When Don and I were in high school a few miles from each other, we both spent many summer weekends at the Buffalo River in the Arkansas Ozarks. It was an ongoing party, and everyone belonged. There was indiscretion and wild abandon and merriment, floating the river during the day and talking by multiple campfires at night.
We joked over the last few years that we had probably encountered each other back then, just by the law of averages and geography.
When we met the first time in person, we were convinced of it, though. Either that or we had been separated at birth, one of us snatched from the nursery in a hospital in Van Buren County, to be separated from the other for 45 years--never mind the couple of years in difference in age. So clear was our recognition of each other. So intense was the feeling of seeing kin in each other.
We used to end phone calls with "you're my people." I told this to his sister yesterday and she started crying and said "me and him, we're just alike. I tell that to everybody I love."
He used to comment on my blogs with "it's time for you to come home."
He knew I was a restless soul and loved crashing around in the world. But he knew, and mirrored back to me in every conversation, that I was a girl from the Ozarks before I was ever anything else, and that red dirt and sorghum molasses and sweet tea were running through my veins as surely as blood.
He delighted in pointing out the soft contours of my accent, where the South remained and couldn't be hidden.
He made me promise never to dumb myself down. God, D, no one can get away with finding my vulnerability and saying it out loud. How did you pull that off?
I've been thinking a lot about the various handwringings about how to honor him.
And I think he wouldn't want it.
He was not a fan of the grand gesture.
I think he would want us to love each other, not suffer fools, say the hard word when it needed to be said, and extend the shoulder to cry on when that was called for.
He would want us to own our own issues and work on them with no need for attention.
He would want us to laugh at ridiculous youtube videos and poke fun at excess and putting on of airs.
He would want us to live our lives with integrity and call people and text them and IM them and remind them that someone far away thought they were worth the bandwidth and time.
He would want us to drink ordinary coffee and eat lots of Petit Jean bacon and say "pfffffft" when someone turned up their nose at it.
And shop at Wal-Mart.
And get on with our lives, and give away our love and commitments wantonly.
I am proud that he thought I deserved his friendship. I will miss him terribly.