Thursday, March 11, 2010

REMEMBERING FRANK…

I took this photo of Frank in the mid-1980s,
along one of our favorite smallmouth streams.
Frank would have loved this past week, as winter lost its icy grip, snow cover disappeared, and the first wildflowers began splashing bright color amid drab leaf litter along his beloved streambanks. "But don't call it spring just yet," he would have cautioned. Frank knew Ohio weather, having experienced nearly nine decades worth of changing seasons. He always claimed "the frog has to look through the ice twice," and said to not be surprised to see snow on the forsythia blooms before spring finally settled in for good.
I never quite understood the frog business, but I've witnessed numerous times when yellow forsythia blossoms received a mantle of white.
Yesterday marked the first anniversary of my old friend's passing.
Frank was always an early riser, eager to get a jump on the new day. It came as no surprised that he made his final journey well before dawn. As I sat by his bedside—just the two of us in that small room—holding his hand and saying what words of comfort I could, I remember a robin cut loose in the darkness beyond the nursing home's window—a sprightly melody of coming light and burgeoning season, a familiar vernal song Frank would have truly enjoyed. Even in the midst of casting to a productive bass pool, Frank would often pause to listen to a bit of birdsong.
We were best friends for nearly thirty years. I can't begin tell you the countless hours and adventures we shared—but I can tell you we enjoyed almost every moment. And even those times when serious matters brought us together, we found solace in each other's company. The wide gap in our ages didn't matter. Writing, books and bookstores, nature photography, meals shared at country cafés, and puttering along small streams with fly tackle or ultralight gear in search of smallmouth bass, were just a few of our common interests, part of the reason for our strong friendship bond. But most of all, we were kindred spirits…so close in so many ways that we could have been brothers.
Frank was, for most of his professional life, both a Baptist minister and a newspaperman—reporter, columnist, photographer, editor; not a career duo you encounter every day. He was also a serious outdoorsman, a good naturalist, and an expert stream angler.
More than anyone I ever met in regards to Christian living, Frank not only talked-the-talk but invariably walked-the-walk. He loved people, loved life, loved laughing and sharing and having a good time. He was quick-witted, intellectual, extremely well educated, with formidable depth in the classics—both prose and poetry. He never met a stranger, never touted the fact that he was a pastor, and did not want to be called "reverend"—though his theological credentials were staggering. It sometimes took folks well acquainted with him years to make the connection.
Seldom does a day go by that I don't think of my old pal—wish I could call him up, send him an e-mail, or drive out for a day-long visit. What would he say to the fact that one of his favorite streams now hosts eagles? Or that last fall I walked back to the secret pool we used to ply on another, smaller creek…and couldn't bring myself to make the first cast? I know he'd be hot to visit the used book store I recently discovered in a nearby Indiana village. And there's that little café up by Lake St. Marys which serves an all-you-can-eat perch dinner; Frank, a Swede to the bone, loved eating fish as much as he did catching 'em.
Frank taught me much. But most of all he taught me about courage and grace, about following your conscience and your heart, and about making the most of whatever life hands you. I will be in his debt forever. He is not forgotten.
[I've written two other posts—one a poem—about Frank…here and here.]
———————

18 comments:

Tramp said...

When out somewhere and I think I'm on my own it is often that I feel the presence of someone I knew and is here no more. Not just their presence but they are trying to tell me something, trying to help me. I don't know where it comes from, if it is inside me, carried on the wind or whatever, but I must be somewhere quiet.
That's why I need time out every day. Perhaps Lady knows this, she will tell me when I need this time. I can't look her in the eye and tell her I'm too busy. Nature and my friends and family are calling...

Jayne said...

What a beautiful tribute to a very wonderful friend. We should all have been blessed to know him as you did.

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Hi Scribe: What a touching tribute to Frank and friendship. I'm sorry you lost your best friend. His absence in your life is palpable as you describe standing by a favourite pond and not being able to make the first cast without him.

My best friend is also much older than I and I anticipate that I, too, will have many years longing for her. I cannot fathom how I will negotiate those years. We both have our male partners, yet she always calls me 'my beloved'. Her open, easy declarations of caring, love and loyalty used to make me a tad uncomfortable. Now I bask in the way they heal and fortify me for this journey called life.

I was deeply moved to learn about this fine man, Frank and your abiding love for him. He sounds like an admirable man and friend. Your writing about him is a loving way to keep him close and alive in your heart.

Wanda said...

Frank seems to have been a Most Perfect Friend ...

The Solitary Walker said...

Such a moving recollection of your dear friend. A remarkable and special person.

