FAMILY AND FRIENDS OR SOLITUDE


IT’S CALLED NON-CONVENTIONAL but on our own personal level, if you fall in that broad culture and it is a unique and historically significant tribe, especially in the arts and the military. Artists skip from creating to counting change, very few make a comfortable living. The Military are more unconventional than any other profession. I’ve tried to imagine choosing to fight our wars knowing I could be shot or tortured.

Do you think that not choosing the basics: family, friends and a comfortable living are enough? They are, now I know that.

How did this become my spotlight, like a bulb that flickered and whispered, you thought you knew more. Well, I didn’t and now I am adapting my fictional life to nonfiction. Beginning with: relinquishing luxuries, vacations, replacing outdated or broken furnishings, buying my favorite designer garments, and most important a monthly budget. Now instead of withdrawing from my savings account, I am depositing. Friends and family pose a more rigorous effort to the depts. I’m a loner. There is nothing glamorous or mystifying about this stain at least not for me, more like solitude for longer periods of time.

Photo by Philip Townsend. London 1964

As I watch and hear the interviews of Veterans, Gold Star Families, Military groups, former Iraq and Afghanistan Marines, Army, The Navy and Airforce, and the ones left behind because their hero was killed have one knot that holds them together, and it is their family, their comrades in arms and friends.

It’s raining, the tiniest little drops, like new bourns. The sky is a saddened muted white gray, like it’s in mourning. Hoagie Carmichael is singing Two Little People, simple lines that rhyme. Without music, and I don’t listen as much as I did a month ago, I’d be in bed today, it is a day for music medics to carry my pen where it sinks.

I was selfish, spoiled, and myopic, now I am awake to eternal gratefulness for being born American.

Trying not to watch the news as my heart needs a reprieve from Afghanistan. I’ve never appreciated, honored, respected, and loved our Military more these past two weeks. Do you know that feeling? What happens next? Eventually this presses to a USA attack.

Buck up guys and dolls and be a civilian soldier.

WHAT DO YOU FEEL?


I FEEL A SENSE OF GUILT to seek pleasure, amusement and escape. This weekend fifty-seven innocent people shot in Chicago; Nyiah Courtney, a beautiful six-year old in W.DC, a violent riot in Los Angeles, a woman and son robbed before falling down a flight of concrete stairs at the Subway station in NYC, and in Tucson: “The gunman parked his silver SUV by the park, got out of the car and opened fire on the two paramedics who were inside the ambulance, Magnus said. The 20-year-old male EMT who was sitting in the driver’s seat was struck in the head and the 21-year-old female EMT who was in the passenger’s seat was shot in the arm and chest.” Bullets’ targeting fans outside the Washington DC Stadium will be what everyone remembers.

That’s all I could handle this morning. So, why aren’t I talking about it with friends? ‘ I don’t watch the news anymore’ is what I hear and so my feelings remain unspoken. Maybe because I do not have a family, or the man I could love, and so my emotions stretch to a world of strangers in pain and agony.

It is not depression that leads my day, it is mild shock, anger, and a halo of sadness for the cloud of hate, crime, corruption, and divisive storm looming over.

My heart is especially raw for the youth, embarking on adulthood, the unsolved immigration crisis, and knee-jerk mask attacks on one another.

The words of condolences: ‘We pray for your family, you are in our hearts’, lasts how long? Do they get a phone call from a Lawmaker or Member of Congress? It seems laws have to be passed. Instead, all I see is a game of power. A solid gesture by the government to rename streets after the victims, a monument, or a wall with their names, so we never forget is my suggestion.

WORK IN PROGRESS-CRADLE OF FRIENDS. Based on a true story.


     

Without a partner, lover, or relative nearby during our feared and festive flights of life, our ribs cave. You just cannot eat cake alone on your birthday, attend a funeral without a shoulder next to you, or celebrate a finished project without your best friend. 

November 2016

Dodger knocked and then opened the door to Greta’s casita, wide-eyed and edgy as usual, like he’s about to eject off the ground and go air-born.

“Close your eyes.” She commanded

“I’m in a hurry, I just wanted to know if you’ve seen my glasses?”

“No, I have not, look in your back pocket, they’ll be there.”

He obeyed, “Good try butterfly.”

