To An Old Friend
by Edgar A. Guest
When we have lived our little lives
and wandered all their byways through,
when we’ve seen all that we shall see
and finished all that we must do,
when we shall take one backward look
off yonder where our journey ends,
I pray that you shall be as glad as I
shall be that we were friends.
Time was we started out to find
the treasures and the joys of life;
we sought them in the land of gold
through many days of bitter strife.
When we were young we yearned for fame;
in search of joy we went afar,
only to learn how very cold
and distant all the strangers are.
When we have met all we shall meet
and know what destiny has planned,
I shall rejoice in that last hour that I
have known your friendly hand.
I shall go singing down the way
off yonder as my sun descends
as one who’s had a happy life,
made glorious by the best of friends.
From Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co
Over the Christmas holidays I dug out my dictionary and learned a few new words. The first was Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day a couple of weeks ago. The second is the word I’d have used.
1 : to give off or reflect light in bright beams or flashes : sparkle
2 : to be brilliant or showy in technique or style
1 : to emit sparks : spark
2 : to emit quick flashes; sparkle (stars scintillate in the sky)
3. to throw off, as a spark or as sparkling flashes (scintillate witticisms)
Here’s tale I wrote to use my new word:
Lacey stood by the entry to the restaurant and smiled as her new friend walked through the door.
“Hope you haven’t been waiting long?”
“No, just got here.” Lacey turned as the hostess came toward them. “We’re ready to be seated now.”
She and the other single working girl had seen each other different times at this downtown café, each one dining alone. One day when the two of them arrived at the same time, Lacey asked the other girl if she’d like to share a table. It was a savvy move on her part; the two hit it off well.
She learned that the young woman’s name was Sarina and she worked at an office building down the block from Lacey. They were almost the same age, both came from small towns to find a job in the city. Each of them enjoyed reading historical mysteries, so were soon comparing notes about their favourite authors and suggestion books for the other. When they parted they agreed to meet every Monday for lunch; today was their third time.
They followed their hostess and she seated them at table right next to a large group. Their orders were quickly taken and they had a scintillating conversation about office politics as they waited for their food.
At first the clank of cutlery and murmurs of conversation were all they heard from the next table, but after those dinners were done and their plates were cleared away, they started making witty remarks that made Lacey and Sarina grin. They caught on that it was one fellow’s thirtieth birthday and he proved himself good at repartee as the various remarks were fired at him.
His friends were teasing him about “soon needing a cane, having dentures fitted, buying a toupee” and such. When he noticed Lacey and Sarina chuckling over one comment, he winked at them and told everyone his eyesight hadn’t dimmed yet. He could still appreciate beauty when he saw it.
Someone suggested they’d seen the one beauty before. A few details were exchanged and Lacey was excited to learn that this group of people worked for an insurance company three floors above her office and one of the women rode the same bus to work.
A few minutes later two waiters came with dessert plates and a third followed, carrying a huge piece of cake with a sparkler coruscating on the top. At a signal everyone began to sing “Happy Birthday.” Lacey and Sarina joined in, happy to enjoy a moment of camaraderie with the unknown group.
Before they left, Lacey invited her fellow bus rider to join them for lunch next Monday. Sarina seconded the offer after she noticed a paperback poking out of the other woman’s purse. Another historical mysteries reader.
A joke or a song or a handshake,
a letter that comforts or cheers;
a meeting or parting, more precious
because of the smiles or the tears.
A five minutes’ sit after dinner,
a “Thank you” that lends the heart wings;
all these are but trifles, yet surely
they’re also life’s wonderful things!
From the 1969 Friendship Book of Francis Gay
We moved back to Saskatchewan from Quebec in 1998 and I soon made the acquaintance of an older lady in Saskatoon. In time she became very dear to me, though she lives in another province now. Over the time we’ve been friends I’ve had lots of fun visits with her. We went out for coffee often and I helped her figure out various things.
You see, she’s what sociologists call “functionally illiterate.” Bank statements, bills, contracts, sales slips: she’s brought them to me and had me figure them out — until she moved away five years ago. She finds it about impossible to figure out her (direct-deposit) pension by looking at her bank statement. She can buy things, but has a hard time looking at the sales bill and figuring what she should have gotten for change. Also, she was often suspicious people were cheating her.
