June 04, 2015

Sunset and evening star

We met in third grade so we’ve been friends for 45 years. I’ve written before about Outdoor Girl and some of our high school experiences: how we used to take breaking in new jeans seriously and how we went winter camping in the mountains or how we spent hours after school just wandering the halls. Her family matched mine – five kids roughly the same ages. My mother and her father were friends as well: they shared a love of birdwatching and went to Audubon meetings together.

As a teenager, I spent many hours at Outdoor Girl’s house. Like most big families, they had two bedrooms for the kids, a boys’ room and a girls’ room, but she and I would grab sleeping bags and sleep downstairs in the sewing room, so that we could stay up and talk all night. Her family had a long red toboggan that we took on the hills in Snowstorm City, back in the days before the parks banned sledding because someone decided it was too dangerous. They had a yellow canoe, which was almost always tied to the roof of their station wagon. “It makes it easy to find our car in any parking lot,” her mother joked once. Her father did as much gardening as he could in their small backyard: he had apple trees and little raised beds of vegetables.

Their house was familiar and comfortable. The long bench along the kitchen table made it possible for extras to squeeze in, and I ate many meals there. I can remember Outdoor Girl’s father showing me how to use a spoon to twirl long spaghetti around my fork. (We always ate ziti at my house.) On weekends, he’d make us French toast for breakfast: their family used maple syrup instead of butter and cinnamon sugar like my family. Just behind the long table was the family room, where we kids would sprawl on the floor with pillows. I can remember that when we watched the movie Lawrence of Arabia, Outdoor Girl’s father liked it so much that he applauded at the end.

Outdoor Girl moved away from this area right after college, but I go over to visit whenever she comes to town to see the family. It’s always easy to pick up the friendship: she hasn’t changed much. Her hair is white, her kids are grown-up, and she’s acquired a southern accent from living in a southern rural area for so long, but otherwise she’s just the same. She still loves to be outside: she and her husband are farmers.

Last weekend, Outdoor Girl came to town for her father’s funeral. Even though we’ve known for a while that he was dying, it still seems a shock to me that the good-natured, gentle man I’ve known for so many years is gone. Often, I used to see him at Pretty Colour Lake, standing at the edge with a fishing pole. He’d look up, smile a hello, and tell me all the family news. He was a gentle, good-natured, thoroughly nice person. He was 84, and that still seems too young. I know his family is going to miss him.

12 comments:

Lomagirl said...

What sorrow to say goodbye to heart family as well as blood family. I so enjoy your theme of love and love and love repeated throughout your stories.

Friko said...

It’s so sad when special people leave us. There are plenty of the nasty variety who seem to linger for ever.
You and Outdoor Girl will have lots to remember him by. It’ll feel as if he hadn’t gone at all.

susan said...

I'm so very sorry for your loss--although glad, as ever, to read of all the love flowing across and around generations in your networks.

Mwa said...

What a wonderful thing - to be able to be there for an old friend in such a time.

TexWisGirl said...

i'm sorry for the loss of your friend's father. i know how special a longtime friend is...

L said...

Oh, that was beautiful. I'm sorry about your friend's loss, but delighted by your post, particularly revisiting the old posts about the 70s! You should write more posts about the past! Or once in a while (once a week?!) write a post with links to old posts like that.

Sometimes when I have time I read your archives, but it's hard to do that with so many things to do... sigh...

As always, thanks for sharing these memories with us!

Debbie said...

it's always difficult, even when it is "expected"!! he sounds like a nice man, someone one would wish to have in their life. you will feel a void but it sounds like he lived a nice, long life!!!

Marty Damon said...

What a beautiful eulogy. Her father sounded like such a special person that you brought tears to my eyes. You're so very lucky to have been able to stay in touch with your friend over the years.

Janey and Co. said...

I love the way you have put your memories on paper. You and outdoor girl have a wonderful shared history. So sad to say goodbye to her father. I know she appreciated you being there for her.

Jeanie said...

Eighty-four used to be so old, but now seems so in the prime. Young or old, there is never a good time to lose a father or a beloved friend, a kind human being, someone filled with life and humour and activity and the essence of joy -- that's the man you described. My heart goes out to Outdoor Girl on the loss of her father and to you, for as I'm all too unfortunate to know, losing friends/role models/people who played a role in our lives is difficult and sad indeed.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I enjoyed hearing about your recollections...good memories! My sympathy, yes 84 seems young now but years ago that was really old! :)

EG CameraGirl said...

The older I get, the younger 84 seems to be. I'm sorry for your loss.