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

Tramp…

I know and also experience this feeling (if that's what it is) of which you speak. I'm also always amazed by those who can't stand the quiet, don't like silence or being by themselves—because I'm just the opposite, and always have been. I crave solitude, need silence, need to be alone from time to time; I require that time to "commune" with myself or nature or whatever it is out there in the wind that whispers and soothes, informs, guides. It is not the same as prayer, in that I'm listening rather than speaking, not directing my mind toward God, per se —but it is similar in that I'm finding and connecting to something larger, beyond, different than my surface consciousness. (I'm sure that sounds really too weird!) Anyway, that's the notion behind the quote from Gordon MacQuarrie which is on the right-hand side of my blog's front page. Some people understand it, I expect, while others don't.

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

Jayne…

I've often though how much Frank would have enjoyed blogging—and how much others would have enjoyed reading his posts. He would have been so great at it, in a way I'll never manage.

He was, indeed, a blessing.

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

Bonnie…

If we are truly blessed, we may have one genuine friend during our life. I don't think most people ever experience such friendship. It is certainly rare. To those who have never known such a relationship personally, it's simply inexplicable, beyond their comprehension.

One of the things I'm determined to do, to the best of my ability and for the rest of my life, is to never fail to tell those I care about that I do care; to say I love you, or appreciate you. I've never regretted telling someone I cared about them, but I have regretted not saying so when I had the opportunity…and finding, one day, that I no longer could.

As a child, I grew up being told by my parents and grandparents that I was loved. Mom and Dad said the words: "I love you, Son." That made so much difference to me. It changed my attitude and relationship and behavior. It wasn't until I grew up that I realized many kids never, or seldom, heard those words from their parents. Why do we find it so difficult to tell those we care about how we feel?

Men have such a hard time expressing their feelings in general, and especially when it comes to telling another man they love or care about him. They're so afraid it will be misinterpreted; damage their precious male ego and macho image. Which is why I'm so glad Dad said those things to me, just as he said them to his brothers—also, just as Mom's brothers said to one another.

In the last moment's of Frank's life, as I sat by his bedside in that dim room and literally felt his life slipping away one slowing heartbeat at a time, I made sure I told him I loved him, reiterated how I appreciated our friendship and times together. It wasn't the first time I'd said such things to him, just as he'd said them to me.

Cherish your friend. She's very, very special. You're sharing one of life's rarest and finest blessings. Learn from her open heart and expressions of caring. And don't ever allow convention to keep you from telling others you care.

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

Wanda…

He was, indeed. Not a perfect man—none of us are; but a perfect friend.

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

Solitary…

He was a remarkable person. Perhaps the most complex man I've even met. Certainly one of the brightest, most well-read. He'd led a long, rich life filled with all sorts of adventures; yet there was a commonness to him, a rurality that bespoke of his farming, small-village boyhood, that belied the depth and education.

I do miss him…

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Deeply moved by your continuing expressions of love for Frank.

Not to worry. Because of my friend I have learned to express my love and appreciation for those outside of my family. She is well aware of my profound feelings for her.

My parents were loving but rarely, if ever, initiated any "I love you" expressions. I made sure it was different with my children. And now, having had an adult child with cancer - no feelings of love and/or appreciation go unexpressed. And, of course, it trickles down to our grandchildren. A while back our then 4 year old granddaughter came up to my husband and said, "Grandpa, you are so lovable."

Thank you for such a meaningful post and responses to comments.

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ_

I love this post. This is a most beautiful honor, tribute and witness to Frank's life - and in this writing I am inspired by Frank and in that inspiration his spirit lives on through your shared memories. "Thank you".

Love Gail
peace......

Kelly said...

....beautiful tribute. Special people leave a big stamp on the world. It sounds like Frank was one of those few, having spread love and respect all over.

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

Bonnie…

So often we tend to act and live based on what others might think. Why? In the end, they are not our judge. I know my heart, my values. If you appreciate someone, say so; if you love them, tell them, whether they're a parent, child, sibling, or your best friend. The only regrets you'll ever have is if you fail to do it as often as possible.

Thank you for your lovely comments…

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

Gail…

That is why I wrote this post—to honor and remember and share my memories of Frank. I hope something of the man, my friend, came through…

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

Kelly…

Frank was special. Everyone who knew him soon understood that fact. He was unusual without being peculiar. A man of his word, who lived with honor and integrity, practiced both charity and compassion, loved life and people. No one had more fun or laughed more than Frank. Yes indeed, he was special.

giggles said...

Lovely post, Scribe... I can't believe it's been a year already.... Peace.

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

Giggles…

Nor can I…but time is relentless.

Thank you…