Sittin On A Porch

Sittin On A Porch
Our little back porch

Monday, May 23, 2011

A weekend of being together

Friday I packed the toy, put the top down and drove down to Weeki Wachi where I picked up Colleen and on to Gulfport to Billy and Linda's.  It was a gorgeous day for a drive.  We got to Gulfport and my oh my has it grown.  Not that it is a big place, but it is a happening kind of place.  There are restaurants and bars, a real nightlife, with a beach and atmosphere of Key West.  I had always thought of this as a sleepy little quiet place hidden among all the party beaches and big towns/cities.  It is still a quiet little town, but with life.  

It is always wonderful to get to be with Linda and Colleen.  Best friends, and so similar in some ways and exact opposites in others.  That always makes for a memorable weekend.  Linda and Billy took care of most of the arrangements for the Memorial Service.  Partly because they are here where Larry was born and spent most of his life growing up, and partly because they are get it done kind of people.  They live in a beautiful house on the water with the perfect back yard, with cool Florida shade.  That subtropical shade filled with familiar scents and memories of my own youth.  Growing up less then an hour south.  Billy has laid a brick area that is cool even at midday with temperatures reaching for the 90s.  And it looks like a place where an evening with friends would be delightful.  And it was.  We went to Osgood Point to see Linda's choices of where to have the service and the tossing of the ashes.  Plenty of parking and on top of a raised area, that Bonnie, Larry's cousin said was the old salvage dump.  There was a covered pavilion over looking the park with an Osprey pole/nest and two busy parents feeding their two nestlings.  It was perfect.  

Larry and I had raised two ospreys when we lived on Pine Island, Jasper and Jesper.  Jesper we raised from before he had quills.  He sort of turned into the neighborhood mascot with everyone in the neighborhood sharing their catch with him as he grew and then with his mate and the nestlings she raised.  He was always sort of human/bird.  Never completely an osprey, always an "ugly duckling" sort of thing.  He grew into a beautiful, proud, large osprey, but his DNA was not correctly stimulated, and his parents did not have wings or understand the world in the same way as a fishing hawk.  But a 600 square foot house really is too small to raise a beautiful, proud, large osprey.  And I had just had surgery and was supposed to be resting for 6 weeks.  Instead, I spent the time washing osprey poop off of walls until he was big enough, and we had built a place big enough for him on the deck.

The pavilion was perfect.  We had a couple choices to do the ash tossing.  I chose the lower easier to get to boardwalk that went over a break in the mangroves to give us a run of water.  There were mullets, bigger then fingerlings, but still small.  Hermit crabs and the smell of home.  Brackish water that grows brown when it rains.  Easy for my father to get to.  The pavilion was out of the question of him.  But the boardwalk was easy and level and we were able to put him in a camp chair with an umbrella.  My nephew, Nathaniel stayed with him.  It was hot, but there was a nice breeze, and typical May temperatures.  

We placed the photos on the canvas boards that Linda and Colleen had bought.  Each of them had an easel to put the collages on.  So we were set for Saturday.  We had dinner in a Greek restaurant and typical of a small town, we weren't there 15 minutes before someone they knew came up to say hello.  Then Colleen and I headed across the pass to the beaches to stay with her dad for the night.

What a lovely man he is.  Six daughters, and the oldest and wildest, Ms Colleen.  She is a treasure, and I am sure from the stories he told of her growing up, a challenge.  He is retired military and then retired again from the Federal government.  He was, actually still is, a pilot.  Well he maintains his pilot license, but he does not have the medical requirement to be ale to fly.    But his words fly in and out of stories from all over the world, all told with fondness in tone of one who has lived his life.  Stories of his daughters, of flying of work and love and being retired and dealing with challenges of illness.  Such a pleasure to have spent the little time I got to spend with him.  He absolutely adores each and every one of his six daughters and his grandchildren.

