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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Randy

   When I was 12 I met a guy at school. We were bespectacled, thin, somewhat mischievous and became best friends. I could paint for you so many moments over the years. Both our fathers were scary, violent alcoholics … our mothers beleaguered victims.
  We spent ridiculous amounts of time together because together we felt free… safer somehow, though of course we did not discuss these things.  
  We tried high jumping when Dick Fosbury introduced his over backward “Fosbury Flop” during the Olympics. Randy was able to jump fractions of an inch higher than me. We ran a bit of track. He had a longer stride so could edge me out usually. He took great pride in these things. I suspect it was his sense of competition that gave him the edge.  We played hours of tennis. Here I was his match. That caused him much consternation.
  Our birthdays a day apart. By ourselves on a scorching summer birthday diving off Buster Boyd Bridge over and over until you complained your head was sore. Next day you had an uncharacteristic part right down the middle.
  The white 63 Ford Galaxy XLT that always needed a muffler. 
  Eventually we attended UNCC and loaded trucks at night. One particularly grueling evening after work he sauntered up and shouted,

        “I know a way we can go to Hawaii FREE!”

  After much agonizing and animated conversation we joined the Navy and went aboard ship to the South China Seas. Each queue, each evolution and each moment we desperately made sure that we stayed together. We were more than brothers. We were each other’s strength, comfort … hope.
  Subic Bay. San Diego ... the day I was riding on the back of that raggedy Sportster of his with a full leg cast.  He insisted I leaned the wrong way and made him dump it in the middle of traffic. I lay there laughing as he cussed and struggled it upright.
  Then he began to have kidney problems. He separated from the ship and began a litany of medical problems that were to last some forty odd years. Two kidney transplants, years of dialysis, skin cancer, diverticulitus … you name it, this guy had it. Along the way he graduated Chapel Hill law school, met the love of his life, moved to Raleigh and built a life with her.
  We would see one another once or twice a year and speak on the phone about the same. He was a clever man … humorous. When we were young, people found him “goofy”. I just though he was funny as hell. He was one of the most stubborn and determined people I have ever known or heard tell of.
  Not long past things got rough and they called in hospice. He’d always admonished me because I’d never visited him in Raleigh, so I went. I did not know what to expect so was braced for the worst.
  I rang the doorbell and heard a rather weak,

     “Come on in.” I swear I  heard him mumble a grouchy, "dammit".

 Pushing open the heavy wooden front door I spied him down a corridor pushing a walker … stooped yet grinning weakly when he saw me. We spent a wonderful day together. He found energy his wife Lillian described as "unusual". He took me on a tour of the Raleigh he had known. We sat in the car with the a.c. blowing.  I had purchased a massive bowl of fruit at "Peoples Food" and brought two forks. We laughed and shared it. It was nice he had a good appetite.  He showed me his life. The houses … historic sites … a smaller house that he and Lillian had gutted and were redoing.

“The dialysis machine will sit here in this recess and I can talk to Lillian while she works. See how it looks out over the roof into the trees?”

 I gazed upon what he would see … the dappled light filtering through the gnarly oak and wondered at his intrepid nature. He was planning. Hospice be damned. He was going to keep, “having one more cup of coffee with Lillian.”

 Today, I rose from dawn meditation ready to begin my practice. The cell phone dinged signaling a text. It will always be there in my mind's eye in the early morning light.

   “Randy died yesterday.”

 A part of me has left this world … yet in some ways I can see him more clearly now. Flying backwards over the bar. Stretching those long almost flat-footed legs out in the 880. Grinning from under his gray helmet on refueling detail. Arms spread, showing me and musing,

  “The dialysis machine will go here so I can talk to Lillian.”

 He wanted his ashes spread over The Rose Garden. That’s where he and Lillian were married. It was the most spiritual thing I ever heard him say,

 “This is my favorite place. This is where I feel my spirit will be when my body is gone. If there is a spirit. This is where I married Lillian.”

 You’re probably not gonna like this, Randy … but tell God I said hello. He’s been waiting for you a long time. He told me you were coming … whether you wanted to or not. Turns out that though we argued and discussed and fussed and ruminated much, it was never about the intellect. He was always there ... eternally written ... in your heart.


All my love ... forever.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A Sailor Once


 
I was a sailor once, upon the sea,
Gazed on horizon, examined me.
Rising storms embraced the roll,
Teeming water, held my soul.

I hammered and climbed, reached
And pulled and leaned into the wind.
Lifted, shouted, hauled and swung,
Bold heart to windward bend.

I was a sailor once, dolphins at the bow.
Albatross soared the wake we’d plow.
Spraying salt would pervade my breath,
Reflected moon spoke watery death.

I was a sailor once, far. far away.
A sailor once, red sky at day,
A sailor once, no sight of land
A sailor once upon God’s hand.


Foreign ports and narrow eyes,
Piercing doubt, mischievous lies.
A sailor once, I rode the sea.

A sailor once ... will always be.