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Two-faced ... or multi-faceted?

Two-faced ... or multi-faceted?
Behind that mask...

I think. Therefore, I AM

I am, I said; To no one there
And no one heard at all; Not even the chair
I am, I cried; I am, said I
And I am lost, and I can't even say why
Leavin' me lonely still
It's said that when a tree falls deep in the forest it makes no sound unless someone (ostensibly, a human being) is near enough to notice. But I'm pretty sure the TREE is aware of its demise and that other living things upon which it lands no doubt take notice.

Those who may happen to come within earshot of this blog are free to observe and welcome to participate (with comity, please!); it's about my life and times and I'll try to write like nobody is listening -- and like everyone is...

Monday, April 25, 2011

One is silver and the other, gold

My oldest friend died this month. He was 103.
  As a non-violent iconoclast, I tend to steer clear of rituals and ceremonies. But I know they have great meaning for many and certainly help a lot of good people deal with momentous events like the loss of a friend or family member.
  Frank Pelatowski was a resident at The Hampshire in Merced, California. I moved in so I could take advantage of the parent company’s travel program and eventually embarked on a year-long circumnavigation of the U.S. and Canada during which I stayed in about 80 different facilities – usually for five days each.
  I actually met Frank before I moved in. I needed some furniture and was introduced to him. He was downsizing for a move into smaller quarters as his resources diminished. I still have his couch, and sleep on it from time to time.
 Within a minute or two, we discovered a common interest: writing. This led to a rather intense and intimate relationship that largely featured Frank dictating stories while I pounded my keyboard, often pleading with my friend to slow down or stop entirely so I could catch up.
 We also took a few road trips together. We drove into the Sierra on two or three occasions to visit Frank’s old stomping grounds in Mariposa. We traveled to Fresno so my friend could appear on a Public Radio talk show. And we made a number of cross-town jaunts to the senior center in South Merced to attend meetings of a writing group, many members of which attended lunch on a few occasions back at The Hampshire to honor Frank – and, once, to celebrate the beginning of my long trip.
 I was away when Frank turned 100. When I returned, he chided me for abandoning him and we went back to work. For a while, we tried to market weekly stories, touting my friend as “the world’s oldest newspaper columnist.” Together, we generated dozens of pieces and – in that context – I imagine I got to know Frank about as well as anyone.
 He was what I call “good to go.” Every day, he got out of bed with the clear intention of doing something worthwhile. He’d often call me or greet me by announcing that we had to get to work or by asking me to suggest a project. Frank was rarely interested in planning an event for tomorrow; his philosophy was to get started.
 My fondest memory is of Frank, seated on the couch in the lobby near his third-floor apartment, balancing a legal pad on his lap – writing. Like others of our ilk, Frank had to write; it reminded him that he was alive.
 When his eyesight began to fail, Frank could no longer read or write for himself. As his world moved into the shadows, he became more dependent on my services. He was sad, frustrated and angry. The loss of sight was a cruel disability for this man who wrote to remind himself that he was still alive.
 Having taken my trip, it was time for me to leave The Hampshire. Though I only moved a few blocks away, my friendship with Frank became increasingly distant. No longer eating nearly every meal together and spending time writing on an almost daily basis, we were both forced to find other ways to fill the day.
 Frank’s health continued to deteriorate and, over time, that was increasingly manifested by problems with memory and difficulty with clear thinking. He seemed to resent my having moved away, feeling that I had abandoned him. Eventually, that sense evolved into distrust and, finally, it soured our friendship.
 Finally, a crisis emerged and it became obvious that our stop-and-go relationship was causing my friend more angst than comfort. We discontinued writing together and I only saw Frank a few more times before he was moved into a more intense care-giving facility.
 I’m not sure what to make of all this. It is certain that I gained much from knowing Frank Pelatowski and I’m also certain that the net impact on him of our friendship was very positive. I regret not having said goodbye to him; but our last encounter was positive and friendly and I’m happy to have that as my final recollection.
 Sitting (and, alternatively, standing) in the church pew, I reflected on the few years that I knew Frank and on the rest of his life – which he had detailed to me so wonderfully that I truly feel as if I had known him all of his life.
 The context of the afternoon – the promise that Frank was now enjoying eternal life – wasn’t as comforting to me as it seemed to be to others in the sanctuary. But, both my direct memories of time spent with Frank and memories he shared dating back nearly 100 years will be with me for all the rest of my years. And recognizing that a part of one person can endure in the memory of another does seem to offer a sense of eternity.

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