Friday, August 28, 2009

Old Friends

I have a lot of old friends. I'm not talking about people who have known me since I was 12, or who lived on my street when I was in nursery school. I'm talking about people of a certain age who are important in my life. And none of them would take offense at being referred to as old, either. That's part of why I like them. They are all comfortable in their own skin.

Harry was a Canadian newspaper editor who snow-birded with Nannie and Grandpaw in Florida. He smoked a pipe, and bought me one when I admired his the weekend TBG and I met him. He'd lead long walks on the beach, all of us smoking and picking up sharks teeth and opining on everything and everyone. He wrote fabulous letters (he would have been an avid blogger, I'm sure) and sent the Big Cuter a porringer as a baby present, complete with a poem extolling the virtues of the infant, the parents and the gift-giver himself. Profanity and profundity were intertwined in his speech; his writing was elegant. A bit of a roue, probably somewhat of a cad if I'm honest with myself, he brought a buzz into the room as he entered. As interested in what we had to say as we were in listening to him, he was a window into another world, an era we'd read about but he'd experienced and was willing to share.

Much less dramatic, but equally elegant and educated, Irene would leave a ceramic cat in her apartment's big bay window if she was interested in having visitors. Living as she did on the route to Shaker Square from just about everywhere on the east side of Cleveland, she'd raise her window shade and wait for company. I can't imagine that she ever had to wait for long. Gingersnaps and tea or ice water in crystal glasses accompanied conversation on politics and literature and child-rearing. Her eyesight was fading but her wit was sharp. She, too, was a great letter writer up until she moved East to be closer to her family. She had been a long-time friend of Nannie's and I counted it as a great compliment when I was deemed worthy of an introduction.

The Iron Eagle and I have very different politics and backgrounds yet we rarely disagree on anything that really matters - funding the library and the schools and supporting local merchants and maintaining the quality of life on one of Earth's most wonderful peninsulas. He's been a mayor and an engineer and a Cal Bear and a very proud grandfather and he's always willing to put his energy and his actions behind his intentions. Never shy with his opinions , he's always willing to do the leg work and fend off the sniping to make his vision a reality. There's a breadth of knowledge and an almost-New York -like twinkle in his eyes that remind me of Daddooooo at his best. We're a mutual admiration society, he and I; I can't imagine that anyone could resist being on the receiving end of his affection.

Is this, perhaps why we've been friends? I, too, have no compunctions about stating my facts - and if they're not facts they should be - with all the authority my short but sturdy frame can muster. But it's more than that. For me, at least, it encompasses the surprising ease I feel in their company. There's a wonder that we've found each other, and a surprise that we connect on any level at all. It's a different perspective, a history we did not share but which is of interest to us both. We are exemplars of events the other knows only through pictures or books, a window into the past shared on a personal plane.

And I really like the view.

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