Saturday we were at the park by noon, had everything set up in no time, and rearranged again as we learned about the breeze and the last details to get all ready.  People started arriving just after us.  The first were Jerry and Jeannie.  Dear beloved friends from Ft. Myers.  They brought love and hugs from so many friends in Ft. Myers unable to come.  I have not seen them in too long, and it was so good to wrap my arms around that girl and just hug her.  I referred to her as "Larry's private stripper."  She was confused because she had never stripped for him.  That is true, but both Larry and I loved the fact that she was just so comfortable with herself, and even though we knew her at the end of that career, she was the only person who did that for a living that both of us were friends with.  And that girl to this day just has that something about her.  And even though Jeannie and I were closer friends and Larry was closer to her sister Christine, Larry adored Jeannie.  Everything about her.  

It did not take long until people were gathering and remembering old time, talking about Larry and the park and growing up here.  How is so and so?  What are you up to?  You look great!  Words said with smiles on an occasion of letting go and saying goodbye.  Words said as arms were wrapped around necks and waists, hugged deep and strong.  Cathy, Larry's first "wife" was there.  They were never actually married, but were together over 10 years old, and even years after Larry and I were married, there was still a spark between them.  I always loved that spark.  Living with Larry was always the wonderful, but challenging.  And she was the only person in the world that understood it in a similar way as I.  And even though they had gone their separate ways.  Each finding a love that lasted, they still always cared for each other.  That is a special gift to be with someone that can still care for another.  They did not regret or wish for a different outcome.  They both found a deep love that was the right person, and it was never uncomfortable to be around each other.  Cathy and her husband, Ollie, lived on the other side of the canal from us, about 4 houses up from us.  So we passed each other daily.  She looked wonderful. 

Bonnie, Larry's cousin was there and she and I threw out the ashes together on the boardwalk.  It was wonderful to have her by my side then.  She was one of the five people who said something there on the pavilion.  Billy was our master of ceremony, in a matter of speaking.  He and Linda had brought a CD player and some CDs.  When Billy put on the Over the Rainbow sung by the Hawaiian man, that was the single for everyone to get into their place for the ceremony.  Then Billy welcomed everyone, and Colleen read a poem.  Then Billy read a poem.  By that point, everyone had tears in their eyes.  Bonnie read a letter from Calvin, her brother, and even though they were Larry's cousins, he was always closer to Bonnie and Calvin then his own brothers.  Carl and Sandy were much older then the other three and they really grew up in different worlds and generations.  Jerry, Jeannie's husband told stories from Ft. Myers apologizing that he had only known Larry for 25 years, which made us all laugh.  So many people had known him their entire lives.  Playing little league together, getting in trouble in school together, spending time at the marina there.  Jerry told stories about throwing chicken wings at Larry's head.  You had to be there, but we all understood.  The last person to speak told of having a crush on Larry since before she was in kindergarten, and that she still had that crush to this day.  

The breeze died back, and the tide flowed under the boardwalk, perfect for sending Larry on his way.  We each poured our bags of ashes into the water and everyone else tossed roses in with us.  The ashes swirled and played with the tide then settled down into the deep rich nourishing muck or flowed along with the water.  Roses strange but beautifully out of place floated near us then slipped away.  

We all turned to our vehicles and headed to Ted Peter's Smoked Fish Restaurant.  They had put the air-conditioned room aside for us, and we filled it.  We filled it with laughter and stories, catching up with long lost friends over icy mugs of root beer and smoked fish spread and saltine crackers.  Ted Peter's brag about the size of their burgers, and with good reason.  It was the perfect ending of hellos and goodbyes.  Of sending off a friend that brought us all together from so many different places.  Together to say good-bye.  To say we love you, now go in peace.  Time for us to shut that door.  To hold him in our memories and as Calvin said, to remember the good times, because they were what Larry was really all about.  Love, life and happiness.  Jeannie led a toast to Larry.  

She also gave me a bag of presents and things that make me smile.  A bottle of merlot, a throw with bright 1960 style flowers on it, a slinky, a ladybug bag holder, a color it in velvet coloring sheet, and a hat.  It made me laugh.  It was like a hug from her all over when I got home.

