I didn’t really know him. I knew things about him…maybe that’s as close as we can get to knowing another soul. We talk of “walking in somebody’s shoes” as if it was a possibility, but we cannot try on the experiences, fears, and dreams of anybody else. We’re barely acquainted with our own, at various points in our lives. The waters of another life must remain distant and impenetrable, much like a painting of a seascape hanging on the wall, and are not something we can ever dive into.
But back to the man: He was with my aunt for many years – as long as I can remember. They never married, she had once before I think but this was something my family never spoke of. He was from Maine. I remember that he was from Maine because he told me a story one Christmas of buying a truckload of Christmas trees and driving them down to sell in western Massachusetts, which is where my aunt was living. He may have told this story a few times, on those awkward holidays when he and my aunt accompanied my grandparents on their annual visit to our home in the eastern part of the state. More than likely, this story was repeated because it was apropos and also because there wasn’t much common ground between him and my brother and I. He was seemingly from rugged, rustic, working class stock and we were adolescents in an upper-middleclass suburb, the sons of writers. He was often dressed in flannel, and always carried a jackknife. I kept mine in a drawer since my lifestyle dictated that I rarely, if ever, needed it.
There are other things I can recall about him. He was an alcoholic, I don’t know how severe or how it impacted his life or those in close proximity to him, claimed to have seen a mountain lion once, hated the lounge singer Robert Goulet. Something about his face reminded me of Johnny Cash. In typical old New England fashion he wasn’t very talkative, but again, maybe he was open around people he felt more comfortable with.
He seemed to have a connection with the natural world, grounded and terrestrial, and not one for flights of imagination. But maybe I’m wrong. After all, I hardly knew ye. You have returned to the earth from which you came. May you rest in peace, Dave.
August 27, 2015