On March 31st, one of my very best friends passed over to the other side, twenty-six days before she turned 80. I first met Mary Ann when she was 18, and I was 16 and dating her younger sister. Her sister and I married two years later and my lifelong relationship with Mary Ann ensued. She was more like a sister than a sister-in-law, and it was even more special because she was married to my best friend KD (my mother’s brother, only two years older than me). KD passed away in 2007 after a struggle with cancer and before he died, he asked me to look after Mary Ann when he passed, and I assured him I would. She was very independent until she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. She won that battle by 2016, but started suffering with mild dementia and could no longer drive, nor pay her bills. Her son and his children looked after her, and I took over her finances. This team worked well and Mary Ann was living a comfortable but restricted life. She really disliked the fact that she couldn’t drive, but her family and friends made sure she was able to get out of the house often. She lived about 25 minutes away from me and I visited her often, but I talked to her twice a week on the phone. That happened every week for four years, unless I was out of town. I have known three very smart people in my lifetime and Mary Ann was the first. Probably, all of us have encountered a few people that just seem to have an abundance of brain cells. It is easily detected. She home-schooled her two grandchildren and ran the local Little League organization for 36 years as their president. It would not be an exaggeration to say that she has touched thousands of lives. But the lives she touched the most, her family and close friends, will mourn her passing for a long time. My opening line to Mary Ann when I called her was, “Mary, this is the fun police and I’ve been called several times about the racket coming from your house. That needs to stop! You’re having way too much fun!” She would always smile and tell me she wasn’t having any fun at all. We would then move on to something else and before you knew it, an hour had passed, and it was time to hang up. She leaves a big hole in my life. I hope she misses me just a little. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “There is a kind of contempt of the landscape felt by him who has lost by death a dear friend. The sky is less grand as it sets down over less worth in the population.” That’s how I feel about losing Mary Ann.
As a lot of you know from my previous missives, I enjoy playing acoustic guitar and my playlist currently has 57 songs. I lean strongly towards “Country”, but I do have some “Country Rock” scattered thru the list. Throw in a dash of “Bluegrass” and you pretty much have me nailed. I try to practice daily and that does happen most days. Last summer when my son passed away, I refused to practice for months, and I lost the callous on each of the fingers on my left hand. They are back now, but it was a painful process. My wife occasionally suggests that I sing along with the music, but I very seldom do. As Bill Anderson says in one of his songs, “I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket”. I am not a very good guitarist, and I attribute that mostly to the fact that I started playing at age 53 (1994) and didn’t get really serious (I use that term loosely) until I was 70. I am content to allow the original artists to sing their songs as I strum along, struggling with that darn “F” chord. I am guilty of trying to sing occasionally, but not too often, frightened that someone will overhear and then the ridicule commences. Henry Van Dyke said it very well,
“Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.”
Early last month (March) my wife and I visited some old high school friends of mine that live about three hours away. It was a wonderful reunion. We spent two nights with Elsie Dee and husband Rene in their attractive home where they made us feel comfortable and welcome. The four of us enjoyed brunch with two other classmates (Roger/Delores) on the 2nd day of our trip, and we met another classmate (Janet/Lennie) at a dinner theater, had a delicious meal accompanied with good conversation and an entertaining play. The evening covered me with a warmth that only comes when you reunite with old friends.
Janet and I had not seen each other in sixty years. Yes, she and I have changed a lot in all those years, but I could easily have identified her if I had bumped into her on any city street. Unlike me, she has aged well, and it is difficult for a stranger to imagine we are so close in age. On our trip home, I lamented the end of being so close to old friends from long, long ago. The good news is that I have it on our calendar for next year. An old Czech Proverb says, “Do not protect yourself by a fence, but rather by your friends”. Now that’s a bell I can ring.
Spring is just around the corner for my little corner of the world. We have already had a few days in the 60s and expect some more of the same this week. Some unattractive weeds poked their ugly heads high above the grass so I headed to the shed and retrieved my Husqvarna weed eater, intending to cut them off at ground level. The darn thing would start and run a few seconds and then stop. I struggled with it for about 30 minutes then decided to take the carburetor apart, clean it, and see if that would resolve the problem. But first, I came inside to my computer, headed for YouTube and located a video on how to take it apart and put it back together. A big smile spread rapidly across my face as the thought raced thru my mind, “I got this, it’s gonna be a piece of cake”. Well, as usual, the “piece of cake” thing didn’t work out. After working on it a few hours over a couple of day, I decided to take it to the local small engine repair shop, figuring he would charge around $75. I don’t like the fellow very much, seems obstinate, but he’s the only game in town, so I tolerate him. Suddenly, the thought occurred that I could go online and order the part I need for less than I would pay the grinch to fix it. Sure ‘nuff, I found a new carburetor for $45 (shipping included) and it is on the way to my home as I write this. There are times when I think I’m just too smart for my own good! My children’s mother used to say to me, “I would like to buy you for what you’re worth and sell you for what you think you’re worth!” The way I’m feeling, I’m thinking she could have made a lot of money.
Wherever you are in this world, I hope your family loves you as much as mine loves me. I know you will return their love abundantly. That is my intent as well.