Saturday, October 1, 2011

Ode to a friend

Our friend Herb had a soft, deep voice and a deadpan delivery that made him seem perpetually glum.

When our efforts to rescue the historic State Fair Carousel hit the media 23 years ago, he was among the first to call. We weren’t sure what to make of him, but he became a hard-working volunteer and fiercely loyal board member during some unexpected struggles. He also became a friend.

One hot July day in 1990, Herb introduced us to his twin passions: eight or ten vintage Cadillacs and a roomful of jukeboxes. There was real joy in his eyes as he powered up the music, and from then on we knew him as a romantic at heart. We weren't too surprised when, four years ago, he married a second time, to a woman from his high school graduating class.

A year later Herb tripped and fell, and his leg shattered. His doctor never questioned why the injury was so severe. When it didn’t heal, Herb sought a second opinion and learned that he had sarcoma, a devilishly aggressive cancer. With chemo and radiation he managed to live three years, instead of the six months he’d been told to expect.

Yesterday Herb was buried. The parking lot was full of old Caddies as his car-club friends said goodbye. His daughter played haunting English horn and violin solos. A carousel pin graced his lapel. Herb was a traveling salesman, a humble man, a sometime curmudgeon, a valued friend, and a dedicated volunteer who found satisfaction in service to the carousel and his automobile clubs. He will be missed.

My September began with melancholy thoughts of my late parents, and in mid-month I was mindful of the loss of my brother five years ago. As we attended services for Herb on the last day of the month, it dawned on me that I’ve reached an age where funerals and loss are no longer rare. But if Anyone is listening, I’ve had quite enough for now, thank you.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A visit to the nature center

Augie was hurtling toward the floor. I watched frame by frame as he landed on his face. On part of a deer skull. With antlers attached. Amid loud, indignant sobs, he clamped both hands tightly over his right eye. I pulled him into my lap, held him, rocked him. Meanwhile, Peter begged, “Let me see your face.” Finally we saw: A large bruise was forming an inch below the eye. We shared a look that said omigod, that was close. As we left, I reached to help Augie down from another bench. “Grandma,” he said, “I didn’t hurt my legs.”   

Mr. London Street has returned to writing his lovely 100-word posts, something at which he excels. When this real-life adventure happened yesterday, I decided to try writing about it in exactly 100 words. You’ll just have to accept that antlers of various sizes are a popular part of our local nature center’s hands-on learning tools. Augie is fine; Peter and I are still a bit shaken.  


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