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“What I remember most…”

 

At some point, most of Francine’s friends have said,

“What I remember most about Fran is her sense of humor.”  

That’s probably because, from the time I first met her, she could go from this…

AAAAAA3

…to this…

FRAN.FRESNEL

…in a moment.

For years I fell for her April Fool’s joke in which she would advance the time on every clock in the house and wake me up saying something like, “You’re going to be late if you don’t get going!”  And then she would go about whatever she would normally do with a sly, barely perceptible smile.

Once I got all the way to work and wondered why isn’t anyone else here?

After about five years of that, I caught on to that smile.

 

 

Zoology and Chemistry

Fran.at.zoo

Here is the girl I fell for, as she looked just a few seasons from when I first met her.

Still using the Brownie box camera her grandmother gave her, I captured this image of Francine leaning against the rail at the bear den at the Columbus Zoo.  We must have been nineteen years old.  The image is damaged, but her beauty still fills me with longing.

Her hair exuded a pheromone carefully crafted to attract only me.  If I ever smelled it again I am sure my heart would stop beating to suspend the moment.  I caught her romantically, she caught me chemically.

I had to fight off other less deserving suitors for this lovely creature.  Young men who wanted her for the wrong reasons, I assumed.  Unlike those bears who would have quickly resorted to their claws, I used diplomacy, fate and luck against them.

But claws were always an option.

 

At least one member of my family will blush at this entry.

 

 

Relevant song: And I Love Her by The Beatles.

 

 

Afterlife

Early April, 2019: just finished viewing Afterlife, the short series by Gervais about a grieving widower who has given up on life, dragging himself around a meaningless routine.  A lot of what he has done here rings true, and it is clear he did his homework on the suffering of survivors.  Unfortunately, the atheism of his depressed character brought nothing positive to his photoplay.  The arguments against God are tired and easily answered, or at least capable of intelligent exploration.  But he can believe what he wants, and the character does find something positive to dwell on in the end – to heal yourself if possible and then make honest attempts to heal the suffering around you.  That message came through.

Like others who have been through this experience, I saw myself in the same swamp of pain and how it shuts out the world.  This happens because the world doesn’t want to suffer along, it has its own problems.  When you miss the nail and hit your thumb with the hammer it is impossible at that moment to appreciate the suffering of the world, though you’ve just been given a valuable hint.  Afterward, you can say that you know what that pain feels like, and you’ve got the scars to prove it, but it is still only your pain.

The reason I bring it up at all is that there was something spoken in the play that sounded like plagiarism.  As if Gervais had been listening to Francine and I talk when we were so in love we couldn’t stand it.  In the last episode, Gervais’ character is speaking with a wiser widow who acts as a type of oracle in the play.  Within the dialogue, we hear her say, “I’d rather live missing him than he live missing me.”

There was a time when we were sitting together in Union Cemetery and a moment passed between us in which we realized our mortality and the fragile nature of our bond.  Francine said, “I hope you die before I do.”  We both smiled at the absurdity of such talk, and in the next breath, I repeated the sentiment.  We knew exactly what each other meant.  She knew fully how much I needed her, and how I could never be without her again.  She knew it because I expressed it so clearly in word and deed, and sitting there under a tree in the cemetery, she loved me so much that she would rather take on the suffering of our separation than wish it on me.  And of course, I wanted in on that contract.  But in reality,  though I would die for her, I never wanted to live without her.

It was my narcissism that wanted to believe I was capable of loving her more than she loved me.   In my childishness, I still believe it, just as the suffering of others can’t be fully understood.

Well, that was a long time ago.  Children dreaming and talking silly.  That kind of crazy love fades, or rather evens out, as it spreads over the years.  Changes.  But like a Shakespearean couple, their words expressed their heart’s desire: to suffer, if necessary, for love.  And that was never forgotten by either of us.

 

BEST.FRIENDS.1973

Nice hat, kid.

 

 

 

Relevant song: “Time” by Pink Floyd

 

 

Vows

 

We were twenty years old and knew we could never live without each other.

It was a late spring day and it occurred to me to that there may never be a perfect time to ask her to marry me.   The future was an impossible place, but here we are, now.

I bought an engagement ring and planned.   On her birthday, on her grandmother’s porch, I submitted my proposal.  I was actually surprised that she was so excited about it.  My mind was left spinning, trying to calculate the solutions to all the new problems this presented.  But, as always, she showed me there are no problems – only challenges we would face together.

I did the old-fashioned thing and asked her father for her hand (though I was inclined to elope with her).  I expected the third degree, but instead, he said, “what took you so long?”

So in early October, we were married by her pastor at the Linden Luthern Church.  Our best friends, Rick and Beverly, were Best Man and Bridesmaid.  The Sicilians hosted the reception at their home and everyone got stuffed with lasagna and Tony’s famous oyster dressing.

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There was genuine joy in her that day.

