À bientôt, Best Friend

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A distillation of these entries might read; two lonely souls come together by outrageous coincidence and cling together as the world spins beneath them.  An ancient story.  The first story.

This site will remain as a static memorial as long as possible, just to remind the world about my love for her.  It bothers me somewhat that this must pass away as well, and that no one in the ages to come will know what the cryptic inscription on the tombstone really meant to us, or all the things she was to me – just as Francine and I knew nothing of those laid below us when we walked together through Union Cemetery all those years ago.  Memorials move into shadow.

And here’s what’s funny about that: Francine would laugh and say “you worry about everything.”  By implication, she worried about so little, and would never have needed to create these pages for her own peace of mind.  Compared to mine, her spirit was like water flowing in a stream that came to a rock and moved past it, harmless.  I feel more like a tumbleweed, always pushed by the wind towards a precipice.  It’s not that I didn’t learn anything from living with her, it’s just that I’m not like her.

So much more could be mentioned about her: how fond memories of her childhood friends would suddenly make her repeat that amusing story I’d heard a hundred times; the terrible effect that gossip of any kind would have on her tender heart; how against her nature it was to speak a lie or tolerate one.  How could I find the words to have anyone understand the subtle, almost secret, code we spoke full of obscure movie references from the thousands of films we saw together, or what it was like to sit with her in the dark, seven rows from the front, dead center, our favorite theatre seats?  And how could I explain that though she could never tell north from south, she had the faith of a child that she would always find her way?

There are many hundreds of stories that could be included, but most of them would require permission for the photos and details of many other people’s lives.  Those people are just as important to her story, but are outside the scope of this memorial, which is about just one thing: Craig loves Fran.  Anyway, almost everything I’ve wanted to say remains elusive, like describing the unseen forces of magnetism and electricity between us.  So this will be the last entry.

Here I throw off the ashes and sackcloth, wash my face and try to find some worthy vibrations within a small spectrum of sound to accompany this.  The musical interpretation will deliberately be more abstract, surreal and incomprehensible (but also truthful and full of magnetism and electricity).  Maybe she’ll hear it and know I’m thinking of her.

Chord of Hope.  The title doesn’t have anything to do with finding meaning in life without her or being hopeful that loneliness will abate.  It refers solely to the hope that we will be allowed to commute in that promised land beyond this existence.  That she will really be there in the shade of that tree, waiting, when I arrive.

If and when such a thing is finished, it will be linked here.

 

 

Sixteen thousand days we had.  Yet…

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But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.  1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Relevant song: All Things Must Pass by George Harrison

Entropy

A reader may wonder why the subtitle to this blog is memories of my best friend rather than …of my wife, or even …of my love.  It’s simply because that was our pet name for each other from the beginning.  We would be in a state of contentedness with one another somewhere, just holding hands while we walked or drifted asleep at night, and one of us would say, I love you best friend.  And the response was always, I love you, best friend.

When the doctors explained the pain she had been experiencing was much more serious than we thought, Time suddenly became the enemy.  Did we have time to learn how to solve the problem, to make the correct decisions and to bring her back to health?  My brain went into emergency overdrive.  My spirit was wracked with the torment of the attempt.

I held her tighter throughout the two years after the initial diagnosis.  I became more thankful for the time we shared and the importance of every minor event.  Her condition at times seemed to improve, but the concealed disease progressed faster than the cure.

Things fall apart.  Why is it so hard for us to believe that Time is our enemy only if we fight it?  We built a tiny civilization and held it together as long as we could until the forces of entropy found their way into the gate and reduced it and us to ashes.

Yet, the world continues to spin, and new civilizations rise from the dust.  Our children weave their own stories into the future, and likewise experience their own mortality, and on and on.  If anything can be learned from the past it is this paraphrase of the eleventh commandment:  Love one another… while you can.  Then, Time is recognized as the mere mechanism it is.

She faced it all bravely.  Her spirit became more accepting and peaceful of the inevitability of it.  In the end, she preferred not to keep suffering and chose to drift away.

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Our last summer together.  My beautiful Best Friend.

 

 

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.   — John 13:34
Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow.  For what is your life?  It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.  — James 4:14

 

 

 

Relevant song: Isn’t It A Pity by George Harrison.

 

Children

“To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” ― Mark Twain

The arrival of each child was a blessed event for us both, of course; full of gratefulness.  For myself, the birthdays also held that alchemy of terror and elation.  For Francine, it was a day of relief and sublime satisfaction.  I’ve said it before – she never asked me for anything except children.  When God graciously provided them, she dedicated her every instinct to their nurturing.  She was a good mother to them.  Fair and strong.  Gentle and forgiving.

