A Fine Wine Friend

I love this short season of pre-autumn, when summer slowly relinquishes its hold on green and gold and wet and dry spells, when it considers capitulating to the coming long sleep of winter heralded by gorgeous foliage, crisp mornings, shorter days and a slowing of pace with time to think and reflect.

Autumn is my season. I relish it, dedicate time to relax in it, feel the last warm rays of sun before my spirit hibernates deep within tall boots and heavy sweaters. I enjoy bundling up in a blanket with a sturdy cider and a slow book, toasting on the deck snug in a lounge chair until about four in the afternoon when the temp changes and the breeze freshens to cool, telling me to go  make dinner. By the time the dishes are in the dishwasher, it is dark. I don’t like that part at all. I don’t much seek out quiet time, more’s the pity, but in this season I rearrange my life and see to it that quiet time is on the agenda.

I still write letters. Long-hand. It forces me to shut out the world and focus on my subject and my target. I have a long-time friend twenty years my senior. We have had, and maintain a strong affinity for each other. He is one of the four men in my life who, across its expanse, have shaped me. He is a retired physician living on the left coast with his almost reclusive son. The two of them just moved from Muscle Beach to Sonoma, to a tiny town amongst the vineyards. He’s only been there a month or so, yawns a bit at the overbearing preoccupation with wine, wine, wine, given that his preferred drink is a good scotch. In a town of about 1200 people, I’m willing to bet he’ll ferret out a scotch drinker or three to share his stash with. I sure wish he was closer, though I must admit, a 49 minute phone call, massaging our common connections went by all too quickly, assuaging the emptiness we both feel because of distance.

During the move, of which I was unaware, I couldn’t find him. He didn’t answer his phone, and though it wasn’t disconnected, I worried he’d left the planet, this man who truly believed he’d die a few years past retirement simply because he doubted longevity in his line. No. He just turned 96, with a brain more agile than any kid. He spends most mornings on his deck with a good book, and noodles in the garden just to prove he can still squat in the dirt. He has been and continues to be a fount of knowledge on many subjects, abhors the state of the nation and its politics and stays abreast of current events. He allows himself a short nap in the early afternoon, and retires after the nightly news.

What did he do with himself most recently? He went fishing in Boston with his slightly younger brother. Every day he wakens is a great surprise. He has developed a few deficits at his great age, like losing teeth, and reduction of vision in his left eye, but thinks these infirmities are negligible.

What is evident is that he has not lost a minute’s interest in living, and though his pace is a bit slower, his mind is not. He is a treasure in my life, albeit he’s a continent away, essentially. I daily thank Alexander Graham Bell. Bill refuses the computer his son bought him, I can’t think why, since it would open a whole new world for him. But he feels no need for the new fangled, given he can board a plane and go fishing in the streams of Massachusetts. How, he asks, would a computer ever enhance that?

So he remains on my letter writing list, especially since he answers in kind, with pithy and informative responses of his own. We reminisce our histories, and know that, in another life, in another place, the pair of us would have been inseparable.

Of those four, I married one, and consider myself among the most fortunate of women to have had them all fully engaged in solid friendship across nearly fifty years. One of them died long before I was prepared for that parting. Chris was everyone’s treasure and there will never be another like him.

A thriving 96 year old with all his faculties is one  fabulous gift, like a  vintage car  whose tires still have great tread. When he calls I drop everything else and never forfeit that time, knowing we will sooner or later run out of that commodity. Until then, I’m grateful for every moment.

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