…books, faith, photography, outdoor adventures, writing, a love of country roads and rural towns, and fish dinners. To name but a few…

Thank you, sincerely.

Bella said...

Regardless if living or death, kindred spirits always remain close. You describe a friendship that many only wish for...rather than sorry, I hope you celebrate the treasured experiences that can never be lost.

Take care..

JMS said...

I'm sorry for your loss. What a treasure to have such a friendship.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Your writing of the final moments of your friend's life - of your involvement in his dying, of your memories of your happy times together - that is every bit as golden as that golden moment you captured outside. Love - that is the word you need to keep reminding yourself of - love - it is still there after your friend has gone - and he took your love with him on his final journey.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bella…

You are right about our friendship—we were kindred spirits, and knew that from the start. And I also know that such deep and genuine friendships are extraordinary and rare. Once in a lifetime, if you're lucky. I have indeed been lucky.

Thank you.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

JMS…

I always have and always will treasure my friendship with Frank. The hole he's left in my life is huge…yet the memories are almost without end.

Thank you for writing.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

I wish I were a more capable writer and able to do justice to what all this—our friendship and times—meant, means. Maybe I need perspective. But one day I want to better tell, or try to tell, the story.

Nowadays we talk about love, bandy the word about, use it almost to the point where it become meaningless—but genuine love for another human, whether romantic, friendship, or the bloodsong of family, is both miracle and mystery. A gift and blessing. And it does indeed remain…

Thank you.

forest wisdom said...

Grizzled,
I am so sorry for your loss. But I also rejoice, as I know you do, in the precious gift that you had in your friendship with Frank all these decades. There is nothing more precious than true and lasting friendship. You will be in my thoughts. I wish you peace.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Forest, my friend…

I thank you sincerely for your kind words. I know they came from your heart, and understand they reflect the wisdom of truth and experience.

Nothing beats friendship.

Thank you…again.

Val said...

Dear Grizzled,
I am saddened by your loss but uplifted by the spirit with which you celebrate Frank. To love and share as the two of you did is so rare and so special. I am sending you peace today, dear friend.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Val…

Thank you. I truly appreciate your words and thoughts.

I was just sitting at my desk, looking out the window at the sunlight sparkling off the river, and thinking how much my dear old friend would have enjoyed such a sight. Even when it got to where he could no longer get outside the nursing home's doors, Frank regularly called to ask what was happening: "Been fishing yet." "See any birds?" "How's the season coming—found any wildflowers?"

I'm really, really going to miss giving him those reports…

Deb said...

I am sorry for your loss. This is a beautiful tribute.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Deb…

I appreciate your words. Thank you.

giggles said...

Well then..in honor of Frank, continue posting your answers to his imagined queries here...yes?! What a fine tribute that would continue to be! So what's happening in your neck of the woods and stream today?! ;-) (I do so miss southern Ohio.... It's fun to visit via you and Nina....!)

Here, a few red-tailed hawks perched high, scoping their territory...my feeders are empty, so no activity here in the back yard maple....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

I've been pretty useless today. It is pretty out—occasional minutes of bright sunlight—but cold.

I've been taking care of notifying several of the professional writers' organizations—to which both belong—of Frank's passing, fielding a few queries and notes from folks who knew him…stuff like that.

I've also been fooling around trying to get a shot of a kingfisher that's feeding on the other side of the river across from the cottage. The noisy little diver-bomber is too far away for my longest lens.

And that's about the extent of the excitement here on the riverbank. Which is fine because I'm exhausted, numb, and while not quite depressed, certainly dispirited.

BTW, I've thought of adding a sort of daily report to the blog, but can't quite figure how to work it in—or even whether it's a good idea. Maybe I'll think some…

giggles said...

No worries, dear Scribe.. no worries.... (I was afraid after I left that remark that I was being too officious.... I have been accused of that behavior by an older fella before....)

Just take good care of yourself.... You've not got an easy task at the moment....

You'll figure it out, if it's right... and time... I'll play along when you're ready.... (I will share with you that I have had just a dandy time getting back in touch with the "naturalist" that I was (albeit, very, very amateur, maybe just a curious explorer...) as a younger kid with no kids of my own.... It's time to get back to it and you woke me up.... and I am having fun spying the world around me ... and sometimes even with my own kids in tow... It's all good and I have you to thank! (Amazing thing, this blogging world, as I have said before...!)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

You, officious? Intrusively enthusiastic? Not likely! You seem to me to embrace life with passion. When answering your previous comment, I told you how I'd been trying to photograph a kingfisher. If you've never watched one fish, I can tell you, that little bird fishes with passion! Again and again it flings itself in the cold water. The minnows in the pool below doubtless consider it intrusive, possibly officious, but I say we all ought to fling ourselves at life like this more often.

