Southern Life

“Upon discovering my entire solution to the attainment of immortality erased from the blackboard except the word ‘Save’”

As we prepare for the weekend visit of an old high school pal Paul, my wife Jody has kicked into full entertainment mode and is excitedly planning menus for Friday and Saturday dinners. This is a noteworthy visit since Paul will be introducing us to his new special lady friend Diane.

Paul’s late wife Donna, affectionately known as “Ditdah” to those privileged to have been part of her life, slipped away into the great mystery nearly three years ago just this side of Thanksgiving.

As we prepare for the visit, I have reread Dobby Gibson’s poem, since it seems to capture the sense of loss, yet holds the promise of a new beginning.

“If you have seen the snow
somewhere slowly fall
on a bicycle,
then you understand
all beauty will be lost
and that even the loss
can be beautiful…

Ditdah and I sat together in band playing our French horns, she much better than I, over 50 years ago, in Ohio. Across the way, Paul played trombone. She had eyes for no one except Paul despite my pestering attention. When she graduated a year before me, she signed her yearbook photo, “Good luck, kid, you’ll need it.”

Years afterward by the grace of fortune we were all reunited and became friends again. She had been carrying something inside her, though, for a few years that was her constant malignant companion. Her sardonic humor kept the beast at bay for nearly a decade, while she endured various treatments but always bounced back for the the good times, the best being the birth of her granddaughter, an event a step or two above rooting for her beloved Buckeyes when they won another national football championship.

“And if you have looked
At a winter garden
and seen not a winter garden
but a meditation on shape,
then you know why
this season is not
known for its words,
the cold too much
about the slowing of matter,
not enough about the making of it.

Paul is a city boy, but enjoys visiting our wooded retreat. In the woods, I had found the peace that I needed at an earlier time in my life. The woods indeed can be dark and deep, but they are also a source of life and healing.

Paul and Ditdah were married over 40 years and were fellow travelers during her lengthy illness.

Although he went further and further into the dark woods after her passing, he eventually found his way home. And whatever guides us through the good and the bad led him to Diane, originally from Ohio, too, but who had lived most of her adult life in Baton Rouge.  She is now back in Ohio and has found that special person in Paul as he has in her.

“So you are blessed
to forget this way:
a jump rope in the ice melt,
a mitten that has lost its hand,
a sun that shines
as if it didn’t mean it.

As part of our welcome, Jody has decided on a special recipe that we plan to serve for dessert when we meet Diane. It’s called Red Wine Ice Cream courtesy of Amanda Hesser from The Essential New York Times Cookbook. It includes two full bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon reduced to a cup. As Ms Hesser describes this treat, “It’s like inserting the principal in a classroom. The cream perks up, the spices sing, and a sudden sense of peace and order takes over the ice cream.”

Despite the horrid news of the day, despite trying to fathom the unfathomable recognition that life seems cheap and expendable to so many, we plan to lose ourselves in celebrating this rebirth of optimism and joy. As we all grow older and our old wounds are scarred over enough to remind us of who we are and how we got here, it is a joy to welcome new friends into our lives, friends who are special friends of old friends.

“And if in another season
you see a beautiful woman
use her bare hands
to smooth wrinkles
from her expensive dress
for the sake of dignity,
but in so doing trace
the outlines of her thighs,
then you will remember
surprise assumes a space
that has first been forgotten,
especially here, where we
rarely speak of it,
where we walk out onto the roofs
of frozen lakes
simply because we’re stunned
we really can.”

###

David Evans

I'm retired from another life and live in the mountains of eastern West Virginia with my muse Jody along with one remaining dog.  We've decided no more dogs and cats.  Losing them is just too painful. Being independent and no longer in the reins of someone else's driver, I now have the chance to revisit the many people and places that have enriched my life. The good folks at Wesleyan College in central West Virginia guided me to a graduate degree in fine arts in early 2018.  My plan is to use some of the skills I learned from two years in this creative writing program to tell my story.