Friday, January 14, 2011

Enduring friendship

When my husband and I relocated from Milwaukee area to Seattle in 1986, one of the reasons to celebrate was being nearer to many dear friends we had left behind when we moved away from Seattle fourteen years earlier.
Among those friends were Pat and Patsy O'Brian. Pat and Hubby had become friends in graduate school and continued an especially close relationship. Pat had informed us of his leukemia when we were living in Milwaukee, but he'd been holding his own and had seemed fairly robust the several times we had seen them in the prior two years.
When we arrived in Seattle in September of that year, it was apparent Pat was losing ground to his illness. We invited them over for dinner at Christmastime so our kids, who were "home" for the holidays, could visit with them. The O'Brians were among our kids' most favorite adults. When Pat and Patsy departed that evening, Hubby and I walked them out to the car. Pat turned to us and said, "You know, I won't be seeing your kids again. They have become lovely adults, and you can be proud."
He died in April of 1987.
I recently came across this poem, which I mailed to him a few days after I wrote it. Reading it brought back memories of our friend, one of the nicest human beings you'd ever want to meet. Here it is, offered in Pat's memory.
            To Pat O’Brian
I wanted you to be behind me
on the road, so I could stop to wait
for you whenever I needed to.
You always know what to say,
like “cackleberries,” “geegaw,”
and “You’re beautiful, Sal.”
You make me laugh.
But I’m not entirely sad,
knowing you will be standing
in the light, smiling, welcoming,
when I finally catch up.
I know how to talk with you.
I’m never shy with you.
Except now. Now I don’t know
what to say, except, “Damnit,
I wanted you to stay behind.”
I would play hostess and
welcome everyone. And when you
finally caught up you’d tell me,
“You’re beautiful, Sal,” and hug me.
And we’d laugh.
Three months isn’t even a season.
It isn’t even deep breath, nowadays—
just a shallow intake. I take some small
comfort knowing you’re ahead of me
and I will catch up.
And when I do, you’ll be smiling,
and you’ll probably say
“You’re beautiful, Sal.”
and then I’ll laugh.

© 2011 by Sara J. Glerum
All rights reserved. Electronic version published 2011

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sallie -- what a beautiful poem. (And thanks so much for the lovely birthday card!)-- J