I'm glad you're getting back to exploring the natural world, and if I've played even the tiniest role in that, I'm doubly pleased. But don't ever think you're not a naturalist. The term in it's original meant one who studied nature through observation rather than experiment. All the great naturalists were amateurs—Thoreau, Burroughs; Arthur Cleveland Bent's magnificent 20 volume series on the life histories of North American birds stands on the work of "amateur" naturalists, a contradictory pairing. Only in recent decades have some tried to usurp the meaning, seeking to expropriate the title to the realms of academia…where it can then be awarded by only select officials, who get to sit in judgement after first collecting your money to participate. Let them come up with their own titles and categories; naturalist as it came into being belongs just where it is—to those who watch nature. And I promise I won't dismiss as unreliable a field report on, say, kingfishers, just because it came from a botanist or mycologist, if they won't dismiss the same report if handed in by a writer or piano player.

Now, about that "older fella" designation…but wait, I must toddle off and take a nap—or have another prune juice cocktail and give you…huh…forgot what I was going to say. Musta been a geezer moment.

giggles said...

Ha!! So sweet and funny and smart you truly are......

Now, dear friend...a picture of a kingfisher fishing I have never seen.... Your next challenge awaits!!!!!!!! (She says with a wry smile on her face! Me officious? He thinks not!?)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

Now, let us review…"officious" is not an endearing characteristic—ergo, one does not seek to embrace officiousness as a guiding principal. Officious folks—or in your case, folkette—risk missing the mark and becoming merely bumptious, a sad and sorry fumble and one which might, in turn, set you into a phase of tendering unintentionally obtrude missives.

You wouldn't want that, right? Of course not! Well, duh!

And for your information, I do have a fishing kingfisher pix. It's depicts a little slate-blue blob perched in a mass of limbs and vines. You might have to take my word that the above-mentioned blob in the limb tangle is indeed a fishing kingfisher. But if you look verrwy, verrwy closely, you'll recognise it immediately as a fishing kingfisher because, like all fishermen in Ohio on a cold March day, most fishing time is actually spent sitting on your butt waiting for the action; my aforementioned photo clearly shows a bird/blob sitting on its feathered butt in the midst of a vine tangle…waiting.

An imaginative interlocutor such as yourself, dear Giggles, can certainly take it from there… :-)

giggles said...

Oh damm... I'm off to the dictionary to look me up some big words.... I hated it when my dad would say "Go look it up...!" Now I do it to my kids all the time! (lol!!!)

And exactly where should I find this kingfisher pic?!

Gail said...

I feel you loss - all quite familiar. I also revel in your friendship with Frank as that is all so familiar too. Your experience blended witn nature and memories touched my heart. And the photo? Breath-taking.

Love Gail
peace.....

The Solitary Walker said...

I only just read your post this morning. My thoughts have been with you on and off all day. What a rare and golden friendship this self-evidently was. As others have said, a friendship to be treasured and celebrated.

My heart goes out to you in this time of loss. Although your best friend's death was expected, there's nothing that can really prepare you for the shock of loss - even though you've been through it before. Hang on in there. To feel dispirited is quite natural, and grief is a natural, normal, necessary process that mustn't be rushed - or hidden too deep. It is indeed a privelege to share in your heartfelt feelings and emotions, and deepest experiences, like this.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

Gimmie time! I'll post it. Beside, you're off increasing your wordpower or something, right?

BTW, sorry to be slow in answering. I've been off and running since 5:30 pitch-dark a.m. And I have to leave again for the evening in about 20 minutes. But I''l get the pix up maybe tomorrow.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Thank you. Frank and I began by being outdoor and book friends…and we ended up as best friends. But much of our time together was outdoors/nature oriented. I liked the photo, too—and I only managed two shots before the light faded. The one I ran was the better one—and it really was that golden.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Solitary…

I appreciate your comments very much. I know you've just been through some of this with losing your father. And I know some of this may still be raw for you which makes it doubly difficult. I hope this hasn't caused you any pain.

You can expect death, stare it in the face, and still be—not shocked or surprised—maybe numbed; angry and hurt by the loss, the affront, and the overall powerlessness of not being able do hold it back.

I know what you say about the grief process is true. And I know time will hone off the sharpest edges. But I sure miss Frank today…I can hardly believe he is gone…and I have no idea what to do to make things better.

But I truly have appreciated being able to write a few words about him on this blog, to share just a bit of what he meant to me, and to reply to yours—and everyone's—responses and kinds words. That has really helped—the sharing and communicating. Thank you…

Raph G. Neckmann said...