In this entry, I just want to share a few photos of Francine being happy with her babies.

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Fran’s soft smile, content with our first baby girl.

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Our beautiful second child.  She entered the world laughing.

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God answered another prayer.

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And another.

 

I believe she prayed every day for them.

 

 

 

 

Iridology

 

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Holding her close for the first time I saw the gold flake in the iris of her left eye.

After that, I always saw it.  Always knew it was there.  It was something special about her that I looked for whenever we were close.  I didn’t know what it was or what it meant.  Fran considered it a defect, but to me it was just another deeper mystery that made her more interesting and hypnotic to me.

Sometime in 1992 at a lecture by a professing iridologist, we had him “read” Francine’s eyes for telltale signs of systemic illness, just for the sake of being proactive in our health.  We were always doing stuff like that.  You can see what always appeared to me as a gold flake in this photo from that event.

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This is the level of intimacy we shared, where even a gold flake in the eye is a point of fascination.  Perhaps it would seem trivial to an outsider.

 

Fran’s Garden

Francine learned everything she knew about growing things from her grandmother, who loved her dearly.  Grandma Myrtle had been raised in the country and was a repository of an enormous amount of horticultural wisdom.  They were very close and spent many hours in the garden together preparing the ground, planting, weeding, picking bugs off the plants, and spreading about whatever magic that successful gardeners spread about.  We’ve seen Myrtle stop to admire a plant, obtain a small cutting from it and then cultivate it into a plant that would dwarf the original.  When Grandma Myrtle passed away, she left hundreds of beautiful, orphaned, plants and a legacy that would stay with Francine throughout her life – her love for the practical beauty of a garden.

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Francine continued to always make a garden in Myrtle’s absence, and the results were never quite as miraculous, but always hard-earned victories.  In her struggle to bring the magic into it, she often mentioned missing her grandma.  Tending her garden was a kind of tribute to grandma, as well as her favorite recreation and therapy.  These are some pictures from around Fran’s garden in the last years…

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Always wanting her happy, I helped her in her hobby.  We moved a lot of earth, built fences, tilled ground, ran the hoses and sprinklers everywhere, but in the end, I had learned nothing of agronomy from her.  As a result, her once beautiful garden is ruined under my watch.  I’ve come to think of it as a metaphor of my life without her.

However, there appears to be life in the soil, even if the magic is completely missing now.

I’ll try again this year to grow some parsley and kale for my rabbit.

 

 

Update: July 20, 2019.

I now know why it wasn’t possible for me to maintain the garden for the last few years.  It was my faulty time-perception.  I may have mentioned that 2017 is mostly a blur.  Little is remembered.  Time was passing differently, and I saw the weeds pour into the tilled garden like the incoming tide.  

Now that normal perception has returned, I can see that a garden needs constant care and weeded daily if it is going to survive the onslaught.  That’s also probably a metaphor for almost everything.

 

 

Magnetism

I had been flirting with her at work for weeks.  She wasn’t just cute.  She had minute idiosyncrasies and some mystery that had been affecting me.  Up until then our relationship consisted almost entirely of joking around and making fun of our stuffy manager.  I didn’t know how to ask her out, so began searching for a plan.  When I heard Carlos Santana was coming to town I knew this was the opportunity I’d been waiting for.

I didn’t want to take any chances that it might be sold out, so I went to the box office to get the tickets.  That night after work I asked her to sit with me for a few minutes.  I must have stuttered a bit from excitement, but managed to offer the proposition and when she accepted I was both pleased and relieved.  How was I to know it was the beginning of everything meaningful in my life?

I’ve tried to reconstruct the details of that night, but my faulty memory can’t even recall how we got to Mershon Auditorium.  I can only trust two memories for sure.  First, that we had the worst seats in the house, directly behind the stage and nearly all the way to the roof, where all the marijuana smoke ended up.  Neither of us smoked, and we were surprised that the numerous police in attendance were not interested in busting pot smokers.  Well – we were new to this.   Bobby Womack and Peace opened the concert, and I wish more was remembered.  The poor acoustics which plagued our section drove us to find better seats before Santana came on.  

Although Santana was promoting their new Caravanserai album, they played many songs from the previous three, including Black Magic Woman, which became our song by default.  I managed to find the playbill.