As evening approached, the wine began flowing liberally, so we left before we could see anyone getting plastered and headed to the bridal suite at the tallest hotel in Columbus.  It was the weekend, getting dark, deserted, and it felt as if we had the entire downtown to ourselves.   The few people we did come across saw the glow around us and stared.

 

Thanks to our friend John McLoughlin for taking this picture, wherever you are.

 

Fragments

pieces scribbled over the last few years

 

She loved the Lord when I met her,
and the way she lived her life,
caring for us, contented, happy…
this softened and tempered my wilder spirit.
So I know God made her for me,
by the coincidence of our meeting.
But did He make me for her,
when anyone could have loved her?
Feeling now that I never deserved her,
yet, certainly, no one could love her more.

 


Here is a secret we shared until now.

Early in our relationship, she confessed that she never liked her name and was self-conscious about it.   I asked her what name she would prefer and she said not to laugh and I said I wouldn’t and she told me immediately.  She had given it some thought.  So I assumed she would like it if I called her that and so I did, but after just a few times she said not to because it just didn’t seem right.  “I’m Francine,” she said.  “Just Francine.”  But I told her she could never be just anyone, and someday, if we wanted, we’d both change our names, because I wasn’t sure about mine, either.

She was the first girl I ever met named Francine, and the first girl anyone ever met named Francine Antoinette Sicilian!

 

craig.and.fran.0001


The following were written while in the pit of despair, 2017.
Can’t remember that year at all.
They’ll eventually be included as lyrics on the album. 

 

the lie

 

it had to be a lie

it had to be a lie that was told

a lie that was told that night

in the quiet winter room

she felt a tear fall – my mistake

in the dark, i had to utter it

that fantastical falsehood

whose meaning would calm her

don’t cry, she said

and so i whispered

i’ll be okay – don’t worry

and she slept.

and in that quiet winter room, i wept.

i would not have thought

would not have thought less of her

if she had cried too

 


 

the ancient hill

 

every moment ever spent away from her

i knew someday would reap regret

those careless attempts at what?

autonomy and pride?

if those moments could be retrieved

in a package, by a miracle

and lived right now, i swear

it would be enough for me

if God would only take me

set me on some ancient hill

with nothing else on earth

but she was with me still

that would be enough for us

i knew her well enough to say

and live those moments lost before

she could really go away

 


 

explorers

 

without a destination

in the distant days of earth

never worried where

tides of wind and rain and fate

somehow bring us there

where you are

(i soon will follow)

your spirit your vibration

can be remembered perfect

just move the planet

back and rewind the starlight

there we are again

explorers

no destination

 


 

 

unwound

 

this exquisite depression

push Your finger into clay

so exacting and precise

in its singular ability

to excavate the earth below me

the Potter forever spins His wheel

sixteen thousand days we had

isn’t that enough He asks

tensionless life not waiting

until i could see her once again

i sit in this shadow of the moon

my unnamed crater,  remembering

sixteen thousand days with her

cursed imperfect mem’ry

and every day without her

 


 

 

acceptance

 

there are problems with no remedies

things that can’t be fixed

puzzles missing pieces

drugs that can’t be mixed

in the fusion of our living

we had all that we could bear

carried burdens for each other

dragged my fingers through your hair

every day i wanted more

of that day when we first knew

that Francine was meant for me

and Craig was meant for you

but that did not concern you

you took days just as they came

you walked the road beside me

shared my coat when in the rain

there are gaps in the equation

and lives they end up broke

but i’m told that we’ll be whole again

when together we’ve awoke

but today there is no remedy

this problem can’t be fixed

this puzzle’s missing pieces

drugs i should not mix

 

 

 


 

E-Type

Starting a family was never anything she feared.  She knew I’d come around eventually.

So we sold the Jaguar E-Type that we had traded the Harley Sportster for the previous year.  It seemed like we only had the car for about five minutes, as it had been in the shop since we first got it.  We never missed the car that much, it not being a practical car for us.  But I really love the pictures with Fran standing next to it, pregnant with our first child.

 

fran.jag.1982

 

FRANCINE.JAGUAR.1982

Taken summer of ’82 at Hoover Reservoir Park, Westerville.

 

Waiting

We were young and aimless, spending a lot of time quietly walking and kissing in Union Cemetery.  There were trees, birds, solitude, the sound of the Olentangy River to the north, and to the west the now-defunct movie theater where we spent so much time.  I took ethereal photos of her in black and white along the mausoleum with her Brownie box camera.

fran.union.cemetary.a

We later discovered it could be used to take clumsy double exposures by not advancing the film.

union.cemetery.dbl.exp

It was a good place to talk and dream.  Two things I always did too much of then.  In that cemetery, it was only natural that our thoughts and conversation would eventually touch on the afterlife.

Thinking on death, we despaired of being separated.

So we made a compact between us, that whoever got to heaven first would wait at the gate to welcome the other so the late one would not have to be looking for the first.

It may be allowed.  Who are we to say?

This earthly promise is written in stone.

Surely, contracts are honored there.

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wait for me, my love

i beg you, wait

in the shade of that tree

just left of the gate

greet me there

with your embrace