I’m waiting for a letter.
My friend, collaborator and former publisher, wrote deathbed letters to his best friends, telling them what they’d meant in his life. He left them with his lady friend to be mailed after his death. I hope I get one.
He was one of a handful of friends who make up the short list of people I turn to for advice, or to share the best and worst that life brings. The ones who will be with me until the end. He was fond of quoting obscure philosophers. I have a stack of Post-It notes with his pithy little sayings stuck in a box somewhere. I used to hang them on my wall.
Our friendship was a touchstone of growth and insight. He was a brilliant man, stoically determined to remain an agnostic while countering my Christian beliefs with well-taken points that gradually softened us both.
He kept a crucifix on his office wall, covered by a hat. Hedging his bets, I told him. He raged at my writing choices. He wept over cards I mailed him during the ragged patches of his life. He entrusted to me the secrets of his childhood. Joy was his revenge. Savoring the obscure, the lesser-traveled path. Like all good collaborators, we brought our best to the friendship and took from it the things we lacked. But we soared on different winds.
One Thanksgiving weekend, my husband and I moved him and his wife Rebecca to the Pacific Northwest in a caravan of vehicles. We arrived on Thanksgiving Day. With no restaurants open, the four of us foraged through a Sikh deli, piling a heap of random items on the counter. We ate our magical feast on a Bakshaish rug in their new house. Turkey lunchmeat, hard rolls, bottles of fine pickels, olives, crackers and pate, and Champagne. Pumpkin pie ice cream for dessert.
A Taurus, “the Bull.” Stubborn in the stiffest wind. My memory of him will always be the things he couldn’t manage to keep. The mansion in British Columbia that he designed and built. And lost to divorce. Wives who didn’t stick. Regrets. A son out there somewhere. He was a brilliant man who masked his pain in a blaze of optimism. A father of possibilities. His legacy will be the people he mentored and the dreams they achieve. He used to say he was a Boy Scout at heart. He believed it. He lived by the credo, “Everyone always does the best they can.”
His passing wasn’t a shock. He’d passed off his symptoms for a year before he finally went to the ER. He endured the gamut of surgeries, chemo and their side effects with cheer and stoic resolve, determined to accept the consequences of his negligence. Or maybe he merely mustered his best self for our phone calls in the last months and weeks of his life. A Celebration of Life is planned, a thousand miles away, but my husband and I won’t attend. Instead, we may cast a net and catch a lobster in his honor. Serve it with Veuve Cliquot and truffles from Chocolate Necessities in Bellingham, WA. Some of his favorite things.
The New Mexico Women in Film are sponsoring a scholarship in his name. Knowing him, he might have suggested that it honor his father’s name instead of his own. But maybe not. As he once said: “Progress obscures its origins.”
So I guess this is it. He wouldn’t want sorrow. But he promised me a letter. I hope it arrives.