There is a man who has loved me since I was a sophomore in college, or maybe a junior. I’m not sure now. He was the campus poet. Also a wrestler and football player, but for me mainly a poet and friend. Four or five years ago he found me through Facebook. When I responded with “Is that you?” he was unable to reply for weeks.
But since then he has written, mainly through private FB messages or emails, an average of two or three times a week. Each note is poetic, most have photographs, and they revolve around me, not him. He seldom volunteers information about himself or his life.
Occasionally he forwards an announcement from NASA or elsewhere on new discoveries in the cosmos or inside atoms. He is very smart and understands that we cannot comprehend where we live – and that the best we can do is to keep chipping away at ignorance until the gems of truth are seen and known. Well, I attribute that to him. He never carries on or pontificates. Maybe he just loves being awestruck.
Stars, mountains, lakes, and vistas figure large in his life. He spent years working in our national parks. A couple years ago he sent messages that I needed to call him right away. He had gone out to his car at night to see if that was where he left his keys. Standing under the stars and thinking about the end of his life, he had to talk to me, he had to make sure I knew how much he loved me before he went gaga and forgot to tell me.
Well, I don’t think either of us is near to being gaga, but he wrote last night that he is ill with one of those degenerative diseases that is not kind. I’m not sure any of them are. I am sad.
It took little nudges from me over months to find out that he is ill. He has had many medical tests done and the verdict seems to be in. His energy was devoted to supporting me, to being a champion, to declaring love, to being amusing with words that have multiple meanings and surprise pathways. It was not in sharing his troubles. You might find this strange. It is certainly unique. He chose to bless my life, and has.
Beyond his being there, beyond his infusion of beauty into my life, he has shown me the courage of expressing love, of saying it. We in the Midwest were taught not to do that.
Neither of my parents said they loved me until I was in my mid-twenties and I forced the issue by ending annual visits to Iowa by telling them I loved them. After a few years of this, they expected it and managed first an awkward “me, too” and then finally “I love you, too” at the airport. It was like chewing cardboard for them, but they got there.
There are so many absurdities around saying “I love you” and my friend blew them all away. The hesitancies didn’t apply. I’m not saying I deserve his love. I recognize he credits me with being more or better or whatever than I am. But that is not the point. He loves and he says so – not only to me. Sometimes he copies me on poems, photos, and notes to his family.
He was in Vietnam, one of only two in his unit to return alive and with all his body parts. A poet in the midst of slaughter. How does one deal with that? Well, at least partially with medicines and by saying what needs to be said before you go gaga or die.
He says he will love me always. It is that simple, that courageous, that “without any strings.” He has received scarcely anything from me compared with what he has given, though I hope he knows how grateful I am.
I love you, my friend. You have helped me to tell everyone I love that I love them. You have given my heart freedom, muscle, and joy.
And, dear friend, please forgive my being so public in the face of your tendency towards privacy. I want to pass on what you have helped me to learn.
. . .
Readers, below is a teeny sampling of photographs, and I start with a random – yet very clear – excerpt from a longer quote:
Q: So what did the OTHER photon say to the one photon … etc…
A: I have NO clue as to what this matter is all about… so please, enlighten me, I truly wish to know if there is a tunnel at the end of the light…