Yesterday, a friend showed off some old photographs she had recently received of ancestors. Looking at them, I recognized 19th-century clothing, architecture, and toys similar to those in photos of my own "greats" long gone. I also thought, sadly, about the small black leather photo album of my father as a young man in the 1920s and '30s now missing, along with much of the physical evidence of his life. Too late, we often realize how precious the stuff of our lives can be, offering silent testimony to those who loved us that we lived and that we mattered.
At Christmas, my friend Betsy's father gave me two photographs and an obituary published by his men's club. (Daddy had been a member for 62 years when he died.) The photographs show my father and his best friend Arthur at Daddy's 90th birthday celebration. (This year marks the centennial year of his birth. He died in 2005.) One measure of a man might be his devotion to friends and theirs to him. If that is a true measure, then my father died rich, as his friends held him dear.When both Uncle Arthur and Daddy were showing the effects of old-age dementia, they still drove (long after they should have) to The Redstone Club luncheon every Friday. Sometimes, they would get lost and arrive late; sometimes they got so lost that they never arrived. Not long after both had died, my father's only sister also died, and at her funeral the priest said something like, "Bertha is surely in heaven now, in Billy's and Arthur's backseat, giving them driving directions."Even in death, perhaps, Daddy's friends provide good company.