What a beautiful tribute, Grizzled. I am so sorry to read of your loss. My thoughts are with you. Such a kindred spirit is so wonderful and precious - I have such a dear friend too. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Raph…

We were kindred spirits, Frank and I, in so many ways. One of these days I want to write more about him. He's worth getting to know better—his work and legacy. But I just can't do it now…

Thank you so much for your kind words.

giggles said...

Oh my goodness.... I meant not to be impatient with you..... I thought I was supposed to know where to find your photo.... No, please...no worries... I'll be back... you know that...when you are ready... so sorry.... I didn't mean to be giving you a hard time.... I'll look forward to playing a game of "Where's kingfisher?!"

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…Giggles…Giggles…

Now don't go backpedaling into self-doubts and apologies on me. I'm just having fun with you. Lord knows, I can use all the fun I can get at the moment, understood where you were coming from—honest. I didn't feel any pressure or impatience.

I'm pretty irrepressible when it comes to life. I try to find the good in a situation, to take what is dealt me and do what I can to make the best of it. I wouldn't say I'm an eternal optimist, but I do believe viewpoint and attitude makes a difference.

On the whole, I'm both introspective and emotional. I seem to experience things on an unusually deep level. Maybe that's because I write, or maybe I write because this is the way I encounter life. But I try to see below the surface, to examine ramifications, put in context, interpret in terms of choice and philosophy, social attitudes and backgrounds; I gauge events large and small through a system of beliefs and values, personal mistakes, experiences, desires, hopes, and a dozen other criteria. Whatever yardstick I can trot out to help me make sense or deal with whatever has happened, is now happening, or might happen. As paradoxical as it sounds (and is) I'm really simple and rather complicated, which is to say I often confuse or wear down even myself.

I can be God-awful moody, at times mercurial. If I allow myself to go there, I can ponder on my mistakes, failures, should-haves, could-haves, and if-onlys, and be instantly depressed, sad, worthless. When I'm down—I'm usually really, really down; but frankly, not much gets me down for very long. I tend to deal with most things via humor and kidding around. The alternate is painfully worse. I stay away from that dark side as much as I can.

This is doubtless overkill when it comes to explanation. But I want to reassure you that you haven't overstepped any situational bounds.

There's a huge, fundamental difference between happiness and joy. I've just lost my best friend. Yet life goes on, regardless. Frank understood and lived amid this inalienable truth, the dichotomy of fact and feeling. Right now I'm very sad—devoid of happiness—but still filled with a wondrous, peaceful joy.

I don't know of a better way to celebrate my old friend's life.

giggles said...

Huh. Man...there is a lot there.... Where do I start??!! No.... I'll just let that all percolate awhile....except for the joy/happiness thing...and I can't stop this thought.... "Bi-polar??!!" Just kidding.... Life is certainly a roller-coaster ride...for sure!

(And I've been wondering for awhile now.... I assume you are retired from the real day to day grind, but I am wondering what, specifically, that was... I know, writing, but writing what for whom?)

giggles said...

So then...the entire by-line I should be looking for is "JIM" ...who exactly?!

(Because, you see, I do so love to drop names.... for example.... I did graduate from college with Allison Janney...ya know...from West Wing? CJ Cregg?! I know, I know...my step-mom would say "So what?!)

Oh, and you might get a kick out of knowing that I will be taking a kayaking class tomorrow! I want to safely kayak in the intercoastal (or is it intra?! I was NOT an English major!) waterways around Long Beach Island, NC this summer.... I'm tickled pink about the class... Ask me tomorrow how wet I got!! Ha! LOL!!

Cheerio!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…



Bipolar! I'm not even ambidextrous!


Retired? Ha! Not old enough, certainly not rich enough, and not so inclined even if I could. 



Nope, still actively writing.

And the rest you know.

Carolyn H said...

i'm so sorry to hear about your friend, Frank. Thank you for sharing this lovely piece of writing about your friend with us.

Carolyn H.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Carolyn…

I'm honoured to be able to share something of my old friend here—even though I'd rather be sharing the news of yet another fishing adventure. Alas, we must all one day pass around that golden bend, where mortal eye does not see, and only hearts carry the vision.

Thank you very much for writing.

Anonymous said...

riverdaze.blogspot.com; You saved my day again.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Anonymous…

You're quite welcome, for whatever positive effect this post has had. Thank you for reading and writing.

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

Thank you, Grizz, for sending me the link to this very moving piece on Frank. As you and Frank found during those moments of dusky golden light, words sometimes just get in the way, so I will not comment here except to say that both you and Frank have been blessed.

Grizz………… said...

Lorenzo…

Thank you…and you're right, both Frank and I were always blessed by each other's deep friendship.