This spring she called me up one day, all alarmed because of the discrepancy in a purchase she’d made. The item cost $6.25 and only got back a dime and a nickel (15¢). It really bothered her to think that sales clerk had cheated her. I did a quick bit of math and reminded her of the 60¢ tax on her purchase, which would account for the difference. Ahh! She was happy again and we had a nice visit.
Concepts like health, nutrition, drugs and their use, all needed to be explained in the simplest terms. Different times I went to the doctor with her and translated. She didn’t ask him, because she didn’t want to appear dumb.
One day she told me her doctor had said she was borderline diabetic. “But how can a person be ‘borderline’ diabetic?” she asked me, somewhat annoyed with her doctor for that dumb diagnosis. “I figure it’s like being pregnant: either you are or you aren’t.”
I went for a simple illustration. “Your body’s pancreas, that makes insulin, is somewhat like a well. A well holds so-and-so much water, but when the well’s almost empty, there’s just a bit of water and the bottom is muddy. That’s borderline. When there’s no trace of water or even mud, we say the well’s gone dry.
“Our pancreas gland makes insulin as long as it can, but when it can’t keep up anymore, we’re on the borderline of having diabetes. When the gland stops producing insulin, we can’t digest sugar anymore. We’re diabetic and need to take pills or injections to make up for what our body can’t do.”
That made sense to her.
Before she moved, being almost eighty and forgetful, she was misplacing things, then was convinced they were moved or stolen. “Someone with a key, ” she claimed, “is coming into my apartment and taking things or moving stuff around.”
With her eyesight not being very good, she couldn’t see the normal wear-and-tear until something was quite worn. Then she’d say, “Look what someone did to my blanket. They frayed it somehow. It wasn’t like this before.” Sometimes the intruder would scatter a few things on the floor, just to annoy her.
She was convinced that “someone” was watching — that is, sitting beside a closed-circuit camera somewhere all day — to see whenever she went out. Then they’d come in and do mischief. She started hiding her precious things (she had nothing of any real value to a thief) like her many rings and watches into suitcases so they wouldn’t be stolen. Which made things even worse because she couldn’t remember which suitcase they were in.
I tried to be a helpful friend and hurried to the city several times to help her find important “lost or stolen” bank card, wallet, credit card, etc. Thankfully they’ve always turned up — in her apartment. I’ve helped her replace credit cards when she’s lost them. I’ve tried to be patient and be there (if I could) when she needed help or transportation, even though it meant an hour-long trip to town.
She bought a motion sensor camera to catch the culprit but, though it’s been set to take a picture every minute, saw no trace of the culprit on her film chip. I tried to convince her that people have more to do with their lives than sit and watch her apartment on closed circuit camera all day, but one thing I’ve learned over the years: you can’t reason with paranoia. Fear doesn’t respond to common sense.
She extracted a trace of criticism from what I said, got angry with me for not being supportive, and wouldn’t speak to me for a couple of months.
I was happy for her when, with the help of her children, she moved to a seniors assisted-living apartment in another city and her intruder woes faded away. I do miss her — just not THAT part of her nature.
Fandango’s prompt today: TRACE
by Edgar A Guest
I’m getting along, with a bit of a song
and a bit of a smile for my neighbor.
I’ve managed to grin, with the little I win
day by day as the bit from my labor.
Time was in the past I stood often aghast
as the storms of despair swept around me
but my ship, although small, bravely weathered them all
and nothing I’ve dreaded has downed me.
I’ve not had the luck which some others have struck;
I’ve neither been famous nor wealthy,
but I’ve always had meat when I wanted to eat
and I thank the good Lord I’ve been healthy.
Some things I have missed on the millionaire’s list,
but the friends I have made have been true ones;
I have always had suits, shirts and neckties and boots
though I couldn’t afford many new ones.
I’m getting along , just as one of the throng.
Day by day I have worked for my money;
but in spite of the care and the burdens I bear
I’ve supped of life’s nectar and honey.
My house isn’t large, but love has it in charge
and in peace and contentment I dwell there,
and all men I defy to be happier than I
when a friend puts his hand to the bell there.
I’m getting along, with a bit of a song
for I’ve learned what I knew not at twenty,
that enough for each day—with a bit put away
for the cares of my old age—is plenty.
I have eaten and slept, and at times I have wept,
I’ve done all that the Lord lets a man do;
I’ve made friends on the way, and I venture to say
that is all that the richest man can do.
From his book, The Light of Faith
©1926 by The Reilly & Lee Co.