“When I first met Susie, I was like “EEEEEE!” and I was hanging on your leg. Remember that, Mama? She sniffed me. I think she licked me too. Sometimes cats and dogs have really wet noses, you know. When we went outside with her she would just run and jump in [the river] and drink and drink and drink until she was all wet. Then she came back to the house and she was all muddy and wet and Grammy Rita says “Stay outside you wet dog!” But I just let her in all the time. But Grammy got a towel and rubbed her skin. You know how dogs do this [wiggle, wiggle] when they are wet to get all the stuff and germs out? She did that thing. Then she was a little dry.”
I had became friends with a guy who was about seven years older than I am. He was a retired surgeon and he had taken up making pottery as a hobby. I got connected with him since my wife was a potter and he would come to our Raku firings where I helped with the firings.
Jim and I connected for we were both honest, blunt, possessed a quick wit with a smart ass attitude, too much intelligence and too little tact. Coming across arrogant was easy and natural for us. Showing our true caring and heart was not.
Jim convinced me that I should learn to throw pots on the wheel. So, I took lessons from him and learn to throw. I was his first pottery student. After each class, we could clean up and then sit on his deck and share a glass of fine scotch and talk of worldly issues. It was kind of like the last two minutes of the TV series ‘Boston Legal’. We got to like each other very well. I was laid off and even did some handyman work for him, but mostly we worked together as friends and he paid me. We would have him and his wife over for dinner and they would reciprocate. His wife, Gina, use to be his nurse, and Rita and I would joke about how Jim could not get away from acting like that a surgeon in his operating room. It was in his blood, but in his heart he was a great person
Jim sold his million dollar home and moved to Florida a few years after we became friends. Rita and I moved to western PA to survive my being ousted from the high tech industry . I visited him, stopping by on a trip to someplace. We shared a glass of Dewars and chatted of lofty things. I missed Jim. I would often quote him in my teaching of potter students. Even though we had little contact, I considered him one of my best friends.
I sent him an email the first of 2009 and Jim wrote me to let me know about his year long battle with bone cancer. The letter sounded like a doctor describing a patient’s condition. Facts, but not much personal depth. That was Jim’s normal presentation that I could get through with a face-to-face probing. The letter did raise concern about his future. He sounded like he was working on his bucket list. I didn’t write or email all through 2009. Shame on me.
I finally got the nerve to email him again on Jan 19, 2010 to see how he was and ask about my sister’s cancer treatment. His wife wrote back saying he was very ill. His cancer has spread and that if I would write another email about my medical question, she would present it to him. I didn’t feel comfortable about asking Jim for medical advice when he was so ill. I was really concerned about him. I didn’t how or what to email. So I put it off.
Shame on me for not telling Jim what I felt about him.
Yesterday, Aug 13, 2010, I finally got enough nerve to send an email. It was not deep, only asking how they were. I was fearful that his wife would have to answer the email to let me know that Jim died.
She did. Jim died Jan 29, 2010.
Her email sounded like it must have been painful to write. She did share with me one insight that I, and others, need to hold close.
“The ‘nothing’ is always greener on the other side of ‘plenty’.”