“They’re in your pigsty garage under a pillow. Can you just close your eyes, please?”  Reluctant as always to be asked things like this he shifted his weight on one torn sneaker.

“Okay, you can open your eyes.”

  “Well, what do you think?”

“I’m looking, hang on.”  He opened the book and leafed through it, expressionless.

“It will be published this week in time for Thanksgiving and your birthday, a kind of homage to you, for reading the manuscripts a thousand times. I think it turned out really nice, don’t you?”

“Yea, then he handed the book back to Greta as if it was some other author’s book.

“Did you read the dedication to you?”

“Yeah, thanks.”

“Don’t you want to read it?” 

“ I’ll buy one when it’s on Amazon.”  Greta turned around and sat at her desk chair avoiding the disappointment with silence.  She felt a sharp sort of shock, that left her speechless.    

” I’m going to see Patsy for my Birthday,” He said in a more decidedly final tone.

” But I planned a publication party on your Birthday.  You knew that— I mean this is our book once you read it you’ll see half of it is about you.  He turned his head toward the glass door, he was preparing his next line.

” I know what you’re doing.”  He replied.

“ What does that mean?”

“ You don’t want me to see her.” He turned around and looked directly into her eyes, unkindly.

“  I told you to move in with her, she’s your girlfriend, but I’m your friend. Can’t you go a few days later?”

“ No.”

 ” Okay, go. Get the fuck out of here, the book I wrote about our friendship and dedicated to you doesn’t matter.”  Dodger opened the door and stepped outdoors before slamming it shut. The vagueness and accusatory tone pulled the plug on her adulation and accomplishment. 

NOVEMBER 2016

Greta continued to sit at her desk, staring at the book, talking out loud as if Dodger was still in the room, you are fucking insane, he wasn’t the least touched, he didn’t even fucking smile or hug me. We are best friends you asshole, thirty-five years! Like family, I can’t believe you’d do this.’  The grail of completion dissolved when a few hours later, she had metabolized his absence.  

Greta applied lipstick and blush, changed from sweats to jeans and a sweater, and dashed across the street to The Beaumont Hotel.  It’s been what she termed her groove cave for the last ten years, ever since moving to town.  Internally she reminded herself to retain some dignity, and not to cry, which would come later after she had a few glasses of wine.   

 The wave that most of us have to swim through at some sandy, loose day in our life comes unexpectedly as it did for Greta.  It’s been two and half years since Greta agreed to tell me her story, it feels like it was yesterday.

Clutching her book in one hand Greta strolled into the Beaumont and, stopped at the staircase on the second floor where two hostesses were patiently but somewhat nonchalantly waiting for guests to arrive.  She held up her book, partly because of the dismissal of Dodger, and her craving for some kind of acknowledgment.  She is never sure what she has accomplished until she is validated by another person. 

“Congratulations Greta, that’s so cool. I want a copy.” Jackie and Julia chimed in.  Greta has told me over and over the people here, in the pueblo, it takes no time to get to know them because there is no pretense or preparation, they speak their feelings, as they arise without premeditation. Jackie is always tired and Julia is always infinitely alert and awake. Julia is in her sixties and Jackie is twenty-two.

“ Thank you dolls, do you think I deserve a cocktail tonight, no really, would it be all right if I have one. Jackie twirled her thin waist around the iron staircase,

“ Fuck that Greta, go have two,”  she whispered.

“ You can walk home so have three,” Julia added, so neatly dressed in her uniform, but her eyes are like meadows like she’s not really there. 

Holding court in the bar is Captain Kurtis. He’s ageless, one of those faces that retain the youthful spirit, and his six-foot-four physique almost doesn’t seem to fit with his face. He is no second guesser or lacks self-confidence, Greta loves him for that because she is not. She knows this for certain and she can’t understand why friends tell her, she appears so. She also knows that it is her little act.   

“Hey! What’s happening?” He shouts out in his usual bar baritone greeting as if Greta were in another room.

 She placed the book on the counter.

“ Wow! Hey, congratulations! That’s awesome. What would you like–on the house?”

 “Thanks! A Martini.” He greeted another guest and I looked in the unavoidable mirror across from me and winked.

“ Wow, I don’t read much but I want a signed copy!”

“ This is the proof that I approved, the book comes out on Thanksgiving.”

“ My parents will be here, will you?”

“ Of course, I can’t not be here.”

