Friend – For a Lifetime

Fiercely independent!
Enjoys his own company
Shares moments with others on his own terms
He is authentically his own person

A biker, a hiker, he enjoys the outdoors
Windows wide open on an aging, weathered face
Like a moth to the flame, he is drawn to the horizon
A modern day cowboy, he rides solo into the sunset

A husband and father
He values loyalty, compassion, and connection
He enjoys a great love with his late-in-life mate
Wrestling with acceptance, he struggles as a dad
Tenacious and loving, he has not given up
Disappointed yet proud, discontented but fulfilled

A mentor and teacher and coach par excellence
A master trainer/presenter, he shared what he read, what he learned, what he loved
He dug deep into the why and how and challenged my growth along the way
Much of me, is because of him

A friend for many seasons
We rode, vacationed, debated our readings
We shared family, friends, and secrets
We bumped heads and rebounded, often, until the end

Strong personalities, leaders, and men often clash around things that matter least
They jockey for recognition and value around superficial triggers
Recognized or not, the core issues often go untouched, until it’s too late
For one, when the plug is pulled, there is no turning back
For the other, the friendship remains, celebrated alone

Haiku for Jerry

Press the steel softly
Peeling delicate shavings
Like downtown

Hen did such a good job with his poem… but I needed a shorter venue. Reading up on Haiku, it seemed a better alternative for me. Haiku is typically measured in syllables: five in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the last verse. The twist is that in Japanese, syllables ending in “n” may count as two. The essence of Haiku is juxtaposition, which I tried in the last line… but is explained at the end of this piece.
The Haiku is for my friend Jerry who died this week from cancer. We were woodturning partners for years and I always sat behind him in church. Not sure why, since he was a big man and hard to see around. I think it was the solidity of Jerry – I enjoyed patting him on the back – it was reassuring. A gentle man with a bone crushing handshake. He was a rock. It’s hard to believe that strength couldn’t withstand any assault.
Jerry was a Pittsburgh native, Korean War vet, Penn State alumnus, and retired math teacher. He lived 90 years and his presence blessed us. I learned from Jerry, that learning truly is lifelong, that one can have strong convictions, but still keep an open mind for new ideas. He did not press his opinions on others, but rather enjoyed an open discourse about topics. Our woodturning group on Thursdays explored many such conversations.
His favorite saying, when something turned out well, was “just like downtown”. Apparently, this was a popular saying in Pittsburgh in the 1950’s – and lived on in Jerry’s vernacular. I guess this could be a good description of his life – a life that was well lived.

The Cane Lady

She wore a long tattered woolen winter coat that almost dragged on the ground.  A black knitted cap covered her head.  She had old lady black shoes and was never seen without her cane and shopping cart- the kind people used in the city to bring their groceries home from the market.   

Everybody on the block knew her but no one knew her name.  She lived in the alley behind our building, situated under the first fire escape platform, sleeping out on an old mattress someone had discarded and covered with blankets people from the buildings had donated .  All of her worldly possessions were in that frail wire cart! The first Mobil home!

She could have been in her 40’s or 80’s, like her name, no one knew her age either.  She never spoke and many believed she couldn’t. She would beg on the street indicating her hunger by coming up to you and pointing to her mouth.  I gave her a bag of pretzels once!  My brother called her the Cane Lady and the name seemed to stick.

She scared me and most of the other little kids in the neighborhood.  Some parents even resorted to telling their kids if they didn’t get to sleep they would call the Cane Lady!

Maybe it was a more forgiving time just after WWII, but people seemed concerned for her and would give her miscellaneous foods at various times.  My brother would taunt me that he was going to bring the Cane Lady up if I didn’t do what he wanted.

The long and the short of it is that as much as I was afraid of her I had admiration for her and wondered how she could survive on the street.  I was afraid of the dark and didn’t even want to be outside after sunset but she lived out there.  She was brave! She was independent- sort of!  And I worried about her!  I hadn’t thought of her for years but then the quarantine came and with all the time on my hands and the loneliness, she came to mind. I don’t know what happened to her as we moved to the country when I was 6.  But thinking of her struggle to live, my quarantine was nothing. I said a prayer for her that wherever she is now is better than her earth life and thanked her for the gratitude I felt for how fortunate I have been.  Thank you, Cane Lady!

2 thoughts on “Friend – For a Lifetime

  1. Know it’s an old one, but I “pull back” now and again, especially on sites offering real value, real reading, think-fodder. This, gents, was a good one. Thanks for the read. For the thoughts. For the remnders.


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