Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gratitude, forgetting, gratitude, forgetting...

A few weeks ago, as I was writing--burning off the caffeine of my second cup of tea--Ed slid into the seat across from me. "I have a poem for you to read," he said, pulling a sheet of paper from somewhere inside of his powder blue windbreaker.

I've been talking with Ed, an 80-something regular at the cafe where I write, for three years. We chat about the weather, his declining health, my smile, which he always teases out of me. In all this time, he's never shared anything personal, never seated himself at my table.

“A poem?” I blinked up from the silty bottom of myself where I'd been trawling, practicing holding my breath forever. I struggled up to meet Ed, lungs filled with magic air.

Ed, quite hard of hearing, reads my lips, nods. “My wife wrote it,” he says, unfolding the paper like a treasure map, pressing his fingers along the folds. “I worked at the National Broadcast Company-in supplies. I don’t know why she was interested in me. I was so shy. She was shy too I guess. She was from the music department.”

"We were married at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York," he says. "I lived in Brooklyn. She was from New Jersey. We thought we'd make the wedding in the middle, even though she wasn’t Catholic.”

He tells me that, on the morning of the wedding, a friend gave him a ride; picked him up early; drove all the way into town before, "at the Hotel Pennsylvania,” he says. “We realized I’d brought the wrong bag. I didn’t have my wedding suit.”

He dispatched another friend to run back to Brooklyn for the suit. Ed went inside the church to explain. “I was half an hour late to my own wedding,” he tells me, laughing. “The priest was impatient. ‘Eddie,’ he told me. " I’ve another wedding right behind you. Lace up those shoes!’”

After the wedding, Ed waited outside the church, greeting guests. “My wife was inside looking for me. I made a lot of mistakes.”

“What was her name?”

“Muriel,” he says. “She died... 57…”

“In 1957?” I’m trying to do the math. She’d have been so young. Did they have any children?

“What’s that?” he asks, leaning forward.

“Was she 57 when she passed, or was it 1957?”

He shakes his head. "She was 57. The cancer just swept her away.” He sighs.

The poem, "Ode to Eddie," calls him a flirtatious hunk with dazzling blue eyes. All the girls wonder why he hasn’t been plucked, it reads. Any of us would gladly try our luck.

In Ed's beautiful eyes, there has always been this twinkle. I can just imagine him, years ago. He's still a charmer. “You must have been something,” I say.

“What’s that?” he leans closer. I amplify, speaking slowly. He grins. “I was very shy.”

He takes the poem from me, refolds it into a precious packet which he tucks back into a pocket. “I never knew who wrote it,” he says. “She didn't tell me until we we'd been dating a while."

He pulls himself to his feet with his walker. “I thank you for the gift of your time,” he says. My response is drowned by the sound of the espresso machine.

Today, I showed this post to Ed and he read it with tears in his eyes - I watched him read, my own eyes brimming. He corrected a few errors - "I knew she wrote the poem before we were married," he said; and he told me the year Muriel had died, 1981. He gave me permission to run the story here, adding, "I don't know why you'd want to tell my little story..."

I tried to explain why his story had touched me, why I thought it might touch my readers. But he couldn't hear me. So I hugged him. And for both of us, that was gratitude enough.

-------

Note: The title of this little slice of life comes from David Gonzales, a brilliant storyteller and performer, who blesses my life with his friendship.

6 comments:

Cindy Breninger said...

I LOVE this. Made me smile. :)
Cindy

chompermom said...

I am fascinated by personal love stories that older people have. We tend to forget that they were once young, too, with passion and good looks like the rest of us. :)

Gayle Fox said...

This is beautiful Amy! Your writing comes right from the heart, as always. I to, have an older gentleman friend. His distinguished manners along with the beautiful stories of a life lived long ago, make his company a delight! Thank you for sharing...
Gayle

Shelly Kramer said...

I love stories like this, Amy. Thank Eddie for me, when next you see him. And tell him I've always had a soft place in my heart for charmers like him. Mwah to you, my friend. Clearly, you do, too.

Julie Jordan Scott said...

Beautiful. My parents have quite a love affair now that they are 77 and 78. My Dad has even taken to reading my poetry, especially if someone in the family is included. He used to say "I don't understand poetry" and then, when I wrote about my Grandpa and the railroad, all that changed. Love, love, love your story, all stories from the heart!

Julie Jordan Scott said...
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