“ Has Dodger seen it? Bet he’s happy huh?”

“ Actually Kurtis, he’s not.”

“ What the fuck is wrong with him?”

“ I don’t know, but he’s leaving for the holiday to see his girlfriend, I’ll be here alone.”

“ No way! We’ll be here. Drink your Martini and get crazy, loosen your bottom or something.”  A while later, a second bartender arrived, Rooster, his hair is slicked into a rooster tail and he loves to dance and lip sing behind the bar.   Greta went through her announcement, and he just beamed. “I want to buy one– where do I get it?”

A dreamy drench of joy poured over Greta, she let the martini take her away to the full euphoria of escape.  

Over the next few days, she watched her royalty cart fill up.  It was graduation day, a milestone for any self-taught writer. The instant a book was bought she wanted to tell Dodger. 

From Greta’s desk window she views the driveway and converted garage where Dodger lives.  It is now the twenty-third and she is waiting for him to leave as their incidental crossings on the street or in front of the house enrage her temper.  This afternoon he appears to be preparing, and un-preparing for a departure. Greta is observing his actions with just a hint of humor as she sees him bring his bicycle up from the basement place it outside the garage, then a few hours later, he places it inside the garage, then it comes out again and he keeps repeating this action until he switches to his construction tools, they go in the van and then back in the garage. Dodger then moves on to washing his car in militant style, climbing onto the roof and manically wiping down the exterior and interior with a roll of paper towels and cloths.  Greta says, ‘My God Patsy must be a  car germophobic.’  On Thanksgiving Day, she sees the Van, and then Dodger comes out of the garage carrying his toiletries bag and a garment bag.  He glances over at her door where she silently observed him.  She opened the door to say whatever came to mind at that moment and he accelerated into his van and drove off.   

Thanksgiving 2016

Greta propped herself up in bed drew her coffee cup into both hands to warm them and wiped tears on her nightgown sleeve. She could not get up at least not for a few more calming hours so she looked at the walls of her bedroom sparked with honey sunshine inside the gold curtains and as the day passed her enthusiasm for turkey and stuffing wilted, until four o’clock, when she closed her mind like closing a book thinking of Dodger. She pulled a green sweater and burgundy velveteen slacks and dressed without even looking in the mirror, habitually applied make-up and while looking in the mirror tested her smile, to find the one that looked genuine. ‘ Oh fuck him, I’m going to make joy tonight’

 Couples and families scurried the walkways on their way to dinner. Greta watched enviously having never been a mother, every child appeared distinctive and worthy of love. As she walked through the lobby her attention was drawn to a circumference of platters of food decoratively arranged on tables. The mounds of appetizers, salads, loaves of bread, and turkey slices tuned up her appetite for the first time since Dodger departed.  Inside the bar, a standing crowd of guests fused in high-pitched voices, laughter, and glasses raised in toasts. Greta eased her way to the bar feeling slightly self-consciousness of her unaccompanied presence. The Dude, as she referred to the leading bartender stood tall as a redwood, his hair wrapped in a perfect man-bun. 

“Greta, over here. I saved you a seat.”  She smiled uncertainly, unconvincingly and the Dude noticed.  He raised his chin a notch, it’s his way of acknowledgment.  

“Hey Greta, you look really nice tonight. Are you ready for a martini or what?   

“ I don’t feel like  it, can I go now?”

“ Come on, it’s Thanksgiving, aren’t you thankful for something?” she savored the comment, it was true she did not feel the thankfulness quality of the celebration.

“ I’m grateful for you!”  

“ Okay, what’s wrong?”

“ You won’t believe it, whatever it is I don’t know.  Dodger didn’t stay for the publication party, he didn’t even say congratulations when I showed him the book, he’s gone to see Patsy, you know the woman in Las Vegas that he sees sometimes.”

“What an asshole, I’ll whip him when he gets back. Do you have the book with you, I want to see it now!”   She kept one in her bag, in case someone came in that I knew.

“ Here, that’s yours.”

“Aren’t you gonna sign it?”

“ Of course.  I’m just jilted like my prom date didn’t show up.”

“ Hang on, write the inscription I have to take care of these people. Don’t leave!”  

