Friday, January 03, 2014

A Reluctant Farewell


I wouldn't call him a friend, exactly. But he was more than an acquaintance or a ship passing in the night. I wonder why there isn't a word for those in between relationships.

He helped me a few times with research in the library. I was looking into the Blue Puttees - a Newfoundland regiment that fought in Beaumont Hamel in France in WW1 to an enormous loss of life and devastating effect on this island - a whole generation of young men wiped out and sacrificed for nothing. We'd meet frequently at cards and engage with each other relentlessly. A sort of semi-flirtatious repartee. Tall and quite handsome with a full head of silver hair, he was a life long bachelor with an obsequiousness for all things Catholic.

He reminded me greatly of the old Catholics I was surrounded by in Ireland. The sanctimonious ones who would lodge in one ear while renting out the other one.

The most peculiar thing he'd do would be staggering around on Good Friday up the road outside the church with a cross on his back, atoning for his sins.

He struck me as always being terrified. I'd heard he'd had a nervous breakdown way back in the day and was forced to retire early from teaching. He filled his long retirement years manning a volunteer library which he kept stocked and sorted and indexed. He opened it up two afternoons a week but you had to call first to make sure his opening the library was worth his while.

We bonded over books, though he was easily scandalized by any "unmoral" writings which forced me to tease him mercilessly. I did try desperately to be kind but the sight of him blushing and sweating would encourage me in the other direction. Though a small part of me still insists he enjoyed being scandalized.

He drove around to my side of the bay and brought me green peppers from his garden one year which I made into green pepper soup and froze. But he would never come into my house as he was terrified of dogs and didn't know why anyone would have one in the house where people ate and slept.

According to local lore, he was a savage gossip and just about ran the local church, the right hand man of the priest who was on the right hand of God himself. Inwardly, I referred to him as "priesty man".

I am saddened at his passing yesterday. Suddenly. He never travelled off the island and admitted to me the thought of leaving it made him "sick." He would laugh long and hard and inappropriately at something that confused him which could irritate those in his company.

I feel I could have done more for him. Been kinder and more welcoming when he'd stop his car when I was out road- training. He'd ask me if I was coming to the library soon or could I drop by for a cup of tea at his brown house across the bay.

I never did.

23 comments:

  1. But you remembered him in writing here. Surely something of him knows and appreciates that.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Pauline for saying that. We always feel we have so much time than we do have. A human complaint.
    I had resolved the next time I went to the post office I would drop in on him and surprise him.
    Next times don't come.
    XO
    WWW

    ReplyDelete
  3. It sounds to me like he was too much of a complicated man for you to do much with, other than to be kind to, which you were. He was in 'God's hands,' wasn't he? And he did bear his cross freely.

    ReplyDelete
  4. LOL Irene, he did bear many crosses I do believe. I think his intentions were excellent and at times I felt he was desperately seeking an intimacy which he never had achieved. Except with his personal saviour.
    XO
    WWW

    ReplyDelete
  5. I read this wonderful quote today:

    "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."
    (Dr Seuss)

    Appropriate perhaps?

    ReplyDelete
  6. For some people walking on the edge of our lives is enough, not ready or wishing to bare their soul.

    ReplyDelete
  7. It is so very interesting the people who come in and out of our lives. Often we don't really give them a second thought until they are gone. I think it is human nature really....I know you provided him with some happiness during the time you were able to spend with him.

    Jo

    ReplyDelete
  8. I reread a comment above -
    so many people come in and out of our lives, often we do not give
    them a second thought until they are gone.
    so true
    A neighbor 71 - who lives across the road from me passed away a few days before Christmas. His parents my only neighbors 35 years ago and when they passed away he built a huge home high on a hill with another wife and later his parents tiny home was torn down - sad...
    I look out my window and see
    the family cemetery where he was buried and have many thoughts of the past interaction
    with his parents - had not thought of them in years..

    ReplyDelete
  9. What Irene said. It sounds like there wasn't a lot you could have done for him because of his rather pernickety and fearful character. He was probably best left to himself to pursue his odd personal quirks.

    ReplyDelete
  10. But it sounds like you did accommodate him and you were a friend to him. That's important.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I have an idea I know how you feel.:

    A bit guilty for not liking him better and making more of him?
    Don’t beat yourself up; he doesn’t sound like the sort of person you would have liked better at closer quarters.

    Now that he’s gone, think of him occasionally, but I doubt that you’ll mourn him for very much or very long.

    He will become part of your personal folklore: "people I once knew".

    ReplyDelete
  12. We have a friend very much like that. Sorry about your friend's passing.
    I too am up against the limitations of what I can do for others.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I am a fellow Irish 'soul' and quite by chance I found your blog via Friko's this morning and what a treat for me. I have been reading a few of your older posts and found them so interesting, the black dog ones especially. And the book recommendations...wonderful. I have added you to my blog list.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Lynda:

    Loved the quote, thank you.

    XO
    WWW
    PS I think I heard this one after a particularly bad breakup too and it helped to remember the good stuff.

    ReplyDelete
  15. GM:

    I think one of the issues for me is that small talk is fine for a while but then I need more meat.

    XO
    WWW

    ReplyDelete
  16. Yes, Jo.

    I do believe he was a man incapable of intimacy and lived his life very much on the surface. I suppose I fancy myself as carrying a key, privy to his secrets. Not so. Alas.

    XO
    WWW

    ReplyDelete
  17. OWJ:

    How little regard indeed many of us have for the memories of things past. How well you write of the spanking new house and the demolished older one.

    XO
    WWW

    ReplyDelete
  18. Nick:

    Isn't it our natures though to want more more more, even of people?

    I never want more stuff, I just want more of the inner lives, endlessly fascinating to me.

    XO
    WWW

    ReplyDelete
  19. SAW:

    I do believe he thought I was.

    Odd that he is haunting me so.

    XO
    WWW

    ReplyDelete
  20. Friko:

    I truly believe that was what held me back, I knew I would develop a distaste for him if I ever got closer.

    Yes, he's haunting me like I said above but it will evaporate.

    XO
    WWW

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hattie:

    Yes, there's one in everyone's life, I guess.

    XO
    WWW

    ReplyDelete
  22. Thank you Cait and welcome to my world. I will check you out now.

    XO
    WWW

    ReplyDelete
  23. All of us have these moments of optimism of the past for what could have been. This story is poignant for the portrayal of a confused soul who was human nevertheless and you have brought that out very well.

    ReplyDelete

Some of you are having trouble, I've removed captcha and verification so we'll see how that goes. My apologies. Blogger is putting up far too many roadblocks. Thanks for the emails alerting me.
wisewebwomanatgmail.com