 

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Among the memorabilia

 

The second reliable, unforgettable memory is holding her hand on the walk home and learning more about her.  I sensed her own loneliness in her storytelling.  When we arrived at her home I wanted to kiss her for many more reasons than before we left.  That first kiss… well, those details I leave to your imagination.

I can attribute a portion of the success of that first date to the music and the electric experience of being with each other – doing something new.  But there was certainly something much more going on.  It felt like the Fates, turning us.

Walking home, I knew there was no way back to the lonely existence without her.

Other concerts we were able to attend over the years included Emerson, Lake and Palmer (1973 – Cincinnati), David Bowie (1978, Richfield, because I won tickets on a radio giveaway by knowing the answer to the question “What substance revives mummies?”), King Crimson (1981 – Columbus), Leon Redbone, Devo, Peter Gabriel, Rodriguez
She enjoyed different music than I did, more of soft rock like Simon & Garfunkle and Loggins & Messina rather than the psychedelic space music of Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream.  But there was a lot of crossover.

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At the ELP concert

 

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The Fates © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Meterology

…the branch of science concerned with the processes and phenomena of the atmosphere…

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We were walking near the Ohio State University stadium on an early summer mid-afternoon, just exploring as we often did.  The sky suddenly became very gray and looking to the southwest we saw why.  A black line in the sky was approaching and pushing the gray clouds ahead of it.  We could feel the wind velocity increasing and shaking the trees but we were transfixed.  The black line, stretching as far as the eye can see in both directions was an amazing, apocalyptic, thing to see.

The closer it came, the darker the sky became and more violent the wind.  Behind the dark line were more heavily packed rain clouds and before the black line was overhead we began getting pelted with fast-moving rain and hail.

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I took this picture of an approaching storm on July 15th, 2019.    It is the closest representation of what we saw that day.

We took shelter under a tree but the hail was busting right through the branches so we ran looking for shelter and came across a very large storm drain, which I think is located here We ran inside and watched the hail get larger, then smaller, then move on entirely to be replaced by a torrent of rain and lightning.

Looking around, we saw that the storm drain, about six feet in diameter, disappeared into the darkness to the east.  We decided to explore but could only go about a hundred feet before it became pitch black.

When the storm subsided we headed out and saw the damage everywhere.  There were a lot of people out now, and many asked us, “Did you see that?”  And everyone who didn’t ask got asked that question by us.  A nice phenomenon to experience.  I’m glad we weren’t in a movie theatre, which is where we were usually found that time of day.

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We told our friends about the storm drain, and everyone thought it would be a fun thing to criminally trespass and see if it came out anywhere.  So the following weekend we took our flashlights and matches and the six of us drove to the stadium.  It was dusk when we arrived.  Even though there were no warning signs we suspected this was ill-advised and possibly illegal.  But there was nothing to stop us, not even a single no trespassing sign, so we disappeared into the strange underground darkness.

The drain was corrugated steel and the floor, being uneven, was difficult to get used to, and progress was slow.  After the culvert made a few turns it became very dark.  About a half hour later, and having not seen a single outlet, the girls were getting nervous, so we started telling stories of giant mutated alligators to make sure we got the full experience.  We yelled loudly to hear the echos, but could not hear anything else.  At this point we didn’t know if we were under the road, the stadium, or even how far in we were.  We were all feeling claustrophobic, and only went another few hundred feet before we ended the exploration and headed back.

Outside again, we realized it was much later than we had thought.  We began to make our way to Bernie’s Bagels and Deli on High Street and had to walk around the stadium.  For some reason, a chain link gate was open.  Not fully open, but not secured and slightly ajar.  I think it was the fact that we had survived the culvert exploration that made us think we could get away with another trespass.

We ran all around the stadium, even climbing up to the flagpole platform (seen in the foreground of this picture).  We ran the entire length of the field, throwing a pretend football between us.  I (gently) tackled Fran and kissed her on the fifty-yard line.  Not many people can say they kissed anyone on the fifty-yard line of the Ohio State University stadium, but no one but me can lay claim to kissing Francine there.

We didn’t push our luck anymore that night.  We found our way out, got a bagel and lox and headed home, pleased that fate had given us a small adventure that didn’t land us in jail.  I’m sure access into that culvert has been obstructed by now with railing.  At least, it should be, to protect the unexpecting explorers from the giant mutant alligators.

 

Oh… and good luck wandering into the stadium at night to kiss your sweetheart on the fifty-yard line!

 

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This one was taken at the beach in Frankfort, Michigan.
Fran said, “Look!  That cloud looks like one of your drawings!”

 

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