The evening evolved into a gathering of singles at the bar, the exchange was simplistic holiday conversation, suited to the occasion, so very all American, though the holiday isn’t widely accepted by the Natives due to the fictionalized history of the holiday. Within the festive mood, the distraction pulverized the hollowness of dining without Dodger on Thanksgiving and his birthday.  Greta’s closest female friend is White Zen (WZ), who is out of town, and other friends are with family, so it is one of those days for single unattached people to find refuge where they can.

The man seated next to her was so close she was tempted to move her chair but thought that would appear unfriendly. The Dude approached her,

“ This is my Dad.” The Dude went on to talk about the book I handed him and then the father started up a discussion about how he was writing a book too and so the evening, between bits of food and wine liberated  Greta from singleness to a dinner companion.  She knew Dude had that planned as he was continually trying to introduce her to men.

When there was a lull in the conversation Greta seized the moment to excuse herself and squeezed through the crowd to the ladies’ room.  The silence relieved her as it always does after a two-hour conversational overload and incessant noise of guests whose cocktails elevated their voices to disturbing mumbling.   She applied fresh lipstick, and then she took a deep exalted breath and texted Dodger, ‘ hope you have a wonderful thanksgiving.’   She washed her hands and after a few more minutes passed, the text remained unanswered. 

“ Dude, I’ll have another glass of wine.”  He was more than responsive, and poured a full glass of wine and left the bottle next to her. She knew he knew her heart was crumbling. 

“ I’m thankful Dude!

“  Yea, you should be!’  A tipsy jolt took care of the evening and she managed to make some mocking jokes about the Dude, and how his youth at twenty-eight pleased the women at the bar as they attempted a sensual pat on his hand. 

“Cougars, divorced or cheating on their husbands, women your age are weird.”

“You’ll understand when you get older.”

Over the next few days Greta texted Dodger six times, and he didn’t respond, so she called. She was blocked. Her rage erupted, and so she sent an email with a link to her Amazon book page. When days later she did not get a response, she pinned herself in front of the television and dialed WZ.  The outdoor snow piled up, the trash was not emptied, she avoided going into the basement where the washer and dryer were and the temptation to begin sabotaging, or breaking his belongings. 

  “ Hi, it’s me. What’s left of me that is. Can you talk?”

  “ Yes, you don’t sound good– what’s happened? Let me get a cocktail going I think I’ll need it.”

 “ I’m into my third glass of wine, call me back because it takes you fifteen minutes to do your marvelous Martini’s.” 

          Greta waited as if she was about to go into the operating room. WZ is in the category of mothering it’s not just her whispery voice,  or intense talent for listening, she has the appetite for drama and that’s what hooked her to Greta. 

“ Okay, I’m listening, what happened?”

YOUR GRATEFUL OR YOU ARE NOT


  In a Sunday silence, she hopscotches  to a  nuance in 2018 when a handsome man offered a hand of conversation.

He walked with her and stopped in front of a Spanish Colonial residence shrouded in exotic flora and fauna.

“ That’s where I live,” he said keenly.

“ How long have you lived there? she asked

“ Thirteen years. I am so grateful for my home.”

She silenced her thoughts, less thankful of her dome.

She once lived on a street

Of serenity and beauty

Her view was scoured with a sightlessness of New Mexican history  

Unshaken by the homes regal display

 To live without grateful when your basket is complete.

Is like living in blindness from head to foot.

VALENTINES in SINGLENESS


I’ve never been a woman who dated.  There is too much pretense and preparation. My preference is  to just meet him by circumstance, become friends for at least a few weeks, and then either we are inseparable or separate.  Dates are like the holidays, a whoosh of expectation. Had my attitude been more flexible and my social presence more waggish, I could have met more men. They don’t have to be long-term commitments, or marriage, just friends.

The freedom of traveling solo was the prong of my selfishness in my thirties, not anymore. As the curtain drops  on romanticism of solo adventure, it’s really second place to romancing with a partner. This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20191128_191254-copy.jpg

Singleness after several years is feeling the chill , envy of couples embracing in laughter,  staring into a wedding party as if it was a fairytale, dining alone with the TV,  laptop, or music as my audience, but worse of all is wearing the wicked blue robe!  The one that feels like a blanket and looks like it should be thrown out.

The actuality of my detachment from a relationship, is posted everywhere and it is neon bright in my head.  When this singleness sinks my spirit, I take a bath.  Women you know, if you drop down and eliminate, the room that may  not be as you please, or a phone call, text, beep, and  soak out everything, it is bliss.

