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

David Evans

I'm retired from another life and live in the mountains of eastern West Virginia with my muse Jody along with one little and two big dogs and a diminishing pride of two cats and other critters who come along the path from time to time. I retired one morning years ago when I woke up and said, "This is the day." It was simply time to do something new with my life. I had done whatever I did long enough, and now it was time to do something else. Being independent and no longer in the reins of someone else's driver, I believe I have found something to cherish that I never had before. Retirement may be dull and boring, but that's true only if you are dull and boring. But if you’re like I was, and am, I saw a lot of things as I went along the trail that I would have liked to linger over a lot longer if I had had the time to spare. Above all, I wanted to think about what they meant and have the chance to go back over them and figure them out. I'm not abashed to say that today I lead a life of real luxury. I also recognize that I'm a lucky boy. In the words of Katherine Anne Porter: "My life has been incredible, I don't believe a word of it." I am the author of the recently published collection of essays entitled Meeting Memory In The Dark. Earlier I self-published Words To Woo Her By And Other Distractions Along The Way; Tunes of Glory: The Slow Ticking of the Heart; Cradle My Soul: Glimpses Into Other Lives; and Unscheduled Stops: Essays on Love, Loss and Other Roadside Attractions. All are available on either Amazon or Create Space, a subsidiary of Amazon. Proceeds go to the Almost Heaven Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary in Capon Bridge, West Virginia.