You went away in March. The years and many another March have passed, but I still remember how it was. You were down in the sugar house, and we could see that you would soon be leaving us. When they told me you were gone, I went in the bedroom and shut the door. My heart felt like a stone and my eyes burned with dryness. I searched for you in my memory, burning you there so I wouldn't forget you. Now I have a photograph that I can conjure up when someone mentions your name, when I go to the places where you used to be, when I eat something you used to feed me, when the talk goes round to stories about you. It's a black and white photo, and the edges are worn and the corners are bent. There is a building in the photo, just the corner of it shows, but I know what building it is. There is a street, and a few trucks, and an El Camino, but there are no people. I know what street it is, and I know the trucks. I even know the El Camino. I think, if I can just look quick enough, I will catch a glimpse of you, walking around that corner. Your legs are long, and you have a stride that I can not keep up with.
I can go down that street and I will come to the place where I first met you. I am a very young bride, and you are my mans best friend. You two have known eachother since you were babies, you can't remember ever not knowing eachother. You are tall, dark and handsome, you are funny and you are brash. I have never met anyone like you before in my life.
You are a hunter, and a trapper and a fisherman, all things that are new to me. You have the gift of gab, and I think you have kissed the blarney stone. You love to eat. I have never seen anyone enjoy food like you do. Along the way, you bring me places and get me to try things. Things like steamed clams, dripping with butter, Oysters Rockafeller, creamy on the half shell, lobster, not at all like what I think it will taste like, Soup of escargot, salty and smooth.
You leave back for the east, and we soon follow you. We see each other many times a week. You are generous. You bring us stories from your travels and gifts from afar. Sheepskin rugs, because I have a cold floor, a sourdough start from Alaska, because I like to bake, otter skins that I trim and line a jacket with. You take us to resturants that are way beyond our limits, prime rib, gourmet sandwiches. You take us to Italy (in Boston) where there are frescos on the walls and the menus are in Italian and a valet parks the car. You take us in your fur shack, and we learn how to trap, and skin, and flesh, and sell, and buy.
You come for coffee every Christmas morning, bringing us oranges and love. You stay so late in the nights, you two, talking, that I go to bed and leave you there, filling ashtrays and emptying the coffeepot. You befriend my children. They all love you. We have so many saunas at your house, way too many to count. You take me for a ride in your Peterbuilt, I wide eyed and feeling important, liking the feel of the wheels beneath us.
When your life falls apart, I let you have a bed, I do your laundry, I cry for you, I pray for you. Even when you are living in your car, you cook us steaks, down by the lake. We eat and talk and laugh until it gets dark. A huge July moon rises up over the edge of the lake, all shimmery and golden across the water. You throw in the coals from the cook fire, and they flare up, mini fireworks skittering across the shore.
You send me flowers when we have a new baby, you buy sour cream butter from me, when I have a cow. You admire our garden, and help us wrestle run away pigs. There are bits and pieces of all that we did and all that we had all over the place. I am bumping into them all the time. Sometimes ,even still, I want to kick the ground, real viciuosly, and say, "Why did you go away? You could have taken better care of yourself." I know that won't do any good. A sore toe can't bring you back.
I'll keep giving that photo a quick glance, still hoping....to catch one more glimpse of you...for all you've taught me.