Freedom is the bait and a  rolling drum beat.  I  can do, go, think, act, without argument or alarm.  I have always been more observer than joiner. Even in High School, in a gang of ten gals and guys I continually turned down invitations, or bowed out at the last-minute.

If you are a dreamer like me;  youth doesn’t end,  people don’t end, ambitions and passions still erupt and the blood in my veins boils to reinvent, and relocate. All of those choices are upon me.  

ALL THERE IS TO LOVE


He pushed her on a swing, so high she touched the sky, viewed the world through his eyes, lived for a time without lies, then as mystically he appeared, he let go of the swing, and she fell on her wing, broken but with the will to begin again. A broken heart hasn’t stopped her from loving him.

For ten days she stared unblinking, just thinking of her spoken words, how they made their way to his ears and returned the sounds she so wanted to hear. She wiped the tears as some people find love at the core of their fears. The strain of regaining her former spiraling spirit and beating heart may not come for months. She says to herself out loud, ‘it must, I must.’ As written, sung, painted, and performed for hundreds of years, love is undefinable as it is something supernatural.

It’s Not About Me Anymore.


Without a partner, lover, or relative nearby during our feared and festive flights of life, our ribs cave. You just cannot eat cake alone on your birthday, attend a funeral without a shoulder next to you, or celebrate a finished project without your best friend.  During these times of divisiveness, a pandemic, our favorite restaurants and shops out of business, and vigilante violence, it takes courage to be alone. It is you I am thinking of and I know you are out there, isolated. I listen to a lot of music, from Opera to Salsa, shout myself out of bed, attend to mediocre mindless tasks and think about all of us singles, without children, or family and friends out of my reach in Los Angeles, Santa Fe, Scottsdale, Sedona, and Florida. Each one holds a podium on the telephone, as I listen to their feelings, they are variations of a Chopin or Bach recording. The sadness and fear each one is holding at bay, reveal their authentic character. Isn’t it an extreme tragedy that holds a spotlight on our soul and spirit? One friend reminds me to refrain from judging myself too harshly, another advises how fortunate I am to be in a safe small village, with very few deaths, and another says simply, I’m falling apart.

We are now forced to learn our supreme strength, our survival methods, and how to structure a new lifestyle. When was the last time you were tested? Remember that and you will forge ahead.

Watch The 12th Man | Prime Video (amazon.com)

FRIENDS FOR ALL SEASONS


In the Time of Covid-19

Continued from Friends for All Seasons 1.

THE CLASSMATE THAT wrote is named Andrew. I imagine he’s married; a man with his looks and gregarious personality living in Los Angeles all these years. Maybe he married one of our high school classmates.  We exchanged a few emails in two thousand eight, he’d just returned from a trip to Poland and I was managing the gallery. Then the crash came and I think my correspondence dropped. Why was he thinking of me?  I don’t have any photographs from high school, I suppose I could look him up in the yearbook. I’ll wait till he writes again.

The sky is crystal blue, and the temperature a mild fifty degrees. From my window, the leaves dropping makes me think the trauma and suffering the last four years has dropped from my life.  What the trauma was about is irrelevant and too lengthy to write. We all get sent to the chopping block of heartache and this was mine. This is as liberating as taking off a tight bra after a long day!

Maxfield Parrish

September has traditionally been my month of transition. It’s a sort of pattern that began years ago and so making decisions is as if I’m on a time clock.  What is most essential now is finding a new place to call home. I began looking at Santa Barbara. I loved visiting the city by the sea, those beautiful mountains, and quaint craftsman architecture. So what if I don’t know anyone, I’ll be alone regardless of where I move. Easily accomplished in my fifties, not so improvisational at sixty-seven.