And as we got in our cars and drove in our separate ways.  Friends of both of ours.  Dearest beloveds that like Sioux, I had just seen a week ago, and others that I had not seen for maybe 10 years or more.  And we drove off, with smiles and memories, just made and just remembered off from the familiar scent of Ted Peters.  The smoke house smoking the mullet and salmon and other fatty fish.  But more then the smell of wood and fish and burgers, it is the smell of childhood for so many of the people there.  And even for those of us who did not grow up with Ted Peters, we had own our version of the same type of place where we grew up.  It was the perfect way to end this day.  A reminder of how similar we all are, and how comforting it is to come together and remember that.

Dad, Christopher and I drove home over the skyway.  I drove over the skyway in a convertible with the top down.  I was terrified of the old bridge.  An irrational fear of tall bridges.  It is irrational, but it is very real.  I have worked hard to suppress it so that it does not hold me back from going where I want to go.  I still prefer to find another way, even if it just means someone else driving, to avoid driving over these type of bridges, but this time, I drove over with 2 of my favorite people.  

I dropped Christopher off at home and made arrangements for everyone to come to dinner at dad's at 6.  Just prepared food from Publix, but the opportunity to get together as a family and talk and laugh.  A supportive family that supported me this weekend, like they always support me.  They were there for Larry and for me.  Sharing their love and strength with me to do this final act for Larry.

We were all tired, and the family left early.  That gave time for Dad and me just to sit, talk, and watch TV.  Well, the TV was on, but I don't know what shows they were.  Dad told stories about his and mother's summers at Culver Military Academy in North Carolina.  Some of my dad's happiest years were spent there, and even though he has told me so many stories of this place, there are always new unheard special little nuggets that catch me a little off guard.  

My father loves me dearly, and my cancer is so hard on him.  But it has helped him to express his feelings for me.  As loved as my brothers and I were, our parents were not big huggers and kissers.  They were a little more reserved with us.  Not to say that we were not hugged and kissed.  But we were say more what you would expect out of an English family versus say an Italian family.  

As the only daughter, I grew up adored as the only girl child, and I always recognized that love.  I still feel that deep connection with my family.  That relationship not based on similarities and friendship, but of blood.  That sense of belonging, regardless of how different in temperament.  That indescribable connection in our DNA that says to survive, you must cling together, recognize your clan, your family, your cave.  

After dad and I had breakfast, I stopped by briefly to see Christopher before heading out.  Then with the top down, I pointed the toy north on I-75 and drove.  Home, heading for home.  Heading away from home.  I was in that in-between place.  In between my family and home, where roots are strongly planted in a house that my parents moved to nearly 60 years ago.  Where I still have a bedroom.  In-between where I have chosen to live.  To where my boys, Harry and Bob are.  Where my chickens scratch and cluck and my bunnies eat my garden.  Where the cats wait, the flowers bloom.  My bells hang and where I sing and dance and plant seeds and live my life.  Where my "family" of dear beloved friends live.  

A weekend to remember how much we love and share with each other.  A weekend to remember our roots, and unconditional love of a parent and child.  A deep long lasting love of a wife and husband.  The love and support of family and friends as close as family.  Of friends made through the love of another.  Of cherished people and love, held through challenges and laughter, that continues on through generations.  That even if not so often done, relationships celebrated and remembered for beginnings and endings.   Marriages, births, deaths, grandchildren and places that change and some that remain the same.  Memories filled with smoked fish spread and root beer, hunting through salvage dumps filled with magical treasures, of little league and first grade teachers.  Of being adults and our parents children.  
Beginnings and endings.
Laughter and tears
Life is wonderful
And I am so grateful for this weekend, for the time with loved ones, and the time alone to just drive.  To put the top down and drive.  Familiar roads leading in-between lives and worlds.
Beginnings and endings.

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like a good celebration of his life and of yours as well. A renewal of the spirits.