Rapturous Autumn day; this year the transformation of nature, outdoor activities, cider doughnuts, smoking fireplaces, and a crispness that reminds me of breaking open a head of lettuce. What really happens to us in the East is fall descends like a new stage and the props from summer are removed.  The mums come out on the porches, and the bright yellow and gold plants dot every porch. The conventional lifestyle and customary activities placate our sense of belonging. Christmas, wow, it’s only a short time till winter.  In the dressing room unpacking more sweaters, socks, warm-ups, I get an alert, another email.  Andrew added another compliment so my response was crush-worthy. Why not? Maybe fantasy is what is needed. Remerging silhouettes, all of us on the front lawn at lunch time, and boys are pairing up with girls and Andrew is laughing, making clownish faces and gestures, yes he was crush-worthy. He walked in long strides, visible energy and every step seemed to have a purpose. The boy I was in love with graduated, and I did not have a boyfriend. My shyness and restrained conversational skills excluded me from invitations to date.  Maybe that’s why he didn’t take notice of me observing him, a lot of classmates had crushes on him.

The reality of COVID-19 is now the centerfold story because it is affecting everyone; the excruciating financial loss, death, sickness, and loneliness. It’s more like acceptance that this is our job now to tolerate COVID-19. Restrictions, circumstances of failed businesses we all loved, fear, and more fear call for an imaginary friend who I haven’t seen in fifty years.  He replied with a formal note of response that he was on Facebook and could we be friends. I wrote back, yes. I am listening to the soundtrack from the film A Man and A Woman while chopping vegetables for soup.  This music has formed a flame of optimism for the day I’m in love and let go of singleness.

On Facebook Andrew’s feature photos reveal the teenager I remember. He is a photographer, a Neuro Technician, and in his twenties an actor and model … hum, sounds like my resume, professional career changer.  His photos sent a quiver through my veins, a call to read everything on his page, and view videos of his European travels: beautifully crafted images of architecture, monuments, art, culture, and locals. It deepened my understanding of his life just by his photos and posts. The other side, his appearance; the facial features, keen brown eyes, uncensored or rehearsed self-photos, group photos with our high school mates at the reunions, his long wavy hair, and his defined lips and cheekbones tingled curiosity.

The photos of Andrew at the class reunions next to my best friend and other classmates I remembered brought a snowstorm of memories. How I loved my friends back then. About six of us went everywhere together; bought our first bras, learned to drive, went to Westwood Village to look for cute boys, sat in the booths at Mario’s Pizza, Hamburger Hamlet, and The Apple Pan and all of it on ten or twenty dollars a week allowance. I have not been to a reunion since the tenth. Andrew posted photos from several. He stayed connected.  Fifty years have passed, and he’s on my mind. To be continued.

WHY I LOVE MEN


WHY I LOVE MEN

Once again after lengthy and torrential nourishment of his body and mind, I return to myself, alone.   

The insomnia of separation from a man’s thunder.  When his shoulder hooks my head and tweaks my worries like soft bread, the mind that directs me when I am driving directionless and maps my journey.  To walk beside me, a guardian of my fragility, and the voice that encourages and applauds my success, rather than let it drip from jealously or preoccupation.  How the laughter erupts in a moment of spontaneous passion. My observation of his secret revealed, unknowingly.

The gestures of him shaving, and the modest vanity after I re-wardrobe him. Feeling his eyes in a crowd, undressing or admiring me, for some folly or expression.

The humor he finds in my misguided attempts to open bottles, and packages with a dull spoon, and figure out electronics.

How he will pardon and pamper my unwarranted fears of stalkers, nightmares, misplacing my progressive glasses, and falling down the slippery wooden stairs.

The man whose balance evens my wrinkles.

Let’s the light into my eyes.

Opens my shell with wonder and tenderness.

I’m Just a Regular Guy. Part Two.


          “Did you want to be like the people in Rancho Santa Fe?”

          He laughed out loud and said, “I don’t want to be what I’m not. I am the happiest man alive.”

          “Tell me again why you are so happy?”

          “I told you about when I was stuck in Buna– I made a vow to God that if I got out of there alive, I’d never complain about life again

          “You kept your promise.”

          “ Yes, and I have the most wonderful friends in the world—and you’re one of them.”  I gave him a hug and a kiss and asked him to tell me more about his life in Solana Beach.

          “ Was your wife happy too?”

          “ Oh yes.”

          “ How long were you married?”  I asked.

          “ My wife and I were married fifty years, nineteen forty-one until she passed away.

 She was so good to me when I come back from the war. I used to get up in the middle of the night and wander around, didn’t know where I was and she always got up with me. I had bad dreams and got lost, didn’t know where I was, and would hide in the closet. She was so careful with me. I just didn’t know what I was doing like spilling things at the table, and not remembering things she told me. It went on for a long while, but she never got angry or lost her temper. She was so good, and after I got better, we started having fun again, and we were doing good. I was at the dairy and they bought me the house on  Barbara Street.”

          “ The dairy bought it for you?”  I interrupted.

          “Yeah, 208  Barbara, that was it. We lived in that little house while I worked at the dairy– I worked seven days a week, from midnight until noon, then I’d have my lunch and rest awhile. Then we might go out and we’d party. “

          “ Before you went to work?”

          “ Oh yeah, it was the only time we had together.” 

          “ I feel like a wimp,”  I mumbled.  

          “ Well, you work hard, and I don’t know it just seems people need more sleep today or something, I don’t know what it is.”

We haven’t been in a war.”           

         ” Maybe so.  I think people seem to marry for different reasons these days.  Janet and I had the same background, we both knew what hard work was about. She didn’t complain, she was very good with money, she wrote down everything we spent. I guess we were lucky.”

          “ I think it’s more than luck, you appreciate life every day,” I said.

          “ I do, like you too, I am so glad you are my friends, and we can sit here and talk and have such good times.”

 Then Rudy took my hand, and apologized for shouting at me earlier about not turning the hose off all the way. He said he wanted to take me out for dinner because he felt so bad. Maurice grinned, and I gave him a hug and a kiss.  He went into the back and came back with a little bouquet of sweet peas for me.

          “ These are for you,”  he said. 

          “ Oh Maurice, you’re making me feel terrible,” Rudy said in jest.

          “ I don’t mean to, it’s just that I love women so much. I told my wife every day, every morning she woke up I told her I loved her. We never went to bed angry.” 

 The house Maurice lives in and has lived in since 1950, is a tidy two-bedroom farmhouse. The house is painted white, with black shutters framing the front windows.  MAURICE AND I

 Tucked in the front entrance on one side are a twisted juniper and the other side a bush of poinsettia.  He planted roses and hollyhocks and a few more varieties that were always postcard perfect. The porch out front changes with the season. The first year we met Maurice placed a sofa on the porch and two chairs. When Rudy and I stopped at the end of the day, Maurice would be outside sitting in the rocking chair, his hair still wet from his shower, and in his hand a jigger of Jack Daniel’s. In the front room, Maurice covered the walls with mementos and pictures of his friends. He didn’t hang any paintings of any kind, so when you sat on the couch and looked around you were looking at his life. He has a television and watches the news, old westerns, and the country music station. He especially likes the rodeo shows. He has remarked on occasion that he thinks television is very bad for you. His old sofa so worn from visitors when I sit down next to Maurice I sort of fall into his lap. We sit so close,  unlike we do now in these large stiff hi-tech furnishings. In front of the sofa is a long glass coffee table, one of Rudy’s favorite stops as he walks in the door. He dives for the peanuts and the chocolates.  There are always treats on the table, and you will not wait long before Maurice goes into the kitchen and brings back a plate of home-made pickles.  

The first time Rudy ate his pickles, he yelled out, “ Damn Maurice, these are incredible I could eat a whole jar!” So Maurice went in the back and brought out a jar of his homegrown pickles.  The kitchen is small and in the corner is a antique table where he keeps his baking utensils and one chair. He has a collection of antique jars and cooking tools on a shelf that whines around the kitchen ceiling. His refrigerator is an adventure in itself, shelves are packed with wrapped leftovers, sauces, meats, cheeses, and vegetables, so packed that on several occasions when I tried to put something back in I couldn’t find an empty place for it.  Naturally, he uses a gas stove but growing up in Iowa all they had was a wood-burning stove. In the hallway, the walls are framed with more friends and family. There is one beautiful girl, that seems to be in every room.  When I asked who she was Maurice replied, “ That’s Linda. She’s my sweetheart.”  

From the photographs we learned all about Maurice’s life; his mother and father, brother and sister, his wife, Janet, his grandpa and grandma, and the hundreds of people in between.  His home is a storybook, all you need to know about Maurice is revealed unaltered.

His bedroom is at the end of the hallway by the back door. His bed is covered with a handmade quilt and about twenty decorative pillows. The bathroom is very colorful with green and red towels, and more photographs of Linda. Then he opens the screen door to the backyard.

” This is my garden,” he said smiling ear to ear.

It reminded me of Fantasia. To be continued